After hitting the ground hard a few times early this year, I decided it might be a good idea to wear pads more often. I generally prefer long backcountry rides with technical descents, which means lots of pedaling, so I wanted pads conducive to my style of riding. The Fly Racing Lite knee guards with their mesh sleeve and flexible foam seemed to fit the bill nicely.
The Lite knee guards are about as simple as a pad can get — it’s a mesh sleeve with a pad on the front of it. To expound on that, each end of the sleeve has a silicone cuff to hold the guard in place. The foam itself covers the entire kneecap, extending around the sides of the knee, and a little ways down the shin. These aren’t going to protect your shins from smacking the pedals, but since I typically ride clipped in, that wasn’t a major concern for me. They look very similar to G-Form’s pads in appearance, although the foam is noticeably thicker on the Flys.
On our scale, the set of pads came in at 270g (9.5oz). Fly Racing sells the Lite knee guards for $60 a pair.
On the Trail
I have huge quads, which makes finding comfortable pads difficult. Fly Racing sent me some of their Prizm knee guards a couple years back, but the size XL was way too small for my legs. Fly said they altered their sizing on the Prizms, as well as these Lites. The fit of the XL Lites was snug, but not unpleasant. If anything, it helped them stay in place.
Riding in the Lites felt similar to riding in knee warmers — the articulated pad is barely noticeable and has no effect on pedal stroke. Obviously, wearing anything over your knees is going to warm them up, but I kept the Lites pulled up on all but the hottest of rides. If I’m being honest, though, that’s mostly due to laziness. Mixing sweaty skin with the silicone leg grippers made the guards hard to pull down and back up unless I came to a complete stop. Since they’re a sleeve-style guard, putting them on or taking them completely off means your shoes are coming off.
My crashing streak continued unabated throughout the summer, providing ample opportunity to test the effectiveness of the pads. On multiple occasions, after ceasing tumbling through the woods, I’d get up to find dirt lodged into the gaps between the pad. Without the soil samples and visible scrapes on the pads, I wouldn’t have known my knee hit the dirt. The takeaway? The pad did its job.
The breathable mesh construction prevents the Lites from ever getting sopping wet. But when they do get sweaty, the Lites dry quickly, which prevents them from getting stinky. When they get grimy, chuck them in the washing machine, just don’t put them in a dryer. This pair has been through a dozen or more washes, and apart from some of the logos peeling off, they’ve held up quite well.
I do have one complaint with the Lites, though. The bottom cuff has a tendency to fold under the lower part of the pad. When this happens, the fabric bunches up and chafes the soft skin just below my kneecap, eventually rubbing it raw. To be fair to Fly, I’ve had this problem with other pads, so it could just be the shape of my leg. However, I suspect there are riders out there with legs like mine that may have the same issue. Perhaps a taller silicone cuff would hold it in place better.
If you like taking on challenging trails — or you just want the extra protection — a set of pads like the Fly Racing Lites is a wise investment. The Lites proved to be comfortable and crashworthy at a reasonable price point.
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Thanks to Fly Racing for providing the Lite Knee Guards for review.