I have twiggy arms, but for the purposes of this review (and my ego), lets refer to them as “lithe.” Finding properly fitting elbow pads for my “lithe” arms has always been a struggle. Pads I’ve purchased in the past have tended to slip down during downhill runs or feel overly restrictive.
The Alpinestar Alps Kevlar Elbow Guards are a well constructed piece of kit that won’t go anywhere. The pads use a 3 layer protection system comprising of a soft shell cup, wrapped in a Kevlar outer shell, and dual density foam padding. They slide into place via a breathable perforated mesh and are cinched down via two velcro straps.
The elbow gaurds come pre curved and are intended to be comfortable when riding. As long as you’re in an aggressive riding stance, this design philosophy works well, but I found that during long intervals where I wasn’t descending or bent over climbing, the pads felt uncomfortable. When pedaling in a relaxed upright position the upper lip of the pad would dig itself into my bicep.
The lower lip of the guard also caused me discomfort. Due to my past experience with elbow pads sliding down my arms mid run, I strapped the velcro sleeve down fairly tight. At first, this didn’t cause any discomfort, but after a day of riding, I developed a small bruise where the lower lip of the pad contacted my forearm.
In order to mitigate my fit issues, I adjusted the straps as loosely as possible, which helped to alleviate some of my discomfort. The problem is that the mesh sleeve has an elastic strap which is too tight for my forearm . The picture above was taken after finishing a run of the 17 mile long Downieville downhill.
While the pads fit tightly, they have always stayed perfectly in place, and never budged during a crash. Even when riding aggressively they didn’t creep down and never felt overly restrictive.
The level of protection the Alpinestar pads offer has allowed me to roll away unscathed from more than one hard tumble. Despite the hard use the pads have suffered little cosmetically. The overall construction of the Alps Elbow Guards is top notch. The quality of the materials used and the stitching inspire confidence that these pads will withstand years of abuse.
In summary, the Alps elbow guards offer a good range of protection at an affordable price. The pads retail for $60 USD and could easily due double duty on the trails and the lifts. They’re not the most comfortable pads but they feature an impressive build quality and won’t slide during your ride…or in a crash. The pads are also very well ventilated and fit easily under 3/4 and full length jerseys.
The only real fault is the Alpinestar sizing. The company offers these pads in two sizes – small/medium and large/x-large. Unless you have the twiggiest of girl arms, I highly recommend ordering one size up.