I have written posts on this site on what to buy to keep you as injury free as possible. I have told you how to choose the right helmet and given you some great options. You can also learn about the best body armour available, neck protection. Now it is time to discuss mountain bike elbow pads.
Not everyone wears them, but personally, I feel quite vulnerable without mountain bike elbow pads. We all know what it is like to bang your elbow on a door frame, but banging it while traveling at 35mph in to some rocks is a bit more serious. A good pair of mountain bike elbow pads can give you confidence as well as protection.
It is good to do some research on these, I have done it for myself and I am about to share my findings with you.
What to look out for
Mountain bike elbow pads, in my opinion are essential if you are doing anything particularly technical. They should be tight-fitting, but not uncomfortable. You don’t want them to slip down your arm when it gets bumpy, or when you end up skidding down the trail elbow first.
You can get heavy duty hard plastic mountain bike elbow pads, but I really like the ones with clever technical foam. This stuff feels soft, but it hardens up on impact. They are really comfortable and allow you to move freely. These pads are kept in place with either velcro straps or they are elasticated.
POC VPD Air
These are the ones that I currently use. I bought these after my cheap ones failed me, and left a very grazed elbow with a big lump on it. The POC VPD mountain bike elbow pads are comfortable and flexible enough for the required freedom of movement. They are ideally suited to be directly on your skin, rather than on top of your jersey. This is because the insides have non-slip neoprene panels. There is also a velcro strap to keep them in place. They have slipped down on occasion, but only on really bumpy downhill trails (I do have really skinny arms though). I have had a few offs with them and they have served me well during the three years I’ve had them. They are starting to get a bit loose now, but I ride three or four times per week in the summer. Therefore, they have had a lot of use.
They have been impact tested by yours truly. They are comfortable, light and durable and I recommend them.
*UPDATE – I have had the POC VPD elbow pads for about four years now and they have lasted well, considering how much I wear them. They are starting to get a bit loose now and they do slide down to my wrists on particularly bumpy trails. They are fine for the less bumpy trails though.
We are going a bit techy with this one. G-Form make all sorts of protection for many sports, and they use the same technology all round. This is a modular pad attached to a tight-fitting moisture wicking sleeve. G-Form use Reactive Protective Technology (RPT). On impact, its molecules redistribute to harden up and to disperse the shock, before going back to normal.
The fit of these mountain bike elbow pads is pretty impressive. It is almost like a second skin, with the way it articulates with your arm. It has really good coverage too, as it provides protection above and below the elbow. You will always get a bit sweaty in any elbow pad and this is no different. But it does have a mesh panel to keep you ventilated as much as possible.
The G-Form Elite are pricey, but they offer a lot of protection and comfort. If you don’t mind paying the extra, I recommend that you give them a try.
IXS Carve Evo +
My wife, Carolyn has these, and she really likes them. The IXS Carve Evo + are light, comfortable and secure. The aeromesh technology makes them breathable while wicking away moisture. These mountain bike elbow pads are ergonomically formed and have adjustable straps to ensure that they don’t move when the trail gets bumpy. For extra security they have soft silicon strips inside to reduce the likelihood of them slipping.
Great lightweight and comfortable mountain bike elbow pads, with great protection. Tried and tested by Carolyn on a number of occasions. They look pretty good too.
Race Face Ambush
The Race Face Ambush keeps you safe with D30 foam, this is soft to the touch until it gets a whack. Then it goes hard and disperses the shock of the impact. The material in contact with your skin is perforated neoprene, allowing good ventilation. These are very comfortable and are very durable. However, make sure you get the sizing right as they are slightly smaller than you would expect. My one gripe with these, is that the rough side of the velcro strap will be in contact with your jersey. This means it will rub and snag, but you can always check out my selection of jerseys for men here and women here.
Great comfortable and secure, as long as you get the size right. The velcro may snag your jersey.
These mountain bike elbow pads will save your skin
Well, the bit on your elbow anyway. When you hit the deck and your pads land first, you will be glad that you were wearing them. Let me know what you think. Have I missed anything or is there something else you would like to know? Leave your comments and questions below.