Dirt bike riding is an exhilarating activity. Whether for competitive sports or simply for recreation, the adrenaline rush created by dirt bike riding has attracted thrill-seekers for a long time. Many believe it to be very dangerous, and so it’s key to understand how to avoid dirt bike injuries.
To avoid dirt bike injuries, you should always exercise caution and use the appropriate protective equipment. It is also important to follow local authority regulations concerning dirt biking. Simple safety practices can protect you, as can wearing protective gear like helmets and gloves.
Whether you are starting up as a beginner in dirt bike riding, or you are a guardian preparing to buy a dirt bike for someone else, understanding the safety protocols is an important step. We go into more detail about staying safe while riding a dirt bike below.
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Is Dirt Bike Riding Safe?
Dirt bike riding is a completely safe sport, but only if you know what you are doing. Dirt bikes have their fair share of risks, but you can definitely do it safely and still have fun. Dirt bike riding can be done safely if you follow basic safety protocols and wear equipment like helmets.
Many accidents are unavoidable, and even highly trained professionals can fall victim to dirt bike accidents. However, there are methods to minimize the probability of these accidents occurring. Dirt bikes are vehicles with an engine, and what most people don’t know is that a dirt bike’s engine is only as powerful or even less powerful than the power saw lying around in your garage.
There are stipulated guidelines on acceptable dirt bike riding that vary slightly with each geographical location, and these are usually designed to protect the rider and the people around them.
It’s Not Always On You
While on your dirt bike, the threat of an accident might not originate directly from you or your dirt bike. Everything in your environment poses a threat to your safety if you don’t know what you’re doing. Failure to maintain a sharp awareness of your environment might result in serious injuries or, in some rare cases, fatalities.
Dirt bikes are in their element when they are on muddy trails, sandy terrains, or even in hilly dirt, but these environments can foster the probability of being involved in an accident. You must understand your limitations and those of your dirt bike before you head out for the first time. So, what are some other ways to ensure you stay safe on your dirt bike?
How To Stay Safe When Riding A Dirt Bike
Consider Your Experience Level
Buying your first bike is an exciting experience, and you might be tempted to wake up the next morning and hit the trails. But like any other sport, different dirt bike activities have different difficulty ratings. If you are only just beginning, stick to the basics and don’t attempt anything above your skill level.
Regularly Check And Maintain Your Dirt Bike
You should also closely monitor your dirt bike for wear and tear, and substantial damage. Checking your engine oil levels, transmission, brake functionality, and other components is crucial. A faulty braking system poses a serious threat to the rider and everyone else in their environment, so an easy way to stay safe is to simply stay on top of your bike’s overall health.
Use The Right Bike
Another easy way to stay safe is to choose the right dirt bike in the first place. As a beginner, you won’t need a powerful bike, and you’ll likely also not need the torque offered by 4-stroke engines. They’re also easier to maintain and a fair bit lighter in many cases, making these bikes easier to handle, and potentially safer too.
Most Common Dirt Bike Injuries
1. Limb Injuries
When you fall from your dirt bike with an outstretched hand, which is usually the instinctual position the body takes to prevent trauma to the head and chest area, you risk hurting your hands and legs in one way or another. Several injuries might occur to your arm and leg, and below are a few notable mentions.
Simple Bruises, Cuts, And Sprains
When traveling at a slower speed, bruises cuts and sprains are the most common type of injury to your limbs. Depending on the pain level, managing these injuries might be done by an individual or it might demand professional medical attention. Sometimes a stitch is needed to seal a cut or prevent further bleeding. Dressing the wound to prevent infection is crucial to cut down on the recovery time.
In general, a rider can fully recover from these types of injuries and get back on their dirt bike in anywhere from a matter of minutes to days or weeks. In many cases, painkiller medication is enough to manage any of the discomfort experienced by the rider.
Injury To The Rotator Cuff Muscles And Tendons
The rotator cuff muscles are a group of muscles that provide stability to the shoulder joint. In an accident where the shoulder is compromised, for example during dislocation of the shoulder joint, the rotator cuff muscles and their tendons might be injured. Usually, this may result in inflammation of the shoulder with varying degrees of pain.
In managing this type of injury, physiotherapy or even surgery might be recommended. It is advisable that you seek medical attention for a proper assessment of the extent of damage to the muscles before beginning the recovery process, and definitely before riding your dirt bike again.
Another likely injury that might occur from falling on an outstretched hand is a fracture of the clavicle or collarbone. The clavicle is a relatively weak bone and is susceptible to fracture along its length, especially at the point where it assumes a natural curve. Injury to your clavicle can often recover fairly quickly, depending on the extent of the damage.
Fractures To The Long Bones Of The Arm
The long bones of the arm include the humerus, ulna, and radius. Depending on the type of accident, any one of these bones might be fractured. These fractures are usually very painful and demand immediate medical attention.
2. Concussions And Other Head Injuries
Head injuries are the worst-case scenario of dirt bike injuries. Depending on the speed and angle of the fall, head injuries range from mild concussions to other more serious injuries in the different regions of the brain. To prevent long-term or permanent effects of these injuries, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of head injuries usually include abnormal ringing in your head, sensitivity to light, loss of sensation in different regions of the body, loss of motor functions of your muscles, and in some cases complete loss of any of the five common senses. When any of these symptoms persist, you should immediately raise your concerns with your doctor.
3. Knee Injuries
After falling off your dirt bike, it is likely that your knee might be involved in the injury. Knee Injuries usually involve the ligaments and bones within this important joint, and the most common sites include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the lateral and medial menisci, and the collateral ligaments.
The anterior cruciate ligament is almost always the victim of knee injuries due to its position in relation to other parts of the knee joint. The symptoms usually include a searing pain in your knee and the inability to flex the knee joint. Management may be by therapy or surgery. The recovery period often takes 6-9 months or longer after surgery.
4. Nerve Damage
When you fall off your dirt bike in a manner where the angle between your head and the shoulder is increased, you risk damaging a series of important nerves collectively known as the brachial plexus that is responsible for the normal functions of the arm. Another nerve that might be injured is the common peroneal nerve on the outer surface of the knee during knee scrapes and burns.
4 Tips To Avoid Dirt Bike Injuries
1. Ensure Your Dirt Bike Is Properly Maintained
Keeping your dirt bike in prime condition is essential to avoid dirt bike injuries. Proper maintenance of your dirt bike not only improves performance but also increases the overall safety of the rider. Maintenance transcends the regular trip to the mechanic or taking the engine apart from time to time. Regularly monitoring all the important parts of your dirt bike parts is key.
The air filter is your engine’s first line of defense from harmful substances such as dust particles, sand granules, and moisture accumulation. Keeping the air filter clean and replacing it regularly will protect the engine, consequently reducing associated mechanical problems that could result in injury if it were to malfunction while you were riding it.
Engine oil plays a key role in lubricating your dirt bike’s engine and transmission system. It also serves other cooling and protective functions. Due to the extreme temperature and pressure experienced in a dirt bike’s engine, the oil breaks down over time. It is important to replace the oil regularly and refill it when it falls below recommended levels.
What good is a dirt bike that does not stop? The ability to slow down from high speeds and come to a halt is a necessary safety factor to consider for your dirt bike. Dysfunctional brake pads are among the leading causes of dirt bike injuries. An overly thin pad will cause stress on the backing plate which leads to wear and tear damage on the brake rotor. Check your brake pads from time to time.
Your dirt bike’s drive chain is responsible for channeling the energy created in the engine to the rear wheel along with the help of the sprocket. A loose chain can have catastrophic results as it might come loose and get stuck in the rear wheel, resulting in a catapulting force that can throw you off the dirt bike.
Having a drive chain that is too tight is equally dangerous. The drive chain is made up of individual parts that might snap and injure the rider when there is an excessive force exerted on them, as is the case of an overly tight drive chain. So, regularly check and maintain your dirt bike’s chain to stay safe.
2. Use High-Quality Protective Gear
Equipping yourself with the right safety gear will go a step further in protecting you from bodily harm in case of an accident. Purchasing sub-standard equipment for a reduced price is not the way to go when choosing safety equipment.
For example, a low-quality helmet could shatter on impact, which endangers the life of the rider. Having the right protective equipment on all exposed parts of your body protects them from burns, scratches, and grazes.
3. Ensure Your Dirt Bike Is Suitable For You
Bigger is not always better when it comes to choosing the right dirt bike. Selecting the right size of dirt bike in terms of engine capabilities and physical measurements goes a long way in keeping the rider safe from injury. Powerful dirt bikes are more difficult to manage and are therefore not recommended for beginners.
A manageable dirt bike for a beginner is between the ranges of 250-400cc, regardless of how confident you might be. Some beginners may even opt for a 125cc bike. In addition to the engine size, choosing the right physical size corresponding to your arm reach, leg length, and weight is also crucial.
A surefire way of identifying an oversized bike is by balancing the bike with the soles of your feet while your body is planted on the seat. If the soles of the feet are flat on the ground, the dirt bike is probably too short for you, which poses a risk of knee injuries during tight bends or fractures when you hit the ground with force after a high jump.
If only the tips of your toes are able to touch the ground, the dirt bike is probably too big for you. A properly sized dirt bike has half the rider’s soles planted on the ground. Using the right size of dirt bike allows you to lean into curves or kick yourself back to balance when the bike is unbalanced.
4. Stick To The Right Trails For Your Dirt Bike
Dirt bikes do not have the freedom to roam all the roads available. In many areas, cruising the highway or any other tarmac such as in a neighborhood vicinity is even prohibited by law. This is because dirt bikes are not usually street legal, as they do not have taillights or indicators and rarely have headlights. So, to stay safe, stay on suitable trails for your experience level.
4 Essential Pieces Of Dirt Bike Safety Gear
A helmet is a key piece of safety gear for any dirt bike rider regardless of their level of expertise. There are many factors to consider when choosing the right helmet. For such an important bit of safety gear, getting the measurements wrong can result in the amplification of injuries instead of a reduction in their severity.
Before purchasing a helmet, you should pop it over your head to see what you’ll be able to see when you’re riding with it on. An oversized helmet might limit your vision and increases the risk of you being caught off guard by external variables such as a low-hanging branch. You should also always go for DOT-certified helmets as their quality is guaranteed.
The 6D Helmet ATR-2 Helo
Made of pure expanded polypropylene, the 6D helmet is among the best on the market. It is DOT certified and has numerous handy fixtures that are geared toward improving comfort without compromising safety.
2. Dirt Bike Goggles
Dirt bike riding usually involves muddy, sandy, or dusty trails. These can all cause severe irritation to your eyes when you are on your dirt bike. Having a pair of goggles protects you from all of these issues and also from the direct glare of the sun. Goggles are therefore an essential piece of safety gear for beginners and experts alike.
Just like with the helmet, there are also a variety of factors to consider when choosing the best goggles. A good pair of goggles should have replaceable lenses. Despite these goggles coming with a higher price tag, the versatility offered by this simple design is enough compensation.
Below are a few factors to consider when choosing dirt bike goggles:
- The field of view
- Lens replacement capabilities
- Materials used in their construction
When it comes to the color of the lenses, clear lenses are the way to go unless you are looking for lenses that can shield you from the sun.
Oakley Front Line MX Goggles With Prizm Lenses
These goggles are designed to fit perfectly with most helmets without leaving gaps. In addition to their extensive compatibility with helmets, they are engineered with the latest technology to ensure they can be used in a variety of conditions. They also provide decent ventilation, making these a good choice for many riders.
3. Knee Braces
When riding your dirt bike, it is possible that your knee might get snagged, which can cause a hyperextension at the knee joint, or hyperflexion, both of which endanger the ligaments and muscles. To avoid any of these, using a knee brace that fits perfectly is a good start. Knee braces prevent burns and take the pressure off your knee joints when you are cruising on uneven terrain.
When choosing knee braces, the material composition is the most important factor to consider. The best materials are usually a bit more expensive while the cheapest compromise quality. Titanium and carbon composite are both lightweight and durable options.
The POD MX K4 2.0 Knee Brace-Pair
If knee safety is a concern, then the POD K4 2.0 knee braces are the solution. These are accepted as medical equipment and are capable of keeping your knee safe from minor cuts and bruises along with major fractures and tendon tears. You need not buy a sleeve or wear thigh-high socks with this knee brace as it has soft inner padding made of comfortable materials.
After relentless testing, the manufacturers claim that this specific knee brace can accommodate all of the necessary motion made by a rider on a typical dirt bike, meaning it shouldn’t inhibit your riding style.
4. Neck Braces
Because of its flexibility and position, the neck is a delicate body part that can easily be injured in a dirt bike accident. Neck braces for dirt bike riders are designed to limit the movements of the neck without affecting its normal functions. Adjustable neck braces are the best and can usually be found quite easily online or at sports retailers.
The Leatt 6.5 Carbon Neck Brace Black SM/MD
The Leatt neck brace is a 1.92-pound neck brace, which is extremely lightweight by most standards, and it prevents straining the rider’s neck during riding. The fact it’s so lightweight means you will forget you are wearing this, and that will ensure you enjoy your dirt bike riding experience without sacrificing safety.
To avoid dirt bike injuries, it’s key that you regularly maintain your bike and never take on anything you’re not ready for. Common dirt bike injuries can be easily prevented by wearing the right safety gear, but the best place to start is by ensuring you choose the right bike for your skill level.