A Guide To Elbow Pads For Bike Riding​

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If you’re heading off-road, racing downhill, or tackling tricky forest trails, then having complete control of your mountain bike is a must. Your elbows help with your balance and steering while mountain biking, so it’s important to keep them protected and safe from impact in the event of a fall or crash. 

To twist and turn the handlebars, a rider’s elbows need to be out wide and moving freely. This also means they can be especially vulnerable to hitting hard surfaces or coming into contact with the ground if the rider falls off, as well as being struck with obstacles such as branches or gravel. Mountain bike elbow pads help protect riders from impact injuries in the event of a fall, reducing the severity of injury and protecting this essential joint. 

What are mountain bike elbow pads?

Elbow protection is typically seen as the next step up when it comes to mountain bike protective gear. Your head and knees are likely to have had the focus for protection so far, but you should also consider keeping your elbows secure. 

It’s key to understand the difference between an elbow pad and an elbow guard. The pad is the protective insert that works to shield the joint in the event of a fall; D3O® elbow pads are the perfect example of this. The elbow guard is the full item that incorporates this pad, and includes other features such as special fabrics and different fastening options. 

Available in a variety of lengths and levels of protection, elbow guards reduce the likelihood of serious impact injuries while still being lightweight and flexible enough to allow the joint to move freely. They often also use abrasion-resistant materials on the outside to help reduce cuts and scrapes (especially important if you wipe out on a rocky surface). 

When should riders wear elbow pads? 

More often than you think. Like with car accidents that happen close to home, many mountain bike accidents happen on familiar trails. Equip yourself with a pair of elbow pads if you’re planning to tackle anything more than a leisurely ride. Ramping up the speed, intensity or difficulty of your rides should correlate with an increase in your safety gear. You can choose guards using D3O® pads that are CE/ UKCA Level 1 or Level 2 certified depending on how tough your ride is planned to be.

A must for riders who are taking on downhill biking or tougher trails, elbow pads with impact protection provide valuable support in the event of a crash or fall. Impacts on hard or rough ground can cause bruising, tendon or ligament damage, or even fractures in this important joint. 

Finding elbow pads with the right fit and level of protection is recommended for any rider looking to reduce the risk of injury. 

How to choose the right elbow pads? 

When looking for the right elbow pads, it's important to find a balance of safety and rider comfort. There are a few elements that you need to consider when selecting a pair, including materials, fit, length, and last but not least, impact protection. 

D3O® impact protection offers something for every rider. For riders looking for pre-formed, ultra-breathable impact protection, the D3O® LP1 is the perfect solution. LP1 elbow pads are commonly integrated within a number of top mountain biking brands, so you may well have come across it already. 

If you want maximum flexibility, D3O® Ghostelbow pads are designed for complete range of movement without compromising on protection. 

For the junior rider (or if you just prefer smaller pads), D3O also offers the LP1 Compact, so no matter what you can get adapted impact protection while out on the trails.


Depending on the type of riding you’re doing and the terrain you’ll be traveling over, you might require different levels of protection for your elbows. Looking for CE or UKCA certification will help you to understand how much impact absorption your elbow pads actually offer. 

D3O® impact protection offers a unique combination of light weight and flexibility together with superior protection against impact. When you choose an elbow pad featuring D3O®, you can be sure you’re equipping yourself with the most advanced protective mountain biking gear available. 

Pearl Izumi offers D3O® LP1 protection in the Elevate Elbow Guard. These close-fitting and comfortable elbow guards come down to the mid-forearm, and are made from stretch materials and mesh fabric for maximum movement with minimum resistance. The LP1 elbow pads are CE/UKCA certified to Level 1, providing excellent impact protection in the event of a fall. Complete with a skid plate exterior for extra abrasion protection, the Elevate Elbow Guard is a great choice for traditional mountain biking protection. 


As well as being durable enough to be used time and time again, elbow pads should be made from materials that are flexible and light enough for you to move and keep you comfortable, even on long rides. Lightweight and moisture-wicking materials will allow your arms to move freely without rubbing or irritating the skin. Many elbow pads are specially designed to reduce the chance of chafing, and have ventilation features alongside moisture-wicking materials. 

Look for mountain bike elbow pads that also feature abrasion-resistant materials, such as woven Kevlar®. This will help keep the material from tearing too easily in the event of a slide or fall, and deflects rocks, twigs and other trail debris effectively, reducing the number of irritating minor injuries that can be picked up while riding. 

SixSixOne have developed the New Recon Elbow, which uses the very latest D3O® Ghost™ protector for fit-and-forget impact protection. This pad is the ideal choice for riders wanting maximum flexibility while still keeping the elbow safe and protected in the event of a wipe out. Super lightweight, the New Recon Elbow combines CE/UKCA Level 1 impact protection, abrasion-resistant stretch fabrics, longer sleeve length, and extra features like machine washability and a range of sizes. 


Elbow pads should protect riders’ joints without hampering their movement as they twist and turn on the bike. This means they need to be close-fitting, but not so tight that riders can’t move their arms freely. Having a close fit will also help the elbow pads stay in place and keep protective inserts in the right areas in the event of impact. 

Choosing the right design for your needs is also key to staying comfortable. The two main designs are elbow pads with hook and loop fasteners, and pull-on sleeves. Pull-on sleeves often have silicone grips that help them to stay in place, while designs with fasteners can be adjusted to offer a close, comfortable fit. 

Troy Lee Designs offer the Speed Sleeve, one of the lowest profile sleeves with integrated elbow impact protection on the market today. The sleeve incorporates 4mm of D3O® material, specifically cut and shaped to fit the sleeve, for slimline protection. Combined with breathable mesh fabric and non-slip silicone grippers, the Speed Sleeve offers riders the perfect minimalist solution.


Elbow pads come in a range of lengths depending on the level of protection and support a rider requires. While the smallest covers only the joint, longer elbow pads can run all the way down to the wrist. All lengths of elbow pads will help to protect the joint from impacts, but the longer options can also stop the forearms from being scratched or cut. Plus, long elbow pads help to keep arms warm and protected from the elements, which might be helpful if you’re riding in cold conditions. 

It’s important to make sure your elbow pad is the right size for you as well. If you need smaller guards, looking for guards with D3O® LP1 Compact impact protection is a great choice, such as in the RaceFace Sendy Elbow. The Sendy Elbow offers the same level of impact protection, just sized down from the main Indy Elbow. With abrasion-resistant fabric and breathable mesh, you can ride with peace of mind and comfort knowing you’re secure with D3O® LP1 Compact. 

For those with slightly longer limbs, the Bluegrass Skinny D3O Elbow Pad is a great choice to combine fit and impact protection. Combining D3O® LP1 protection with Kevlar® woven fabrics, these full length sleeves offer supreme impact protection while being comfortable and supportive for all-day riding. 

Why choose D3O-protected elbow pads?

D3O is the impact protection of choice for mountain bikers. Combining freedom of movement with reliable impact protection, it is used by a range of leading mountain bike brands

Designed with riders’ needs in mind, D3O® protection doesn’t restrict elbow movement, but hardens to absorb impacts during a fall or crash. Some brands incorporate D3O® pads with special features such as breathability, a compact size, or fit-and-forget flexibility. Whatever their preference, riders can trust D3O to give them the protection they need without holding them back.