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Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Sleeve Review

A lightweight knee pad that delivers in the saddle but doesn't offer much in the way of protection
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Price:  $54 List | $54.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Very lightweight, excellent when pedaling, sleek and slim
Cons:  Knee sleeve a little short, lacks protection, durability concerns
Manufacturer:   Troy Lee Designs
By Pat Donahue ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 22, 2020
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 11
  • Protection - 30% 3
  • Fit and Comfort - 20% 8
  • Pedal Friendliness - 20% 10
  • Ventilation and Breathability - 20% 9
  • Durability - 10% 3

Our Verdict

The Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Sleeve is a low profile and lightweight pad that is well suited for long days in the saddle. These knee pads take a minimalist approach and deliver clean and simple aesthetics and a high level of pedaling comfort. They are an excellent choice for the experienced rider who wants an element of protection but doesn't want to sacrifice climbing comfort. Protection levels are not a strong suit here as the Speed only offers a thin, one-piece pad directly on top of the knee cap. Still, they perform well within their intended application. These reasonably priced pads are a solid value, they perform well on the trail, but are best suited for light-duty applications.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Speed Knee Sleeve scores well in some categories but falls flat in others. Given the ultra-lightweight and minimalist approach, the levels of protection can't match most of the other options in our review. Durability is also a serious concern as we don't expect these pads to survive many crashes without rips and tears. That said, the pedal-friendliness is outstanding, as is the comfort, fit, and ventilation.

Performance Comparison



These pads are designed for loads of pedaling  not loads of rock.
These pads are designed for loads of pedaling, not loads of rock.

Protection


It was apparent as soon as we unboxed these pads that they were developed with pedal-friendliness as priority number one. Protection was seemingly a secondary priority in the design process. Troy Lee Designs has other pads for those seeking serious protection and hard-charging situations. The Speed Knee Sleeve has some padding, but don't expect to bounce back up from a crash onto your knees as if nothing happened.

The protective patch is small and made of soft foam.
The protective patch is small and made of soft foam.

The Speed Knee Sleeve has a soft and flexible one-piece pad on the knee cap. The pad starts a couple of inches above the knee and continues to the bottom of the pad approximately 5-inches below the knee cap. It's narrow and doesn't offer any real protection from impacts to the side of the leg and knee. The slim design is beneficial for pedaling feel, but it is certainly detrimental to the protective element of the pads.

The sleeve itself on the Troy Lee Designs pad is relatively short. It extends a little bit above the padded area on the top and barely extends below that at the bottom. If you are sure you want a pedal-friendly knee pad but also want decent protection, there are better options available. We recommend stepping up to a burlier model as these won't do much in the event of a crash.

Fit and Comfort


The Speed Knee Sleeve delivers an impressive fit with exceptional comfort levels. The sleeve itself is snug without feeling too tight. You can shuffle it around on your leg with a bit of force, but it doesn't move while pedaling or bouncing down rocks. The neoprene bands at the top and bottom of the pads don't squeeze the legs or restrict blood flow.

The inner part of the pad is also quite comfortable. There are no hot spots or pressure points on the leg. While the narrow protective padding isn't overly protective, the lean and cleverly-shaped pad feels nice against the knee cap.

Comfort levels are exceptional  although the armor does lift off the knee a little bit.
Comfort levels are exceptional, although the armor does lift off the knee a little bit.

Pedal Friendliness


If there is one area where the Speed Knee stands out from the crowd, it is the excellent pedal friendliness. These pads are the best pedallers in our test class. The overall shorter length of the sleeve creates a lighter feel, and it feels like you're pedaling around with less weight on your legs. The narrow-yet-protective pad doesn't restrict movement, and there are a few strategic cuts in the pad that help it flex as you bend the knee.

As we mentioned a few times, the length of the sleeve is pretty short. These knee pads do run the risk of the undesirable pad gap, which occurs when there is space between the bottom of the shorts and the top of the knee pads. This is somewhat of a faux pas in the mountain bike world. That said, it isn't the end of the world.

These pads offer a great climbing feel.
These pads offer a great climbing feel.

Ventilation and Breathability


The Speed Knee Sleeve delivers solid airflow and ventilation. Given the nature of a knee pad, they never breathe particularly well — no knee pads will come remotely close to the feel of riding with the fresh breeze on your knees. That said, these are at the top of our test class. The thin foam padding really stands out when things get toasty, allowing a bit of air to pass through.

The knit sleeve breathes well enough.
The knit sleeve breathes well enough.

Durability


Durability is a genuine area of concern here. Yes, the Speed Knee Sleeve is light, soft, and minimalistic, making for a comfortable knee pad. The big issue is that we are skeptical about how well these pads would survive a moderate to high-speed crash. It is easy to imagine the soft fabric ripping very easily while sliding on the ground. More robust options have a harder outer armor that will survive far more abuse.

We took these pads on and off a lot of times during testing. The seams and materials all seem to be in great shape. Some riders like to take their knee pads on and off throughout a ride. These pads go on over a sizeable all-mountain shoe reasonably easily. It is best to be cautious and not to force your foot through the opening, but there is plenty of space and stretch to do it.

The Speed Knee Sleeve are simple and functional knee pad for light-duty applications.
The Speed Knee Sleeve are simple and functional knee pad for light-duty applications.

Value


The Speed Knee Sleeve is a decent value. They are on the low end of the spectrum in terms of price. Skeptics may think this is a lot of money for such an amazingly simple knee pad. Rest assured, they perform well within the intended application and have some excellent design features. Still, we highly recommend spending the extra bucks for some added protection if you're planning to be a daredevil on the regular.

Range of motion is quite impressive.
Range of motion is quite impressive.

Conclusion


The Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Sleeve is a minimalist pedal-friendly knee pad option. When you value climbing and pedal-friendliness above all else, these are an excellent choice. While the protection levels are the lowest in our test, these pads weren't designed to be shredded super hard — they are designed to feel excellent while in the saddle, and they do just that.

Pat Donahue