The Troy Lee Designs (TLD) Stage knee guards have been a staple for the brand for a few years.
Thanks to the lightweight, breathable design and malleable D30 protective insert, the Stages promise to balance comfort and protection for long stints pedalling in the hills.
But can they deliver?
Troy Lee Designs Stage knee guards details and specifications
The Stage knee guards from TLD come in three sizes (XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL) and rely on the snug fit of the stretchy sleeve to hold them tightly in place.
A side-specific design (some knee pads can be worn on either leg) and shaping, along with silicone print inside both the upper and lower hems of the Stages also help to ensure they stay in place and remain comfortable for long days in the saddle.
Taking care of the protection is a D30 knee cup insert. This flexible rubber-like material remains malleable and can conform to the shape of the rider’s leg, but give it a good whack and it firms up, helping to dissipate the impact force.
In terms of coverage, the pre-shaped D30 insert wraps nicely around the knee and offers some protection (but not masses) either side, as well as across the front. It then extends down over the top part of the shin.
As this D30 pad isn’t particularly thick (which helps with the low 320g weight), the Stages are rated to CE level 1 (level 2 is higher).
The sleeve itself is mesh-backed in a bid to help prevent overheating. You’ll spot the shiny black silicone strip that spans the width of this mesh panel and sits just above the calf muscle.
This further helps to keep the pads secure on your leg and prevents them from splaying at the sides when your knee is flexed.
Troy Lee Designs Stage knee guards performance
I normally wear a size medium in most knee pads, but with just three sizes of Stage to choose from, I wasn’t sure which would suit me best. With a little trial and error, I settled on the XS/S. That does mean smaller riders, or those with narrower legs, may need to try before buying, just in case.
While the fit is tight, it’s by no means overly so, or uncomfortable in any way. They stay up where they need to be, too, no matter how muddy or sweaty your legs get. The sleeve, which has enough stretch to aid getting them on and off, wraps solidly around your leg and keeps the protective D30 insert tight across your knee.
Even over rough, repeated hits or the occasional knee-to-ground incident, the Stages remain steadfast on your legs.
The slim profile of the pads works well under trousers or MTB shorts, with no snagging or bunching up while pedalling. On that note, I found the Stages to articulate incredibly well when spinning the cranks. Sure, they’re a snug fit, but there’s zero interference or discomfort when flexing your knee.
You can, at times, feel the edge of the D30 insert on your shin when your leg is fully extended, however. That’s mainly down to the insert tapering down to a thin edge.
I found I’d only really notice it after hours in the saddle and, while it never impacted comfort, I still noticed it. That’s not the case with other top performers in this category.
On warm days, I could certainly appreciate the light, airy feel of the Stages. They do get sweaty, as you’d imagine, but they never feel bulky or cumbersome when soaked through and continue to remain comfy and not need readjusting.
That’s quite impressive because coverage here is decent. They don’t, however, offer quite the same level of protection as the likes of Rapha’s Trail knee pads or the 7iDP Sam Hills. Both are equally comfortable as the Stages, but have a CE Level 2 rating.
The £90 price tag might sound expensive, but I’ve worn the Stages more than any other pad over the last two years and they’re holding up impressively well, which counts for a lot.
Troy Lee Designs Stage knee guards bottom line
The Troy Lee Design Stage knee guards offer comfort and protection in a lightweight, slim-fitting package that works well even on really long rides. TLD doesn’t offer as many size options as some brands, so trying before buying is wise (if you can).
However, as promised, the Stages perform brilliantly on the bike, staying exactly where they’re needed and never needing to be readjusted. They’re not as protective as some of the best mountain bike knee pads out there, but they’re airy, slender and can be worn for hours without issue.
It helps that they last well, too, making the £90 asking price seem more than fair.
How we tested
In order to get the best possible idea as to how these pads perform, we rode in a variety of weathers, temperatures and on different types of trails, including everything from super-rocky and rough to long stints of pedalling for hours on end.
Why do weather and temperature conditions matter? Well, due to the make-up of many of the pads’ protective inserts (often a malleable material that hardens on impact), the temperature can have a dramatic effect on just how flexible (or not) these inserts are.
While some need warming up to get them moving and feeling comfortable once over the knee, others bend easily from the get-go.
Then, of course, there’s moisture to worry about. That includes a soaking from puddle splashes or heavy rain downpours, along with becoming saturated in sweat when working hard on really warm days. Will the pads stay in place even when dripping wet? And do they become any less comfortable when drenched?
Finally, it’s worth trying each set of pads when wearing shorts and trousers. Will shorts simply glide over the pads as you pedal or do they get snagged and bunch up awkwardly? Equally, are they slim enough to slide under the trousers comfortably or so bulky that they simply won’t fit?
Riding these pads back-to-back, and often with a different brand on each knee, ensured we could pick apart the differences effectively and work out which pads were worth spending your hard-earned cash on.
Also on test
- 100% Teratec Plus
- POC Joint VPD System
- Rapha Trail