The bed surface of bike park trails can be unforgiving, bulletproof concrete.
Crashes can happen on your first lap - we've all been there. But what you choose to armour up with can better your chances of walking away unscathed. Mandatory elbow, glove and back protection is on the rise while racing in gravity events, including enduro racing, yet there are still plenty of average mountain bikers out there that don nothing but a skid lid and bare knees.
If you were sleeping under a rock and missed coverage from the 2021 World Cup downhill from Leogang, racers were chomping at the bit to go fast and prove themselves on the racetrack again. The practice sessions were filled with carnage with barely anyone finishing the day without hitting the deck. A lot of the top athletes had moments they would rather forget about; Danny Hart narrowly avoided a tree in the lower woods at a rapid pace, Myriam Nicole washed the front wheel just 10 seconds into her race run, and Vali Holl laid it down on one of the last corners while on a winning time. Other than Charlie Harrison
, most kitted up riders were able to walk away.
But it's not just the gravity racers that crash. Two very decorated female World Cup cross-country athletes, Kate Courtney and Jolanda Neff are currently out with injuries, with the Olympics just weeks away. More protective equipment may not have helped them in those accidents and it would be surprising to see any cross-country racer appear on the start line with knee or elbow pads. Their performance is primarily driven by pedalling power and any idea restricting that would be laughed at, but they do take some precautions, like eyewear.
Try riding this with both eyes closed. Eye protection isn't just there to stop a stick in the eye.
Enduro racers are caught in the middle. The nature of the discipline requires athletes to pedal to the top, but race to the bottom, so there will be a compromise between mobility and insurance. They have often argued that their format of racing can be the most dangerous, since they are riding longer stages, with less practice, on trails that could easily warrant a downhill bike.
Loic Bruni isn't burdened by back and elbow protection.
Arts and crafts won't cut it anymore.
If you've ever watched Pinkbike's Friday Fails
, you've surely questioned the minimal levels of padding that some riders display. But what is the right amount of protection, is a tough question to answer. How much protection you choose to wear can vary too, depending on average trail speed, the difficulty of trails you intend to ride that day, or even the skill level of other riders who you are riding with.
When you're using motocross bikes to test jump trajectories, you may as well use the same type of helmet, as Nico Vink does.