Downhill pads: the bare essential is the maximum
Downhill main protective equipment
Do not be one to bother with niceties. Traditional helmets are suitable for easy slops but will not be much efficient for deep mountain slopes.
You would rather opt for a full-face helmet, like for BMX, paragliding or motorcycling. Indeed, it will protect your chin and jaw far better in case of a fall. You must know that with speed and acceleration, if you fall, you head becomes far heavier and it is hard to hold on.
Moreover, BMX helmets are very appropriate because you can have a good stance and they do not restrict head moves.
Tip: You can also equip your helmet with a visor in order to avoid insects and dust.
Your eyes are your guides. At high speed, you can cover several meters in the blink of an eye. You should then always have a clear vision. If you do not have a visor on your helmet, opt for wraparound glasses which will prevent dirt and insects from crashing into your eyes.
More than a third of skating accidents concern wrists. And especially in downhill. Do not think twice: get wrist guards.
Warning: The quality of wrist guards available on the market varies a lot. Favor wrist guards in one piece, they have a better life expectancy.
Tip: Some skaters even use gardening gloves over their wrist guards to avoid finger burns.
It is simply skintight shorts padded at the hips and buttocks. They absorb shocks a bit in case of a fall, but above all enable to avoid burns due to the rubbing of your skin against the ground.
Warning: Favor models with plastic caps (if necessary completed with absorbing padding under the plastic) as they slide better on the ground.
Master pieces: plastron, back pad, and other padded suits
In the world of downhill, suits are commonplace (opposite picture). Today, more and more suits have integrated padded shorts and back pads. They have caps at the elbows, shoulders, back, breast, hips, bottom...
Note: Motorcycle accessory brand Dainese is very well-known amongst downhill skaters. The equipment is quite expensive but finely manufactured.
Tip: Motocycle suits are very often used by downhill skaters, especially if they are also motorcyclists! Leather suits are the only suits that will really protect your skin if you fall. Otherwise, a pair of jeans and a leather jacket (preferably an old one) as well as protective pads everywhere are needed: thighs, hips, knees, elbows…
Warning: Lycra suits improve air penetration but do not protect if you fall. They can be worn over the above-mentioned protective equipment.
Elbow and knee pads
In case of a fall at high speed, you should have high stress abrasion protective pads. Ideally, go and search in the motorcycling or aggressive skating departments.
Warning: It is important to have slip-on knee and elbow pads. If they only fasten with velcro straps, they may move at first fall and be totally useless.
Tip: If you do not have much money, "Moon" pads are quite suitable. Caps over paddings enable to slide on the ground.
Translation: Chloé Seyres
Photos: D. Manescu, A. Lebrun, Tigr'Roue, Roces