Mountain bike protective gear is a large category. It includes helmets, gloves, eyewear, knee pads, elbow pads, and torso (chest and back) protection. A helmet is a minimum, and the faster and more technical you go, the more it matters. Gloves protect your hands on the bike from pain and blisters, but also when crashing. Eyewear is also very important because, well, we only have one set of eyes. For many, knee pads are essential any time one is riding with gravity, there is a wide range of protection within this category. Elbow pads are a great item to have because when crashing, elbows get it the worst. When riding fast, and the impacts are big, having torso protection acts as an added layer of insurance. Nobody wants to fall, but when you do, you want to get up quickly and try that run again.
MTB knee pads are a worthy investment. There are lots of choices, from super-lightweight items, which are barely heavier than a knee-warmer, to full-on throw yourself on the ground at 45mph body armor. Fox Racing has a deep line of knee and elbow pads, so you can dial in the protection you need. POC deploys their patented visco-elastic polymer dough in their MTB knee pads. 7IDP has the Sam Hill Knee Pads which cover ¾ of your knees, allowing for added breathability and comfort. Women’s mountain bike knee pads are just like men’s; both have the same knees, both are equally worthy of protection.
MTB elbow guards are, in some ways, easier to find the perfect fit than knee pads. Elbows aren’t moving as much nor with as wide a range of motion compared to knees, making them easier to wear. Some use a compressive material for the sleeves, so they just slip on. Pads with increased protection often combine a compressive material with Velcro straps, to ensure they don’t move around while riding.