Get the gear before you get on your bike.
By Trent Jonas
As a beginner to dirt bike riding, there are a lot of ins and outs to learn—and sometimes you'll get some bumps and bruises throughout that learning process. To avoid common mistakes and risk of injury, make sure you have your checklist of essential items before you get on your bike. From a helmet to a chest protector, here's what you'll need to get started on a dirt bike.
Head protection is of utmost importance when dirt biking, whether on an off-road trail or a MX track, so a helmet is imperative. Look for one that is relatively lightweight, made from polycarbonate or carbon fiber, that also has plenty of ventilation to keep the air flowing and help cool your head on hot summer riding days. An adjustable visor, and a removable, washable liner are also good features to look for in a helmet.
With all the dirt, rocks, and debris that gets kicked up on the trail and on the track, eye protection, in the form of goggles, is also crucial for any dirt biker. Look for goggles with strong, scratch-resistant, easy-to-clean lenses and a strap that will ensure that they stay put while you’re riding. Oakley’s Airbrake MX goggles fit the bill. A nice thing about the Airbrake MX is that replacement parts are available from Oakley in the event of damage to the goggles.
Gloves are any equally important piece of gear in any beginning rider’s locker. In their position out over the front wheel as you’re riding, your hands are potentially the most exposed part of your body when you’re on a dirt bike. This is why riding gloves are so crucial. Look for something that is tough and durable with plenty of protection for your fingers and the top side of your hands, as well as ventilation, like the Air Glove from Troy Lee Designs.
A riding jacket is also another piece of gear that can play an important role for a beginning dirt biker. A good riding jacket, like the Dakar from Klim, will help protect your arms, neck, and torso from sun, wind, debris, and even errant branches and weeds as you traverse the trail or track. It also serves as an outer layer to keep mud and dirt off your clothes, so you can get off your bike, doff your jacket, and walk into the nearest watering hole for a refreshing drink—without looking like you crawled through mud to get there.
Riding pants, like the Apocalypse Pant from O’Neal, serve pretty much the same purpose for the lower part of your body as a riding jacket does for your torso and arms. In addition, like a riding jacket, dirt bike pants offer an extra layer of protection between the trail and your skin in the event of a wipe out. Look for pants with plenty of storage in the form of zippered or otherwise-secured pockets.
You tend to use your feet a lot more when riding a dirt bike than you do on other kinds of motorcycles or off-road vehicles. That’s why you need a proper pair of riding boots, like the Comp X from Fox Racing. The Comp X is fitted with a three-buckle system to keep your boots firmly secured to your feet as well as enhanced traction for those times you need to use your feet on loose mud, slippery rocks, or wet logs.
A chest protector, like the Leatt 6.5 Pro, is a great piece of gear for beginners. It adds a layer of armored protection across the chest and back, as well as the shoulders, to prevent injuries in the event of a wipe out, being thrown off your bike, or impacting a tree or other obstacle. If you ever need it, you’ll be glad you have it.
Although not an outright necessity, knee braces are not a bad idea, especially for beginners. When you’re dirt biking, your knees are particularly vulnerable to injury, and a knee brace, like the K8 2.0 from Pod Active, can go a long way to protect your knee from getting hurt or to prevent injuries from being as bad as they could have been.