Are you new to dirt biking and not sure where to start with protective gear when it comes to safety while trail riding? There are a lot of options, and if you’ve seen the prices, it’s easy to spend thousands of dollars.
If you want to stay safe while staying on a reasonable budget, I’m going to show you what riding gear you need to help prevent injuries, and how much you should spend to get started riding off-road.
Just want a quick list of riding gear?
If you’re in a hurry and just want my top picks (on Amazon) for what you need to safely ride a dirt bike, here they are:
- Helmet: BELL MX-9 MIPS
- Boots: Alpinestars Men’s Tech 3 MX Boots
- Eye Protection: 100% STRATA 2 Premium Goggles
- Shirt/Pants: Fly F-16 Adult Gear Combination
- Gloves: Fly Racing Adult F-16 Gloves
- Upper Body: GOHINSSTAR Full Body Armor
What gear do you ACTUALLY need?
You don’t want to crash, but it’s going to happen sooner or later when riding a dirt bike – even a slow fall on the rocks can scratch and bruise you up without any protection!
A quick tip-over is common when learning to ride, but hitting a tree while trail riding is possible. Either way, I’m a big advocate of dressing for the crash rather than for the ride, whether it’s for you or your child’s protection.
In other words? Wear proper dirt biking gear so that crashes don’t hurt you as much.
Hitting a tree could bruise some ribs, but wearing lightweight body armor might turn that into just some soreness for a couple of days.
Dirt bike vs dual sport riding gear – what’s the difference?
First, you need to decide if you’re going to be strictly riding off-road or if you’re going to be dual sport riding so that you can choose the right gear.
For example, if you’re riding a trail bike or motocross bike, then this is the right article to keep reading. But if you’re riding a street-legal dual sport bike, then you’ll want to check out this step-by-step riding gear guide.
Is more or less gear safer?
Wearing more gear is generally more restricting when it comes to being able to move your body while riding. However, wearing the necessary gear that fits properly will not hold you back from riding fast.
Honestly, I almost feel naked when I’m not wearing my gear when I hop on the bike to ride down the driveway to get the garbage can. It doesn’t take long to get used to wearing dirt biking gear, and it will be worth it sooner or later.
Here’s the minimum gear you or your kid should wear for riding a dirt bike, whether it’s trail riding or motocross:
- A helmet that fits properly
- Boots built for dirt biking
- Eye protection
- Long sleeve shirt
- Chest protector
Dirt Bike Helmet – Cheap or Expensive to start?
Helmets are way better than 20 years as far as safety goes. You can easily spend 400-600 or more on the “best” dirt biking helmets. But, the price doesn’t always mean it’s better than a cheaper model.
Want the safest helmet for your head? Pick one that’s lightweight and fits your head shape snugly. It should not be loose at all. It should be just slightly tight when brand new, as the foam will “break-in” after riding a few times.
Why an expensive helmet might be more dangerous
One of the biggest mistakes people make is buying the wrong size helmet. When you buy one that’s too big or just too loose because it “feels comfortable”, this is greatly reducing how safe it is if you crash.
Think about it…
When your head hits the ground and your helmet isn’t tight, your head is going more likely to “bobble” inside your helmet – or potentially get ripped off.
That’s why a cheaper helmet that fits you properly is safer than a helmet that costs 5X the price.
You can buy a pretty good helmet for under 200 bucks. I’m always a budgeter (el cheapo), but I don’t skimp when it comes to important things such as your HEAD. I simply check closeouts and last year’s models for a good discount, or the simple list on Amazon I made for you below.
Best dirt bike helmets for beginners:
- Tiandu Kids DOT Off-Road: Helmet: best cheap helmet for kids/youth
- HJC CS-MX: Best budget quality helmet for adults $100 or less
- BELL MX-9 MIPS: best safe helmet with MIPS technology under $200
Off-Road Dirt Biking Boots
Besides your head, your feet are most prone to getting injured. Whether it’s a hard impact or falling off and getting twisted, dirt biking is hard on your feet and legs, and that’s why you need dirt bike-specific boots.
With that said, you can start with a pair of riding boots for 200 or less.
The biggest factors are that the boots fit you nice and snug and that they’re quality materials. Virtually all dirt bike boots will be tight when new, making it hard to shift and feel the lever and brake pedal until you break them in.
Best dirt bike boots for beginners on Amazon:
- Fly Racing Maverick MX Youth/Mini Boots: Best budget kids boots
- ILM Motorcycle Boots for Men Waterproof: Cheapest boots for adults
- Alpinestars Men’s Tech 3 MX Boots: Best overall boots under $200
Cheap vs expensive off-road motorcycle boots
Low-quality boots may feel similar when new, but they will not last as long as a name-brand dirt bike boot.
Will other boots or shoes work?
Simply wearing work boots or other taller shoes will not work. Dirt bike boots are completely different not only because of their size (how high they go up on your leg) but how stiff they are, which is what gives you real protection.
The soles are thicker and stronger for standing on the footpegs with sharp teeth for grip. The leather and plastic combination helps prevent twisting and getting burned by the engine or exhaust.
Are goggles necessary?
I sometimes don’t even wear goggles, to be honest… But that’s because I have other eye protection, and I know there won’t be a lot of dust or roost from other riders in the woods. I wear glasses (motorcycle).
However, I strongly recommend wearing dirt bike goggles if you want the best protection. Being able to see fully and clearly is important, as well as shielding your eyes from getting poked out from rocks and dirt clumps being shot at you.
Fitment is also critical for prospering sealing to keep dirt out, as well as comfort. It’s best to try on different pairs of goggles to see what fits your face as well as your helmet.
Best choices for dirt bike goggles & eye protection:
- 100% STRATA 2 Premium Goggles: Best value under $40
- Uenmenlen 2-pack Goggles: Cheapest goggles for beginners
- 4-FQ Dirt Bike Goggles: Best value windproof/anti-fog under $20
Do you need to wear a jersey & riding pants for dirt biking?
But you should wear pants and long sleeves for some protection. Dirt bike riding pants and jerseys are more comfortable and they keep you cooler because of the material and ventilation. Most riding pants also have a small amount of protection.
If you’re just getting started and are riding for fun, wearing jeans is the next best thing on your legs. The material is tough to help prevent scratches and abrasion if you tip over.
So, if you’re on a budget, wear pants and a long sleeve shirt until you are prepared to spend a little more on a dirt bike jersey and pair of pants.
My top picks for dirt bike jersey and pants:
Are motocross pants supposed to be short?
Did you just buy some riding pants and wonder why they don’t go all the way down to your feet? They’re short because they’re supposed to be tucked into your riding boots and out of the way. There’s no point in having extra material inside your boot that doesn’t do anything.
Do you wear anything under MX pants?
I like to wear compression shorts or something that won’t bunch up when riding my dirt bike. Material that’s moisture-wicking and breathable is preferred because it gets sweaty real quick down there…
Protection for your hands
I see it all the time. Dirt bike riders without gloves on. They’re usually just riding around the yard or ditches, but you still risk losing more skin.
Dirt bike gloves are the cheapest piece of protective gear. Even a nice pair is around 20 dollars, and although they aren’t going to prevent a major injury, you’ll at least keep some skin on your hands. Proper-fitting gloves are also very comfortable these days – not too loose, not too tight, and just the right length.
- Fly Racing Adult F-16 Gloves: Best value for quality
- Kemimoto Dirt Bike Gloves: Best budget beginner gloves
- Fox Racing DIRTPAW Glove: Name-brand quality
- 100% Brisker Cold Weather MX Gloves: Comfortable for cooler rides/races
Other protective gear I strongly recommend
Your head and your feet are the most vulnerable to injury when riding a dirt bike. Next to that is your stomach, chest, and back/spine. A simple chest protector will certainly help, but there’s a better way to protect you without looking like batman
Body armor that doesn’t suffocate you
Dirt bike body armor continues to advance, and that’s better for several reasons. You want protective gear to be lightweight, non-restrictive, and well-ventilated to prevent your body from overheating.
Yes, it will restrict some airflow – there are no 2 ways about it. But, if you want potentially turn some major injuries into minor ones, full upper-body armor is the way to go.
- RidBiker Kids Protective Jacket: Best budget youth body armor
- GOHINSSTAR Full Body Armor – Best cheap body armor for beginners
- MOTOKER Chest Protector: Adult back/chest impact protector
- Leatt 5.5 Body Protector: Highly vented with good fit & protection
A simple wipeout with just a dirt bike jersey on will leave you scratched up, bruised, and possibly broken. All it takes is just the right impact.
Buying a good set of body armor will not only keep more skin on you and soften the crashes, but it could prevent a massive hospital bill. It’s not going to prevent injuries, but it can save you a lot of discomfort and money in the long run, especially if you plan on crashing often.
The best way to know that riding gear will fit you
As convenient as shopping online is, the only way to tell what riding gear will fit you for sure is to go to try on several different kinds of helmets and boots. Yes, that means driving to your local dealer – this can save you some time in the long run in case you buy something online and it doesn’t fit quite right.
Some brands size their gear a little bit differently than others, as well as the shape of their protective gear. For example, some helmets are more rounded in shape on the inside, while others are more oval-shaped.
How to become a better & safer trail rider
Protective gear can only do so much if you’re crashing your dirt bike all the time. The best way to stay safe is by learning how not to crash.
To do this, it starts with learning proper riding techniques so that you stay in control of the bike, rather than the bike controlling you.