While the general idea of Mountain Biking is to stay on your bike, the occasional oopsie does prevail. As an accident is exactly that, an accident, and the inevitable rendesvouz with Signore Le Ground will sometimes be painful. For these unexpected occasions wouldn't it make sense to be dressed/protected accordingly?
Protection has progressed, knee pads especially. Not too long ago protective gear (besides helmets) was reserved to the downhill brigade. They were hard capped, heavy and generally excessively warm. This made no difference when the riding was comprised of hurtling down a ravine. With the advance of bike geometry and general riders becoming more eager to ride the trails than never-ending district roads, the need for a more suitable protection has exponentially developed. Although 90% of us are unlikely to throw ourselves down a mountain, the general terrain we find ourselves riding and enjoying has become more challenging. Hence the need to have that little bit of buffer.
Knee pads (and elbow) are now common place throughout the world, SA is still catching up, of course, as the biggest trend is still marathon riding, although the trail scene is slithering through the cracks.
Yet trail riding requires a lot of pedalling too, so brands focussed on 4 main points to create knee pads suited for such.
Movement is king/queen. Pads are designed to move with your legs & arms, not against them.
With free movement and considered design, the idea is that you should not really be aware of the protection while riding. There are more important things to think about, like having fun.
Getting hot and sweaty is a bi-product of exerting yourself, MTBing is full of this. Allowing the body to breath comfortably makes all the difference.
The actual reason you have the Knee pads in the first place.
As a woman another point, which although not vital, is equally important. Does it make me look bulky? Thankfully there are such pads;) There are some excellent slim options that offer high levels of protection by utilising super advanced materials that are quite soft to the touch but will harden instantly upon impact. This enables the manufacturers to keep the designs slim, sleek yet still entirely functional.
Now to achieve all these fundamental points in designing a Knee/elbow pad to suit the everyday trail rider, brands have invested a lot of time and development in creating products that fulfil all these criteria. Some brands are more successful than others with regards to ticking all the boxes, but generally there are really good options available.
A bit of protection can go a long way to keeping scars away and keeping you injury free, even after an oopsie.