Mountain biking is one of those sports that require a lot of equipment in order to do it correctly and safely. In today’s article, we are going to look at one key piece of equipment, knee pads.
While some riders will dismiss these as a luxury, we are going to explain exactly why they are an essential piece of kit for all mountain bikes, new and experienced.
We have also scoured the market for six of the best mtb knee pads options for mountain bikers that are currently available to help take some of the guesswork out of choosing. We have also put together a complete buying guide for mountain bike knee pads so that you have all the information you need at your fingertips to choose the right knee protection for you.
Why You Need Knee Pads
You might be asking yourself why you need knee pads? Surely, they are just another piece of superfluous kits that mountain biking stores want you to buy? No, they are an essential piece of kit.
If you have an accident while out on your mountain bike you either come off your bike and go flying, or you stay on your bike, and the wheels skid underneath you and leave you and your bike in a massive heap on the ground.
While you will want knee protection for the first type of fall, knee pads are really for the second type, as when you go skidding in this way your knees are one of the first thinks to hit the ground. Both the impact and scratching can do a lot of damage. Also, remember, unlike the rest of your legs, your knees are mostly bone and ligaments. There is not a lot of fat or muscle to protect the functional parts.
But knee pads aren’t just for falls. As you power down the trail in complete control of your bike, your knees are exposed to the side and near the front of your bike. They are easily hit by passing branches or rocks kicked up from the ground. Hitting these things at speed can be extremely painful.
So, knee pads protect you, and if you are a new rider, they can give you more confidence as you might feel better able to take on narrower spaces. In colder climates they can also keep your knees warm, which isn’t just about comfort, it also means that you are less likely to do any damage to your knees.
5 Best Mountain Bike Knee Pads Reviews
Bodyprox Protective Knee Pads
If you are looking for lightweight protection rather than heavy duty armour for your knees, then these pull-on pads from Bodyprox are a good choice. Designed for various sports, and not just mountain biking, they are also a very affordable addition to your kit.
The protective layer is made from high density strengthened foam, while the sock is made from a breathable, elasticated material that should feel comfortable and keep your skin dry. However, the elasticated sock is also designed to apply quite a bit of pressure in order to compress the area for better performance and reduced chances of injury.
These pads are so comfortable that you will probably forget that you are wearing them until the moment that you need them. But they are designed for minor accidents rather than serious blows.
But our only complaint with these pads is that there are only two size options, so it can be difficult to find the perfect fit.
- Pull-on Knee Pads
- Lightweight protection
- Compression design
- Two size options
G-Form Pro-X Knee Pads
These pads look quite futuristic, but they aren’t just trendy, they offer excellent protection that extends the entire area of the knee.
They are a pull-on design secured with a Lycra sock that feels both comfortable and secure. The fabric is moisture wicking to keep you dry.
The protective padding is made from innovative rate-dependent technology which offers strong protection without the bulk. The pad extends above and around the sides of the knee, as well as several inches down the shin.
The protective pad also uses body-mapped, impact absorbing design that should offer protection no matter the angle of the impact.
The pads are machine washable and come in eight different sizes so that you can find the perfect fit. There are also four colour options. But the design of these futuristic looking pads will either appeal or not. But they certainly do the job.
These are top quality knee pads in terms of comfort and protection, but they aren’t cheap.
- Pull-on Knee Pads
- Lycra, moisture-wicking sock
- Rate-dependent technology protection
- Pad extends over the entire knee and down the shin
- Eight different sizes available
Lixada Cycling Knee Brace
These strap-on knee pads look a little bit like something out of transformers, and they use similarly sophisticated technology. Nevertheless, they manage to be highly affordable.
The chassis that you strap to your leg is made from Oxford cloth with padded cushioning to protect the area surrounding the knee from impact and scrapes. The protective cup is made from a PR shell for additional protection around the sensitive knee-cap area.
The straps are secured with Velcro and are adjustable, but the pads do only come in one size so it can be difficult to achieve the perfect fit. The pads also include a nice reflective element, which give the pads their transformers style and offer a little bit of safety.
If you prefer strap-on pads because you don’t like having a lot of fabric behind your knees, you will love this option from Lixada.
- Strap-on knee pads
- Padded Oxford cloth chassis
- PR shell protective caps
- One size with adjustable straps
Everstarke Knee Pads for Work
If you want something minimal that effectively protects your knees without incumbering half of your legs, try this option from Everstarke. These knee pads are actually design for work, and also to be strapped on over the top of your trousers, which will appeal to many cyclers. It can feel more comfortable than having them against your skin.
The protective shell is made from a puncture-resistant polymer, which is attached to a cool, breathable mech fabric chassis that is padded with high-density EVA foam for extra protection. Right on top of the knee cap is also a soft silicone gel pad to give maximum protection to this vulnerable area.
These pads come in a variety of different sizes from small to XXXXL, and come with a 30-day money back grantee, and one-year warranty.
These pads aren’t designed to be ergonomic while you are cycling, as they are designed for work, but they are still very comfortable, offer excellent protection, and they are also highly affordable.
- Strap on Knee pads
- Puncture resistant polymer shell
- EVA foam and silicone gel padding
- Variety of sizes
Lepfun S9900 Knee Pads
If you are looking for a very affordable pair of pads that are lightweight, and offers protection against scrapes and dings, these pads from Lepfun are a great choice. They aren’t durable enough to offer good protection for serious accidents.
The padding over the knee is made from high-density strengthened foam They are located with a breathable elastic chassis that you pull-on over the leg. These are also design to compress in order to be comfortable and provide protection.
These pads are lightweight and flexible, so it feels like you aren’t using anything at all, but they offer enough protection in the case of most mountain biking related accidents.
They are only available in two sizes, which means that it is difficult to get the perfect fit, but this is the option for someone looking for something affordable that will do the job without any bells and whistles.
- Pull-on knee pads
- High-density foam padding
- Compression sock
- Two sizes
POC Sports Men’s Joint Vpd Knees
These are premium knee pads for serious cyclers that want both comfort and protection, and are willing to pay for top quality.
The protective shell is mad from 3D moulded VPD 2.0 foam which offers maximum protection without feeling like you have strapped iron to your legs. They are attached to a perforated stretch Kevlar fabric chassis that is moth breathable and moisture wicking. While the chassis is secure, there is also an elasticated adjustable strap for maximum comfort and security.
These pads come in five different sizes so that you can find the perfect fit.
These are basically professional knee pads ideal for mountain biking, with the perfect balance of comfort and protection. But as with most professional level products, you do need to pay for them.
- Pull-on knee pads
- Professional knee pads
- 3D moulded VPD 2.0 foam
- Kevlar chassis
- Five sizes
Mountain Bike Knee Pad Buying Guide
There are two basic types of knee pads to choose from. Pull-on knee pads that you slide on over your foot and pull up your leg, and strap on knee pads which you place directly on your knee and secure around the back of your leg.
Pull-on knee pads tend to be lighter, and therefore provide less protection, but also feel more secure around your knee in general. Stap on knee pads tend to be heavier and more durable, but they aren’t so comfortable. The straps are usually secured using Velcro.
You can also get heavy-duty knee pads which actually extend all the way down to your ankle for extra protection. These are mostly for new riders, or extreme riders, as they can be pretty heavy and uncomfortable. But they do offer good protection when you need it.
You should also think about what kind of clothes you wear mountain biking when choosing your style. Pull-on knee pads need to sit tight on the leg so will need to go on under clothes, unless you are wearing cycling Lycra. Strap on pads can go on over the top of clothes, and might also be too chunky to fit underneath certain trousers.
For knee pads to do their job effectively, they need to fit snuggly around your knees, while covering your whole knee. This means choosing the right size. Size options are generally limited to small, medium, or large, and you can use your trouser size as a general guide for what is likely to be the right size. However, you won’t know for sure until you try them on.
Each brand of knee pads will have their own sizing guide, but another common way to choose the right size is to begin four inches above your knee and measure the circumference of your leg using a tape measure.
When you try the knee pad on, they should feel comfortable to tight. If they don’t feel a little bit tight, you will probably end up with some extra fabric behind the knee which won’t feel good when you bend your knee, as you do repeatedly and continuously while cycling.
With time, slightly tight knee pads will stretch and become comfortable to use.
The protector itself that site over the knee will likely be made from either an impact-resistant foam, or a new high-tech material, such as Armourgel. While foam offers a solid layer, these new materials feel more fluid, but still offer good protection on impact. Of course, these pads tend to be more expensive.
Remember that knee pads aren’t interchangeable, there is a left and a right leg.
When it comes to material, you need to think about the material of the chassis, which is the base layer, the gripper, which clings to your leg and stops the pad moving out of place on your leg, and the protective element.
For the chassis, you will want something that is lightweight and breathable, so that it doesn’t feel too hot, but also tear-resistant so it protects your leg against scrapes. Lycra and think neoprene are both common materials, but you may also see Kevlar on more expensive options.
For the gripper, most options will be an elastic hem, like you see on Lycra shorts, or a silicone gripper line, which feely a little bit like double-sided tape. Lycra tends to be more comfortable. Silicone is more secure, but can chaff if you use it for a long time.
While we might not think of our knees as a sweat zone, when you combine the exertion of cycling with the warmth of the knee pads, you learn that they are. This, combined with mud and dirt picked up on the trail, can result in very dirty knee pads. When it comes to cleaning them, you’ll be grateful for something that is machine washable.
You will probably want to wash you knee pads after every five to seven rides in order to keep them clean and extend their life.
When you don’t wash them, still be sure to air them out after a long ride.
How tight should mountain bike knee pads be?
Knee pads for mountain biking should be on the tight side of snug when you test them out. The best mtb knees pads should stretch a bit once you start using them, so if they aren’t snug, they will be too big. You also want to avoid uncomfortable bunching of fabric behind your knees.
Do knee pads stretch out?
Yes, knee pads naturally loosen when you first start wearing them, which is why you need something on the tight side of comfortable. You can avoid your knee pads stretching out too much over time by being careful when pulling them on and off and storing them carefully.
Do you wear knee pads over or under pants?
Whether you should wear your knee pads over or under pants depends on the knee pads and the pants. Tight pull on knee pads will usually be too small to go on over pants, while strap on knee pads will be too large to go on under pants. So, you should think about what kind of clothes you like to wear mountain biking when choosing the right knee pads for you.
Knee pads are an essential piece of equipment for any mountain biker, whether novice or professional. Unfortunately, many bikers don’t realize that this is the case until they have had an accident, and done either minor or major damage to their knees.
While knee pads might feel like a burden, if your find the right set, you can have protection and feel like you aren’t really wearing anything at all. You can forget about them until the moment they save your knees from serious injury.
The key to finding the right knee pads is finding something that is comfortable for you, and that offers the level of protection that you need. While most mountain bikers probably only need moderate protection, newbies and extreme riders will want to put up with a bit of discomfort for additional armour.
After that, it is all about sizing. You need something that won’t slip around, and that covers your entire knee cap, leaving nothing to chance.
Last update on 2020-10-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API