It’s time to have a serious discussion about the safety and dangers of dirt bikes for both adults and children as it can be dangerous.
Dirt Bike Dangers and Risks are real
Don’t ignore the media headlines or advice from good people. What they proclaim about the dangers of dirt bikes is certainly true:
While riders who wear the right protection are intrinsically safer, the sport itself can still be dangerous. Dirt bikes are a leading cause of injury in the high adrenaline world due to the relative affordability of these high-performance machines. Adults and children are certainly at risk at temporary or life-long injuries.
We’ve made such a tough statement to raise a point: The dangers are real. Dirt bikes operate at high speeds through technical terrain with riders often reluctant to fully protect themselves.
However, risks also come with other activities too. Driving your car, walking down the sidewalk and going for a swim at your local beach. For many, dirt biking exceeds their risk tolerance. This is a key reason why many kids today are kept inside and are playing video games instead of enjoying the world around them.
Racing vs casual riding
We believe that the risk of serious injury is reduced by those who casually ride trails and do adventure riding than compared to racing. Whether racing for enduro or motocross, the risks increase because of the speeds and demands placed on the riders to win.
However, with so much riding experience, such riders are able to anticipate hazards much sooner. And given their higher risk-taking, they typically wear more protective gear than other riders including a neck brace.
Those who ride casually on weekends or do a round-the-world tour generally take things much easier. There is no restriction on time so they are able to attack each hazard such as hill climbs and river crossings with more careful planning.
Essentially, those who race are more aware of the dangers of dirt bikes. But they put themselves into harm’s way and if they do crash, often the outcome is messy.
Statistics on the dangers of dirt bikes
We decided to do some research to back up our claims. These statistics will likely help you become aware that, while dirt bike riding is dangerous, it’s even more dangerous to own a quad bike.
- Teenagers are most likely to get admitted to hospital in Victoria, Australia: “Off-road motorcycling hospital admissions peaked in age group 15–19 years, whereas on-road motorcycling hospital admissions peaked in the age group 25–29 years” Source: http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au
- While many accidents do happen, only 7.5% of those injured were hospitalized in a 2001 to 2004 study undertaken by the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5522a1.htm
- Only 35% of bone fractures during dirt biking accidents happen above the waist. Source: http://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/Abstract/2009/12000/Motocross_Morbidity__Economic_Cost_and_Injury.3.aspx
Anyone who races or does jumping or other stunt work is likely to be injured in a crash eventually.
Most frequent Dirt Biking Injuries
When you’re riding, you’re most commonly going to come across uneven terrain, other riders or simply crash when landing a jump. You’ll likely suffer from an arm, leg, head or neck injury which is why we recommend purchasing the best protection that you can afford.
Here are the injuries that dirt bike riders commonly receive:
1. Broken wrist
When you fall off, typically it’s your wrists that hit the ground first. Because they are trying to stop the force of your fall, they are also handling a lot of your moving body weight. You can expect up to 2 months off riding while you wait for these to heal with much of this time spent away from the hospital. Wrists are critical for effective clutch, brake and throttle control so don’t rush to recovery time by jumping back on your motorcycle too soon.
2. Broken Collarbone
We would need more than 2 hands to count the number of collarbone breakages we’ve heard of during the years. Broken collarbones hurt the most and are due to riders outstretching their arms during a crash. This is human-nature and little can be done in that 2-second gap between losing control and hitting the ground. Physiotherapists generally are called upon to help dirt bike riders who partake in competitions to heal faster. For the casual trail rider, this isn’t really necessary.
3. Broken ribs
Dirt bikes often cause broken ribs because riders aren’t protecting themselves with a chest guard. While these guards won’t 100% protect your chest area, they will certainly help spread the load. Broken ribs are often caused by handlebars digging into the ribs on impact or the rider falling on to large rocks and logs. Quad bikes often are more dangerous because their heavier weight generally inflicts more damage to the rib cage upon impact.
4. Dislocated shoulders
Luckily one of the easier things to fix, dirt bike riders often dislocate shoulders which will require a trip to the hospital. The intense pain is likely to have any rider off their bike for a few weeks while recover takes place. Luckily, no long term pain commonly occurs with this but riders certainly don’t look forward to ever experiencing this again.
5. Rolled ankles
We’re still surprised that people will jump on a dirt bike without any boots on, especially when there are some very affordable options on the market. Dislocated ankles typically occur when riders choose running shoes, sandals or even hiking boots which don’t provide adequate protection. Even if you don’t dislocate an ankle, these dirt bike riding boots do provide protection against hot engines and tree branches on the trails.
6. Broken neck and back
Easily the worst injury that a dirt bike rider can experience is a broken neck or back. These life long injuries affect both the rider and their carer for years, potentially resulting in having the rest of your life in a wheelchair or simply with limited mobility. Ask any rider either on the race track or local trails and their #1 fear is a broken neck or back. This often spells the end of their riding forever.
Making dirt bike riding safer
While you might be attracted to the stunts that you see on TV, the reality is that it takes years of consistent practice to achieve these. No doubt these riders had to suffer from many crashes in the process.
Dirt bike riding is physically demanding and those who have limited fitness may find adventure riding to be more relaxing.
We can recommend offroad riders to always have:
- A full-sized helmet. Ensure it’s DOT-approved and if you buy a used one, ensure it hasn’t got any notable cracks. Always pay up for the best out there.
- Matching goggles for the helmet. By having matching goggles, you’re able to protect your eyes when riding and when taking a fall from the riding seat.
- Very good quality boots. Avoid anything that’s too cheap as they won’t be comfortable to wear for the long term and offer limited safety features.
- Impact-reducing gloves. Look for gloves that have abrasion-resistant materials and spend up for high quality. The price difference is very minimal.
- Jersey and pants. Don’t wear old long-sleeved clothing that was passed down from generations. Instead, invest in some genuine MX riding gear.
- Elbow and knee pads. Definitely the best way to prevent any significant injury are elbow and knee pads. These are very inexpensive and easy to wear.
- Chest protector. As we noted above, having a chest guard can reduce the likelihood of broken ribs. This is one of the worst dirt biking injuries to experience.
- Neck brace. If you want to avoid spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair, then invest in a neck brace. These have become commonplace at MX tracks.
By having this gear, you won’t completely eliminate the dangers of dirt bikes and regular riding, but you’ll certainly feel more confident. And if you do crash, you can almost always dust yourself off and keep riding. If you ride with friends, you can be more relied upon with no one having to worry about you so much.
Teenagers are the most susceptible
Are you reading this in the hope of convincing your child to give up their dirt bike riding dreams? Many parents are well-intentioned and the statistics show that teenagers are most at-risk based on offroad motorcycling accident trends.
For that reason, you really need to do your best to protect them. If they choose to ride, they should only be riding in areas where help is readily available. You could also ride with them and help them to ride in a more responsible manner.
Motocross clubs appear to be all about speed, but these days safety is their #1 priority. They want their riders to be safe and will direct children to wear all of their protection gear while teaching them how to avoid collisions with other riders.
Just remember that children bounce easier than adults. If you’re concerned about the weight of the dirt bike causing them an injury, then consider an electric MX bike instead. It appears, upon analyzing the data, that most accidents occur by teenagers who head out riding without wearing any protective gear, not even a helmet.
Is it still worth it?
We’ve had to have this tough discussion and hope that we haven’t scared you from the sport. At the end of the day, everything we do is risky. From driving down the street to going for a hike in the woods. We have to analyze our risk tolerance and respond accordingly.
Many riders understand the risks and dangers involved with dirt biking. As a result, they invest in safety equipment to provide more confidence and protection when racing or merely on the local riding tracks.
Most riders will experience a crash every few months. For many, they simply dust themselves off and learn from the experience. Some will be hospitalized and fewer still will have life-altering experiences.
Therefore, riding a dirt bike is worth it if you can accept the risks involved. The risks are real but actual injuries can be vastly reduced through rider training and protective gear, plus choosing the right dirt bike for you.
Some riders who have ridden for 20+ years are yet to even break a bone. They choose to ride conservatively while protecting themselves. Typically, it’s those riding irresponsibly with no protective gear that is going to injure themselves the most.