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MTB Elbow Pads Accessories and Add-ons

MTB Elbow Pads Accessories and Add-ons - A mountain biker jumping while wearing all safety gear

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Mountain biking can be an exhilarating yet dangerous sport if the proper precautions are not taken. One of the most important accessories any mountain biker can have is a good pair of elbow pads. Elbow pads help protect a rider’s arms and elbows in the event of a crash on the trail. They absorb impact and prevent scrapes and cuts. For mountain bikers that ride aggressive trails or do a lot of downhill riding, elbow pads are essential.

When shopping for mountain bike elbow pads, riders have lots of options to choose from. Pads come in different styles, fit types, and levels of protection. Lightweight pads focus more on breathability and flexibility, while full downhill pads prioritize maximum impact absorption. Consider where and how aggressively you ride when selecting elbow pads.

In addition to the pads themselves, there are some other useful accessories bikers pair with elbow pads. Gloves help grip handlebars to prevent slipping. Base layers worn under pads, plus pad retention straps keep pads from shifting. Body armor like shoulder pads can connect to elbow pads for more coverage. Considering all the possible add-ons helps mountain bikers create a customized protection system tuned to their riding needs.

Types of Mountain Bike Elbow Pads

When buying mountain bike elbow pads, one of the first decisions is which type or style to get. The common styles are trail elbow pads, all mountain elbow pads, and downhill elbow pads. The main differences between the types comes down to intended use, protective qualities, weight, ventilation, and flexibility.

Trail Elbow Pads

Trail elbow pads target cross country, enduro, and casual trail riders. Of all the mountain bike elbow pads, trail pads are the lightest and most breathable. They are made of flexible materials that allow close to full mobility. The protection level of trail pads is minimal – mostly intended to prevent scrapes from brush or minor spills.

Troy Lee Designs and POC make top rated trail pads. Popular models include the Troy Lee Designs Speed Equipment and POC Joint VPD System. Both offer moisture wicking fabrics and slip on sleeve designs for active pedaling. For hot weather, the ventilation of trail pads keeps riders cooler versus heavier duty options.

All Mountain Elbow Pads

For riders that take on more challenging trails, jumps, and technical lines, all mountain pads offer a middle ground of protection versus flexibility. Materials are thicker and denser than trail pads, with more extensive hard shell plastic coverage. The coverage area of an all mountain elbow pad also tends to extend higher on the upper arm and lower on the forearm.

Brands like G-Form and 7iDP make all mountain pads designed to handle the abuse of aggressive riding. Their pads use combinations of plastic shells and shock absorbing foams that stiffen on impact. Popular models are the 7iDP Transition Knee and Elbow and G-Form Pro-X. These provide pedaling comfort but firm up when needed to protect against crashes.

Downhill Elbow Pads

Downhill elbow pads are made for maximum protection, meeting the demands of bike park and downhill racing riding. Downhill pads prioritize impact absorption and coverage area over flexibility and ventilation. They are built ruggedly, able to withstand repeated hardcore crashes.

Full downhill race pads from industry leaders Fox Racing and TLD can withstand the worst wrecks. The Fox Launch Pro D30 and Troy Lee Designs 7855 Race pads have large elbow caps and use multiple foam technologies to handle violent impacts from downhill crashes. Although the bulky build limits mobility, for high speeds and big hits downhill pads are essential.

Useful Accessories to Pair With Mountain Bike Elbow Pads

In addition to the pads themselves, there are some useful accessories mountain bikers pair with their elbow pads. Things like base layers, gloves, and body armor extend protection and help keep pads secure when riding hard. Consider adding these accessories to build a complete protection system tailored to your trails and riding style.

Base Layers

Wearing a base layer under elbow pads helps pads stay in place by preventing sleeve slipping. It also protects skin from chafing caused by excess pad movement. Base layers come as long and short sleeve models made of lightweight, moisture wicking fabrics.

Endura and Pearl Izumi make popular baselayers for mountain biking. The Pearl Izumi Canyon short sleeve model uses their SELECT transfer fabric to keep sweat pulling off the skin. For colder weather, the Endura MT500 long sleeve has a brushed fleece interior for warmth that still fits comfortably under pads.

Mountain Bike Gloves

Mountain bike gloves help riders securely grip handlebars for better bike control, as well as protect hands in crashes. They provide abrasion resistance during spills and extra padding on knuckles and palms helps lessen impact forces. For elbow pads to work effectively, quality gloves help prevent a fall caused by hands slipping off the controls.

When selecting mountain biking gloves, look for full finger models with durable, reinforced outer materials. Top mountain bike glove brands like Giro and 100% use proprietary fabrics like Super Fit engineering and D30 padding for protection. Breathable inner linings like mesh or microfiber make full fingered gloves more comfortable to wear.

Shoulder Pads and Body Armor

For downhill and bike park riding, some riders pair shoulder pads and body armor with their elbow protection. Shoulder pads like the Demon FlexForce X D30 attach directly to elbow pads to extend coverage. Connecting pads helps create one complete protector.

Body armor takes protection up another notch, covering core areas like the chest, ribs, and back. Armor with an armor clip system like the Leatt 3DF Airfit can securely link with Leatt elbow pads for 360 degree protection. Body armor does affect pedaling comfort and range of motion, so casual riders may not need this accessory. But for hardcore downhill, armor works with elbow pads to shield vulnerable areas.

Features to Look For When Buying Mountain Bike Elbow Pads

With all the options available today, buying the best elbow pads for your mountain bike needs some careful evaluation. Beyond just the style of pads, inspecting specific features helps determine optimal fit, protection level, and design. Key aspects to consider are pad adjustment systems, shell materials and construction, and the shock absorbing foam used.

Adjustment Systems

Having a secure, customizable fit extends padding coverage and keeps pads fixed in place when riding. Most mountain bike elbow pads use either a sleeve or strap system to attach and adjust on arms.

Sleeve style pads like the G-Form Pro-X slide on like a tight shirt. Made of elastic materials, sleeves stretch to accommodate different arm sizes. Close fitting sleeves prevent pads from being ejected off arms during crashes. Sleeves need to stretch enough for a tight hold, without restricting circulation or movement.

Pads with strap systems attach at the top, middle, and bottom with velcro enclosures and adjustable straps. This style seen on the 7iDP Transition pads allows each section to be tightened or loosened independently. Straps should yield even pressures without pinching or restricting blood flows to the extremities.

For optimal security, look for pads with attachment systems that are adjustable and extend fully around the arm. Multiple secure contact points better anchor pads in position. Removable and replaceable strap pads are also beneficial in case a strap gets damaged.

Shell Fabric and Construction

The outer material covering pads plays an important role managing impacts, preventing punctures, and dealing with abrasions. Hard plastic shells better distribute concentrated forces from rocks and trail debris over a wider pad surface area. Dense shells also resist penetration from sharp trail objects like sticks and branches.

Under the shell, durable fabrics face repeated abuse. Brands like Demon design pads with ballistic nylons and Kevlar paneling for tear and abrasion resistance. Sturdy outer fabric builds also withstand exposure to mud, dirt, and water without degrading.

For coverage, look for pad shells that wrap fully around the sides and undersides of elbow joints. Padding gaps leave exposed areas vulnerable in crashes. Full circumferential shell designs provide the most complete coverage.

Shock Absorbing Foams

At their core, quality mountain bike elbow pads utilize strategically placed layers of shock absorbing foam to lessen and displace impacts. Different materials possess unique compression, stiffening, and damping qualities that enhance protection.

Multi-density foams, like those in the Leatt 3DF pads, leverage both softer and more rigid layers working together. Soft foams compress to absorb incident energies, while stiffer densities limit and spread impacts before they reach the arm itself. This hybrid approach reduces transmitted forces from a wider array of crash angles and loading types.

Cutting edge pads also integrate next generation materials like D30 padding and Poron XRD to better mitigate crashes. Both stiffen and disperse impacts progressively as force levels rise. During gradual loading however, the materials remain pliant to not restrict movement and airflow. Their adaptive responses make these smart foams suitable across riding intensities while providing exceptional impact absorption.

The best mountain bike elbow pads combine these advanced shock mitigating substances in layers tuned to different impact thresholds. This enables pads to dynamically react to everything from small trail debris to violent downhill crashes. Carefully constructed foam architectures maximize protection across the wide range of possible mountain biking impacts.

Beyond all of that, pricing is of course always something to consider. Knowing your budget for mtb elbow pads is sometimes even the easiest thing to start with.

Leading Brands of Mountain Bike Elbow Pads

With an awareness of pad types and key features to look for, it helps to know the industry leaders pushing innovation in mountain bike elbow pad technologies and designs. Brands like G-Form, Fox Racing, and Troy Lee Designs consistently top the ranks of rider reviewed and recommended elbow pads. Their use of cutting edge materials and anatomically dialed fits explain their popularity.


G-Form elbow pads lead in applying smart responsive foams to mountain biking protection. Across their line, G-Form integrates proprietary SDXCE formula foam molds uniquely stiffening upon impacts. The material remains soft and flexible until a crash rapidly firms pads by hardening. After absorping energies, the foam restores to normal pliancy.

The G-Form Pro-X Elbow Guards stand out using this RPT padding technology for adaptive padding. On trail rides, riders enjoy full flexibility until the precise moment impacts activate stiffening responses. For most dynamic protection that doesn’t hinder movement, G-Form Elbow pads deliver.

Fox Racing

Fox leverages over five decades of motosports experience crafting elite level pads packed with innovations. Fox Elbow Guards fuse space age materials like D30 and XRD in anatomical pad shapes for unparalleled performance.

As favorites among aggressive trail and downhill riders, the Fox Launch Enduro and Launch Pro D30 elbow pads show Fox’s strengths. Their strategically mapped padding components offer both flexibility for riding and impressive impact attenuation when needed. For those demanding the most advanced protections, Fox Elbow pads deliver.

Troy Lee Designs

Since 1981, Troy Lee Designs (TLD) has pushed the limits of padding technologies and designs worn by champion extreme athletes. As leaders in DH riding protections, their elbow pads fuse cutting materials with meticulous patterning for unrivaled fit and performance.

Downhill racers praise the TLD 7850 Hard Shell pads for the fortified shielding against crushing impacts. The integration of dual density foams, plastic shells, and ballistic fabrics make these pads practically impenetrable. For those relentless in their riding, TLD’s bombproof padding gives the confidence to charge harder.

By understanding intended use, trades between mobility and protection, and key material and design features, mountain bikers can select high performance elbow pads tailored to their specific needs and preferences. Leading brands like G-Form, Fox Racing, and Troy Lee Design push innovations in both technologies and designs to keep riders safer while shredding trails. Properly geared up, riders can push their limits knowing quality padding has their backs when the inevitable crashes happen.

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