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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 3 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  ⋅  Jul 1, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 8
  • 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 light knee 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. These pads 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 for these knee pads as they only offer 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

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $54.00 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$79.00 at Amazon$84.99 at Amazon$59.99 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare at 2 sellers
$59.95 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Very lightweight, excellent when pedaling, sleek and slimWisely-placed protection, dialed fit, reasonable priceWell-rounded, comfortable, solid protectionComfortable, pedal-friendly, excellent fitExceptionally pedal friendly, comfortable, lightweight
Cons Knee sleeve a little short, lacks protection, durability concernsNot the most pedal-friendly, sleeve could be longer at topOver-desgned in spots, pad lifts off knee at bottom of pedal stroke, styleSmall armored area, some may find aesthetics to be unattractiveNot very protective, soft material may tear easily
Bottom Line A lightweight knee pad that delivers in the saddle but doesn't offer much in the way of protection.A high-quality and versatile knee pad that splendidly blends protection and pedal-friendliness.A reliable knee pad that delivers solid, if not outstanding, performance.A comfortable and pedal-friendly light to mid-duty knee pad.A lightweight and extremely pedal-friendly knee pad with a minimalist approach.
Rating Categories Speed Knee Sleeve Leatt Airflex Pro Kali Protectives Strike Six Six One Recon Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve
Protection (30%)
10
0
3
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
4
Fit And Comfort (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
Pedal Friendliness (20%)
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
10
Ventilation And Breathability (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
9
Durability (10%)
10
0
3
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
4
Specs Speed Knee Sleeve Leatt Airflex Pro Kali Protectives... Six Six One Recon Fox Racing Enduro...
Weight 114 grams/individual, 228 grams/pair 128 grams/individual, 257 grams pair 172 grams/individual, 343 grams/pair 74 grams/indiviual, 147 grams/pair 99 grams/individual, 198 grams/pair
Padding material 4mm D30 impact foam 3D molded padding, hardens on impact Xelion Padding, EVA on the sides Poron XRD not specified
Body Material Abrasion-resistant material Moisture Cool, Airmesh Mesh Lycra, stretch mesh Perforated neoprene
Adjustments? No No Velcro strap (top) No No
Safety Certifications CE EN 13688:2013 CE EN 1621-1 CE 1621-1 CE not specified
Available sizes XS/S - XL/XXL S - XXL S - XL S - XL S - XL

Our Analysis and Test Results

Analysis and Test Results


The Troy Lee Designs knee pads scored well in some categories while they fell flat in others. Given the ultra-lightweight and minimalist approach, the levels of protection can't match the rest of our test field. 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. The Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve is a very similar pad but has a good bit more protection and a better fit.

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. The pad is 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 padding on the Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve is very similar but is a little bit thicker and covers more surface area of the knee.

The sleeve itself on the Troy Lee Designs pad is relatively short. The sleeve extends a little bit above the padded area on the top and barely extends at the bottom. The Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve is longer in all directions.

If you are sure you want a pedal-friendly knee pad, the Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve offers superior leg coverage and protection. If you're going to stick with a relatively pedal-friendly pad but substantially step up the protection, it is worth checking out the Six Six One Recon and G-Form Pro X2. If your rides tend to be shorter than three hours and you value enhanced protection, the Leatt Airflex Pro is a nice choice.

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.

Fit and Comfort


The Speed Knee Sleeve deliver 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 sleeve is a little longer on the Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve and it is also a little more secure.

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 hurts the protection that the pads offer, they are quite comfortable. The lean and cleverly-shaped pad feels nice against the knee cap.

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

Pedal Friendliness


If there is one area where the Troy Lee Designs pads stand out from the crowd is the excellent pedal friendliness. These pads are the best pedallers in our test class, and they even edge out the Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve which took the Top Pick for Light Duty Riding.

The Speed Knee Sleeve offers a great pedaling feel. 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 protective pad doesn't restrict movement. The wider pads on the Fox Racing pads appeared to bunch somewhat and squared off at the top of the pedal stroke. The larger pad doesn't form to the knee cap on that part of the stroke. The Speed Knee Sleeve has a narrower pad that has a few cuts into them that negate this issue.

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.

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

Ventilation


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, the Troy Lee Designs pads are at the top of our test class.

The thin protective pad allows a bit of air to pass through. Hard shell protection tends to act as a shield that blocks the air The thicker and more substantial pad on the Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve has better protective properties compared to the Troy Lee Pads but they don't breathe as well. The shorter fit on the Troy Lee pads also promotes better airflow to the rest of the leg.

Durability


Durability is a genuine area of concern. Yes, the Speed Knee Sleeve is light, soft, and minimalistic. All of this makes for a nice, 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 like the Six Six One Recon or Leatt Airflex Pro 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.

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

Best Applications


The Speed Knee Sleeve is best-suited for the experienced and skilled rider who isn't likely to crash often. Riders who value pedal-friendliness above all else will be psyched on these pads. They are comfortable, light, and don't restrict the pedal motion in the least.

Riders who want to get aggressive or ride burly trails should look elsewhere. The G-Form Pro X2 and Six Six One Recon are both pedal-friendly pads with substantially more protection. If you are willing to sacrifice a decent amount of pedal-friendliness, the Leatt Airflex Pro are splendid knee pads that offer the best blend of pedal-friendliness and protection.

Value


At $54, the Speed Knee Sleeve is a decent value. 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 well-laid out design features. Still, we highly recommend spending the extra $6 for the Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeve and enjoying some added protection and longer coverage area.

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.

Conclusion


The Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Sleeve are 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 were designed to feel excellent while in the saddle, and they do just that.


Pat Donahue