Dirtbike Safety: The Essentials of Off-Road Gear
With so many gear options out there, how do you know what to choose? Gear is designed specifically for what you're riding. We're going to focus on the dirt bike gear available on the market that should be considered to keep your body in protected when riding off road. Gear marketed for generic off road or labeled as motocross gear will apply to the same dirt rider. Whether you're riding on a dirt bike or ATV, here are the basics to get you going.
Dirt Bike Helmets (and Goggles)
Dirt bike helmets are designed to give full face protection with the maximum amount of airflow. They also have a large open area where a face shield should go, with a large visor to avoid sunlight glare. This way you can wear goggles over the helmet to keep the dirt, dust and rocks out of your eyes. There are a number of brands in the marketplace, offering a variety of features across a wide range of prices. Options even exist for things like more venting for riders in hotter climates. The main thing you want to consider is shape and size. Everyone has a different head shape, and manufacturers change their shell designs to fit those shapes. You want a snug fit that doesn't give you pressure spots, which will give you a headache. Wear the helmet for about 30 minutes to make sure the fit is right for you. Take your time when choosing your helmet. You want to be comfortable for a day of riding while having the best protection.
Off Road Boots
Dirt bike boots — like Alpinestars Tech 8 RS boots — often have descriptions about how "soft" they are or how they "have superior comfort and flexibility." In reality, wearing off-road boots is like putting a cast on each foot. They have multiple forms of protection, restrict ankle movement, and have 3-5 buckles to lock it all down. It's somewhat awkward at first walking around in "moon boots," but once you wear them a couple times, you can't imagine riding without them! These boots protect your feet, ankles and lower legs in every way possible. Multi-layered hard soles, inner ankle support sleeve, hard toe box to reduce impact, heel cups and shin armor all work together to ensure you can walk back to your truck at the end of your rides.
These are probably the cheapest gear items you'll ever buy. Dirt bike gloves are lightweight, breathable, and generally very comfortable. Since we're playing around in dirt and not on the pavement, they don't need to be super durable and bulky. They're designed to help avoid abrasion and blisters. And they usually have double-stitched reinforced palms to minimize getting worn out on the grips, or for when you take a dive in the dirt.
Off-Road Pants and Jerseys
This is where you get to pick out an outfit for style points. Jerseys and pants usually come in matching sets designed with the same patterns. The color options are endless. Dirt bike jerseys are just lightweight, breathable long-sleeve shirts that usually have some extra material and stitching in the elbows and shoulders. They protect you from minor abrasions, allow lots of airflow and are very comfortable.
For pants, there are a couple versions you can choose. Traditional Motocross pants are form-fitting and tuck inside your boots. There is no loose fabric to get caught on anything, and they're easy to move around in. The more everyday version of off-road riding pants are over the boot and look more like casual apparel.They have the necessary reinforced areas and abrasion resistance, but are looser fitting, and have pockets and vents to control temperature. This style offers you the protection and casual comfort. Some even have zip-off lower legs to convert to shorts while you are sitting around camp.
Highly Recommended Dirt Bike Gear
If you want to up your safety gear game, these items are a little less commonly used, but we recommend them for serious riding, especially at higher speeds. Consider it bonus optional upgraded equipment.
Roost protectors/deflectors are basically over-armor to protect your chest from flying debris, rocks and chunks of dirt. When you're riding in a group, on the track or on the trails, it's an added layer of hard plastic that will shield you from those painful little projectiles. While you mainly see them on dirt bike riders, they're nice to have when riding ATVs as well. Besides flying debris, they also offer protection from impact on your handlebars and for your vital areas if you end up dismounting.
Neck braces — like this Alpinestars BNS Tech Carbon Neck Support — clamp around your neck and support the bottom of your helmet. The first time you wear one might feel awkward, but the added support is tremendous. If you launch off your bike or ATV and land on your head, a neck brace will help prevent serious spinal injury. For all you Evil Knievel type riders, this should be a serious consideration.
Off Road Armor
Additional armor is never a bad thing. Since jerseys don't offer much in actual protection, there are armor options you can wear under your standard gear. Something like this Stryker Rig Body Armor can offer that extra protection. Think of it as a solid upgrade from your standard roost protector, since it covers a lot more ground. There are also armored shorts you can wear under your offroad pants that will accomplish the same goal.
Personal Safety Goals
It all boils down to what you're comfortable wearing and how much protection you want for yourself. There are no rules when it comes to gear. We just appreciate that sometimes as fun as this sport is, it can be physically dangerous to our health. Enjoy your time in the wild and gear up to ride another day.