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Proper Fit and Sizing of MTB Elbow Pads

mtb rider with properly fitting elbow pads

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When riding mountain bikes on trails, protection is an important consideration. Wearing properly fitted elbow pads can prevent painful injuries if you happen to crash or fall. This article will explore how to select and get the right fit for MTB elbow pads.

Considerations for Elbow Pad Sizing

Choosing an elbow pad starts with getting the right size. Most brands size their pads using measurements like small, medium, and large. Some may list a size range in inches.

Consider where on your arm the pad will fit. Most riders want the pad to cover the elbow itself plus a couple extra inches above and below. This gives protection on the most vulnerable point of impact.

When trying pads on, make sure to check range of motion. You’ll want to ensure your elbow can fully bend and straighten without the pad feeling too tight or restrictive. Pads that are too small will cut off circulation or limit mobility.

Do any adjustments needed to get a good fit, like tightening straps. The pad should feel snug but not restrictive. If your skin bulges around the edges, it’s too small. Some gaping is normal when the arm is straight.

Make sure to try pads on with any body armor you plan to wear regularly. This confirms everything will work together without limiting flexibility.

Key Measurements for Fitting

To find your size, you’ll need to measure your elbow width along with arm circumference above and below the joint. Wrap a soft measuring tape snugly without compressing skin or muscle.

Compare your measurements to any sizing charts provided by the manufacturer. Pay attention to elbow width in particular – this is the hardest area to adjust.

Arm circumference above and below can be tweaked modestly with straps and Velcro. But the pad itself needs to match elbow dimensions or it will quickly become uncomfortable on rides.

Always measure your actual arm rather than guessing off clothing size. Slim vs loose fitting shirts can alter perception of needed pad size.

Confirming Alignment With Your Elbow Joint

When evaluating elbow pad fit, check that the center padding aligns well over your actual elbow. Flexing lets you see the joint’s location and test for shifting.

Pads with an opening or hole to insert caps usually auto-locate over the elbow. Sleeve types without a cap opening require more adjustment. Marking joint placement with a washable pen helps get these centered.

Check fittings while holding handlebars so weight distribution mirrors riding. Gravity and arm position affect how pads shift related to joints.

Cinch and anchor straps after verifying pad placement in riding stance. Any slipping could make the pad useless in a crash, exposing the joint instead of protecting it.

Adjustability and Modifications

Many MTB elbow pads include features to customize fit like: removable pads, multiple strap configurations, and adjustable hook-and-loop areas. Use these to achieve your optimum comfort and protection level.

You may be able to insert extra foam layers from other pads or cut DIY segments if needed to take up volume differences. Some sleeve-type pads also work with small braces underneath for extra stability and support.

Getting creative with minor modifications lets you tune the pads precisely to your body type, riding style and risk tolerance. Just don’t alter anchor points in ways that compromise safety.

Riding Conditions and Terrain

Consider when and where you ride to choose the right MTB elbow pads. Lightweight XC-style pads offer minimal protection for smooth paths or non-technical terrain. But trail and downhill pads feature heavier hard shells and padding for aggressive riding.

Also think about climate. Well-vented pads work better in hot humid weather versus sealed models for cooler conditions. Removable sleeves aid changing for variable temps.

Analyze trail layouts as well. Expect side impacts from trees or downhill slides? Select pads with wraparound shields guarding inside and outside of joints. High speed crashes? Prioritize hard shell caps and sas-tec padding for maximum shock absorption.

Linking riding terrain with protection needs and styles will lead you to the best MTB elbow pads to meet individual preferences.

Replacements from Damage or Wear

Inspect MTB elbow pads before and after each ride checking for: stretched out Lycra, cracks/tears in shells or fabric, packed out or compressed foam.

Replace immediately if the pad’s protective qualities seem compromised. Severe crashes also warrant inspection and potential replacement even if damage isn’t visible.

For general wear, plan yearly replacements to maintain best shock absorption. Elbow pad materials compress microscopically on impacts dispersing force. So protection degrades over time regardless of visible damage.

Consider keeping spare pads ready for unexpected rips or malfunctions far from home. Swapping pads takes just seconds so backups prove useful when you need them.

One of the most important points of maintenance of MTB elbow pads is knowing when to replace them.

Getting the Proper Fit

Following sizing best practices when selecting your MTB elbow pads ensures optimum protection for those spills on the trail. Analyze your riding terrain and typical crash impacts to choose pads with appropriate safety features.

Proper alignment centered over the elbow joint prevents the pads from shifting making them ineffective. Use all the adjustability built into the pads to fine tune for flexibility and a gapless fit.

And inspect pads routinely for wear, tearing or packing out – replacing damaged items that may no longer protect vulnerable elbows after rugged use. With some informed attention, you can ride confidently knowing quality elbow pads have you covered if things go wrong out on the trails!

For more details be sure to check our informational guide on elbow pad use, how to select the right MTB elbow pads, and elbow pad maintenance tips. Stay safe on the trails!

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