Two of our writers tested the new AirFlex Hybrid kneepads from Leatt, and their dual-review should give a good idea if these are the right protection for you.
Gerow’s take on the AirFlex Hybrid kneepads
This most recent knee protection addition to the Leatt lineup will quickly become a favorite. Their new AirFlex Hybrid pads, released this fall, are laughably the most comfortable piece of protection I have tested to date. They’re like my great grandmother’s heavy wool afghan. I put them on and have no interest in taking them off, regardless of what I’m doing.
The base of this pleasant garment is the 34cm-long (size medium) sleeve that holds it all together. There’s something special woven into the MoistureCool stretchy fabric to make these pads so agreeable. The tapered cylindrical tube uses see-through mesh at the back of the leg to cool things off a bit, with a hole at the ditch of the knee to prevent fabric bunching. There’s a silicone gripper below the back of the knee to keep the fabric from creeping into an uncomfortable position. At the sides, the material thickens and has a more robust feel, though even the see-through strip on the backside feels like it will endure a couple of busy seasons.
At the thigh opening, a pair of silicone grippers hold the sleeve stable, as usual, though these pads genuinely remain in place unlike most with the same grippers and flexy bits. I often prefer to wear pants in the cooler months, and at a higher elevation, or really any time it’s cool enough. Having a pair of kneepads that don’t need constant adjusting and feel comfortable to pedal in is essential with full-length trousers. Nobody wants to pull down their pants to adjust mid-ride. The Leatt AirFlex Hybrid pads anchor their position better than the rest, without being overly tight or leaving deep skin creases.
To nit-pick the knitting, they are a little warm. Their durable nature detracts slightly from the breathability factor. That stated, they feel so good I can’t be bothered by a smidge of added warmth. At the moment, it’s a bonus.
I would wear these knee-sleeves like little sweaters to keep part of my legs warm, but protection is also important, and of course Leatt has that business covered. I have slid down-trail in this pair one time so far, and my sensitive leg joints felt perfectly healthy afterward. Their thin AirFlex, perforated-gel impact protection is shaped like a semi-bent knee, further improving the comfort and mobility factor. That wide pad covers from above the kneecap to mid-shin and wraps around either side to protect all of the important tendons. There are a pair of harder protection slabs over the kneecap and upper shin, and the whole system is EN1621-1 protection certified.
A pair of medium AirFlex Hybrid kneepads tips the scale at 360g, retailing for €/$109 at JensonUSA and other online retailers. If you need a new set of pads or a backup that will soon become your front-up, these are the ones. They fit according to the size chart, and two friends who recently purchased a pair also found the right fit on the first try.
Grace’s Take on the AirFlex Hybrid kneepads
When I first got into mountain biking, it quickly became apparent that wearing kneepads was close to essential. Since then, I have been looking far and wide to find that perfect set of guards, offering the right mixture of comfort and protection. To date, my go-to kneepad has been my POC Joint VPD air. However, I think that the Leatt Knee Guard AirFlex Hybrid comes pretty close to hitting that sweet spot.
The Leatt Knee Guard AirFlex Hybrids are the lightest kneepad in Leatt’s lineup, aimed at “long trail ride” use. They look very smart, with a dual-tone (grey and black) color and not-so-overt branding. They boast a slim gel protection layer inside the sleeve and an external sliding hard shell knee cup for extra bump defense when you eat dirt. To keep the kneepad from moving, there are silicone grips around the top, and the gel layer itself is fairly sculpted.
With my “thunder thighs” (17 inches above the knee), I opted for the size large, and the pads fitted me perfectly. Most of my clothes are size medium; thus I would recommend measuring yourself against the Leatt size guide. The top part of the pad did not slide down and the whole pad felt a little bit like a compression sock, with the underside covered in a soft base layer making it comfortable to touch.
I think the compression sock and molded shell approach works exceptionally well, and I never had to adjust the fit mid-ride, which is probably a first for me. At no point did the Airflex Hybrid kneepad slip or misplace itself and even on longer 30-40-mile rides it didn’t cause any rubbing or chafing. Perhaps it was because so far I have only ridden it in chillier winter conditions, but I certainly did not feel like I would overheat in the pads. The materials were wicking, despite feeling a lot like a base layer. For me, that seems to fit with the pad’s “long trail ride” intentions.
I was lucky enough to eat some mud on the day I decided to take photos of the AirFlex pads. Despite riding particularly greasy and muddy trails near where I live, I still somehow hit my knee pretty hard against a rock, with my other knee clattering into my poor bike at the same time. I do have some bruising on my legs afterward, but my knees remain intact and unharmed. I don’t know how I would feel running the pads for Rampage or for a DH event, but then that’s not what these pads are intended for and the protection feels pretty robust for the weight and feel of the pads.
The Leatt AirFlex Hybrid Kneepad comes in at $109.99 (£99 UK), which is quite a high price to pay for a trail or all-mountain kneepad. You can find products that are half that price that serve the same purpose, although I question whether many could live up to the AirFlex’s capabilities. The knee guards are clearly fit for purpose, fulfilling the requirement of light, well-fitting kneepads for those long days of trail and enduro riding. The sizing might require you to take out a measuring tape, however, if these work for you, then they should be relatively “fit and forget.”