The holy grail of trail pad design is successfully combining all-day comfort with worthwhile protection, and POC’s Joint VPD System unisex elbow pads have a pretty good stab at it – but you certainly have to cough up for the privilege.
While many riders only use knee pads, wearing elbow pads can bolster your confidence if you’re new to mountain biking or trying to progress your skills, or save you in those unexpected crashes and scars that live on to tell the tale.
The construction of the System elbow pads is very similar to the POC Joint VPD System knee pads, as you’d expect. The flexible, pre-shaped protective pad is made from POC’s proprietary VPD (visco-elastic polymer dough), which moulds to your body when warm but hardens on impact, like D30. This greatly enhances comfort – I hardly noticed I was wearing them (except for the top cuff) and they’re notably comfier than other elbow pads I’ve tried. Their light weight helps too – just 222g for the mediums.
They meet the EN 1621-1 European safety standard and the two-ply padding feels reassuring thick (a good 1.5cm) and gives good coverage. It reaches halfway down the forearm and fully cups the elbow joint, and is broad enough to wrap halfway around your arm too. The pads stayed securely in place, with little lateral movement when pushed, staying put in a crash. Most of the padding is double thickness, but about a couple of cm all around the edges are single layer, which helps them conform to your arm better.
The outer fabric covering the VPD pads is designed to be low-friction and abrasion-resistant, so it doesn’t tear when you hit the deck. The sleeve material is thin, stretchy, silky smooth and fairly breathable, with no seams to irritate, upping the comfort quotient. It’s a pity about the internal labels though as they did itch me a bit, and it’s impossible to cut them out completely flush.
Another thing that detracted from overall comfort for me was the top cuff, although this might only apply to lasses, or lads, with fatter arms. Both top and bottom cuffs are elasticated and have silicone gripper, which works fine to keep them in place. While they both left an imprint on my skin, I was aware only of the wider top cuff digging in.
POC has incorporated ventilation holes into the layers of the Joint VPD System pads and, thanks to the thin sleeve material, they do feel far less sweaty than pads made from thicker fabrics. They also dry out quickly if they get wet. Cleaning them up is easy as they’re machine washable – the sleeve material is prone to snagging though so keep them away from Velcro.
As with the knee pads, sizing and fit were a bit tricky so it’s really important to try before you buy. According to POC’s size guide I’m on the cusp of medium (I'm slim, female and 5"7) and small but the sleeve section of the mediums was far too loose. (I needed a medium for the knee pads, though.)
Overall, these pads are very comfortable to wear despite being quite bulky especially around the elbow, but then they do offer solid protection. just make sure you get the right size.