Best Lightweight MTB Knee Pads For XC

person on a mountain bike with a helmet on

Knee pads for mountain biking are specifically designed to provide some cushioning and some protection from the rocky terrain. They are made from a durable, but flexible material that can withstand some bumps and falls.

The problem with wearing regular knee pads while mountain biking is that they aren’t as flexible for light riding and they get a bit warm to wear. Heavier knee pads often are hot to wear due to the thicker cushioning.

The best mtb knee pads for XC are lightweight to be flexible and allow your legs to breathe, yet provide enough protection for basic crashes.

So without further ado, here is my list of the best choice to make for knee pads when cross-country riding on your mountain bike.

Our Choices For The Best Lightweight MTB Knee Pads

POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads

POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads

Simple and Effective

These POC knee pads are lightweight and low profile. They are minimal for lightweight XC riding.

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • CE Certified: Yes, certified to EN 1621-1, Level 1 Standards
  • Adjustment: Hook and loop strap
  • Ventilation: Breathable fabric
  • Pad Type: Half length
  • Washable: Machine washable
  • Recommended Use: XC/Trail Riding

Pros

  • Special lightweight VPD compound
  • Stretch fabric with an adjustment strap
  • Low profile under clothing

Cons

  • A little more on the expensive side
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These POC knee pads are among the favorites of cross country bikers. They have a structure that makes them light to wear but still really protective.  The first is they have the VPD Air layers they call them, which is material a little like what is in the G-Form in that it stays flexible and cool and becomes rigid during a crash. These pads are both light so you can move around easily, and they stay cool so they are great during XC riding in the warm summer months.

The second thing I like is that they are low profile so you can wear them under your pants and they are barely noticeable.  Because they are thin, you can still move easily with them under your pants. That makes them great for even riding around on mixed pavement and dirt road rides. They don’t stand out yet are completely effective.

The third thing I like is that it uses stretch fabric like many have done, but in this case there is the additional adjustable strap (or Crash Retention Strap they call it). The strap just gives you a little more so help them stay in place if needed.

Overall these are a really solid pair of knee pads that are highly effective. They are just a little on the expensive side and are directly competing with Fox wear that has a long history.

Read more: POC Joint VPD Air knee pads full review

Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeves

Fox Racing Enduro Knee Sleeves

Light Knee Sleeves for XC Riding

Fox makes some of the best products in the industry with a proven track record. These MTB knee sleeves stay cool, provide light knee protection, and are comfortable to wear.

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Adjustment: None, silicone grippers
  • Ventilation: Breathable neoprene fabric
  • Pad Type: Full length
  • Washable: Hand wash
  • Recommended Use: All types of trails (maybe not extreme downhill)

Pros

  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Breathable material
  • Thin so they are easily stored if it’s too hot out
  • Neopreme on the front and stretchable back material so they fit well
  • Really comfortable

Cons

  • No velcro adjustment straps (few lightweight sleeves do)
  • Material stretches over time
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Fox makes great products and these are well-made knee sleeves so I had to include them in the list.

These are lightweight knee sleeves which is fine for normal XC riding.  They do stretch and stay in place pretty well.  After a couple of years the fabric may stretch enough that it doesn’t stay in place the best and a velcro strap may help with that.  However, I should note this is fairly normal among protective knee pads / sleeves.

These Fox knee pads are really comfortable and it’s easy to wear them and not be bothered. They are flexible and light and breathe reasonably well to keep your legs cool and should keep them very breathable under pants.

Read more: Fox Racing Enduro knee sleeves full review

POC Joint VPD 2.0 Knee Pads

POC Joint VPD 2.0 Knee Pads

Light Knee Sleeves for XC Riding

These are great pads from POC and these are meant for the colder months when you want to keep your legs warm. The 2.0 is the winter pads, the regular above are the summer ones.

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Adjustment: Two hook and loop closures
  • Ventilation: Breathable fabric
  • Pad Type: Full length, heavy duty
  • Washable: Hand wash
  • Recommended Use: All types of trails

Pros

  • Meant for cold-weather XC riding (see item #1 for warm-weather pads from POC)
  • Stretch fabric with an adjustment strap
  • Low profile under clothing
  • Certified to EN 1621-1, Level 2 standards

Cons

  • A little more on the expensive side
Best deals
Amazon
$119.95

POC makes some of the best knee pads for sure. The POC knee pads I listed as the first item are great for warm weather, but if you are going cross-country mountain bike riding in the winter, you’ll want knee pads that also help to keep your legs warm while having plenty of freedom of movement.

These POC Joint VPD 2.0 knee pads are their winter knee pads version of the regular Joint VPD knee pads.  They have a few things I really like.

The first thing is that they are still ventilated so they still have plenty of air movement which is good since even when it’s cold your legs can get sweaty. These just have more padding so they also stay a little warmer as a byproduct.

The second thing is they have the POC VPD Air Layers so they stay flexible but in a crash will stiffen up to help protect your knees.

The third thing I like is that they are low profile so you can wear them under your pants and they are barely noticeable.  Because they are thin, you can still move easily with them under your pants. That makes them great for even riding around on mixed pavement and dirt road rides. They don’t stand out yet are completely effective.

The fourth thing I like is that it uses stretch fabric like many have done, but in this case there is the additional adjustable strap (or Crash Retention Strap they call it). The strap just gives you a little more so help them stay in place if needed. It’s a standard hook and loop (velcro) strap which is easy to adjust.

One more thing I should note is that these mtb knee pads are certified to EN 1621-1, Level 2 standards. This is a standard that is done on motorcycle pads which says that no more than 18 kN of force will be transmitted to your knees. This is pretty good for a motorcycle and amazing for a mountain bike knee pad.

Read more: POC Joint VPD 2.0 knee pads full review

Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Guards

Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Sleeves

High-Performance Speed Sleeves

Troy Lee Designs (TLD) made a set of knee guard sleeves that is among the best.lightweight knee protection for XC

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • CE Certified: Yes, certified to CE EN 13688:2013 certified
  • Adjustment: NO, silicone grippers
  • Ventilation: Breathable fabric
  • Pad Type: Full length
  • Washable: Hand wash
  • Recommended Use: XC/Trail Riding

Pros

  • D30 padding
  • Silicon grips to stay in place
  • Lightweight, breathable, and flexible
  • Doesn’t affect ability to pedal
  • Reflective logo if worn over pants for visibility to cars

Cons

  • No velcro adjustment straps
  • Feel a little warm compare to some other brands
Best deals

TLD is well-known in the biking world for making good equipment. These knee pads are lightweight with good protection so they are great when you are out cross country biking.

First the good aspects. They are light and flexible so they are easy to bike with. They are also very durable. All the things you would expect from knee guards on this list. They are also cheaper than most at $49 which is a great price for this quality.

So let’s look at the cons of these now. They tend to run a little warm compared to the Fox and POC knee pads. So maybe these are not the best choice for a summer pair, but for fall they would be perfect.

They also run a little shorter than expected. They fall 3-4 inches shorter than the front side of your foot so they won’t protect you from hitting the pins on your pedals.

So these are one of my recommended knee pads for late fall riding out for a nice cruise on the bike.

Read more: Troy Lee Designs Knee Guards full review

Demon Enduro Knee Pads

Demon Enduro MTB Knee Pads

Ultralight pads at a Low Price

These pads are designed to fit under pants and have kevlar reinforced knee cap covers.

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: S, L, XL
  • Adjustment: None, compression fit with silicone grippers
  • Ventilation: Ventilated Neoprene
  • Pad Type: Full length
  • Washable: Hand wash
  • Recommended Use: XC/Trail Riding/Downhill

Pros

  • Fit under any pants if desired
  • Breathable
  • Kevlar-reinforced knee cap covers
  • Ultralight

Cons

  • No velcro adjustment straps
  • Only fit under pants by design
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Finding knee pads strong enough for downhill jumps at a reasonable price isn’t easy, but it is possible. Case in point, these Demon Enduro MTB knee pads are light, super strong, and have a very reasonable price.

I found it very interesting that these have a kevlar structure above the knee to protect against direct blows to the knee cap. The impact padding is 10mm EVA foam cushion which isn’t quite as strong as some of the higher-end D30 impact protection, but it’s not too far behind. So these are great for a vast majority of riding, especially the XC and trail riding.

Many people have noted that these do run a little small, so it’s best to order a size up. They are a slide-on sleeve that has silicone bands to hold them in place, but no velcro straps to make them fit tighter. Make sure to check your leg measurements before order to get the right size.

These pads have a neoprene base so they’ll allow airflow which should keep them very breathable under pants.

Read more: Demon Enduro MTB knee pads full review

Kali Protective Strike Knee Guards

Kali Protectives Strike Knee Guards

Rugged Terrain Knee Pads

Kali put together a solidly built knee guard that is lightweight and breaths. The velcro straps are a real bonus, as are the bowties.

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Adjustment: Hook and loop strap at the top, silicone grippers at the top and bottom
  • Ventilation: Breathable fabric
  • Pad Type: Full length
  • Washable: Hand wash
  • Recommended Use: All types of trails

Pros

  • Mesh sides and back allow it to breathe
  • Hook and loop straps to tighten it up
  • Strong knee cap protection

Cons

  • Only one velcro strap, ideally I prefer two.
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Kali put together a solid set of knee pads with the Protectives Strike knee guard. They are full length so they cover both the knee and the shin, and they are rated for all types of riding.

These have a Xelion knee cap that can take a serious hit and not bother your knees. The EVA foam absorbs impacts with ease. The back and sides are a breathable mesh that helps air to flow through and help to cool down your legs.

They are sleeves that you pull on that have silicone grippers, and a single velcro strap at the top to tighten it down.

These Kali knee guards are very strong and will do an excellent job at keeping your knees and shins safe.

Read more: Kali Protectives Strike Knee Guards full review

Leatt Brace Airflex Knee Pads

Leatt Airflex Pro Knee Guards

CE Certified Knee Guards With Impact Gel

Leatt is a big name in biking gear and they have made a unique knee guard that utilizes impact gel for these. The result is a comfortable knee pad that really works well.

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: L, XL
  • Adjustment: Silicone grippers
  • Ventilation: Amazingly Breathable fabric
  • Pad Type: Full length
  • Washable: Hand wash / Machine wash on delicate
  • Recommended Use: All types of trails

Pros

  • Lightweight and flexible due to impact gel
  • CE certified knee pads

Cons

  • A little more bulky than other lightweight knee guards
  • Has to be worn outside of pants
Best deals

Leatt put together another winner with their Airflex Pro knee guards.  There are a couple of things I really like about these.

The first thing I like is that they use impact gel instead of dense cushion for knee protection.  It allows these to stay flexible while providing maximum knee protection.  Well more than what you need for much of XC bike riding but these are a great dual-purpose so they work well for regular riding but can handle the more extreme riding no problem.

The second thing I like is that Leatt got these CE certified so they have been proven to provide more than enough knee protection.

Read more: Leatt Brace Airflex Pro Knee Guards full review

 

Alpinestars Paragon Knee Pads

Alpinestars Paragon Plus Knee Protector

Little Known Performer

Alpinestars is a little known manufacturer that makes some amazing knee pads. Both reasonably priced and comfortable to wear.

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Adjustment: None
  • Ventilation: Breathable stretch mesh
  • Pad Type: Full length
  • Washable: Hand wash / Machine wash on delicate
  • Recommended Use: XC / Trail / Enduro

Pros

  • Lightweight, flexible, and breathable
  • CE certified knee pads

Cons

  • No velcro strap, one silicone band
Best deals

Alpinestars are well-known in the biking world. They are CE certified for knee protection and they slip on easy for a quick ride. They are comfortable to wear and you can wear them all day without really realizing you have them on.  Nice and simple.

They have plenty of airflow, and overall are a very solid pair of knee pads for a budget-level price.

Don’t let the lack of reviews on Amazon dissuade you considering these ones. Just keep them in your list of knee pads to check out and see if they work for you.

Read more: Alpinestars Paragon Plus Knee Protector full review

7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pads

7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pads

Knee Pads That Provide All-Day Knee Support

These knee pads from 7iDP are different in that they are both comfortable to wear all day but also have extra side protection which has the effect of giving you a knee brace.

$89.99

 

Specifications:

  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Adjustment: None
  • Ventilation: Breathable stretch mesh
  • Pad Type: Full length
  • Washable: Hand wash / Machine wash on delicate
  • Recommended Use: XC / Trail / Enduro

Pros

  • Lightweight, flexible, and breathable
  • CE certified to CE EN 1621-1:2012 Lvel 2

Cons

  • No velcro strap at the top
Best deals

7iDP put together a nice set of lightweight knee pads for either XC or road use.

These are primarily lightweight knee guards that have additional side support / knee bracing.  They are simple and the nylon-based sleeves that you slide on your legs goes on easy as you’d expect. They stay in place and don’t bunch up behind your knees.

I do see in some of the reviews that people sometimes tear the sleeves when they hit on the pins on flat pedals.  This is something that all knee pads are going to have, and especially the lightweight ones in this list that are meant for XC. The material is lightweight and flat pedals can be really sharp. To be honest I’d rather it tear the knee pads than my  legs.

Read more: 7iDP Sam Hill knee pads full review

What To Look For in MTB Knee Pads For XC?

When you’re looking for knee pads to use in XC, these are a few qualities to look for:

  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Flexible
  • Comfortable to wear all day
  • Provide decent level of knee and shin protection

I took all of these qualities into considering when I made the above list. I made the list with feedback from other mountain bikers, and I wanted my list to reflect what people are using out there and what really works. Picking knee pads that are no hassle and just work makes using them a no-brainer. That and it’s nice to go riding and not have issues walking around the next day because the knee pads saved your knees from that big rock.

You ideally want a set of knee guards that you can put on and wear all day while you’re out biking, and never think about them during the day.  When you forget you’re wearing them, then you have a comfortable set of knee pads that fit are no restricting your bike riding at all.

Everybody has different preferences and hopefully my list above helps you find what you need and I provided enough information to help you figure out what matches you riding style and environment. If you are looking for just the best mtb knee pads you can get that are the best fit and protection, I put together a post here on the site to help you find the ideal mtb knee pads for your situation.

And remember that once you find the knee pads that are just right for you, take care of them and they’ll take care of you. Keep them cleaned up and make sure they are holding together after every ride or every other ride.