MTB knee pads are important for any mountain biker, yet tons of cyclists forego them because they assume the downsides outweigh the benefits.
By the end of this post, you’ll see why skipping out on using MTB knee pads is one of the dumbest things you can do as a mountain biker.
More protection is always more important. The main gripe is that MTB knee pads hinder your ability to pedal, and while it can affect it, we’re going to explain why the protection is a benefit to you. Besides, you can always build back up to those speeds. Consider it a challenge to outperform the hindrance of the gear.
Let’s go over the most misunderstood part of mountain biking protection, why you need it, and describe how MTB knee pads have come a long way in recent years. They’re not as bad as you think, or those 2004 forum responses from your Google search make them out to be.
What Are MTB Knee Pads?
MTB is just short for mountain bike, so MTB knee pads are mountain bike knee pads.
These are different from knee pads that you would use while you’re using a street bike or something of the sort. They’re designed to be more rigid and offer more shock protection than other types of knee pads.
Taking a spill on the pavement means that the ground is even, made of concrete or asphalt, and many of the ways that you fall will be entirely predictable.
Bicycle helmets that are made for this are designed for specific shock resistance, but mountain biking helmets could be dealing with asphalt, sharp rocks, falls from greater heights, and many more variables that just simply can’t be controlled in a standard way.
MTB knee pads, helmets, and generally MTB safety gear is better suited to withstand the abrasions and provide the rough resistance you need when you’re mountain biking. It’s not a gimmick; they’re designed differently, and in the case of mountain bike safety gear, designed superior.
Why Should I Use Them?
The list of why you shouldn’t use them would be shorter. You should use them for numerous reasons, including:
- Fall Protection: This is the most obvious reason, but it’s because it’s the biggest one that there is. If you fall without MTB knee pads, it could lead to a severe injury that could impact work, quality of life, and your ability to ever ride again. Does that mean that MTB knee pads completely negate this chance? Of course not; it depends on so much more than just having gear, but all it takes is one bad fall at a certain angle to be fatal.
- Some biking trails require them: If you’re going through a check stop at a mountain biking trail then you’re subject to their terms. If it’s a private area, they’re going to want you in safety gear to bring down their liability. However, many public trails are fine to use, they may just be less exciting. If you plan on using private mountain biking trails, you’re going to need safety gear, including MTB knee pads.
- Extra Training: Knee pads, elbow pads, the gear isn’t exactly lightweight. The more weight, the more resistance you’re going to have. If for no other reason, you should wear your safety gear to make your movements more rigid and add that extra weight so you’re getting in additional resistance training during the whole thing.
How Often Are Mountain Bike Fails?
Even experienced mountain bikers are going to have their spills.
Anyone who does this long-term, who has gotten past the ego and bravado of being the “best” of the best or anything like that will tell you one thing: you never want to be unprepared when you take a dive.
It has nothing to do with looking cool or seeming like you’re so good that you don’t need the protection. If you have an ounce of that feeling in you, that pride that says you shouldn’t be wearing knee pads or helmets, get rid of it now for your own safety.
Mountain bike fails aren’t about experience, either. You can be one of the most experienced mountain bikers out there, but you cannot account for erosion, loosening dirt, humidity, and weather conditions. You can’t know everything that happened on the trail ahead of you during your off-time.
It’s possible that you can go years without a spill, or even a decade, but there’s always that possibility. However, you can do some things to reduce your likelihood of taking a dive, even if it doesn’t negate the change entirely.
Be comfortable with your bike before you hit the trails. If it’s new, take it on the road for a half-hour, or stick to paved trails in hilly areas for a short while until you can feel your bike like an extension of yourself. This is especially important if you normally go five or more years without getting a new bike, since your equilibrium will be accustomed to the design and counterbalancing of the old bike.
Wear all your gear. Knee pads, elbow pads, helmet, and whatever clothing you can to ensure you minimize scapes and lacerations if you fall off your mountain bike. This gear should include shades that help keep glares out of your eyes so that you don’t get caught by a ray of sunlight that temporarily blinds you and makes you lose your focus. That’s all it really takes.
Don’t listen to music or podcasts in your earphones while you’re mountain biking. Street bikes or mountain bikes, it doesn’t matter: this is an extra distraction and takes an important sense out of the immediate task of riding your bike. I know it’s tempting to jam to your favorite high BPM tunes to help carry you through your routine, but try to keep your eyes on the target ahead. Speaking of which…
Don’t get tunnel vision. Don’t only think about the spot you’re going to stop; be sure to look around and have situational awareness at all times, especially when you least think you’ll need to exercise it.
Get sufficient sleep. This cannot be overstated enough, because sleep is essential to your body’s overall function. The heart, the brain, lungs, everything requires quality sleep each night to operate properly and without constraints.
Being overtired can get so bad that you have the same situational awareness, response time, and temperament as someone who is actually legally drunk. It’s scary (and the world of sleep is something that you can dive into and learn more about than I can teach you here; I recommend you do so to understand just how crucial this is to your mountain biking and overall quality of life).
Above all else, just understand what’s going on in the moment. Use your eyes, ears, and when you have the proper gear and all else fails, you’ll still be okay.
The goal of this gear isn’t to prevent accidents, but rather to prevent severe or mortal injuries from accidents that will eventually happen. Everyone has taken a spill on a mountain bike, and they will continue to do so until they hang their helmet up for the last time.
DIY Knee Pads
If you’re not keen on buying expensive, name-brand MTB knee pads, you’re not alone.
They’re pricey, and you shouldn’t let it stop you from enjoying your mountain biking experience. You also shouldn’t use your mountain bike without equipment, so it can leave you between a rock and a hard place.
You can make DIY solution with an ace bandage, two socks, and a few stitches (or without).
1. Take tube socks and fold them in half. You want each sock to be folded exactly in half. These are going to be the knee pads underneath the bandage.
2. Wrap an ace bandage around your knee. You want it tight, but not too tight that it causes a loss of circulation. Tuck the sock between your knee and the bandage.
3. You’re done, but if you want some extra support, you can put a rubber band around it to keep the sock in place, let the bandage handle it on its own, or stitch the sock into place and make these last for more than one use.
Staying Safe During Mountain Biking is Necessary; Don’t Talk Yourself Out of it
Keeping your joints aligned, your skin protected, and even helping to prevent broken bones are the main reasons that you should have MTB knee pads in your mountain biking attire.
They’re underestimated because riders commonly fear the lack of mobility and pedaling power, when in reality they should look at it as an opportunity to progress and re-achieve their previous speeds despite any hindrances. MTB pads are important; strap up and get ready for the ride.