The MXstore Knee Brace Buying Guide
Injuries are an inevitable part of dirt bike riding. Whether you're a weekend warrior, a seasoned pro or any level in between, chances are that you are eventually going to hit the deck - when that time comes you will be thankful you invested in the safety gear you're wearing.
With knee braces on the higher end of the price scale and a knee ligament injury less common than a graze, knee braces are usually overlooked as part of your safety gear essentials and knee guards are purchased instead.
So why would anybody fork out for knee braces when knee guards start around $30 and a set of braces can be up over the $1000? Read on to find out why the investment is worth it.
Knee guards Vs knee pads - the difference?
So what is the difference between knee braces and knee guards, and which one is right for you?
Deciding between them ultimately comes down to the type of riding you’re doing on your bike, as both offer different levels of knee protection. Some knee pads are also shin guards that protect your knee cap.
Knee pads are an entry-level of protection in comparison to knee braces, which is why they’re significantly more affordable.
Motocross knee guards offer protection against impacts, and it’s why they’re great for riders who are just starting out in riding dirt bikes, or the type of riding they’re doing is quite low-key without any major risks that need to be taken.
Knee protector pads are also great for junior riders, especially those continuing to grow and getting started in the sport.
If you can afford to, we always recommend using dirt bike knee braces over knee pads, as they not only offer impact protection, but they’re also designed to help in preventing major knee injuries that can lead to costly surgeries and a lot of time on the couch.
Whether you’re a regular enduro, ATV, MTB, BMX, or motocross racer, a dual-sport rider, or just want to go offroad and rip through the bush, knee braces will always give the best protection possible for knees.
They’re designed to support your legs while reducing hyperextension and hyperflexion in the knees, which are where the most knee injuries result from.
Knee injuries are some of the most common in riding dirt bikes, and in most cases, they don’t even have to happen as a result of a crash.
Instead, they occur through awkwardly dabbing your leg on the ground, or even snagging your foot in a rut on and tree root in the trails which happens almost every time you put your goggles get behind a set of handlebars.
Knee braces usually have a system that mimics the ligaments in your knee joint, and so when you encounter one of the above issues, the brace absorbs the energy rather than your knee itself.
While they are at the higher-end of the scale in terms of price, knee braces are a long-term investment as they will normally last you years of riding, and if they prevent even just one knee injury, they’ve already saved you thousands of dollars.
Some of the leading brands of the knee brace category are Pod, Leatt, Mobius, Asterisk, Alpinestars, Troy Lee Designs, and EVS. All have different designs and protective strong points and some brands also manufacture other body armour and protective gear products. Neck braces, chest protectors and elbow guards are all items you want to add to your gear bags.
If you’re a racer, motocross knee braces are a must, and there are a number of different models available at different price points, and there are even options available for junior racers.
Anatomy lesson - The knee joint
The knee is made up of four bones being held together by four main ligaments, which are separated by cartilage which acts as cushioning between the bones. A knee ligament injury can either be minor by being stretched (sprained) or torn (ruptured).
A ligament rupture can be partial with only some of the ligament fibres being torn or complete where the ligament has torn all the way through resulting in pain, swelling, bruising and tenderness causing reduced movement of the knee joint. A knee can become unstable after a ligament injury and in severe cases, a knee reconstruction is needed to graft and reattach a new ligament to stabilize the joint and prevent further dislocation.
Depending on the severity of the injury, a rider can expect to face 3-6 months off the bike after undergoing surgery with the worst case we have heard of being 11 months off the bike. Months of physiotherapy and rehabilitation are needed before the joint is back to somewhat 100% and the graft has become truly strong. Eager riders may rush to get back on the bike as their knee feels fine and they want to ride, but within the first 6 months the graft is still weak and the chances of injuring the joint again are quite high.
Prevention is better than a cure
Even the most expensive knee brace on the market is cheaper than the MRI you'll need if you damage your knee ligaments. Luckily, we Aussies have a decent health system, but the idea of six months off the bike (among other setbacks like not being able to work or hit the dance floor) should be enough to make anyone want to invest in a decent set of knee braces.
There are some knee guards and knee pads out there which claim to be braces, so be sure to do your research before you buy. These are basically just beefed-up knee pads with hinges on them - here are a few things to look out for when shopping for a set of proper knee braces:
How should a knee brace fit?
The common rule for most pieces of safety gear is to aim for a comfortable snug fit, which also applies for the fitment of knee braces. The padding for the hinge point which sits either side of the rider's knee joint should be fairly snug against the knee. Too tight and the rider will experience pain when riding, and too loose the brace may slip down the leg and not sit in the correct place on the knee.
Most braces on the market come with adjustment options so replacing the padding can help you find the exact fit for you. To check the knee brace is not too loose, put a set of braces on and walk around without any boots on, if they are loose they will slip down your legs easily. Also, make sure you try both left and right sides on as some knees are different sizes left and right.
Putting a set of knee braces on for the first time can be a little tricky as there are extra straps than a set of pads, and the brace needs to sit in the right spot on your leg to work effectively. The first thing you should do is put on a set of knee brace socks which come up to your upper thigh and are a little thinner than regular socks. The extra length of the sock will reduce any rubbing and irritation to the skin from the straps of the knee brace and as they are thin they won’t be as hot to wear.
Once you have your knee brace socks on it’s time to put the braces on. The easiest way is to sit down with a slightly bent knee. The next step is to undo all of the straps and push the brace onto your knee. Secure the straps in the following sequence: Secure the strap directly below your knee first, then the strap directly above the second, followed by the top strap and then lastly the bottom strap.
Ensure the straps secure the knee brace firmly to your leg and once all of the straps are tightened bent your knee a few times to check the brace is sitting in the correct position.
Following this sequence when tightening the straps will help keep the brace in the correct position on your knee, and ensure the knee brace can work effectively to keep your knee joints safe!
Check out retired multi-time Supercross and Motocross World Champion Ryan Villopoto discussing the importance of a knee brace in the video below.
Popular MX knee braces for sale:
If you have any further questions regarding knee braces or safety gear, please don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at MXstore
- Poly-axial hinges: The hinge should have 2 pivot points for each side of the brace, if the brace has a single hinge point it will not pivot in the natural motion of your knee.
- The hinge point: Set just behind the middle of the knee joint will provide the best protection.
- Protection for the front of your knee: A solid patella cap to protect against impact trauma, particularly above the knee.
- Long bars or arms of the brace: The longer the better really as this is what is anchored to your skeleton which gives your joint support.
- Good strapping: Dual strapping is best, two straps above and two below keep the brace fixed to your leg and prevents it from sliding up and down your leg.
- An adjustable extension locking point: The better braces will allow you to adjust how straight your leg can go before the brace reaches its lock out which prevents hyperextension.
- Anchor for the bottom of the brace to the boot: Twisting the lower part of your leg can happen without even falling off the bike so this is a great preventative measure against it!
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