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Fox Racing Launch D3O Review

A perfect blend of substantial protection, supreme comfort, and respectable pedaling abilities
Fox Racing Launch D3O
Photo: Backcountry
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $90 List | $79.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Protective, comfortable, retains nice pedaling abilities
Cons:  Heavy, not the best for long rides
Manufacturer:   Fox Racing
By Pat Donahue ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 16, 2021
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85
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 14
  • Protection - 30% 9
  • Fit and Comfort - 20% 10
  • Pedal Friendliness - 20% 8
  • Ventilation and Breathability - 20% 7
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Fox Racing Launch D3O are fantastic knee pads that are protective, ultra-comfortable, and retain a respectable amount of pedal-friendliness. As a result, they take home our coveted Editors' Choice award. No, these are not the knee pads you will want to wear on a 20-mile ride. They are also not the best choice for ripping bike park laps every week. That said, they are a tremendous option for just about everything in between. They may be on the heavier side of our test class, but we feel any additional weight is well worth the protection levels and the security of the fit. We loved these knee pads, and we think you will too.

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Fox Racing Launch D3O
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $79.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Protective, comfortable, retains nice pedaling abilitiesWisely-placed protection, dialed fit, reasonable price, pedal-friendly for protection levelExceptionally pedal friendly, comfortable, lightweightWell-rounded, attractive price, dialed fitLight, breathable, comfortable sleeve material
Cons Heavy, not the best for long ridesA little clammy, sleeve could be longer at topNot very protective, soft material may tear easilyPoor ventilation, could be prone to rippingClumsy armor patch, slightly irritating while pedaling
Bottom Line A perfect blend of substantial protection, supreme comfort, and respectable pedaling abilitiesA high-quality and versatile knee pad that splendidly blends protection and pedal-friendlinessA lightweight and extremely pedal-friendly knee pad with a minimalist approachA well-rounded knee pad with a quality fit at an attractive price pointA lightweight and airy knee pad suited for light-to-mid duty trail riding
Rating Categories Fox Racing Launch D3O Leatt Airflex Pro Fox Racing Enduro K... Dakine Slayer Alpinestars Paragon...
Protection (30%)
9.0
8.0
4.0
7.0
6.0
Fit And Comfort (20%)
10.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Pedal Friendliness (20%)
8.0
8.0
10.0
7.0
7.0
Ventilation And Breathability (20%)
7.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
8.0
4.0
6.0
6.0
Specs Fox Racing Launch D3O Leatt Airflex Pro Fox Racing Enduro K... Dakine Slayer Alpinestars Paragon...
Weight (per pair, size L) 445 grams 256 grams 198 grams 366 grams 290 grams
Padding Material D3O polyurethane AirFlex impact gel Not specified DK impact foam Stretch mesh and Ripstop nylon
Body Material 20% nylon, 40% neoprene, 5% polyester, 5% spandex Moisture Cool, Airmesh Perforated neoprene Aramid fiber Mesh
Adjustments? No No No No No
Safety Certifications CE EN 1621-1 Level 1 CE EN 1621-1 Not specified EN 1621-1 Level 1 CE
Available Sizes S - L S - XXL S - XL S - XL XS - XL

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Launch D3O knee guards are wonderful, protective knee pads. Fox Racing has a long history of producing protective gear, and that experience really shows with these pads. The Launch D3O are nearly flawless within their intended application. Protection and fit/comfort are among the most impressive attributes. These pads lean a little more towards the enduro/aggressive trail side of the spectrum as opposed to cross country or light trail riding. As a result, pedal-friendliness and ventilation are not their strong suit. Still, they easily take home our Editors' Choice — it was a pretty easy choice.

Performance Comparison


The Launch D3O pads in all of their plush and protective glory.
The Launch D3O pads in all of their plush and protective glory.
Photo: Laura Casner

Protection


The Launch D3O offers excellent levels of protection. They are confident and inspiring on everything from bouldery, steep singletrack to sketchy doubles and kickers. We feel these knee pads strike a fantastic balance of offering a substantial and protective feel while also retaining nice levels of pedal-friendliness.


These knee pads are slightly above average in terms of sleeve length. They run from approximately 4 inches above the knee cap down to the mid-shin region. The D3/ padding material starts wide at the knee cap and tapers to be narrower down towards the shin. In addition to the main armor patch, a generous amount of auxiliary protection runs along the side of the knee pads down through the shin. This extra padding protects the inner and outer knee/leg from impacts and from smacking your bike frame. We feel the amount and placement of this auxiliary padding is what really makes the Launch D3O stand out. You feel very protected, and very little surface area is left uncovered.

The D3O padding is soft and flexible to the touch, and it hardens upon impact. As a result, it is flexible and extremely comfortable, hardening only when necessary. We didn't take any intentional crashes while wearing these pads, but we did spend a healthy amount of time dropping our knee onto concrete and tapping the pads with a hammer. The D3O material really does a great job absorbing force. Despite its soft and flexible personality, it has impressive protective qualities.

These knee pads offer enough protection for rocky and rowdy trails...
These knee pads offer enough protection for rocky and rowdy trails, bike park duties, and everything in between.
Photo: Laura Casner

Fit and Comfort


These knee pads deliver a supreme fit and are unbelievably comfortable. The design is dialed, and the combination of the fit and materials provide an extremely pleasant feel against the leg. We had no problem putting these knee pads on at home, driving to the trails with them on, riding, and leaving them on for the drive home.


The neoprene sleeve is tight enough to stay put without squeezing the leg, and the sleeve material is pleasant against the skin. The fit is consistent throughout the pad, with the top and bottom portion of the sleeve applying equal pressure. There are also velcro straps at the top and bottom to fine-tune the fit. The D3O pleasantly hugs the leg, and they feel like they would stay in place in the event of a gnarly crash.

The ergonomic design of this knee pad is ideal. They are designed with a slight bend in the knee that creates a very natural on-the-bike feel. There are no pressure points whatsoever, and the armor remains in contact with the knee, not lifting up at any point of the pedal stroke. The pliable D3O padding has a far superior feel to harder armor materials. The only point where the padding slightly lifts off the knee is when you are standing up straight in the parking lot. When your leg is totally, and we mean totally, straight, you are fighting the pad's ergonomic design.

The fit is nearly perfect and the D3O armor is incredibly pleasant...
The fit is nearly perfect and the D3O armor is incredibly pleasant against the knee.
Photo: Laura Casner

Pedal Friendliness


The Launch D3O knee pads offer a respectable level of pedal-friendliness. As we have mentioned, there are better options if you value maximum efficiency and are concerned with weight. That said, if you really care about protection and your average ride is 1-2 hours, these knee pads deliver solid levels of pedal-friendliness.


The ergonomic design of the pad creates a natural pedaling motion. There are no hitches where the armor uncomfortably lifts off the knee cap. The padding stays flush against your knee and is not irritating in the least. The flexibility of the D3O padding is critical in creating this unrestricted and smooth pedaling motion. The reason these knee pads posted a somewhat underwhelming score is this metric is simply due to the design priorities. These pads prioritize protection. As a result, they are a little heftier than some of the competition. It should be reiterated that they do pedal quite well, but they are not some ultra-light minimalist pad.

These pads won't blow you away with their pedaling comfort, but they...
These pads won't blow you away with their pedaling comfort, but they do just fine for 1-2.5-hour rides.
Photo: Laura Casner

Ventilation and Breathability


Much like the pedal-friendliness metric, the Launch D3O pads suffer in the ventilation metric simply due to the product's design. These are protective knee pads built to save your knees. It stands to reason that airflow might take a backseat.


These pads do breathe pretty well compared to some of the burlier knee pads in our review. The soft finish paired with the D3O padding allows air to pass through to the knee. While some of the pads with harder exteriors completely block the air, the fabric finish of the Launch lets a decent amount of air in. This is noticeable on high-speed descents. Still, the material is relatively thick compared to the competition. On the rear of the pad, however, there is a cutout behind the kneecap, allowing moisture to escape from that crease.

The cutouts in the rear allow heat to escape. These aren't the...
The cutouts in the rear allow heat to escape. These aren't the airiest pads in our review, but they are far from the warmest.
Photo: Laura Casner

Durability


We expect the Launch D3O knee pads to have an average lifespan. We observed no signs of premature wear, failed stitching, or anything of the like throughout testing.


One area of concern is the soft fabric outer material. We have some doubts about how well this would survive multiple high-speed crashes on rock or gravelly terrain. It is easy to imagine this material ripping after a few substantial crashes. To be clear, we didn't experience any tearing or ripping. We are simply basing that assessment on our extensive experience wearing knee pads of all sorts and crashing. Knee pads with hard, plastic, outer materials tend to stand up to the abuse a little better.

These pads feel like they are built to last. The only area of...
These pads feel like they are built to last. The only area of concern would be a high-speed crash on rocky trails where the fabric exterior could get cut up.
Photo: Laura Casner

Value


These knee pads deliver excellent value. High-quality construction is paired with supreme comfort and impressive levels of protection. There is a whole lot to like about these pads, and they carry an average price tag that we feel is more than fair. Average price matched with excellent performance is a recipe for a winner.

Conclusion


The Fox Racing Launch D3O knee guards are a clear winner. These knee pads took home our Editors' Choice for their excellent levels of protection, impressive fit, and supreme comfort. Riders seeking knee pads that deliver excellent protection while still offering solid pedaling abilities will love these pads. We sure do.

We loved these knee pads. If you value real protection and decent...
We loved these knee pads. If you value real protection and decent pedaling abilities, you might love them too.
Photo: Laura Casner

Pat Donahue

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