Leatt Airflex Pro Review
Cons: Not the most pedal-friendly, sleeve could be longer at top
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Airflex Pro pads are our Editors' Choice winner once again. Why? They offer the very best blend of pedal-friendliness, protection, comfort, durability, and ventilation. These well-designed and well-executed pads really stand out with the protection they offer without sacrificing too much in the way of pedal-friendliness and comfort.
The Airflex Pro pads deliver impressive protection without feeling overly bulky. Bigger and more protective pads have a lot of padding and a lot of mass, meant for gravity-fed endeavors with less emphasis on pedaling. The Airflex Pro pack a healthy amount of armor into a slimmer and sleeker package. This is a high compliment, and we think Leatt knocked it out of the park in terms of design.
The most prominent piece of armor sits front and center on the knee. This is a 3D molded, flexible material with a rubbery feel. It is soft and easy to bend in any direction, thin without feeling papery or flimsy. Upon impact, this material hardens up to disperse the forces of a crash. Given the flexible feel, the armor is quite comfortable.
On the inside and outside of the leg, there are vertical patches of padding. This is not the same sort of material as the flexible, 3D molded armor on the front and center, but more of a traditional foam. This padding is broken up into three patches on each side of the leg that work together to cover approximately 5-6-inches. On the front of the pad, just above the main armor patch, there is another rectangular patch of foam padding. This spot on the knee is a prime location for smashing a knee on the bar should you slip a pedal.
The overall length of the sleeve is about average. Even where there is no armor, riders can enjoy some sun protection and have a layer of material between the skin and any branches or thorns hanging into the trail.
Fit and Comfort
The Airflex Pro deliver a nice fit — snug without feeling like they are constricting your blood flow. The upper cuff is slightly looser than the lower. Neoprene textured bands on the inside of the upper and lower leg openings work well. These pads stay in place brilliantly and don't tend to spin or slip at all.
The Airflex Pro pads are also comfortable. They can't match the comfort levels of the super airy options that emphasize comfort and pedal-friendliness over protection. They also have a thicker and thus heftier feel than the light-middleweight knee pads. While these pads have a bigger and thicker feel, they are still plenty comfortable. On hot days, you may want to take them off after a few hours, but there are no areas of pressure or irritation.
One minor qualm about the Airflex Pro is that we wish the overall sleeve length was a bit longer at the top of the pad. If the top of the sleeve extended another 2-3-inches, it would eliminate all concerns of pad gap. Pad gap occurs when there is skin showing between the bottom of the shorts and the top of the knee pad.
These pads are side-specific, and there is a left pad and a right pad. That information is printed on the back of the lower leg.
These pads are reasonably pedal-friendly. They can't match the supreme pedal-friendliness of the superlight options. They also come up short compared to the light-middleweight options. That said, they do deliver superior protection, so we are okay with giving up some pedal-friendliness.
When you are spinning away in the saddle, the motion of the Airflex Pro is relatively free. There are no restrictive points of the pedal stroke. You are, however, quite aware that you are wearing knee pads. When you are at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke, you can feel the 3D molded rubberized padding. This isn't all that uncomfortable or irritating to the skin, but is noticeable enough to be worth mentioning. As a result, we find these pads are best for rides of about 2-hours or less. If you're looking to log some serious time in the saddle, we recommend reaching for some of the lightweight or light-middleweight options. They are sleeker, lighter, and less protective, making them better suited for big rides.
We don't want to scare you away from the Airflex Pro pads. They do pedal well, but there are better options for big rides. That said, we still feel they offer the best blend of protection and pedal-friendliness of all options in our review.
Ventilation and Breathability
The Airflex Pro breathe well for a mid-duty pad. Even though they have a lot of substance, they also have decent cooling properties. There is a large circular/oval cutout on the backside of the knee. The cutout is located in the crease where your upper leg meets your lower leg. This is a sweaty location, and it is nice to have some relief there.
There is also a panel of MoistureCool material on the rear of the pad. This semi-transparent fabric is intended to allow heat and moisture to escape. The rest of the pad is constructed with a wicking material that pulls sweat away from the skin. It can be challenging to evaluate exactly how well these features work. After all, you are wearing knee pads, and there is going to be an inevitably clammy feel to them. Still, the Airflex Pro seem to perform well in this area. After a ride, the pads felt pretty dry.
If you're seeking the best blend of ventilation and protection, these are the pads for you. If you want something a tad bit more light and airy, check out the pedal-friendly pads that have far less material, which creates better airflow.
We don't have any serious durability concerns regarding the Airflex Pro. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we didn't have any crashes in these pads, so we can't comment on how they will fare. We can, however, make an educated guess based on experience with a great number of knee pads.
The front plastic panel feels durable and won't be damaged easily. High-speed crashes on the outside of the leg could do some damage to the fabric. The foam padding that runs down the sides is our biggest concern. If you crash on this part of the pad and slide, we can't rule out some sort of rip or tear.
These pads are not easy to put on and remove over a shoe. The sleeve is a little too tight to confidently and swiftly get your shoe through. It can be done, but it puts a lot of stress on the seams.
Overall, the Airflex Pro score very well in terms of durability. The hard kneecap is an important factor as plastic withstands slides and encounters with the ground more effectively compared to a fabric covering.
The Airflex Pro pads are a strong value. The price tag is fairly common for substantial and more aggressive knee pads. More importantly, Leatt got it right with these pads, and they deliver solid protection, a great fit, and high comfort levels. We recommend buying these.
The Leatt Airflex Pro take home our Editors' Choice Award for another cycle. Among all our tested pads, they deliver the best blend of protection, pedal-friendliness, comfort, and fit. Leatt paid attention to the details and delivered a high-end knee pad at an attractive price tag. We love them.
— Pat Donahue