Leatt 3DF 6.0 Knee Pad

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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Tested: Leatt 3DF 6.0 Knee Protectors

Novel construction in a pedal-friendly, heavy-duty knee protector from Leatt.

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: Leatt 3DF 6.0 Knee Protectors

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, driven by the unforeseen death of a fellow rider, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery set out to design a revolutionary neck brace. After several years of research and design, Dr. Chris Leatt (MB ChB) finally had his first neck brace in production, and it wasn't long until the Leatt-Brace earned the product of the year award from one of the largest moto news and media outlets. Ever since that day, Dr. Leatt and his hand-picked R&D team have been pushing boundaries and setting new standards, not only when it comes to neck braces but in all aspects of protection for high speed and high impact sports. Most recently, Leatt has revamped a significant portion of their mountain bike line-up. From apparel to protective guards, from hydration

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, driven by the unforeseen death of a fellow rider, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery set out to design a revolutionary neck brace. After several years of research and design, Dr. Chris Leatt (MB ChB) finally had his first neck brace in production, and it wasn't long until the Leatt-Brace earned the product of the year award from one of the largest moto news and media outlets. Ever since that day, Dr. Leatt and his hand-picked R&D team have been pushing boundaries and setting new standards, not only when it comes to neck braces but in all aspects of protection for high speed and high impact sports. Most recently, Leatt has revamped a significant portion of their mountain bike line-up. From apparel to protective guards, from hydration bags to patented helmet liners, there’s a lot going on in this company that started with a single product. We were able to get our hands on some of the new gear including the 3DF 6.0 knee guard and with several months of wear and tear behind us now, here are our impressions.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Outstanding materials and craftsmanship
  • One of the better breathing guards per the protection it offers
  • Secure, pre-articulated architecture helps hold pads in place during crashes
  • Great protection to weight ratio
  • Excellent comfort throughout entire range of motion of the knee
  • Customer service is friendly and well informed
  • Offered in 3 colorways.
  • With only 3 sizes to choose from and a slightly too roomy design, it can be hard to find the perfect fit
  • Bottom of pad can jab slightly into the shin during full extension (mild discomfort)
  • Pad can lift off the leg just below joint during full extension which makes it feel slightly baggy in the middle
  • Upper silicone printed non-slip strip can be a real hair puller - which can also be considered a strength
  • Minor dead zones (> 1cm across) that lack protection
  • Main knee pad stiffens up in colder temperatures

Leatt 3DF 6.0 Knee Protector Highlights

  • Total Leatt® protection score of 20 points
  • Soft knee guard with co-molded hard shell sliders 
  • Three types of protection: Standard foam protects peripheral leg, Center 3DF pad over knee is malleable but hardens during impact, Outermost co-molded hard shell allows for sliding over rocks and roots
  • 3DF AirFit ventilated soft impact foam 
  • CE tested and certified as impact protection: Knee EN1621-1 
  • New anti-slip calf band and silicone grip lining 
  • Silicone printed and adjustable non-slip leg straps 
  • New anti-odor MoistureCool and AirMesh wicking fabrics 
  • Pre-curved 3D design for optimal fit 
  • Side impact protection 
  • Weight: 509 grams (Size L/XL, verified)
  • Sizes: S/M, L/XL, XXL
  • MSRP: $89.95 USD

Initial Impressions 

Pulling the 3DF 6.0 knee guard out of their packaging, the first thing I noticed was the overall quality of materials used and of the stitching holding it together. Everything was constructed with care and the craftsmanship shows. The main material used for these guards is perforated silicone lined with cloth. This material allows for good breathability without sacrificing too much protection. The back of the pad is made from a thin and highly breathable moisture wicking fabric which allows for the legs to keep cool while climbing.

The stitching holding each piece together appears to be stout enough to withstand medium to heavy impacts without stressing the integrity of the pad too much. The 3DF 6.0 knee guard also features three elastic bands: up top, in the middle (just below the joint), and at the bottom. The top is by far the burliest strap and comes with a Velcro strap on the outside and a silicone printed, non-slip strip on the inside. Placing these guards on the scale, I was surprised to see them barely break the 500 gram mark as their appearance and the amount of protection they offer would suggest being slightly heavier.

As opposed to other soft shell material that is often covered with fabric, this hard shell allows the knee to slide over rougher terrain such as rocks and roots instead of snagging which can potentially lead to further injury.

Unlike the majority of knee pads on the market, the 3DF 6.0 knee guard contains three different types of protecting materials I unofficially termed “The Trifecta.” It consists of a hard shell, a center 3DF pad, and standard protective foam that combine to attempt to keep your knee out of harm's way. The outermost layer consists of two co-molded hard shell sliders. As opposed to other soft shell material that is often covered with fabric, this hard shell allows the knee to slide over rougher terrain such as rocks and roots instead of snagging which can potentially lead to further injury.

Underneath the hard shell is a preshaped, shock-absorbing material termed 3DF. This material is similar to D3O or VPD -  it’s soft and flexible during regular movements such as pedaling and walking but hardens upon impact. The harder the fall, the harder the material becomes. After compression, the foam returns to its original position, ready for the next impact. The pre-curved 3D pad is cupped in a manner that matches the knee and is designed to support the knee during a crash.

Finally, the 3DF 6.0 knee guard contains four separate protective foam panels that are located on the left and right of the center 3DF pad. This light weigh foam absorbs impact additional impacts that fall just outside of the knee, such as those pesky top tube slams for example.

The 3DF 6.0 knee guard are offered in three sizes that span the entire spectrum of adult riders: S/M, L/XL, and XXL. Based upon the sizing chart, I decided to go with the L/XL. Measuring at 19” above the knee and 15” below the knee, this put me right in the middle of the parameters for this size. Slipping them on for my first ride, I can confirm that this was the correct size for me, although other testers have noted that with just three sizes to pick from, and a fairly generous cut around the kneecap area, it can be hard to get the fit just right. If you find yourself on the fence between sizes, you would most likely be best off sizing down

On The Trail

Enough about the boring tech specs, how do the 3DF 6.0 knee guards handle out on the trail? This guard has three preset (nonadjustable) elastic bands (on the top, just below the joint, and on the calf) that allow the pad to hug the knee while pedaling. In addition to the elastic band on the top of the pad, Leatt also included an adjustable Velcro strap which makes tailoring the fit of the pad on the thigh a breeze. The bottom elastic band circles all the way around the calf and shin and holds the guard snug and is quite comfortable. However, the middle elastic band found just below the joint only wraps around the back end of the pad. This band in comparison to the top and bottom is much weaker and allows the middle of the pad to lift off the leg during full extension. This lifting can make the middle of the guard feel a little baggy while the leg is straight but that feeling disappears when the knee is flexed.

There are plenty of comments from riders regarding sizing, with the general consensus being that these pads run larger than expected. I feel the minimal middle elastic band is partially the cause here, as well as the cut of the kneecap area in general. Having a slightly thicker and sturdier band that wrapped around the entire lower knee would make the 3DF 6.0 knee guard a more precise fit (in addition to perhaps offering one more size in the range as well). Outside of this, I’ve been quite impressed with how the knee guards felt and how they contoured the knee.

Unlike exclusively hard shell pads, the 3DF 6.0 knee guard allows for a much more relaxed and flexible fit. This is optimal for those who like to wear their knee pads during their entire ride. After an average ride (about an hour to hour and a half) I found myself riding home while still wearing these guards - this stands as a testament to how comfortable they are. 

As the rides got longer however (2+ hours), I did notice the bottom of the hard shell applying some pressure on my shin. The only times which I noticed this pressure was during full extension such as straight leg pedaling or walking around. In regards to this aspect, I would not go as far as to say it detracts from the overall comfort factor (it is not unusual for hard shell pads to not behave when the leg is straight) but it was something I noticed and wanted to mention. Dividing the lower hard plate into two sections or changing the mold to have the bottom tip curve slightly outward would fix this pressure, since it really is minute as it stands. As for the rest of the full range of motion, the 3DF 6.0 knee guard followed the contour of the knee without creating any pressure points even when fully flexed. These are certainly one of the more comfortable, heavier duty knee guards I’ve worn.

Comparing it to other enduro/DH knee pads however, the 3DF 6.0 still seems to generate less heat than most.

When it comes to heat management, these were certainly not made for XC. They offer much more protection but as a result can be a bit toastier too. During steep and elongated climbs I noticed my knees starting to get warm, particularly in the area directly behind the center kneecap protector. Comparing it to other enduro/DH knee pads however, the 3DF 6.0 still seems to generate less heat than most. On flat ground or when headed downhill they quickly cooled down, especially thanks to the vented material found around the back of the guard. All and all, I was very impressed with how cool they felt during gravity-fed enduro and DH rides.

Back in the day of open-bath suspension and rigid seatposts, one of the more difficult things to achieve when finding the right knee guard was having it stay in place during an over-the-bars moment. More often than not knee pads would shift or become completely dislodged during a high speed impact. Not even the burliest looking pads like the 661 4x4 were fail-proof. But, thanks to modern technology and general advances in design, knee pads have gotten much better. When I initially pulled the 3DF 6.0 knee guards out of their packaging and threw them on, I felt there may have been a chance of them being dislodged during a crash. After several rides however, they began to really form to my knee. Mixing in a little pedal sweat into the equation and they are definitely among the better performers in this regard, particular when the leg is bent (which it does tend to be for most crashing). 

Things That Could Be Improved

Although the sizing worked out very well for me, shrinking the parameters for the sizing chart and offering 4 sizes to choose from would be an excellent route to go to ensure a proper and snug fit for all riders. Other testers have reported a slightly more "floaty" fit which can also affect performance during a crash.  

When riding in colder temperatures (35 °F and below) I did notice the center pad begin to lose a bit of mobility. Keep in mind similar ‘hardening upon impact’ material can be found in the majority of knee guards in this class today and these all share the same characteristics in the cold. After wearing the 3DF 6.0 knee guard for a while they do warm up and conform but if you’re planning on shredding hard right out of the gate on a cold morning, I’d recommend wearing them during the drive to the trails or putting them up next to your car’s heater before getting too sendy.

The center 3DF pad is vented for flexibility and arguably ventilation but the hard plastic covering these vents is not. This certainly limits how well the pad can breathe directly over the knee. Perforating the hard plastic would certainly increase the breathability of the pad over the knee but could limit the protection it offers. Would it be worth venting the hard outer shell for version 2.0? On balance, I would argue yes. 

Although I would give “The Trifecta” all my trust in protecting me during a crash, there some deadzones or the areas that lack protection on the 3DF 6.0 knee guards. The knee cap and front of the shin are very well protected and so are the perimeters of the knee but transitioning between the top and bottom perimeter pads there are a couple of very small gaps. Are these deadzones a deal-breaker? Certainly no as I would most certainly trust these pads during a crash. But given the depth of this review, it’s worth mentioning and to be aware of. 

Long Term Durability

Although I’ve been wearing the 3DF 6.0 knee guard for only a few months, I haven’t seen any issues with the quality or craftsmanship. There are surface scratches on the hard plates but no rips or tears on the fabric itself. Although I haven’t had any high speed or high intensity crashes with the knee pads (yet), I have quite a bit of confidence that they will offer all the protection I need and would be surprised if they didn’t hold up during the process. If for some reason you do experience an issue with a defective guard, Leatt does offer a 1 year limited warranty which would cover that. On that topic, although I didn't have any issues with the guards, I did reach out to Leatt to gather a bit of information so I could heave it all in this review. Getting in contact with them was very easy to do and they were very friendly, informed, and accommodating which is exactly what you would hope for if you ever were to have an issue. Leatt is a company I feel I could buy confidently from.

What's The Bottom Line?

Congratulations if you have made it this far in the review. You’re a real trooper. The 3DF 6.0 knee guard is relatively new member to the Leatt family. Its novel construction and features are among the top of its class while offering great breathability and protection. It is comfortable enough to wear the entire ride and even on the drive back home, and although it can get a bit warm directly under the kneecap, it still keeps cool in all but the worse conditions. There are a few very small deadzones which lack protection and if you believe in Murphy’s Law, something to consider but this certainly isn’t a deal-breaker. You should also note that they run big for their size and that the roomy design may not provide the best fit for all shapes of legs - try before you buy is sound advice here. After a few months on the trail, these guards have held up very well and they are covered by a 1 year warranty if anything untoward should pop up down the line. Although there is some room for future improvement, Leatt did a great job on their 3DF 6.0 knee guard, and it's well worth considering if you are after a burlier guard that can still accompany you for a long day out in the saddle.

More information at: www.leatt.com.


About The Reviewer 

Lance Starling - Age: 30 // Years Riding MTB: 17 // Height: 6'3" (1.91m) // Weight: 190-pounds (86.2kg)

Lance got his first mountain bike in 2001. Fast-forward 17 years and not a day has gone by that he hasn’t completely obsessed over the sport. This obsession has transformed him into a mountain bike guru whose love for picking apart components and gear is similar to a honey badger consuming king cobras. Nothing is left untouched. His playful riding style generally keeps him more in the air than on the ground and whatever tricks he lacks he makes up for with a good ol’ bar hump. Never at any time have consumers have had it so good and with over 10 years in the industry as a certified mechanic and gear expert, Lance is devoted to helping those riders find the perfect gear to meet their needs.

Specifications

Product Leatt 3DF 6.0 Knee Pad
Riding Type Trail
Pad Type Soft Shell
Material 3DF AirFit ventilated soft impact foam with co-molded hard shell sliders
New anti-slip calf band and silicone grip lining
Silicone printed and adjustable non-slip leg straps
New anti-odor MoistureCool and AirMesh wicking fabrics
Perforated and vented Neoprene
Knee/Shin Coverage Knee Only
Size S/M-XXL
Color
Miscellaneous Soft and Sliding All-in-One Elbow Guard

The latest tech from Leatt. This hard-shell slider paired with 3DF impact absorbing protector works like a charm and gives you the best of two worlds - soft and sliding!

A ventilated, perforated sleeve with silicone grip and an integrated silicone coated X- strap, these guards do not slip down! It also offers a great fit with ergonomic left/right shapes.

CE tested and certified protection that scores a total of 14 points in the Leatt protection rating system.
Price $79.99
More Info
  • Total Leatt® protection score of 14 points
  • Soft elbow guard with co-molded hard shell sliders
  • 3DF AirFit ventilated soft impact foam
  • CE tested and certified as impact protection:
  • Elbow EN1621-1
  • New anti-slip forearm X-strap with silicone bicep lining
  • New anti-odor MoistureCool and AirMesh wicking fabrics
  • Silicone printed elbow grip
  • Pre-curved 3D design for optimal fit
  • Weight: from 320g (0.71lbs) pair
  • Please look at our sizing chart for best fit: S-XXL
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