Cross-country or XC mountain biking involves going through the gnarliest trails and potentially experiencing crashes. But while falling and crashing are unavoidable for mountain bikers, wearing the right gear can mitigate the injuries these accidents can cause. Such is why experienced cyclists wear mountain biking knee pads.
One of the best knee pads for XC mountain biking is the POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads. It provides excellent fit and flexibility, allowing riders to hammer their way to the trail’s end.
If you are unsure what knee pads to get, we dove into the plethora of available ones on the market to narrow down your choices.
1. POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads – Best Overall
Reasons I Love These 😍
- Made of stretchable and breathable fabric
- It consists of lightweight VPD air layers
- Features adjustable straps
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Recovering from an injury is going to keep you from riding. Protect yourself the POC Joint VPD Pads are fantastic. Check current pricing and reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads
- A bit on the pricey side
The POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads are lightweight yet highly protective, making them one of the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. Made of breathable VPD Air layers, these knee pads stay cool even when worn on warm days. Another excellent feature of the VPD compound is that it becomes firm during a fall, thus protecting your knees from injuries.
In addition, these knee pads have a low profile and are pretty thin, allowing you to wear them under your pants. Such is a good feature for mountain bikers who prefer barely noticeable knee pads so they do not stand out among other cyclists. The thinness of the pads also makes moving easy, so you will not feel any restrictions while pedaling.
These knee pads also have adjustable straps. With this feature, you can alter the tightness of the knee pads according to your preference.
However, it is worth noting that the POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads are expensive. But considering the benefits they can bring to XC mountain bikers, these knee pads are worth investing in. (source)
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Pro MTB rider Hannah Otto (Finchamp) put an amazing article together about knee pain. You’ve got to check it out. Here’s the link 👉 How to Reduce Knee Pain Mountain Biking and Some Easy Fixes
2. Fox Racing Launch Pro D3O Mountain Bike Knee Guards – Best for Protection
Reasons To Buy ✅
- Features dual straps for a perfect fit and stability
- Has D30 insert for top-notch protection
- The fabric has moisture-wicking properties
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Some simple things like gloves and knee pads will keep you riding. Protect yourself with Fox Racing Knee Guards. Looking for more info? Check the reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 Fox Racing Launch Pro D3O Mountain Bike Knee Guards
- Not ideal for long rides
The best knee pads for XC mountain biking should feature excellent coverage. It is what the Fox Racing Launch Pro D30 Knee Pads are famous for. They feature a D30 insert covering the knees and paddings covering the knee pads’ left and right sides.
D30 inserts are EN1621-1 level 1 CE-certified padding that works seamlessly to provide comfort and protection. For this reason, you can ensure that these XC mountain biking knee pads can prevent knee injuries in case of a fall. The D30 insert, combined with the moisture-wicking fabric of these knee pads, allows you to stay dry by preventing sweat from building up on your skin.
For added security, Fox added hook and loop straps on the top and bottom of these knee pads. This way, the pads will stay in place even when you hammer your way through the trail. The pads also have a pre-curved shape for an ergonomic and comfortable fit.
However, these knee pads are bulky and thick. For this reason, they do not have enough ventilation to keep you cool while mountain biking. If you are in areas with hot climates, you may want to opt for knee pads with better breathability features. Still, the Fox Racing Launch Pro D30 Knee Pads are among the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. (source)
Helmets, Sunglasses and Mountain Biking are a Perfect Mix – Read More
- Selecting sunglasses can be tough. Read about what to look for in this article: The Best Sunglasses for MTBing
- A complete guide to sunglasses, written by PRO MTB Rider Hannah Finchamp – Mountain Bike Sunglasses Selecting the Best
- Visors on MTB helmets, find out why in this article: Why do Mountain Bike Helmets Have Visors
- Okay, I admit, I’m getting older and wear prescription glasses. Read – Mountain Biking with Glasses
3. 7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pads – Best for Coverage
Reasons To Buy ✅
- Offers excellent protection
- Low-profile design
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Getting hurt is going to keep you from riding. Protect yourself the 7iDP Knee Pads are fantastic. Check current pricing and reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pads
- Features long sleeves that make them challenging to put on
Developed by the world-renowned enduro and downhill racer Sam Hill, the 7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pads are one of the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. They offer excellent protection despite their sleek and slim design, thus making them perfect for aggressive trails.
These knee guards also protect a large area of your legs. They have firm and durable SAS tech armor padding that covers a large portion of your knees, starting from above the knee and down to the shin. This removable padding conforms to the shape of your legs, so you can easily bend them while pedaling. Even better, additional padding covers the entire SAS Tech pads for a soft feel once you wear the knee pads.
While the extra-long sleeves of these pads make them hard to put on, they also guarantee that there will be no gap between your knees and the pads. The sleeves also offer skin protection, which is especially useful in preventing sunburn and insect bites. The only downside of these ultra-long sleeves is that they do not have the best ventilation.
But regardless of these knee pads’ length, they are surprisingly comfortable. The reason is that the sleeves consist of four-way stretch fabric that is lightweight and thin but snug and secure. They also do not restrict movement, making them the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. (source)
4. Dakine Slayer Knee Sleeve – Best for Price
Reasons To Buy ✅
- Worth the price
- Offers excellent fit
- Impressive comfort level
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Some simple things like gloves and knee pads will keep you riding. Protect yourself with Slayer Knee Sleeve. Looking for more info? Check the reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 Dakine Slayer Knee Sleeve
- Has insufficient breathability
- The fabric used is a bit prone to ripping
If you are looking for a pair of knee pads with excellent protection, comfort, and fit, the Dakine Slayer is a product worth having. These knee pads can provide enough protection when riding on challenging terrains. They are also flexible, so pedaling will feel like you are not wearing any protective gear on your knees.
In addition, these pads provide cross-country mountain bikers with impressive fit and comfort. They are snug enough to not slip down your knees but still not too tight to cause pinch points.
In terms of protection, the Dakine Slayer features the DK Impact Energy Absorbing Foam. This padding distributes impact across the foam, protecting your knees from possible injuries. The padding also covers your inner and outer knee, which maximizes the protection these knee pads provide.
The sleeves of these pads are also thick and durable. They did not become see-through when we tried stretching them to their maximum limit. But while the material is durable, these knee pads have a cutout behind the padding area that acts as ventilation. This cutout is prone to ripping and exposes the back of your knees to elements in the trail, such as small branches, that can cause injury.
Moreover, the Dakine Slayer provides airflow, but it is not the most breathable knee pad on this list. Still, these pads are not the hottest either, so they make perfect protection for XC mountain bikers who like taking on obstacles. (source)
5. Leatt AirFlex Pro Knee Guards – Best for Protection Against Impact
Reasons To Buy ✅
- Boasts an impact gel feature
- Lightweight and breathable
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Getting hurt is going to keep you from riding. Protect yourself the AirFlex Knee Guards are fantastic. Check current pricing and reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 Leatt AirFlex Pro Knee Guards
- On the bulky side of the spectrum
- Only wearable outside the cycling pants
Unlike other knee pads in this review that use padding to protect your knees, the Leatt AirFlex Pro Knee Guards use high-quality impact gel. For this reason, these knee pads can provide maximum protection while staying flexible. The impact gel also makes these knee pads ideal for other types of mountain biking other than XC.
Even better, these knee pads feature AirFlex Pro pads that add more protection to your knees. And unlike protective pads that are large and bulky, the AirFlex Pro is slim yet provides an excellent amount of protection. We tested how the AirFlex Pro and impact gel pads will work upon impact, and they did not disappoint. That said, these knee pads by Leatt are one of the best knee pads for XC mountain biking.
Additionally, three small pads are positioned vertically on the side of the primary knee pads. The sides of the knees are prone to smashing during bike crashes and when your feet slip off the pedal. So having padding to protect them is highly beneficial.
Comfort-wise, the Leatt AirFlex Pro offers the right tightness, so it does not constrict blood flow. These knee pads also have silicone leg grippers, which prevent them from slipping off or riding up your legs while you pedal. (source)
6. IXS FLOW Evo + Knee Guards – Best for Long Rides
Reasons To Buy ✅
- Comfortable to wear
- Made out of moisture-wicking fabric
- Ideal for long rides
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Some simple things like gloves and knee pads will keep you riding. Protect yourself with IXS FLOW Knee Guards. Looking for more info? Check the reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 IXS FLOW Evo + Knee Guards
- Features short sleeves
The IXS Flow Evo + Knee Guards feature X-Matter 3D-molded soft-shell pads that are ideal for cross-country mountain biking and all-around cycling. Since the pads are soft, they are lightweight and comfortable to wear. However, they may not be suitable for too challenging trails as the soft nature of the pads does not offer the same amount of protection as firm pads.
Still, these knee guards are one of the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. The reason is that the X-Matter viscoelastic pads can firm up when they receive impact, allowing them to protect your knees against minor injuries.
These pads connect to perforated mesh sleeves made of Leatt’s Moisturecool fabric. Featuring moisture-wicking abilities, this fabric allows air to flow through your skin for better comfort. The sleeves also have silicone leg grippers that prevent them from moving around as you pedal. For added breathability, the sleeves of these knee pads have a big cutout behind the knees.
However, hardcore XC mountain bikers may want to opt for longer knee pads than this one from Leatt. The reason is that these knee pads are shorter than most knee pads that you will see on the market. For this reason, they may not provide maximum protection for mountain biking on gnarly trails. (source)
7. Ion K-Pact Zip Knee Pads – Best for Adjustability
Reasons To Buy ✅
- CE Certified
- Features neoprene material for breathability
- Easy to put on
- Had Velcro straps for adjustability
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Getting hurt is going to keep you from riding. Protect yourself the Zip Knee Pads are fantastic. Check current pricing and reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 Ion K-Pact Zip Knee Pads
- It can be too snug for some XC mountain bikers
The Ion K-Pact Knee Pads feature SAS Tech padding that keeps your knees safe during unforeseen circumstances. Apart from the main padding on the knees, the sides of these knee guards also have padding that improves their protection level.
These pads come connected to Ion’s Super Perforator neoprene sleeves. The sleeves have a bunch of holes for excellent airflow, so these knee pads keep you cool while protecting you from potential accidents. In addition, the back of these knee guards features mesh panels, which improves ventilation even further.
Moreover, the back of these knee pads have zippers that make putting them on effortless. Meanwhile, the top and bottom of the sleeves have Velcro straps that you can use to loosen or tighten the fit. Under the sleeves are silicone strips that hold them in place, so you do not have to worry about slipping or riding up as you mountain bike to your destination.
One thing we noticed when testing the Ion K-Pact Knee Pads is that they are very snug. So, even without the adjustable Velcro straps, these pads will not slip off your knees. However, the same level of snugness makes pedaling a bit challenging.
The Ion K-Pact Knee Pads are also bulkier than the other protective pads mentioned in this review. But, they do not sacrifice comfort, making them one of the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. (source)
8. G-Form Pro X3 Knee Pads – Best for Hardcore Mountain Biking
Reasons To Buy ✅
- Boasts Non-Newtonian padding
- Highly flexible
- It covers a good amount of skin for maximum protection
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Some simple things like gloves and knee pads will keep you riding. Protect yourself with G-Form Pro X3 Knee Pads. Looking for more info? Check the reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 G-Form Pro X3 Knee Pads
- The design is a bit of a turnoff
The G-Form Pro X3 Knee Pads are among the best knee pads for XC mountain biking, thanks to their premium protection. These knee guards feature SmartFlex pads that are lightweight, form-fitting, and flexible. The padding hardens on impact, allowing your knees to stay unscathed during a crash.
There is soft and breathable inner foam padding under the SmartFlex pads for added protection. On the other hand, the sleeves of the G-Form Pro X3 feature a moisture-wicking fabric similar to Lycra. These sleeves have silicone bands underneath, allowing them to grip your skin and stay in place as you move. Even better, these silicone grippers will remain intact even when you sweat.
Moreover, these knee pads from G-Form are among the lightest ones we have tested. At a fair price, you will get a comfortable pair of knee guards that can protect you from scrapes and bruises while you are XC mountain biking. (source)
9. Kali Protectives Strike Knee Pads – Best for Rugged Terrains
Reasons To Buy ✅
- Offers excellent adjustability
- The knee cap pads are strong enough to withstand the abuse
- Features breathable mesh panels
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Getting hurt is going to keep you from riding. Protect yourself the Kali Protectives Strike Knee Pads are fantastic. Check current pricing and reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 Kali Protectives Strike Knee Pads
- It does not offer the best level of compression
Hardcore mountain bikers will love the Protective Strick pads of these knee guards. Designed to cover both the knee and shin, these pads will keep you safe and injury-free in case of a fall. We also loved the versatility of this product, as it is ideal not only for XC mountain biking but also for all types of trails.
In addition, the Kali Protective Strike Knee Pads boast Xelion knee shells that seriously take hit and impact. Under the knee, shells are EVA foam paddings, which prevent impacts from hurting your knees. The entire length of these pads’ sleeves also protects your skin against scraping in case you fall on the rough ground.
Regarding ventilation and comfort, these knee pads from Kali have back, and side mesh panels. With this feature, air can freely flow through your skin, thus preventing sweat buildup and helps in cooling down your legs. The compression sleeves also feature silicone grippers that hold them in place.
However, only one Velcro strap helps tighten these knee pads. So, if adjustability is a big deal for you, you may want to opt out of the Kali Protective Strike Knee pads and look for dual Velcro strap pads in this review. But if adjustability is not an issue for you, these knee guards are among the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. (source)
10. Troy Lee Designs T-Bone Knee Guards – Best for Comfort
Reasons To Buy ✅
- It offers excellent comfort and fit
- Provides a decent level of protection
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Some simple things like gloves and knee pads will keep you riding. Protect yourself with T-Bone Knee Guards. Looking for more info? Check the reviews at Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 Troy Lee Designs T-Bone Knee Guards
- On the expensive side of the spectrum
- It does not offer a good amount of ventilation
The Troy Lee Designs T-Bone Knee Guards offer a fantastic amount of coverage and protection, thanks to their D30 padding that surrounds the knee down to the shin. Apart from the main padding covering the knees, foam pads are also above and on the sides of the kneecaps. For this reason, you can ensure that you remain free of any injury while wearing these kneepads.
What stood out the most about these knee pads are their pre-curved knee cups. This feature makes pedaling extremely easy as you will feel nothing constricting the motion of your legs. So, the Troy Lee Designs T-Bone Knee Guards are ideal for long rides.
Adjustability is another feature that made these knee pads stand out. They have Velcro thigh straps that allow you to loosen and tighten the pads to your preference. However, these straps are no longer necessary as the built-in elasticated strap above the pad’s calf part is enough to hold it in place.
The only downside is that these knee pads do not have the best breathability feature. So, if you are mountain biking in often warm areas, you need to expect to get a bit sweaty while using these knee guards.
With all these features combined, these knee guards from Troy Lee are the best knee pads for XC mountain biking in terms of comfort. (source)
Mountain biking knee pads should be tight enough not to move around but not too tight that they prevent you from moving freely. Knee pads that are either too tight or too loose are uncomfortable to wear as they will move around while you are pedaling. Even worse, you sacrifice protection when wearing knee guards with inadequate fitting.
When choosing the correct size of knee pads, you first need to measure approximately three to four inches above your knee. Then measure the diameter of the said area, ensuring that you wrap your measuring tape snugly. Next, get the diameter of your calf, about an inch or two above the thickest part. You will base the size of your knee pads on these measurements.
If you are not confident about your measurement, you may opt for knee pads with an adjustability feature. Many knee guards on the market come with Velcro straps on the top and bottom of the sleeves. This feature will help you tighten the pads in case you got a pair that are a bit loose.
Moreover, mountain biking knee pads come in small, medium, and large sizes. However, manufacturers use different sizing conventions, so you simply cannot assume your size. Instead, you need to look at their size chart to find your right thigh and calf measurements. (source)
Ask any mountain biker about their trail accident stories, and most of them will indeed carry scars on their shins and knees. While falling down your mountain bike is necessary to improve your skills, knee pads can prevent scrapes, bruises, and other potential injuries these falls can cause.
However, the plethora of knee pads available on the market makes it challenging to select which ones can offer maximum protection. To help you with your purchase, here are the features you need to look for to find the best knee pads for XC mountain biking:
Every pair of knee guards comes with pads that cover your kneecaps. However, not every manufacturer adds side and shin pads for extra protection. That said, look for knee pads that offer a good level of padding coverage. Not only will this be worth the investment, but it will also allow you to leave the trail unscathed.
As mentioned, a good fit is everything regarding knee guards. For this reason, the knee pads you buy should have straps you can use to adjust their compression level. These straps also make your knee pads more secure so that they will not slip off your knees once you wear them.
There are different types of padding for the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. These pads offer different levels of comfort and protection, so choose the one that is ideal for the type of trail you frequently conquer.
The best knee pads for hardcore XC mountain bikers are those with hard shells over their foam or gel padding. This shell can absorb and mitigate impacts, thus protecting your knees against crashes on rugged trails.
However, it is essential to note that knee pads with plastic shells are not as breathable as soft-padded knee guards. They can also affect how you move your legs, so make sure the one purchase is pedal-friendly.
Foam padding is famous for knee guards because they are incredibly breathable. They also provide decent protection against minor impacts, making them a good feature of the best knee pads for XC mountain biking.
The only downside of engineered foam is that it does not offer as much protection as hard shells. For this reason, knee guards with soft foams are not ideal for rugged trails.
D30 pads and similar paddings are the best choices for cross-country mountain bikers. The reason is that they are soft and pedal-friendly when worn, but they become firm upon impact. As a result, you can have maximum protection, breathability, and movability even without hard shells.
However, D30 pads are not as invisible and lightweight as engineered foams. But while they are bulky, they make an excellent compromise for cross-country mountain bikers. (source)
After carefully testing a good number of knee pads, we came to the conclusion that the POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads are the best knee pads for XC mountain biking. Another excellent option is the Fox Racing Launch Pro D3O Mountain Bike Knee Guards. These two knee pads offer comfort, protection, and essential features like adjustability and firm padding.
Additionally, these knee pads come in different sizes, so you will find the one that best fits your thighs and calves. As a result, you can ensure that the pads offer the best level of protection and movability.
More Ways to Stay Safe On Your MTB
- Is there an art to falling? I say yes – find out why in – How to Fall Off Your MTB (and not get hurt)
- How many ways can you get hurt riding? Read 10 Most Common Mountain Bike Injuries (plus tips to avoid)
- Is It Safe to Ride Alone? A great article about being prepared.
- My knees hurt for a long time after riding. Find out how why. Is Mountain Biking Hard On Your Knees
- POC, Joint VPD Air Knee Pads, Lightweight Mountain Biking Armor for Men and Women. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/POC-Joint-Uranium-Black-Medium/dp/B00QKC4G8E. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Fox Racing Launch Pro D3O Mountain Bike Knee Guard. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084DL7YG5?tag. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- 7iDP Sam Hill Kee Pads, Black, 7009-05-530. https://www.amazon.com/7iDP-7009-05-530-M-Sam-Hill-Pads/dp/B0792K8R7B. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Dakine Slayer Knee Sleeve for Mountain Biking Protection. https://www.amazon.com/Dakine-Slayer-Knee-Sleeve-Black/dp/B084D5Z6T9. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Leatt Knee Guard AirFlex Pro. https://www.amazon.com/Leatt-Airflex-Knee-Guard-Black/dp/B07XVNHKTD. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- IXS FLOW + Knee Guard. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N1V36SQ. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Ion K-Pact Knee Pads. https://www.amazon.com/ION-K-Pact-Knee-Pad-Black/dp/B076FBGLYY. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- G-Form Pro-Rugged Knee Pad. https://www.amazon.com/G-Form-Pro-Rugged-Knee-Pad-Adult/dp/B081J8K9LT. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Kali Protectives Strike Knee Pads. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Kali-Protectives-Strike-Guard-Black/dp/B078KFVKRR. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Troy Lee Designs Raid Knee Guard. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CE20RU4. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Norsaadah Zakaria and Deepti Gupta. Anthropometry, Apparel Sizing, and Design. Woodhead Publishing, 2019. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=s0K0DwAAQBAJ&pg=PA301&dq=how+to+measure+knee+pad+sizes&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjA9sXeu-T5AhUtQPUHHR4gC-MQ6AF6BAgIEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20measure%20knee%20pad%20sizes&f=false. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- James McKnight. Mountain Biking: Skills, Techniques, Training. Crowood, 2014. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=N3IHBAAAQBAJ&pg=PT45&dq=mountain+biking+knee+pads&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjSnIHLu-T5AhWRdN4KHQf6AqsQ6AF6BAgJEAI#v=onepage&q=mountain%20biking%20knee%20pads&f=false. Accessed August 26, 2022.