Fox Racing Launch D3O Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Protective, comfortable, retains nice pedaling abilities
Cons: Heavy, not the best for long rides
Manufacturer: Fox Racing
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Fox Racing Launch D3O
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|Pros||Protective, comfortable, retains nice pedaling abilities||Wisely-placed protection, dialed fit, reasonable price, pedal-friendly for protection level||Exceptionally pedal friendly, comfortable, lightweight||Well-rounded, attractive price, dialed fit||Very lightweight, excellent when pedaling, sleek and slim|
|Cons||Heavy, not the best for long rides||A little clammy, sleeve could be longer at top||Not very protective, soft material may tear easily||Poor ventilation, could be prone to ripping||Knee sleeve a little short, lacks protection, durability concerns|
|Bottom Line||A perfect blend of substantial protection, supreme comfort, and respectable pedaling abilities||A high-quality and versatile knee pad that splendidly blends protection and pedal-friendliness||A lightweight and extremely pedal-friendly knee pad with a minimalist approach||A well-rounded knee pad with a quality fit at an attractive price point||A lightweight knee pad that delivers in the saddle but doesn't offer much in the way of protection|
|Rating Categories||Fox Racing Launch D3O||Leatt Airflex Pro||Fox Racing Enduro K...||Dakine Slayer||Troy Lee Designs Sp...|
|Fit and Comfort (20%)|
|Pedal Friendliness (20%)|
|Ventilation and Breathability (20%)|
|Specs||Fox Racing Launch D3O||Leatt Airflex Pro||Fox Racing Enduro K...||Dakine Slayer||Troy Lee Designs Sp...|
|Weight (per pair, size L)||445 grams||256 grams||198 grams||366 grams||228 grams|
|Padding Material||D3O polyurethane||AirFlex impact gel||Not specified||DK impact foam||4mm D30 impact foam|
|Body Material||20% nylon, 40% neoprene, 5% polyester, 5% spandex||Moisture Cool, Airmesh||Perforated neoprene||Aramid fiber||Abrasion-resistant material|
|Safety Certifications||CE EN 1621-1 Level 1||CE EN 1621-1||Not specified||EN 1621-1 Level 1||CE EN 13688:2013|
|Available Sizes||S - L||S - XXL||S - XL||S - XL||XS/S - XL/XXL|
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
— Pat Donahue
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