In this post I will be reviewing G-Form Pro-X Elbow and Knee Pads Reviewed on my first downhill mountain biking experience. I know what you’re thinking, “Why would this guy admit to writing a review based off a first experience? He can’t be an expert.” And to that I say, you’re correct. I am not an expert mountain biker. I do have quite a bit of experience with road biking, but here’s where it will all start to make sense: I crashed! A couple times, and came out relatively unscathed thanks to my pads! What would a pad review be without a couple good crashes to test them out? So here it goes – the story of my first downhill mountain biking experience, or better yet, why I would recommend G-Forms pads to anyone.
It all started while preparing for the Planet Cyclery company retreat at Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park. I don’t have a mountain bike right now (though I am saving up for one next year), so I knew I would be renting a bike once I got there. I didn’t necessarily want to rent all my equipment and wear a smelly helmet or pads, so I picked up a pair of G-Form Pro-X Elbow and Knee Guards at the recommendation of my colleagues. I figured this could be my first investment towards mountain biking next year.
Gearing up the morning before riding, I pulled my pads on for the first time. Just like sliding on compression sleeves, G-Form’s pads are made to go on like a second skin. At first, they were pretty stiff, but they never felt cumbersome or uncomfortable. Some knee pads are large and bulky and make it a pain if you need to pedal at all. G-Form specifically designed their pads to offer excellent protection without hindering movement. I hopped on my rental bike and rode around a little to test out the feel of the pads. Within just a few minutes of pedaling the knee pads started loosening up and were already much more flexible. Overall, they were more comfortable than I was expecting once they were broken in.
Leading up to the weekend, I was told that with my cycling experience I should just skip over the easy, green trails and jump right into the intermediate, blue trails. Now fast forward to the top of the mountain. Looking over the edge and watching other riders flying down the hill, I was certainly feeling intimidated. I thought I might be a little out of my depth, but there was no way I was backing down. Plus, I had plenty of protective gear just waiting to be tested out!
We started down a blue run and I was riding my brake pretty hard out of sheer fear, but downhill really is easier if you just relax and let the bike do the work at high speeds. If you keep a good line and avoid any major obstacles, the downhill bikes are very forgiving and can absorb most of the impact from roots, rocks, and holes in the trail. I started gaining confidence quickly, and with that I was letting off the brake to speed up. Everything was going great until we came to a fork in the road. The trail we were on was closed and now our only option to continue down the mountain on a black trail that veered to our left. We rested and contemplated our options, but since we only had one clear choice in front of us we dropped into the black trail.
This trail started out significantly more technical than the blue route we had been riding, but again I was squeezing the brakes for dear life. We twisted and turned and rolled over rocks for several minutes until reaching a clearing. I was tired of crawling and wanted to pick up the pace, so I let off the brake to enjoy the straight away in front of me. This would turn out to be my downfall. Ahead of me I could see a decent sized bump in the trail, a little kicker that I assumed wasn’t too far above the ground after the jump. Maybe a foot or so. Well, I was wrong. I hit the kicker at a decent speed and caught several feet of air – way more than I was prepared for. I gripped my bars tight and tried to keep them straight but when I returned to earth I hit a patch of soft dirt and my front wheel twisted to my left sending me flying over the bars. I landed hard on my right side and went tumbling for a few yards.
My right elbow took the initial impact, followed by my head (always wear a helmet, kids!). I caught my breath, sat up, and started checking the damage. My right elbow pad absorbed the impact with the ground and slid up my arm as I tumbled. My elbow was scraped up, but I didn’t even feel like I would have much bruising around the area. Without the pad, I’m positive my elbow would have been in much, much worse shape! I popped my helmet off to check for damage and found that I had slammed my head so hard that I cracked the visor off and scraped up the right side pretty badly. My knees were fine, and my left elbow was unscathed, so the rest of my pads held up perfectly through the tumbling. I’ve never been so relieved to have strong protective gear.
Thanks to the pads I was feeling okay after catching my breath, so I got back up on the bike to continue down the hill…carefully. We had only been riding for twenty or thirty minutes at this point and still had a long day ahead. I wasn’t about to give up now. However, if it weren’t for the G-Form Pads I’m not sure I would’ve been able to continue and would’ve had to sit the rest of the day out with my arm in a sling.
I continued riding the rest of the day with only one more minor spill. Turning on a sharp berm I hit soft dirt at the top and my tire sunk in. I fell over onto my right-side landing on my right elbow…again. I fell right onto the elbow pad which once again protected my elbow from worse damage. My elbow was still tender from my first fall so it stung a bit to land on it, but I was once again able to get right back up and continue down the hill.
I was massively impressed with my G-Form Pro-X Pads. After loosening them up and breaking them in, it hardly even felt like I was wearing any pads. But when the time came and I crashed, I was extremely appreciative of the protection they provided me. I had no serious injuries despite a very hard fall, just scrapes and bruises. Provided, in downhill mountain biking not much pedaling is required. After several hours of wearing the G-Form knee pads, I did feel some rubbing on the back of my knee while pedaling. It was only a slight discomfort, but I could see how it would start to irritate my leg if I was doing a lot more pedaling. Next year when I start trail riding, I will be wearing my elbow pads, but on the longer trail rides that require a good amount of pedaling I will probably bring my knee pads for downhill segments, but not have them on for the entire ride. I’d highly recommend G-Form Pads to anyone looking to get into mountain biking.