I’m not the kind of mountain biker who wears protective pads but recently I started thinking about it. After noticing some of the older, wiser guys I ride with wearing protective gear, I decided to give the Maxi Knee and Elbow Guards and Elbow from THE Industries a shot.
The benefits of using protective knee and elbow guards are pretty obvious–abrasion and impact protection–but for many (like me), the benefits appear to be outweighed by the discomfort and hassle. But after wearing the Maxi Guards, I found them to be far more comfortable and easier to use than I imagined.
The Maxi Guards feature foam padding that’s made from a viscoelastic material which is pretty much a miracle of science. Normally soft and squishy, this viscoelastic material instantly hardens upon impact, absorbing virtually any blow you can throw at it. The upshot is smooth, comfortable movement on the bike but solid impact protection when you need it. This particular material also happens to be fairly lightweight so it’s not like you’re carrying around bags of firm jello on your knees.
Looking at these pads you can tell there’s a lot going on beyond the large front pad itself: pillowy side pads, kevlar-reinforced abrasion protection, and a stiff panel at the top where the velcro attaches to keep things from wrinkling or bunching. The elastic velcro straps are super easy to use and are effective at keeping things in place without pinching or chafing. The elbow pads are pre-bent and feature silicon grippers on the inside at the bend and at the top where the pad cinches around the bicep.
Now, adding flexible padding doesn’t automatically make for comfortable protective gear. Maxi Guards feature neoprene inner sleeves which I found to be pretty soft and inoffensive, even when I was sweating. THE Industries doesn’t include silicon grippers on the knee guards but I didn’t miss them one bit–I experienced zero slippage or rotation on the knee guards. I also noticed very little loss in my range of motion.
On the trail I found the Maxi Guards run hot which isn’t a surprise. Actually, having hot knees was an interesting experience–it felt a little soothing, almost like my knees were in a mini hot tub. Now I understand why people wear knee warmers on cold days! Still, wearing knee guards is much cooler than wearing full body protection so it’s a good compromise between protection and comfort on hot days.
The elbow guards were slightly more noticeable on the trail but an interesting side benefit is they tended to make me more conscious of my arm positioning on the bike. I tend to ride straight-armed a lot and the Maxi Guard elbow pads forced me to bend my arms slightly for better control.
The Maxi Guards do their best to keep the hassle factor to a minimum which is great considering how much gear it seems we need just to hit the trail these days. The knee guards easily stretch to fit over shoes and the wide straps are simple to handle even with gloves. They’re also fairly light–about 12 ounces for the pair of knee guards and 9 ounces for the elbows–so it’s easy to toss them in your pack just in case you run into some gnar.
Ok, so wearing Maxi Guards doesn’t suck but what about protection? I’m certainly not the most aggressive technical rider out there but I definitely found I had more confidence on the trail while wearing Maxi Guards. And when I wasn’t wearing them, I seemed to do stupid things like bang my knee on my handlebars. That’s a minor injury for sure but why take the risk when it’s so easy to throw on Maxi Guards?
If you’ve been thinking about adding some protection to your rides, consider Maxi Guard knee pads from THE Industries. The Maxi Guards are comfortable and unobtrusive and just might give you the extra bit of confidence you need to tackle more technical terrain. The knee pads will set you back $84.99 for the pair while the elbow pads are available or $59.99 MSRP.
Thanks to THE Industries for providing the Maxi Guards for review.