Why is body armour important?
Body armour massively reduces the likelihood of injury. It can make the difference between going home hurt and frustrated, or satisfied with the day's riding, with a bit of mud on your knee-guard.
Not only does armour keep you safe, but the added confidence you receive from using it can make a massive difference to how well you ride. Armour allows you to push your limits on the trail and ride more aggressively, this in turn, can help boost the progression of your riding.
How do I choose the right armour?
Wiggle stocks a wide range of body armour which can cover the knees and shin, elbows, shoulders and chest.
- Hard shell armour is best suited for gravity style riding on technical terrain.
- Soft shell armour has been designed to be worn more regularly for trail riding purposes.
Trail riding and cross country
When choosing your knee-pads, look for something light. Light pads are non-restrictive in feel and don't hinder pedalling, yet still offer a lot of protection. Getting the right size is also very important; too small and they are limiting, too big and they can slip off if you crash. The same goes for elbow pads. Light breathable pads that are not too small are the best. If the elbow-pads are too small they often stop the proper circulation of blood through your arms.
All mountain riding
The 'all mountain' discipline of mountain biking involves riding steep rocky technical terrain. This type of riding places more emphasis on going downhill than trail or cross country riding. As the trail surface is often strewn with rocks, roots and sharp debris, it's highly recommended that you wear hardshell armour to protect yourself in the event of a fall or accident. All mountain riders often use hardshell knee/shin pads coupled with protective elbow pads to provide them with a lightweight, breathable and high impact form of protection.
Downhill riding is gravity based discipline and requires heavy-duty protection. Downhill specific tracks are often built on steep mountainous terrain. The tracks themselves are designed to test a rider's technical skills at speed, and as a result, are crammed with extremely challenging features such as jumps, rock gardens, drop-offs and steep chutes.
Think knee-pads and elbow-pads. Plus upper-body armour, of which there are a lot to choose from. This is where you have to choose between comfort and protection. The thicker, hard plastic, spine protection, is very safe. But can be a little restricting. Whereas the lighter soft core protection feels like you are not really wearing protection but it is not as safe. Compression shorts can also help a lot, as they take a lot of the impact out of the fall.
Ride hard and stay safe!
Regardless of your ability level on the bike, there is always an element of risk when you ride. The combination of speed, varying terrain and ever changing gradients, make mountain biking a highly enjoyable but challenging sport. By acknowledging the risks involved and wearing some form of protection, you can enjoy your ride, safe in the knowledge that you have come prepared for any eventuality. Please take simple yet effective precautions and be aware of the following:
- Does the terrain you ride pose a risk - rocky terrain, hard fireroads?
- Are you riding the trail for the first time - is extra caution required?
- Are you riding with a beginner, intermediate or advanced group?
- Do your trails have chicken lines (easier routes) for you to take?
- Are the trails in need of maintenance, are they safe to ride?