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Environmental and Sustainability Aspects of MTB Elbow Pads

Environmental and Sustainability Aspects of MTB Elbow Pads

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Mountain biking elbow pads are a very important piece of safety equipment for every rider out there. They protect your elbow in the case of a crash or hitting your elbow against an obstacle like a tree trunk.

Like with everything manufactured out there, making elbow pads has an impact on the environment.

Materials Used in Elbow Pads

Most of the elbow pads use synthetic materials in both the sleeve and the impact protection material itself. Common materials like polyurethane foam or even ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam are common in elbow pads that have been made for years. Sleeve materials such as nylon, polyester, and spandex are very durable for the sleeve material and in wide use in the industry by all of the top brands.

Making synthetic materials requires resources like oil and they do create some greenhouse gases as part of the byproduct of the manufacturing process that can affect the climate. The synthetic materials also do not biodegrade over time which means they will stay in a landfill forever if they are thrown out. 

In fact, because they don’t bio-degrade, the best way to help if you already have elbow pads is to take care of them so they will last much longer.

Manufacturing Elbow Pads

Like most things that are created in a factory nowadays, making elbow pads can also affect the Earth and climate. Most of these elbow pads are produced in big factories that are using energy for lights and equipment and water for cooling the equipment. Just like everything else these factories create air pollution.

However, many brands such as G-Form’s Terra elbow guards  are creating elbow pads that are fully biodegradable and 100% recyclable so they won’t leave a lasting effect on the Earth after you’re done using them.  That’s half the issue tackled at least which is a good start.

Shipping Elbow Pads

After the elbow pads are manufactured, they have to be shipped out to customers. Shipping them in trucks and creates air pollution and greenhouse gases.

There are some brands that try to create these locally in different spots in North America and Europe but this isn’t a common solution and shipping items is much more widely used than just for elbow pads.

Lifespan and Recycling Elbow Pads

All elbow pads will only last so many rides and so many years. No matter how sturdy or durable they are, they will have to be replaced eventually. Even with proper maintenance.

While elbow pads and materials were not always as recyclable as I mentioned above, there are many brands that now are trying to make biodegradable elbow pads so that they’ll eventually break down in the landfills.

This is one of the ways I can happy say is actually improving now and I hope is solved entirely very soon.

Eco-Friendly Materials and Production

Biodegradable Padding Materials

There are many brands now that are using biodegradable materials in both the protection padding as well as the sleeve material. Cotton and latex foam for instance break down naturally over time to avoid more items landfill.

There are even a couple of brands that are using leather as the sleeves material that is reclaimed from motorcycle leather gear. While I’m not a huge fan of leather due to breathability, it’s still great that gear is being recycled and reused.

Responsible Manufacturing

The manufacturing process creates a lot of environmental pollution like it does for manufacturing anything out there. They key is to keep trying to make it better than it is today.

There are ways to make this more responsible such as using renewable power sources such as solar wind energy to help power the factors at least in part. Water pollution  is another place where production can always get better.

The key is conserving energy and trying not to pass on the pollution to the environment.

Recycled and Upcycled Materials

Like I said earlier in this article, there are at least a couple of manufacturers that are recycling and reusing motorcycle gear made of leather to create new leather mountain biking gear. Others are recycling synthetics that would not have broken down in a landfill otherwise and creating new mountain biking gear.

Reclaiming and reusing materials is a great way to at least not have it just sitting in a landfill forever. Plus motorcycle gear is pretty tough stuff so it’ll last forever as mountain biking gear if it’s taken care of.

How Riders Can Buy Sustainable Gear

So the natural question next is how can mountain bike riders buy sustainable gear if they want to help out with the environment:

  • Buy quality elbow pads that are going to last many many years. The longer they last, the longer before they are in a landfill. If they are made for you, you are even more likely to keep them around as long as possible.
  • Riders can buy elbow pads made of biodegradable materials so that they will break down over time when they’re no longer useful.
  • Mountain bikers can choose brands that are trying to be green and make a difference for the environment. It takes a little more work and a little more money for them to go the extra mile so it’s important that riders support them.
  • If you can fix elbow pads instead of throwing them out that makes a big difference.
  • If your old elbow pads are still in decent shape, passed them on to another Rider.

There are many ways you can make a difference when you want to.

Plotting a Greener Path Forward

Many mountain bikers ride trails and try to leave everything is good as they found it, including not throwing trash on the ground.  Well, choosing a slightly greener path is just an extension of that because you’re trying to leave the Earth as good as you found it.

While many things are getting better such as biodegradable elbow pads being more common, there are many things riders can do such as using elbow pads as long as they can (or pass them onto other riders) and buying elbow pads that at least won’t harm the environment when they’re no longer fit for use.

It’s surprisingly easy for mountain bikers to make a difference and contribute to making trail riding for future riders as good as it is today.

About the Author

Tony K

Senior Technical Writer,

Tony K is a technical editor at He has a focus on downhill bike riding but still loves xc bikes too.

With more than ten years of mountain biking experience and more than 5 years testing mountain bikes, Tony has ridden and tested hundreds of different bikes and products, everything from XC to enduro bikes. Tony regularly competes in mountain bike races while seeing how long those compontents can hold up which gives me a lot of insight.

When he isn't shredding down a mountain or camping out, he is writing reviews for Mountain Bike Experience.

Rides: Surly Lowside, Canyon Exceed