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.
Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Sleeve Review
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
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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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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