We’ve been asking our readers about their favorite mountain bike products for years, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve shared the results for the body protection category. Sure, almost all of us agree that helmets are important to wear, but beyond that, what other body parts are worth protecting?
In response to the open-ended question, “what is your favorite mountain bike body protection,” most readers chose a pair of knee pads. Apparently, after the brain, mountain bikers are most concerned about protecting their knees. Shin protection is the next most popular form of protection mountain bikers utilize, followed by elbow protection.
So, if you’re in the market for some additional protection for mountain biking, start with one of these top-rated pairs of knee pads. If you’re still feeling vulnerable, we’ve also included our readers’ top pick for shin guards, elbow pads, and bodysuits.
Top Knee Pads
These knee pads are the overwhelming favorites among Singletracks readers. Fox uses a viscoelastic D3O material on the kneecaps, which is soft and flexible while riding but hardens on impact to offer excellent protection. Not only that, Fox added a removable hard plate for additional protection.
The Launch Pro Knee Pad features a neoprene sleeve with velcro straps above and below the knee to customize the fit. Fox offers three sizes and sells the Launch Pro knee pads for $129.95.
POC offers several flavors of VPD knee protection, but Singletracks readers seem to prefer the added protection the Joint VPD 2.0 knee offers over the VPD Air, and also the added flexibility over the VPD 2.0 DH. The Joint VPD 2.0 pads offer fairly consistent coverage all around the knee instead of concentrating protection just over the kneecap.
The VPD material POC uses is similar to D3O in that it’s flexible while pedaling, but stiffens on impact. The sleeve is made from stretchy fabric with two elastic velcro straps to secure the guard in place. Available in four sizes, the POC Joint VPD 2.0 knee guards retail for $110 USD.
Like the Fox Launch Pro guards at the top of the list, Race Face uses D3O in the Ambush knee guards to protect knees from knocking into stuff on the trail. The Ambush guards are the only pads on this list to utilize an open back design, which makes it possible to don or remove the guards without taking off your shoes too. A breathable neoprene sleeve ties everything together, with two velcro straps above and below the knee.
Race Face offers five sizes of the Ambush knee guards, and pricing is set at around $115 USD.
#4: IXS Flow Knee
The IXS Flow knee pad is fairly lightweight and packable, while still offering viscoelastic protection. Just a single elastic velcro strap below the knee is used to keep the Flow knee guard in place. The AeroMesh sleeve is antibacterial and is designed to be breathable, which anyone who has used knee pads in the summer can tell you is very important.
Expect to pay about $70 for a pair of IXS Flow knee guards, which are offered in four sizes.
The Alpinestars Paragon knee guards are the most affordable of our readers’ top picks, selling for $45 or less. Compared to the other knee guards on this list, the Paragons are perhaps the simplest with no velcro straps and low profile padding. Because the Paragon knee guards don’t have adjustable straps, Alpinestars offers a wider variety of sizes to ensure a great fit, ranging from extra, extra small to extra, extra large.
Top Shin Guards: Fox Launch Knee/Shin
Some mountain bikers choose to pair shin protection with their knee guards, and among these combo pads, Singletracks readers’ top pick is the Fox Launch Knee / Shin. Unlike the Launch Pro D30 Knee guards that are so popular, the Launch Knee/Shin protectors are hard shell only, meaning they’re less flexible. It also means they’re less expensive: just $69.95 for the pair.
Top Elbow Pads: G-Form Pro-X Elbow
Many may be surprised that G-Form didn’t make the list of the most popular knee guards, and honestly that’s probably due to the limitations of our survey method. Plenty of people wrote in “G-Form Knee Pads” as their favorite protective equipment, enough to nab the #4 spot among knee guards. But because we had no way of knowing which G-Form knee pads people were voting for (Pro X or Elite) we couldn’t include them on the list. Among the protective MTB brands, G-Form also received the second-most mentions overall.
Fortunately, our readers were very clear when it came to the elbow category, which saw the G-Form Pro X elbow pads come out on top. G-Form pads use a design called “body mapping,” which allows the guards to move and flex in nearly every direction. A viscoelastic material called RPT soaks up impacts while offering abrasion protection too.
The G-Form Pro X elbow pads are available in six sizes and retail for $69.99 USD.
Top Body Suit: Fox Titan Sport Jacket
Fox has clearly built a reputation for offering excellent protective equipment for sports like mountain biking, landing the top spot in yet another category. The Titan Sport Jacket integrates hard, protective shoulder, upper arm, elbow, lower arm, chest, and back plates for maximum protection. The suit is mostly held together with mesh panels for maximum ventilation.