Whether you’re hitting some rocky singletrack or bombing a few downhill trails, it’s time to get serious about protecting your body for those inevitable wrecks.
You need a good pair of knee pads. After all, it’s hard to keep those pedals turning if your knees aren’t working.
Knee pads come in various shapes, coverage levels and not forgetting fit. There also are soft and hard mountain bike knee pads in the market today.
Which type of knee pads suit you?
Choosing the right one can be confusing at times. On this page, we’ll hopefully help to make that decision easier.
Here are 10 of the best knee pads for mountain bikers.
1. Fox Enduro D3O
Fox is well known for designing high-end bike suspensions for serious downhill and enduro riding, so it makes sense that the company would also make knee pads for the inevitable impacts that accompany those mountain biking disciplines.
The Enduro offers the highest level of protection with a D30 pad inset. D30 pads are designed to remain flexible while riding but instantly harden to a tough shell on impact.
To keep everything cool, Fox uses Ariaprene to keep the backside of these pads flexible and breathable. The fabric is also moisture-wicking, drawing sweat away from the skin.
2. Race Face Ambush
Race Face offers plenty of protection with this substantial knee pad. The Ambush provides full protection that wraps completely around the leg from thigh to below the knee, protecting you not only from impacts but also passing brush and boulders.
Like many of the pads on this list, the Ambush features D30 padding, which remains flexible while riding but hardens on impact. Two large hook-in-loop straps keep this pad firmly in place as you ride while a stabilizer pad behind the knee prevents shifting.
3. Scott Mission Evo
Scott’s Mission Evo knee pads take a different approach. Rather than use straps to hold pads to the leg, they work as a sleeve that you step into and pull over your knee.
Tough elastic bands keep these pads in place once on, while silicon helps them to perfectly form fit to your knee. The result is a pad that is very flexible, keeping you free to pedal, while at the same time exceptionally comfortable.
The fabric is abrasion resistant to stand up to crashes while plenty of EVA padding protects your knees on impact.
4. 100 % Teratec
These soft need pads from 100% go for comfort and coverage.
Extending all the way to the ankle, the Teratec pads protect your legs from rocks, branches, and anything else you might brush up against on the trail. This sleeve style pad pulls on over your leg. A silicone edge keeps the hem in place while the nylon outer compresses around the leg.
A mesh back helps keep things cool. Lightweight pads provide light protection designed for regular trail riding.
While these pads don’t provide enough protection for downhill adventures, they’re a great option for moderate enduro and trail riding.
5. Alpinestars Vector Pro
These knee guards from downhill equipment specialists Alpinestar are an excellent option for rugged trail riding.
Designed with ripstop material, the Vectors are designed to hold up against the abuses of singletrack mountain biking. A stretchy mesh panel compresses around the leg while a silicon inner keeps the knee pad in place.
The knee pad is flexible, allowing for freedom of movement while offering moderate protection on impacts. Padding on the sides of the knee provides increased protection. A hook in loop strap secures the Vector to your knee.
6. Endura MT500
With its hard shell pad insert, the Endura MT500 is designed to keep those knees protected on rugged downhill trails. It incorporates the industry-standard for gravity riding; the D30 hard shell.
The D30 stays flexible while riding but instantly hardens on impact. Neoprene material compresses the pad to your leg. It’s also flexible and breathable. Additional padding covers the sides of the knees, making sure everything is well protected.
Two large hook-and-loop straps secure the pad to your leg. The Endura is certified to meet CE Level 1 safety standards.
7. G-Form Elite Knee-Shin Guard
When you need a high level of protection, go with the G-Form Elite Knee-Shin Guard. This pad, which resembles military-grade body armor, doesn’t just protect your knee, but your vulnerable shins as well.
The Elite uses what’s referred to as Reactive Protection Technology. This means the pad stays remarkably flexible while riding but instantly becomes rigid on impact, blunting forces to the shin and knee.
The pad is held to your knee by fabric that compresses around the leg. Mesh material on the backside provides for ventilation, keeping everything cool on your descent.
8. Dakine Hellion
Dakine’s Hellion knee pad offers an impressive level of protection in a pad that is uber flexible to keep your pedaling free and uninhibited.
Dakine uses Ariaprene foam, which is thin, stretchy, and lightweight, yet rugged enough to offer protection comparative to heavier materials. A thicker layer of foam placed directly around the knee offers a higher level of protection.
The outer is made of rugged aramid, a fiber commonly used in the production of body armor, guaranteeing that you won’t suffer any road rash when you hit the deck going 20 plus miles per hour.
9. 100% Surpass
With its CE level 2 safety ratings, you can rest assured that 100%’s Surpass knee pad will give you maximum protection, which is good to know when you’re hurtling 15 feet through the air after hitting a massive jump on that double black diamond downhill.
The centerpiece of this protection is the large curved external plastic cup that provides max protection while also keeping things cool with plenty of ventilation. Compression fabric and silicone grips on the inner keep the pad in place while you’re navigating switchbacks at breakneck speed.
Hook-in-loop straps at the top and bottom provide additional support.
10. IXS Dagger
IXS keeps the pad coverage to a minimum while not skimping on protection with its dagger knee pads.
While the Dagger may not keep your ankles from getting scraped up when you lay the bike down on that nasty downhill switchback, it will protect your knee and shins from impacts thanks to its ArmadillDuo compression shell and NockOutEVA padding.
Outers are made of rugged nylon that resists wear and tear and IXS’s SqueezeBox material, which compresses around the leg for optimal fit and support. Two hook-in-loop straps allow you to optimize the fit.
Mountain Bike Knee Pads Buyer's Guide
When it comes to knee pads, you want the set that will provide you with the right amount of protection, while still being lightweight, flexible, and cool.
In this section, we’ll discuss the types of pads you can expect to find.
This includes everything from light-duty pads designed to protect you on cross-country rides to CE 2-rated downhill pads made to keep your knees and shins protected on high-velocity impacts.
Let’s take a look at the 4 important things about mountain bike knee pads.
Level of Protection
Coverage is an important factor to consider when shopping for knee pads. While some pads will focus on keeping that knee protected, others are larger, covering not just the knee but also the entire shin.
While max coverage provides better protection, there’s also a tradeoff. The more coverage, the more your range of motion is impeded and the hotter your legs. Choose a level of coverage that fits the riding you’ll be doing.
Aggressive downhill riding requires the protection afforded by knee-to-shin coverage, while minimal coverage may be all that’s needed for cross-country riding.
The type of protection you get from a knee pad ranges from heavy Lycra or nylon, which is designed to protect against cuts and scrapes.
- Soft foam pads, such as with the 100% Terratec pad, provide moderate protection against impact as well as a barrier for roots and rocks.
- Hard fiber shells, such as the padding on the Fox Enduro D30 and Dagger knee pad, offer max protection. These heavy-duty pads range which are flexible while ridden but become hard on impact, to hard plastic shells, which offer max protection and have the highest safety rating.
So, what level of protection do you need?
Knee pads such as the G-Form Elite provide higher level protection for downhill riding; however, the pad would be too bulky for cross-country or even trail riding.
Choose a lighter pad, such as the 100% Teratec soft knee pad, for cross-country and trail riding.
Fit and Comfort
A knee pad that chafes or begins riding up or sliding down your leg is useless, becoming a nuisance during your ride while failing to provide the protection they are designed to give.
Knee pad manufacturers employ a few different methods to fit.
Some knee pads, such as the 100% Terratec soft knee pad, slide on and are secured with compressing nylon material. While this design provides max comfort, they are more likely to shift during intense rides.
Other knee pads, such as the Race Face Ambush and Vector Pro knee pads, use velcro straps that can be tightened. Some feature dual straps while others go with a single strap. While straps are ideal for keeping the pad in place, they are also bulkier and can be uncomfortable.
Other materials employed to keep things in place include silicon grippers and stretch seems.
Mountain biking is an aerobic outdoor support often done in warm temperatures.
In short, you get hot while riding. Wearing thick knee pads can make you hotter.
To combat this, knee pad manufacturers look for ways to keep things cool. This includes using mesh backing, breathable neoprene, and pads with ventilation holes. Still, knee pads will add heat.
This is less of a factor for downhill riding, which won’t cause you to sweat as much as a trail ride that might involve steep climbs. Look for pads, such as the Scott MIssion Evo and Fox Enduro D30, that will provide adequate protection without overheating you.
Let’s face it, whether on a cross-country trail or bombing a downhill run, we all want to look good. No one wants to look like a Fred.
Knee pad manufacturers know this, so they’ve made protection look cool by adding badass graphics and designs that resemble tactical gear.
Take a look at the 100% Surpass, for example. There’s a reason why many of these knee pads mimic the look of body armor found in the military.