While there are an ever-growing array of brands offering protective wear for mountain biking, there are very few that are founded primarily around making safety equipment. That makes Leatt stand out. The South African brand is expanding into apparel and footwear but it was founded around the idea of keeping riders moving safely through crashes.
Leatt’s focus on protection is reflected in the brand’s broad array of protective wear. Where most brands offer one knee pad, or a couple of different levels of protection, Leatt offers an exhaustive range. That covers everything from lightweight to heavy-duty padding in knee and elbow pads, chest protectors, all kinds of helmets and, of course, the brand’s neck braces.
“We try and have something available for everyone,” explains Calla Meyer, Chief Designer at Leatt. “For sure there are pads that overlap in terms of features but there are also so many consumers that want specific features. We are passionate about product development and we have just kept on adding more pads to the range as we have learned about new materials and tech and tried to fill the gaps that we saw in the market.”
Leatt’s Airflex range is a prime example of the brand’s goal. The pads are light enough that they can overcome objections to wearing pads while also providing CE-level certification.
Airflex Pro chest protector, as modelled by Canadian enduro pro, Evan Wall
Airflex also has a women's model in the chest protector
Both offer full spine coverage
With their own specific range of features
“Our Airflex range was developed due to the need for thinner, more vented pads that still pass CE standards. Airflex material consists of an injected polymer with non-Newtonian properties, performing very well to absorb impacts,” says Meyer. “Because of this, we could reduce overall bulk and maximise ventilation by creating a cell-like structure that conforms very well to the body.”
The UltraLite pads push this concept to the extreme, maximizing protection in a minimalist pad.
“Our UltraLite is the thinnest, most vented pad we developed so far while still exceeding CE standards. It’s like the gateway pad for non-pad riders,” Meyer says. “The aim was to get people who generally would not wear pads to wear this super lightweight and pedal-friendly version. Once you start moving, you forget that you are wearing anything.”
While lightweight design might indicate intended use, Leatt’s focused on making its pads effective enough that you can use them how you want. If you flip through a Leatt catalogue, you won’t see its pads categorized by use the way its apparel is.
“We do not want to dictate what one should wear. Some DH riders for instance want the slimmest pad they can find to wear under their riding gear (like our new UltraLite) and some novice DH riders would want to kit up with the bulkiest and ‘safest’ pads they can find,” explains Meyer. “We categorize our pads on our site and we give it a protection score rating based on its features which we hope helps consumers make the right choice when purchasing their pads.”
Leat Airflex elbow guards
Added coverage with minimal, and breathable material
That lets Leatt take a more timeless approach to designing pads. Instead of chasing ever-shifting and amorphous categories like “downcountry” and “all mountain,” the South African brand just focuses on making the best pads and lets riders choose what suits their needs. Bikes are getting more and more capable, though. To Leatt, that just means protection is more important than ever.
“The fact that people are riding faster, more aggressively and probably crashing more often does put a lot of emphasis on CE certification for limb protection,” Meyer argues, adding “This is something that has always been a priority for us since we entered this market.”
The second prong of Leatt’s strategy to protect riders is to reduce the cost barriers. Like their helmets all offer the brand’s 360-Turbine system to protect against rotational impact, even at the lowest price points, Leatt continues to offer a wide range of price points for pads. The Neck Brace comes in four adult price points and two more for juniors. The 5.5, offered in adult and junior, offers more features than the 3.5 without the elite price tag of Leatt’s 6.5.
Why offer such a wide range of protective wear and at such a wide range of prices? Well, Leatt wants to make pads that riders will actually wear. That means something different to every rider as the ways of riding mountain bikes keep expanding. And Leatt wants to make sure they still have at least one pad for any rider on any budget. Because the pads you wear work way better than the ones you leave at home half the time.
This story is brought to you by Leatt