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When mountain bikes first became popular people were a lot more likely to buy a full set of frame pads than a helmet. Obviously helmets had all of the aesthetic appeal of a lycra covered fan-heater back then, however, frame pads were what you had if you really went off road and were serious about your mountain biking. They were not seen as frivolous, just sensible, a bit like a helmet. In the UK nobody would walk out of a bike shop with anything from a brand new Kona Cindercone to a Raleigh Maverick unless it was bedecked with at least one 'Cosmic Trail' frame pad in some garish colour.

As well as protecting your nether regions from the bike during an accident they also protected the frame from damage and made it a lot easier to carry the bike up stairs or over a fence. They had their uses on car-racks too. The benefits were undeniable even if the florescent did have a tendency to fade.

Then, one day, when nobody was looking, they were suddenly removed from the bike shops and made no longer available for purchase. Were they that good that the powers that be in the bike trade had to kill them off, much like GM and the electric car?

Why have they not had a continued place in the market place? Given today's 'scratch 'n' snap' carbon frames and the fad for downhill-mountain-biking one would have thought they would be more popular than ever. As it is you only have a few pretend-messengers using them to hide the fact that their bike has got braze ons for the back brake and is not a true fixie.

Here is an advert for what was the UK's market leader - 'Cosmic Trail'. The all in one top tube and stem pad had the added advantage of smoothing out your steering making the bars less prone to being jolted by rocks etc.

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Are you pretty much convinced that anything that is no longer readily available was the best product ever? Look, I get that when you're talking about cars, there are folks that might have a reason to prevent someone with a new idea from changing the Status Quo. But what exactly did this product do to prevent the "Big Bike Cabal" from making money? If anything, it was an add on sale that would make them more money. –  zenbike Aug 5 '11 at 10:24
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In addition, you can still buy frame pads, although most often they are used on BMX bikes, and after the advent of suspension forks, they weren't really considered necessary and so people stopped buying them. Which meant that retailers stopped ordering them. Which meant that manufacturers stopped producing them in any real numbers. That's kind of how it works. –  zenbike Aug 5 '11 at 10:26
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You can walk into any hardware store and buy foam pipe insulation and a roll of electrical tape. What more do you need? –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 10 '11 at 0:31
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3 Answers 3

From my perspective (normally a road bike user, and fairly good at falling of an MTB on rapid downhills) when I fall I always try to leave the bike, as pedals, cranks and sprockets hurt legs.

So to me the most important things to protect are head, elbows, knees/shins and back. Frame pads aren't going to do anything for me, but protective clothing will.

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To be honest... I would debate the efficacy of the pads. Given the nature of crashes (both road and mountain) I doubt they would really offer that much protection.

As for no longer being sold... probably just went out of fashion. Price vs performance, advent of full suspension frames, etc...

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In practical terms, they may not do much--but in terms of raw physics even a small amount of padding can have a very significant reduction impact force by spreading the same amount of energy out over a longer time. –  STW Aug 10 '11 at 18:55
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@STW yes, your physics is correct. But why do you care about spreading impact force? I don't see many frames been torn apart from crashes (mostly with intended abuse). And if you care about the rider, then putting knee/elbow pads provide much better solution. –  trailmax Aug 24 '11 at 0:52
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Knee and elbow pads protect you from the things you usually get hit with--but when crashing the bike often hits you, and this isn't something a lot of pads are designed to fend off. The frame pads make the bike itself softer, so you're less likely to, um, get a "lovely singing voice" when you get smacked by the bike as you wreck –  STW Aug 24 '11 at 3:48
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talking out of my **

Everyone wants to show their bike brand. and since it's mostly on the top tube nowadays, no one uses them anymore.

Also, fashion changed. And since this only has marginal benefits, it was ditched (hats had more practical benefits and suffered the same fate when fashion changed). A long time ago fabric was in. see older cadilacs with textile or leather roofs (even though they do not open). today fashion is about sleak materials. see mac products.

I still have one on my bike. It's worthless for crashes, but helps keeping the paint when i lock the bike on the street! I can just lock the bike to anything with it rested against the improvised-street-locking-place via it's top tube and i'm done.

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