Mountain Bike Knee / Elbow Guards

Hi Everyone,

Looking for some guidance. Primarily a roadie and newish CX racer, I recently picked up mountain biking which I really enjoy. I’m 46 and have no interest in high speed downhill or taking big risks on the trail. Nonetheless, today I had an unspectactular low speed crash due to user error and banged up my left knee and elbow pretty good.

So, my question is - is it worth getting knee and elbow pads ? I’m assuming they would have helped. I’m thinking lightweight and comfortable for the type of riding I do And i should also mention that I’m in Austin and the trails around here are pretty rocky. Any suggestions on what to look for?

Thank you.

If I’m doing anything remotely technical, I’ll rock the Alpinestars Paragon kneepads. They are pretty reasonable, easy to climb in, and provide just enough protection for the occasional bail out.

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I also picked up MTB recently after a 10 year hiatus. Yes, when rocky or technical, I feel like knee pads are worthwhile considering my (lack of) skills.

I would say that you will have to experiment for yourself and find your own comfort/protection compromise (still working on it myself). So try to borrow a couple as possible to get a sense of what you like.

Austin can get pretty hot (I live in nearby Houston), so ventilation could be key. I also found that a lot of them tend to slide (and I hate that). Some knee pads characteristics change with temperature (more flex when warmer), which could be a plus for Austin summer.

I have 7iDP lite ($$ but very comfortable, pack really small, but not a whole lot of protection) and Kali Strike one (good ventilation, good protection, ok comfort when cold but better when warm). In Houston, I don’t use knee pads, too warm for really very little chance to crash considering the terrain. But Arizona & Colorado, yes.

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I really like the POC VPD air. They’re a non Newtonian foam that hardens on impact. I made a stunningly hard impact into a Oak tree with them. I thought for sure I’d wrecked my knee, but it was fine.

More importantly get some skills coaching. I know riding a bike doesn’t seem like something you need coaching for, but there really are some coachable performance points that can make you safer.


I’m wondering the same thing myself. I have a mountain bike, but have never been on a trail yet and don’t quite know what to expect.

+1 on the skills and coaching. It’s a big part of why I enjoy the sport and learning to ride more technical trails. But, mistakes happen - particularly as you learn.

And thank you all, some good recommendations to check to out.

So I just started riding a bike in April 2017. I hadn’t owned a bike prior to that for 20+ yrs (42 now). I bought a mountain bike, quickly fell in love and started racing a month later. Cat 2 XC racer now, soon to move up to Cat 1. So I race very competitively where it pushes me to my limits and I redline it down trails. I also train hard on the trails testing the limits of my tires grip, to know how close I can push it. I don’t do big jumps or crazy DH lines, but I do take my XC bike on everything to include black diamond/rated rocky DH trails. I recently did this in CO.

I’ve had 2 separated shoulders (left and right), plenty of front tire washouts and countless minor crashes. I have NEVER hit my knee or ever even momentarily thought, I wish I had knee pads. I don’t get this for typical trail riding and the popularity of it appears to be more of a bro-style fashion statement. However, plenty of times I wish I had shin guards, or hip protection, possibly shoulder pads :grimacing:, but never knee pads. I’m not saying use less protection than you feel comfortable with, but don’t think that you have to have them.

+1 on coaching and/or skills clinic.

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I’ve never worn knee pads either. The few bad crashes I’ve had have been shoulders/chest hitting the ground and sliding (thankfully I’ve been lucky and nothing broken).

I do hit my knees sometimes, but usually on slow speed rocky sections where I lose momentum, balance, and then then come off the bike. Scrapes and bruises, but nothing so bad where the next time I’ve wanted knee pads.

What I’ve found is the most important thing is to be able to assess the trail ahead, and quickly decide if I’m going to go for it, or dismount and walk (my pride has no problem with walking!). I’ve found this decision making ability is important to avoid crashes, and prevention is the best approach for me (at 46 I don’t bounce like I used to).

I think where pads make sense is when you ride aggressively and likely will come off the bike, or when you are learning and the pads can give extra confidence (and of course help in the event of a crash).


Haven’t worn in like 10 years but G form were good to me

I have g form as well. Haven’t used them other than to try them on and ride around the neighborhood, but they are lightweight, comfy and had good reviews when I bought them last year.

One thing that’s under rated for older riders is the warmth factor knee pads provide. I wear them when its even a little bit chilly, even on non-agro rides, and the warmth helps my knees feel better afterwards.


@Nate_Pearson @Jonathan what knee and elbow pads do you use and recommend?

What did you end up getting? We’re you happy with them? I’m in Houston. I’ve tried the G Form, but they’re very hot and either so loose they move or so tight they pinch.

All depends, on your terrain and speed ie consequences. If I’m drilling it but it’s mostly dirt and the chance of crashing into something like a rock or root is low meh probably won’t wear them. That said if I’m getting roudy on fast technical lines at high speed you bet. Have you ever seen a fractured patella? I have ( not mine thank god) it’s horrible. In the ya it may hurt to run/ pedal ever again. Also increases risk for arthritic changes later in life. So if being able to ride when I’m 50 is bro? Sign me up

I ended up with the Gform but but it will probably be Nov/Dec when I start using them regularly enough to really get a feel for how much I like them. I’ve been doing most of my summer rides indoors or early on the road to stay out of the heat and get ready for CX season.

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I use the POC VPD 2.0. I like it but I’ve never tried any other products.

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+1 for the POC VPD Air. Great at protecting the knee, little smaller than the ones @Nate_Pearson uses but find them fine for the limited mountain bike riding I do. Used them in the Alps this summer and even in the heat found them fine for pedalling uphill.

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Heat in the alps? :grin:

Yes. Yes. Yes. I was lying bleeding on the trail in May, bloody knees and elbows, and wondering why my knee/elbow pads were home in the garage. :frowning:

I have the Flow from IXS (both knee and elbow). No problems pedaling for hours in them. If I’m on my ‘big’ bike, I’m wearing them (and my full face as well). The way I ride (read: slow and scared) I probably don’t ‘need’ them, but I’m too old to keep getting bashed up.

If/when I get a lighter duty trail/XC bike (next year) I will probably not wear them on every ride. But for the more technical/faster stuff, hell yes.

As another middle-aged mountain biker, I am 100% behind the philosophy of using protective gear to protect me from myself. I have been mountain biking since the late 80’s and my lower legs still have scars from when I was young and stupid. I now ride with knee/leg pads and they have saved me from many many instances of gravel/tree/nature rash. Mine are old DH/moto style pads, and they stay in my pack until I reach the start of the descent. With my new bike arriving any day now, I’m going to upgrade to pads that are more comfortable to wear when pedalling. Personally, I’ve never felt the need to get elbow pads, because for whatever reason, I haven’t injured/abraded my arms in my crashes. I’m pretty sure my opinion would change instantly if I scraped up an elbow on a ride.

A little off topic, I strongly recommend the neck brace/full face helmet combination for serious rides in the bike park or enduro-type courses. I am pretty sure that they have saved me from serious injury on more than one occasion. I’d rather be sweaty than in hospital.