Dirtbike Safety: The Essentials of Off-Road Gear
Gear is designed specifically for what you're riding, but with so many options out there, how do you know what to choose?
We're going to focus on the dirt bike gear that should be considered to keep your body protected when riding off road. Gear marketed for generic off-road or as motocross gear mostly applies to the same rider. However, whether you're riding on a dirt bike or ATV, here are the basics to get you going.
Helmets (and Goggles)
Riding helmets are designed to give full head protection with the maximum amount of airflow. Some have an open area where a face shield should go, with a large visor to avoid sunlight glare. This allows for wearing goggles over the helmet to keep dirt, dust and rocks out of your eyes. Many brands offer a variety of features across a wide range of prices. Options even exist for things like better venting for riders in hotter climates.
The main thing to consider is shape and size. Everyone has a different head shape, and manufacturers adjust their shell designs to fit the variety. Get a snug fit that doesn't give you pressure spots, which causes headaches. Take your time when choosing your helmet, and try it on for about 30 minutes to make sure it fits comfortably.
Dirt bike 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 offer 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 each ride.
Perhaps the cheapest gear items you'll ever buy, dirt bike gloves are lightweight, breathable, and generally very comfortable. And since we're talking about playing in dirt and not on pavement, they don't need to be super durable or bulky.
Dirt bike or off-road gloves are designed to help avoid abrasion and blisters. They usually have double-stitched reinforced palms to minimize getting worn out on the grips, or for protection when you take a dive in the dirt.
Off-Road Pants and Jerseys
This is where you go for style points! Jerseys and pants usually come in matching sets, with endless color options to choose from. 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.
Traditional motocross pants are form-fitting and tuck inside your boots. There's no loose fabric to get caught on anything, and they're easy to move around in. More everyday versions of off-road pants go 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 protection and casual comfort. Some even have zip-off lower legs to convert to shorts while you're sitting around.
Highly Recommended Dirt Bike Gear
If you want to up your safety gear game, these items are less commonly used, but we recommend them for serious riding, especially at higher speeds. Consider it bonus optional gear.
Roost/chest protectors are basically over-armor to protect your chest from flying debris. When you're riding in a group, on the track or on the trails, it's an added layer of hard plastic to shield you from painful little projectiles. While you mainly see them on dirt bike riders, they're good to have when riding ATVs as well. Besides flying debris, they also protect you from impacting your handlebars and your vital areas if you end up falling off.
Neck braces 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 helps prevent serious spinal injury. All you Evil Knievel type stunt riders should seriously consider buying a neck brace.
Since jerseys don't offer much in actual protection, additional body armor options are available to wear under your standard gear.
Think of armor 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 for additional lower body protection.
Personal Off-Road Riding Safety Goals
There are no rules when it comes to choosing gear. It all boils down to what you're comfortable wearing and how much protection you want. We just appreciate that as fun as this sport is, it can be seriously dangerous to our physical health, so enjoy your time in the wild and gear up to ride another day!