When it comes to “brace” style protective gear there are many opinions as to their effectiveness. Questions like does it hamper the rider’s ability to correctly ride the motorcycle? Or does bracing the knee make your femur susceptible for injury? Far be it from me to have the end all be all answer, but I can tell you what has worked for me. Up until 2012 I was just a knee cup/guard guy who basically thought knee braces were only for people with money, good insurance, and past knee Injuries. In 2012 a buddy of mine handed down his old pair of braces and I found them to be comfortable and in fact gave me a little more confidence in my somewhat flimsy knees (one is always slightly swollen, and the other pops out from time to time).
Now that you know a little about my knee protection history let me tell you about the Leatt Z Frame braces. I have been wearing and loving the Leatt X Frame braces for the past nine months and they have become my favorite non custom fit braces. I was excited to get the lower price point Z Frame’s and see if the price really dictates comfort and protection. The way the Z Frame straps to your leg is slightly different than the X Frames, as they strap in a “Z” pattern behind the leg (hence the name). Theoretically once you adjust the Velcro to your leg size you can just unclip the plastic clips on the straps to take the braces on and off, but I found myself always adjusting the Velcro to get the right fit every time I put the braces on. Why? Because sometimes I will drink a beer or three and eat a cheeseburger the night before. Can you say sodium intake?
Once on, the Z Frame braces are noticeably bulkier than the X Frames, especially in the knee cup area. To me the knee cup area was excessively large and I felt like my knee cap was floating around underneath the cup, which would occasionally rub the underside of the cup when my legs were bent. This excessive bulkiness also changed how my legs were able to grip the bike, which wasn’t necessarily bad, it just didn’t feel like the braces that I was used to. The protection of the knee, shin, and thigh area is substantial as well as provides a large coverage area to protect in the event of a crash or hitting trailside debris. The “brace” function of the Z Frame didn’t seem as strong or supportive as the X-Frame that I have been used to. What I mean by this is that my knee didn’t feel as supported and actually popped out once when I dabbed my foot wrong (this isn’t necessarily the braces fault).
After wearing these braces for a few months, I have come to the conclusion that they may fit some people better than others. I think that for my smaller (weaker) knees I need something that hugs, fits tighter, and gives me slightly more support (like the X Frame does). They are not necessarily bad braces, maybe someone with bigger knees would have a completely different opinion, but I just felt that my knees were kind of floating in the braces (yes, I had the correct size). With an MSRP of $299.99 the Z frame doesn’t break the bank as badly as other knee braces on the market, but they still aren’t exactly “cheap”. This Z Frame brace would more than likely be adequate for the weekend warrior that wants to go from a knee guard to a knee brace. The type of rider that wants some more safety, but isn't necessarily out to win a local racing series.You can check out the complete Leatt lineup over at leatt.com or if you have any questions about this test please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.