Pearl Izumi Elbow Pads NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG
EDITORIAL | REVIEW

Elbow Pads can be the Best Leg Armour

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Oct 26, 2020
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What's On Your Radars?

This journey began with a pair of Chromag Radar pedals. My grom kept slipping her feet off her pedals and after looking at a plethora of cheaper options I decided the little Radars would be amortized over enough bikes to make them a worthwhile purchase. It was love at first contact and an immediate boost to her riding. An instant success brought crashing back to reality by the first vicious pedal bite.

Soccer shin pads were a cheap and easy cure for road and gravel riding but when the mountain biking bug really bit we needed more protection. Most kids' knee pads, like adult knee pads, leave a heck of a lot of shin-area exposed. The Pearl Izumi Elevate knee pads are one of the longer options, and still ultra-pedalable, but they don't make kids' versions. And I can guarantee my mega-munchkin would find some way to Radar herself with those proportions. Where are classic full-leg Roach pads in kids sizes when I need them?

I spent way too much time looking at how I could shorten her soccer shin guards to interface with knee pads, extend kid-sized knee pads to offer some light pedal protection, and simply comparing shin-length to pad dimensions online to find the best-case product. There are some interesting options from Fox, Leatt, and others but it's that time of year where finding a set to check out in person is a challenge.

Finally I was struck by lightning. Back in the day, when my friends with kids were getting them into riding, they all had an obvious solution. Whether CoreRat hard-shell pads, Roach soft-shell pads, or a variety of other options, adult-sized elbow pads, sometimes with minor or major alterations, make for damn good leg armour for kids.

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I wish Chromag would make a less expensive glass-fiber composite version of the kids' Radar like their Synth..

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That said, these Radars are on their third bike and I'm figuring I'm amortizing them over another ten years at least. Give or take a couple bearing kits.

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Shinning a pair of grippy pedals sucks at any age, but good pads help negate the impact for beginners with short legs.

I got home from my ride, sorted my gear, and admired my set of P.I. Elevate elbow pads. I don't wear them very often - probably not as much as I should - but they've been a lovely addition to my kit when I do wear them. I really like them, but the 90 USD | 120 CAD price tag has been a sticking point considering how rarely I wear them. No longer. As a shared resource these beauties are saving both of us enough tears to warrant the investment.

Apparently, I am still 'allowed' to borrow them for shuttle days and my wee one is using them a few times a week. She's had a couple of hard bails in them already and the confidence boost has been massive. You probably have to be a parent to appreciate the value but if they were goners tomorrow, it would be an easy decision to replace them.

Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM (6).JPG

Love my Elevate Knee Pads whether combined with shorts or tucked under a pair of pants. The pedaling comfort v protection ratio is excellent.

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In a perfect world I would go down one size for my grom, but combined with tights these stay in place perfectly with room to grow.

I'm discovering a lot about mountain biking with kids these days. My little buddy is just able to fit a size-small women's helmet which has opened the world of convertible full-face helmets; no more carrying a second helmet on a backpack for this dad. Clutch derailleurs are great for keeping a chain on, but pushing through shifts with tiny hands is challenging. When you land hard on a rock it's best to teach it a lesson with a good stomping. An old pair of tights, some thick shorts, colourful socks, a pair of Keen hiking boots, a t-shirt, and a fleece are great for the playground or a couple of hours of riding, and bring some sour gummy bears along for energy to keep it fun.

On the flip side, functioning protective gear is best for everyone's peace of mind. We're on the lookout for some good elbow pads and I'm keen to check out some of the longer knee pad options, but in the meantime, it's impossible to argue with Pearl Izumi's Elevate Elbows Guards. They're very flexible, comfortable, and offer good protection. They're even great value, even at 90 USD | 120 CAD if your kid's legs fit your pair. Plus, we're still at that point where it's cool to match your dad.

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Comments

Kieran
+1 Andrew Major
Kieran  - Oct. 26, 2020, 7:53 a.m.

My 7 year old daughter wears Mums elbow/arm pads. She also has a pair of my really old pedals on her bike. The type from way back in 90s where they were small and not that grippy. It's a great solution for her.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 26, 2020, 9:17 a.m.

Are they flexible D3O-style pads or hardshells? Tried some hardshell pads we had around but they didn’t work great for pedaling.

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Andrew Major
IslandLife  - Oct. 26, 2020, 9:47 a.m.

Took me a while to find good elbow pads for the kids. Most companies make kids elbow pads that are either too uncomfortable or don't fit right or are just too big and bulky.. I got the sense after trying a few, that most companies don't try very hard and/or don't actually test them on kids. Case in point... Raceface, who make my favorite adult elbow and knee pads (indy's) came out with some new youth specific elbow pads, the Sendy's. Worst kids pads ever... bulky, hot, scratchy, non-flexible, irritating pads... the kids HATED those pads. At least Raceface customer service were great and refunded them.

So on a friend's recommendation, I picked up the G-form pro-x2 (youth). These were a game changer... the kids actually like to wear these!!

They like them so much... I'll be buying the knee pads in the spring as they're about to outgrow the Dakine Slayer adult elbow pads they use as knee pads (which have also been great by the way)

This year they were also big enough to fit the smallest Bell Super 2R or 3R (but if you can still find a 2R they are bassically same but gennerally on clearance).  This helmet seems to be the de-facto kids full-face these days... seems like it's because they make a pretty small size with a good dial-based sized adjustment that allows quite a large degree of adjustment.  Again, great, because it's very well vented so you can keep the chin-bar on for the climbs and it keeps the kids extra protected for the descents. Then on the hottest days... I'll bring a pack and toss their chinbars on there helping to keep them cool, happy and motivated to climb.

After watching my kids progress wayyyy tooo fast and starting to scare the shit out me on every ride... I had to ensure they were as protected as possible. Also, a little more expensive, well fitting, quality protection that they'll wear is more of a priority for me now vs. just tossing some shitty pads for basic protection on them that may or may not work... and those usually just end up wrapped around my top tube anyway.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 IslandLife
Andrew Major  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:06 p.m.

My wee one now fits the Super 3R and it’s been such a treat to pack up her chin bar instead of carrying her full face up and bucket down. I’m also getting very quick at on/off without her talking the kids off.

Either way (two lids or 3R) the full face provides a nice confidence boost.

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Andrew Major
IslandLife  - Oct. 27, 2020, 1:36 p.m.

Nice!  I have my kids just keep that chinbar on (unless it's really hot).  It's so well ventilated, they don't seem to mind.  YMMV though... my boys like the idea of a full face so don't mind wearing it up... and/but I fully subscribe to the "do-whatever-the-fuck-makes-them-happy-so-they'll-keep-riding" philosophy... it's worked well for me.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 29, 2020, 2:14 p.m.

It’s funny, I ride quite a bit in a full face - including climbs - with just my cheek pads removed but my grom really doesn’t like climbing in it. Which is fine. It’s seconds on and off. 

Totally agree with the make-them-happy philosophy!

Reply

rckwng
+2 Andrew Major IslandLife
rckwng  - Oct. 26, 2020, 9:57 a.m.

My 5 yr old has been using my old Roach/Raceface elbows (the hard shell kind) for knee/shin protection for the past year and they've been great. He's had some good sized crashes and they worked great. 

I was lucky to find some used kids Raceface hardshell elbows at the local used sporting goods shop but they were too stiff and got too hot in the summer so he refused to wear them. I switched him to the G-Form kids elbows and he loves them.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 IslandLife
Andrew Major  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:07 p.m.

I obviously need to check out the G-Form kids elbows!!!

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 Andrew Major
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:38 p.m.

Yes, very good. If you want more protections, look at the Leatt and IXS kids models, that’s what we upgraded to from the G-Form.

Both e run small, so size up one size from the sizing chart. 

And always with pads, order multiple pairs of sizes/models, to try on. Fit is so personal on these.

Reply

craw
+5 Grif Andrew Major mrbrett Mammal Tremeer023
Cr4w  - Oct. 26, 2020, 10:10 a.m.

Just wait until she hits the gym and has to start wearing knee pads on her arms.

Reply

Taz123
+1 Andrew Major
Taz123  - Oct. 26, 2020, 11:26 a.m.

I discovered this hack a few years ago - adult elbow pads can also be cheaper than kids knee pads.

I agree with a previous comment though, soft-pads (a la D3O) are better than hard shells. Depending on the design and strap locations, I have found having my grom wear tall socks help manage hot-spots. 

The other key aspect is for parents to be the example - wear your knee pads and show how they don't bother you - your little-un will want to follow suit...cause you are still cool in their eyes.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Tjaard Breeuwer Cr4w
Andrew Major  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:09 p.m.

I think in the summer we’ll wear try tall socks but for now it’s where old tights go to die. It’s actually an awesome way to get them out of circulation.

Funny you mention wearing pads as the parent. It’s excellent advice. I never did (I mean, until recently I didn’t wear any armour myself) but now she’s on me to wear them anytime we ride and I think it’s great.

Reply

IslandLife
0
IslandLife  - Oct. 27, 2020, 1:42 p.m.

Yep... I do the same.  I want my kids to wear elbows, knees and a fullface so I wear elbows, knees and a fullface.  They're young enough that they still think I'm a rad mountain biker and so want to sort of emulate me (ego stroking).  So even if I go for a solo ride and and they see that I didn't take my elbows or something.. they demand answers.. and I don't have any that make sense.  Kids are good for that... they don't hesitate to call you out on your bullshit.  I wear them fulltime now.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 29, 2020, 2:17 p.m.

Hilariously, this came up today when she noticed the Leatt DBX 3 hanging from the ceiling, so I’ll be riding in a removable chin bar full face after school today. Nice prompt to revisit that helmet actually as it’s the non-pad fit helmet than introduced me to the idea that pad fit lids might work better for me.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 Andrew Major
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:16 p.m.

Yep, we did the elbow pads-as kids knees too.

Works great

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 Andrew Major
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:25 p.m.

One warning about kids wearing full-face helmets in general, and Bell convertible ones in particular:

My oldest borrowed my Bell Convertible a few years back. It was a M, same size she wore in het normal half shell.

She had a small crash, and ended up with a gash under her lower lip.

Upon inspection, we found the chin-bar could be pushed down below her chin quite easy. Combined with the large face opening, this left her face pretty much unprotected.

Same thing happened to a friends daughter with her full face.

It seems that even though their head circumference is adult sized, their cheeks and chin are still smaller.

So what we did was:

Got ~6 fullface helmets (regular or convertible) in the proper head size.

Tried them on. Compared how stable the chinbar felt.

Took 4 different sized balls, ranging from bigger than basket ball down to ~4” mini soccer ball, and tested if they could be made to touch her face with each helmet on.

There was a huge difference between helmets. The thickness of the helmet over the forehead matters for this, as did the height of the chinbar in front, how far it protrudes, and how snug it fit on the cheeks.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 IslandLife
Andrew Major  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:56 p.m.

Not to take away from a solid recommendation, I just wanted to mention a couple things in follow up:

A) I have to assume when writing about gear that anyone buying a full face for their kid is either competent in their own helmet fitting experience or will go to a shop to make sure they’re getting the right fit. 

I semi-regularly see adults wearing helmets, including full face helmets, that don’t fit them properly - so I know in reality this isn’t always the case but it’s an extra layer to deal with.

My daughter has a proper cheek fit in the 3R. But it’s still just a trail lid - see B)

B) Full face helmets like the DBX 3.0 and 3R are to lids what EXO+ is to tires. The fit on the 3R is no match for the full pad fit presence of her Kali  full face. It’s that little bit extra for Bobsled on a 20” bike.

I just got back from an icy Fromme ride and was happy to have my full face. It’s a full-on 7iDP and I just pedal up with the chin pads in my pack. If I think there’s a real chance the full face is going to come into play I don’t find a convertible to be the answer for me. But for my daughter it’s all win right now.

Reply

luisgutierod
+1 Andrew Major
luisgutierod  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:44 p.m.

hahahahah I gave my kid my ixs hack evo elbow pads that got as gift as were really small for me. We all think the same

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