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