By Christina VanGinkel
My youngest son enjoys riding his Kawasaki KX100. We have a short track right on our own property, and a sand pit just down the road from our house that he also enjoys riding. There are also several tracks within a short distance from our home that allow riding by kids and adults as long as they are fully outfitted in all of the property safety equipment, follow the rules, and sign a waiver releasing the owners from any liability.
When a friend of his obtained a new bike recently, I was thrilled to hear our son discussing the importance of safety gear, explaining why he does wear his, always and without question, and why he would never ride without. If you or a loved one is considering taking up riding motocross, or getting a dirt bike for trail riding, remember that safety gear is as important, if not more so, than the purchase of the bike itself. Each piece of safety gear has its own benefits. I have assembled a short list, not a comprehensive one by any stretch of the imagination, but a list of some of the very reasons safety gear is so important.
A helmet is the most obvious piece of safety gear for any rider of any motorbike, and probably the most visual one. A good fitting helmet can protect a rider's head from serious damage. Whether a beginner or an experienced rider, a helmet should always be worn when riding. A rider may never wipe out his bike, but if he does, a helmet can mean the difference between life and death. The risks of riding without one are just not worth it. Full-face helmets can also provide a degree of protection for the face of the rider, including the mouth area, including the teeth.
Chest protectors come in various forms. Some cover the chest area alone, while others are made to protect both the front and back. There are even jackets available that will protect the chest, back, shoulders, and arms right down to the wrist area. Kidney belts are also available to protect the kidney area. Depending on the type of riding you do, your dealer will be able to point you in the direction of what type is best for you. Our son rides with a hard plastic chest protector that is made to protect the chest, along with panels to help keep his back protected, and shoulder areas, while still providing ventilation during the hottest days of the year. It is made to be worn over a jersey, and the shoulder protection is removable for those days when heat is a big factor. Be sure to choose one that is comfortable and easy to move in, otherwise you may find yourself or loved one skipping wearing it, and if it is not on, it cannot protect.
Boots made for riding will cover the shin area and provide the extra stability in the ankle area that is so important for any one riding a bike. The first time someone tries to kick over a bike and their foot slides off the pedal (it happens to the best), and the pedal drives into the shin, they will usually remember why it is important to always wear their boots. Good boots can literally mean the difference between wiping out and getting up and walking away, or wiping out and waiting for a ride to the hospital to have a broken bone put back together. Boots should fit properly, and if buying them for a child, avoid buying them too big, in hopes to get a second year of wear out of them. If boots are too big, it can be difficult to shift, and they end up more of a hindrance than a help. A proper fitting boot is important.
Goggles will help you see where you are going, even on the brightest days, and they will help keep the dust and debris out of your eyes. Again, fit is important. Goggles that are slipping and sliding are not going to be a help. There are models made to fit right onto a helmet, and these are great for growing kids and adults.
Besides the gear listed here, there are also knee and elbow guards, neck protection, and other safety paraphernalia that you may or may not find useful or necessary. Some of it will depend on the rider themselves, the style, and type of riding they will be doing, and the requirements of the tracks they will be riding on. Riding motocross can be a fun hobby, but safety has to be a priority to keep the fun factor at the forefront. Rid safe and have fun.