Why Do Mountain Bikers Wear Knee Pads

It seems pretty obvious to me that mountain bikers would wear knee pads. But many riders who have never worn them before are left wondering. So I decided to find out from riders who do wear knee pads.

Why do mountain bikers wear knee pads? Mountain bikers wear knee pads because they previously injured their knee. Riders want to protect their knees from impact on rocks and roots, from scrapes and scratches during a fall, and cuts on sharp edges. Having knee pads increases confidence, keeps the knees warm, and they are comfortable.

If you think you don’t need knee pads, then let’s find out how riders use them the most.

What Are Mountain Bike Knee Pads Good For

  • I have found unfortunately that many mountain bikers come around to wearing knee pads only after they have gotten into an accident and injured their knees. Some have really cut up their knees where they need stitches. Others have injured their knee cap and ligaments and where not able to ride for a few months.
  • After they have recovered in order for this to not happen again they wear knee pads. This will allow these mountain bikers to enjoy riding longer. Hopefully this will help them to prevent such a bad knee injury from happening again.
  • Mountain bikers that are smarter wear knee pads before they get into any kind of accident. They want to protect their knees from potential impact with rocks and roots. Padding your knees goes a long way in cushioning your knees if they hit a rock or a root during an accident. It can mean the difference between a bump and surgery.
  • High bushes and branches can sometimes hang over the trail, especially on singletrack trails. This can cause cuts, scrapes, and scratches to your knees as you ride through. Knee pads can easily protect the knees from these types of abrasions to your skin.
  • Many riders have expressed an increase in confidence after wearing knee pads. Knowing that you have good protection from rock and root impact gives riders a feeling of security. The mind is free to focus on riding and not worrying. Just don’t take this too far by taking unnecessary risks.
  • Knees are mostly skin, bone, and ligaments. There isn’t a lot of muscle and fat. During the winter knees can get cold pretty fast. Riders wear knee pads as a way to keep their knees warm in winter and fall. This improves the blood flow and circulation to the knees. This then results in better pedaling power and efficiency.
  • Mountain bikers would not use knee pads if they wear uncomfortable. Fortunately knees pads fit riders knees very well. Many riders get so used to their knee pads they don’t notice they are wearing them. Most important, is there is no negative effect on pedaling performance.

When Should You Wear Knee Pads The Most

Mountain bikers especially if they are new or have had a knee injury wear knee pads every time they go mountain biking. But some riders wear them only during certain types of riding. The most important time is when you do downhill riding and when riding technical trails.

These two types of riding along with doing tricks and jumps are the most risky to your knees if you have an accident. Downhill riding is fast so the impact will be more severe. Technical trails require more bike handling skills so the chances of an accident are greater especially since there are more rocks and roots on these trails.

Doing wheelies and manuals by their very nature are risky. As well as going off jumps and drop offs. Impacting bare knees is not a risk worth taking in these situations. You are asking for a trip to the hospital and possible surgery. This will set you back a lot of time and money.

What Types of Mountain Bike Knee Pads Are There To Wear

  • There are basically two types pull-on and strap-on. Pull-on knee pads are those which you can just slide on to your leg and knee. They are lighter but this means there is less protection for your knee.
  • Strap on knee pads are those which you can slide on the sleeve on to your leg and knee. But you need to strap on or fasten the shell on to your knee for protection. These are heavier but they provide more durable protection against strong impact to your knees.

How To Size and Measure Mountain Bike Knee Pads

The easiest way to do this is to go by your pants size. If you wear small pants or a slim fit, then you can start by trying small size knee pads. If you pants are a medium fit, then try medium size knee pads. Finally, if your pants are larger fitting, go with a large knee pad or extra large if you are bigger.

The next way is to begin at 4 inches above your knee and measure around that area using a tape measure. Each brand that makes knee pads usually has there own way if sizing their knee pads. So you just need to know the circumference 4 inches above your knee and match that to their sizing chart.

Knee Pad Sizing

The EVO brand their sizing chart for the low thigh is as follows:

  • Extra small is 15 to 17 inches.
    Small is 16 to 18 inches.
    Medium is 16.5 to 18.5 inches.
    Large is 18 to 21 inches.

The Fox brand sizing chart is:

  • Small 15.5 to 16.5 inches
    Medium 16.5 to 17.5 inches
    Large 17.5 to 18.5 inches
    Extra large 18.5 to 19.5 inches

How Tight Should Mountain Bike Knee Pads Be When You Wear Them

Mountain bike knee pads should feel comfortably tight. If they are just comfortable then there will probably be some extra fabric behind the knee. It is better if they feel a little tight at first because then later they will stretch and conform to fit the shape of your leg and knee better.

You should have a little bit of difficulty sliding on the knee pads at first. If they slide on easily then they will probably be to loose. You don’t want them loose at all, because they will end up sliding down your leg. If they dig into your skin or effect your circulation then they are too tight.

How To Wash and Clean Mountain Bike Knee Pads

  • The fastest way to do this is to use a washing machine. Use cold water at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the knee pads in a mesh bag or a cloth bag so they won’t get mixed up with the other laundry. If you don’t have laundry to do then add a few t-shirts so the pads don’t bang around in the machine.
  • Use a mild laundry detergent. If the detergent is too strong it can damage the fabric of the pads. There will also be too much soap to rinse away and the smell will be strong. Don’t use bleach or any solvents. Use enough detergent for half a load of laundry. Add a cap full of white vinegar if your pads smell bad.
  • Set your washing machine to low spinning. This would be a gentle or delicate cycle. If your knee pads are especially dirty let the pads soak in the machine for 30 minutes. You can do this by pausing the program and then restarting it after the soak.
  • Once the washing cycle is complete make sure to hang them up to air dry. Do not dry the knee pads in a dryer. The heat of the dryer and the tumbling around of the pads will damage them. Hang up the knee pads in your bathroom, outside, or in the garage. You can also lay them down on a flat surface. Be sure to turn them over so both sides dry evenly.

How To Maintain Your Knee Pads So You Can Wear Them Longer

An interesting idea is to buy at least three sets of knee pads. Then you can rotate them every few days or once a week. Now none of your knee pads will be over used for mountain biking. It will take longer for any pair to get dirty and smelly. When it does come time to clean them, you can clean them all at once.

If you only have one pair then it is a good idea to wash them once a week depending on how often you go riding. A better way to look at this is you can clean them after every seven rides. After every ride instead of washing them you can turn them inside out and let the sweat evaporate off them. You should also use an antibacterial spray so bacteria does not build up and create a bad odor.