Internally, the EG and KG series guards use a combination of soft and hard sandwiched foam to create a robust but flexible padding matrix.
In real world testing I did, in fact, have some unplanned impacts, further confirming the assumption. Despite riding clip-ins, I manage to slip a pedal fairly often, usually resulting in a painful metal-on-shin “thwack.” I would go as far as saying–and my pocked and scarred shins would confirm–pedal thwacks account for the bulk of my minor “riding incidents.” I can recall at least two such incidents where the KG 5450s saved me from some shin damage. And also a couple times when they didn’t….which I’ll get to in a bit.
I also did some low-level, live-action crash test dummy-type impacts. Though it might not seem like much, simply dropping to one’s knees on a concrete floor can be pretty painful if unpadded. After several such drops wearing both sets of pads, I–as expected–detected a slightly higher impact energy through the Troy Lee’s than the Fox sample. Neither, however, was painful nor injurious. The KG just had a more noticeable thud.
I can say without question that both saved me from abraded knees as well as potential blunt-impact injury and distress. One could reasonably extrapolate similar results from a test of the elbow guards.
What’s not to like?
A couple paragraphs up, where the KG 5450s didn’t save my shins…that’s not a comment on how the KGs function but on what they don’t cover. My theory goes “if I’m going to wear shin guards (and I am), give me shin guards!” This is not the difference between an open face and a full-face helmet, it’s much more subtle. I’m trying to think of a downside to a longer shinguard and can’t come up with even a single one. Surely the prospect of a nice lower leg tan will be negated by the moonscape of shin craters!
Shin coverage is lacking on the TLD (left) compared to the full-Stormtrooper Fox Launch. While the Fox is overkill for trail riding, we do wish the TLD extended down another four or five inches.
Measurably speaking the Fox Launch shin guards cover my entire shin, extending a full 12-and-a-half inches down from the knee. The TLD makes it just over half way down at seven inches. That leaves a lot of canvas for Pedalo Shimano to get all Jackson Pollack on. If you look closely at my exposed shin in the comparison pics you can see remnants of damage that’s weeks old. It matches a complimentary pedal bite covered by the guard on the other side.
And while we’re on the subject of where protection isn’t, it should be noted that coverage on the sides and tops of the knees is minimal. It’s also fairly slim down the shin bone.
Pads on, pads off…means shoes off too
The only other gripe I have is less about this particular model and more about type. Inherently, this type of guard requires the removal of shoes to slip on and off–trying to slip them over shoes only results in grimy, stretched out pads if you can even do it. Unfortunately for TLD, I’m spoiled by the Fox Launch guards and their simple X-Up click-in strapping system. In less time than it takes me to get my shoe off, I can have a Launch strapped up and ready to go.
There’s better news on the elbow/forearm guards…for me they’re appropriately snug and stay put, even when I’m hot and sweaty. Some riders, however, reported restrictive tightness in one size, but excessive looseness in the next size up. Score a point for the Joe Average-armed tester, however, the mediums fit me spot-on.
Size up the situation
That situation brings up a very good caveat: try these pads on before you buy. Though I’m sure someone at TLD did a detailed sizing study to determine the size ranges, we humans have a myriad of variables nobody could reasonably capture on a simple chart, or even in four non-adjustable sizes for that matter. According to the hang tag, I should fit a medium in the elbow guards, and size large in the legs. Turns out I’m a medium in both, so definitely put on a pair and walk around for a while.
Though the guards come in four sizes–XS, S, M and L–it’s entirely possible that like the other test rider I mentioned, you may find a smaller size too tight and a larger one too loose–neither a scenario you want to ride in. If that’s you, consider buying the larger one and having someone with sewing skills take a little slack out for you…and by a little, I mean very little–it’s amazing what a couple millimeters one way or the other will do.
Coming clean–care and feeding of your guards
Like all wearables, the EG and KG guards are not immune to acquiring odors. Though I thought I knew all my personal aromas, the TLDs have introduced me to a new variety I can only describe as “pungent, rancid Cheetos.” Thankfully, they’re machine washable and one run through the cold cycle followed by some drip drying returned them to olfactory neutrality.
The bottom line on the Troy Lee EG 5550 and KG 5450 guards
The Troy Lee Designs EG and KG series guards are some of the best light- to mid-duty limb protectors on the market. The advantages of their light weight, relatively cool running temperature, and flexibility trump their somewhat limited coverage and klunky on/off routine. Their excellent portability and pedaling comfort make them a great choice for trail ride, all-mountain, and enduro riding and racing–technical cycling that could benefit from some protection, but doesn’t require DH-level defense and bulk.
- Excellent ergonomics
- Superior flexibility
- Massive weight savings over hard shells
- Much more comfortable than soft shells
- Extremely portable
- Quality construction
- Cut/abrasion resistant
- Reasonable airflow
- Machine washable
- Subtle, tasteful color scheme
- Commensurate protection-to-task ratio
- Sizing is hit-or-miss for some
- Shin guard is too short
- Lacks side knee and top protection
Pricing and Weight
- Troy Lee Designs EG 5550 Elbow Guards, 210 grams – $65 MSRP
- Troy Lee Designs KG 5450 Knee Guards, 260 grams – $75 MSRP
More info at: troyleedesigns.com; 1-800-239-6566