Leatt’s Airflex Ultralite knee guards are so light you might well forget you are wearing them. Without straps or Velcro retention, they stay in place brilliantly via silicone grippers and are so flexible they feel akin to knee warmers after a few miles. Their low bulk belies their level 1 CE-certified protection level which is reassuring. They should be high on your list if you're looking for a pair of the best MTB knee pads.
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Leatt Ultralite Airlfex knee guards - Technical details
Leatt Airflex Ultralite knee guards are a super lightweight sleeve-style protection for your knees. They weigh in at 201g for the pair of medium guards. The CE Certified Level 1 protection is provided by Leatt’s new red Airflex Ultralite impact gel knee cup which sits in a pocket inside the sleeve and is removable. On its own, it weighs just 54g.
Leatt gives this knee guard 10/25 on its own protection chart with strong knee cap and medium deflection results, but only slight shin coverage and no bar or side protection provided.
The knee cup is pre-curved to fit your knee and is designed to allow maximum pedaling efficiency without any interference from the pad or the sleeve itself. On the outside of the guards, a minimal abrasion patch covers the immediate knee cap area. The Airflex Ulltralite guard offers no side impact protection.
The sleeve is made from a wicking mesh fabric designed to move sweat through the material and evaporate at the surface. There's also a cutaway at the back of the knee for pedaling comfort. The mesh sleeve sits slightly higher up your thigh than other pads which, according to Leatt, offers thigh support and helps alleviate pressure on your calf. They are held in place via silicone strips around the upper opening whilst the lower calf opening is just stretchy mesh material.
The knee guards are labelled left and right for best ergonomic fit although there is very little difference when you look at them; still, it is easy to read.
Although the pad is removable Leatt still suggests that you hand wash the guards when they get filthy or start to smell.
Leatt Ultralite Airlfex knee guards - Performance
Simply invisible and completely forgettable best describes these knee pads.
They are comfortable with no slippage on the thigh or riding up behind the knee. The pad, flexible already, when warmed by your knee follows your knee movements with ease.
We don’t normally go out of our way to crash while testing protection clothing as that could lead to serious injury but I have to say that these Ultralite Airflex pads have seen their fair share of slippery spills back when it was wet in the woods. Luckily, my knees and the knee guards have come up roses and I can honestly say they have protected my kneecaps from injury on several occasions.
Leatt Ultralite Airlfex Knee guards - Value and verdict
At £100, the Leatt Ultralite Airlfex Knee guards represent a serious investment when you could buy Level 2 protection for similar money but I think that is to miss the point of these. They are so light I popped them on instead of knee warmers on the gravel bike which is a first for me and I was glad I did it several crashes later. I would never wear a heavier pair in this situation. And I often don't want my heavier set when I'm mountain biking in the woods, so these have stepped right in and become my go-to pads for local mountain bike rides where I know my knee-to-rocks ratio is low.
Other options to consider are the G-Form Pro Rugged 2 Knee guard which offers the same CE level 1 protection for £83 - Liam thought they were excellent if a little over-engineered; he also liked the £79 ArmaUrto Arma Hex Knee Protectors (also CE Level 1), although he found those a little warm with their thick sock which did restrict pedaling. At £90 Fox's Enduro Pro Knee Guards are similar (Level 1) lightweight pads but the reviewer found the strap didn't hold the pad still which could cause rubbing.
The Leatt Ultralite Airlfex may offer less coverage around the knee (side or shin) than some but It is by far the lightest and most likely to fit skinny pants or go undetected poking out from your shorts.
I own more protective knee guards and use them when the risk level is greater but for woodland rides, and trail centres like Forest of Dean or Leigh Woods, and Salisbury Plain these are ideal. Just don’t expect the same level of protection away from the knee as a Level 2 certified guard. Highly recommended if you are looking for lightweight protection and ride multi-discipline bikes/trails.