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Ride Protected: Choosing the Best Bike Pads for Outdoor Adventures

Ride Protected: Choosing the Best Bike Pads for Outdoor Adventures

When riding off-road, protection is a must. While skills and technique prevent many crashes, bike pads provide invaluable peace of mind when tackling technical terrain.

Finding the right pads tailored for your riding style, local trails, and climate ensures you can ride with confidence knowing key impact zones are covered. Read on as we unpack how to choose the best MTB pads for staying safe while sending it on the trails.

How We Selected the Top Bike Pads

With countless pad options on the market, we focused on six key factors when making our recommendations:

  • Protection level and certifications – We looked for pads meeting established impact protection standards for mountain biking. Premium pads offer more extensive shielding.
  • Coverage area – The best pads protect likely injury hot spots like knees, elbows, and shoulders without overly restricting movement.
  • Comfort and breathability – We emphasized pads using ventilated materials to allow airflow and minimize sweat buildup when riding.
  • Adjustable fit – Pads with customization features offer a more tailored, secure fit for all-day comfort across different body types.
  • Profile and bulkiness – Finding the ideal balance between protection and bulk is key for mobility. We sought streamlined pads that don’t hinder movement.
  • Value – While maximum protection has a price, we kept value and budget options in mind across multiple categories.

Using these criteria, we selected our top pad recommendations for common mountain bike protection needs.

5 Best Outdoors Bikes Pads

1

Top Pick: Knee Pads – G-Form Pro-XPrice: $60

Top Pick: Knee Pads - G-Form Pro-X

Offering a streamlined profile without sacrificing impact absorption, the G-Form Pro-X knee pads top our list for all-around trail protection.

These CE-certified pads utilize revolutionary impact-hardening foam that remains soft and flexible until a crash impact causes it to stiffen, absorbing the brunt of the force. This advanced material offers protection on par with rigid pads but with extreme comfort.

The terraced shaping provides extensive coverage across knees and shins without restricting pedal strokes. The mesh backing breathes well on hot climbs. The adjustable velcro straps ensure these pads stay put and can fit a variety of leg shapes and sizes.

For riders seeking lightweight, cool, and comfortable pads with proven impact absorption, the G-Form Pro-X hits the sweet spot. They offer hardcore protection without cumbersome bulk.

Pros: Extremely comfortable fit, innovative impact-hardening foam, streamlined low-profile design, breathable during climbs, CE-certified protection.

Cons: Sizing runs small. Expensive but worth the premium.

Where to Buy: JensonUSA, Backcountry, Competitive Cyclist

2

Top Elbow Pads – POC VPD AirPrice: $100

Top Elbow Pads - POC VPD Air

For lightweight but fully protective elbow guards, the POC VPD Air pads lead the pack.

These EN 1621-1 certified elbow pads utilize POC’s innovative VPD material that combines foam and padded gel inserts for superior impact absorption and comfort.

The 3D molded elbow cups offer extensive coverage across the elbow joint and forearms. Ergonomic stretch fabric allows a full range of motion. The ventilated sleeve design enhances breathability during sweaty rides.

For riders hitting technical trails with jumps, drops, and falls, the POC VPD Air pads provide robust elbow protection that still allows great flexibility. The ventilated gel-foam design keeps you cool even on blistering days.

Pros: Super protective VPD foam-gel technology, highly breathable design, great flexibility and movement, ergonomic fit.

Cons: Sizing runs small. The premium protection comes at a price.

Where to Buy: Competitive Cyclist, JensonUSA, Backcountry

3

Upper Body Armor – IXS Flow Shoulder PadsPrice: $175

Upper Body Armor - IXS Flow Shoulder Pads

Providing serious upper body protection for technical terrain, the IXS Flow Shoulder Pads shield your vulnerable clavicle, shoulders, chest, and upper back from major impacts.

This EN 1621-2 certified armor utilizes dual-density EPS foam with strategic ridges and cutouts for flexibility without compromising protection across high-risk injury zones.

The moisture-wicking mesh inner lining keeps you dry and cool during hours of singletrack. The adjustable waist and shoulder straps provide a dialed, secured fit. Weighing just 2 lbs, the slim profile moves seamlessly with your body.

While the plastic outer shell looks hardcore, the Flow pads remain sleek and non-restrictive. Aggressive riders hitting rough terrain will appreciate the burly but flexible full upper body coverage.

Pros: Robust multi-impact EN 1621-2 protection level, streamlined and non-restrictive, excellent adjustable fit, super breathable.

Cons: Not designed for the casual XC rider. Pricey but you get what you pay for.

Where to Buy: JensonUSA, Competitive Cyclist, Wheelworld

4

Hip Protection – Demon FlexForce X D30 Hip PadsPrice: $130

Upper Body Armor - IXS Flow Shoulder Pads

Providing low-profile protection for vulnerable hips and tailbones, the Demon FlexForce X D30 Hip Pads utilize groundbreaking D30 shock-absorbing foam to shield your pelvis and coccyx from painful impacts.

Rated to the CE EN 1621-1 bike safety standard, the pads’ streamlined design minimizes bulk while delivering robust protection. The ventilated mesh and spandex fabric breaths well and stretches for a comfy compression fit.

The pads extend protection across hips and upper thighs without limiting mobility. For downhill and gravity riders, these guards provide reliable security against those excruciating tailbone and hip hits. Even freeriders can benefit.

Pros: Premium D30 impact foam protection, sleek and flexible fit, good ventilation and moisture-wicking, CE-certified impact rating.

Cons: Not cheap. Designed specifically for gravity/freeride rather than all-mountain riding.

Where to Buy: JensonUSA, Worldwide Cyclery, Universal Cycles

5

Maximum Protection – Leatt 3DF 6.0 Body ProtectorPrice: $440

Maximum Protection - Leatt 3DF 6.0 Body Protector

Offering comprehensive full-body shielding for technical downhill and bike park laps, the Leatt 3DF 6.0 Body Protector provides the ultimate armor for aggressive riders.

This EN 1621-2 certified vest combines hard shell chest and back plates with 3DF shock-absorbing foam to provide unmatched protection across the collarbones, torso, shoulders, ribs, and spine from major impacts.

The moisture-wicking liner keeps you cool on long days shredding downhill runs. Fully adjustable arm, waist, and shoulder straps ensure the vest fits snugly for full coverage without hindering movement.

While the Leatt 3DF 6.0 carries a premium price, for extreme mountain bikers and gravity riders seeking the highest protection rating, this full upper body armor is worth the investment to protect against career-ending injuries.

Pros: Unrivaled EN 1621-2 full upper body protection, adjustable for secure fit, built to withstand severe impacts.

Cons: Overkill protection and price point for casual trail riding. The full-face helmet look isn’t for everyone.

Where to Buy: RevZilla, JensonUSA, Backcountry

How to Choose the Right Pads for You

When selecting bike pads, consider key factors like your riding terrain, skill level, climate, and types of impacts you want to protect against.

  • Assess the technicality and risks of local trails. More advanced and aggressive riders need more robust protection.
  • Look for pads with the highest safety certifications like CE EN 1621-1 for your riding style. Don’t skimp on quality.
  • Prioritize guarding injury prone zones like elbows, knees, hips, and shoulders based on your past wipeouts.
  • Test the comfort, ventilation and adjustability when trying on pads. They should move with you.
  • Find the ideal balance between protection and bulk that suits your trails. Mobility matters too.
  • Measure your body parts and read sizing charts carefully for a precision fit. Pads shouldn’t restrict or pinch.
  • Start with basic knee and elbow pads. As your skills progress, add more armor like spine and shoulder guards.

Finding your ideal riding protection takes trial and error. But using this guide as a starting point allows you to enjoy the trails knowing spills and crashes won’t incur serious damage. Ride on safely!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best pads for comfort on long rides?

Look for lightweight, ventilated pads like those from G-Form that use flexible, breathable materials with moisture-wicking liners to keep you cool and chafe-free on all-day rides. Straps should distribute weight evenly without pressure points.

Do I need upper body protection for casual trails?

Basic elbow and knee pads suffice for smooth singetrack, but once you start pushing your limits on rocks, jumps and drops, a lightweight, breathable spine protector can provide peace of mind against spinal injuries on rowdy descents.

What materials are quality pads made from?

Premium pads use combinations of innovative impact-absorbing foams like D3O and VPD along with durable outer-shell plastics and flexible inner linings for ventilation. Multi-layered materials withstand repeated impacts.

Should I put pads on over or under bike clothing?

Personal preference! Under bike shorts reduces slippage but can cause chafing. Over clothes prevents irritation but may shift more. Many riders wear knee pads under shorts and elbow pads over jersey sleeves for the ideal combo.

What’s the best way to clean smelly, sweaty pads?

Remove pads from plastic shells if possible. Hand wash inner liner pads with mild detergent and allow to fully air dry before re-assembling. Never put foam pads in the washing machine or dryer.

How can I protect my tailbone when I crash?

Look for pads with raised tailbone coverage like Demon D30 hip pads or shorts with built-in coccyx protection. Extra cushy MTB shorts and seats can also mitigate bruised backsides during rough landings.

Are basic pads needed for mellow green trail riding?

Even on smooth trails, an unexpected fall, slip on a rock, or losing control can lead to scraped and bruised limbs. Lightweight knee and elbow guards are wise for all riders as a preventative safety measure. Better safe than sorry as the saying goes!

Ride On Safely

Whether bombing down steep chutes or winding through lush forests, high quality pads tailored for your ride style help every outdoor cyclist ride with confidence. As your skills progress, don’t hesitate to add more protective armor across vulnerable zones before attempting more advanced terrain.

While downhill and freeride specialists require hardcore pads and body armor, even cross country riders benefit from basic knee and elbow protection for unexpected falls. Finding your ideal balance of protection, coverage, and comfort allows you focus on the joy of backcountry discovery knowing vital impact zones are shielded.

We hope our top pad recommendations offer a solid starting point to choose gear that empowers your best rides. Here’s to many more miles of happy trails ahead!

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