“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” Ernest Hemingway said this in comparison to the ‘less dangerous games involving only a ball and a stick.’ Supercross, motocross, hill climb, supermoto, flat track, and trials are some of the variations of the dirt bike riding sport.
This sport began in England in 1924 when small internal combustion engines were attached to bicycles. The riders had to complete a 2.5-mile course that had rough terrains, hills, and rocky patches. Only 40 out of the total 80 contestants could finish the world’s first-ever motocross race. The sport continued to evolve over the last part of the century and gained momentum with the advancement in motorbike technology.
A Dangerous Sport?
Letting your child behind the throttle of a dirt bike may seem scary at first. From tricycles and bicycles, dirt bikes seem to offer a grade up in fun and adventure but also in risk. Flying high, literally and figuratively, is all your kids seem to want to do as soon as they reach a certain age. Riding a dirt bike may seem like the ultimate cool thing that they can do, but on the other hand, you, as a parent, are only worried about their safety and protection.
Additionally, the dirt tracks and the hills they have to climb may make you fearful of any possible accidents. At the same time, you do not want them to worry much and concentrate on learning the sport.
Safety during bike riding is not a new concept. It is as old as the first bike itself. While biking and all related sports are fun, these do not come without their fair share of dangers.
Some Stats and Figures
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 15,250 ATV-related fatalities occurred since the beginning of data collection from 1982 till 2017. Out of these, 3315 were children younger than 16 years of age, which represents 22 percent of the total fatalities. The number of ER admissions for injuries is far higher at 93,800, out of which 26 percent were kids under 16 years of age. This data represents the risks riders face in this sport.
Fun fact: Did you know that the insurance money alone for these accidents amounted to $3 billion a year?
Types of Injuries
It is not only a crash that can result in an injury in this sport. Hard landings or a simple slip and fall can also cause a severe injury. Accidents involving dirt bikers can induce the following injuries:
The minimum required motorbike equipment requirements for road operation: What do the state laws say?
The laws differ with every state. According to youngchoppers.com, horns and front headlights are the only minimum requirements that are common in all state laws. As an example, left or right turn signals are not mandatory in Illinois, Missouri, Utah, Arizona, and Texas, among others. Speedometers are necessary by law only in Nevada, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.
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Safety equipment continues to evolve with the evolution of the vehicles themselves. Apart from specific necessary equipment, such as headlights, horns, mirrors, and taillights, there are other imperative safety gear that you must buy for your kids before they ride their first dirt bike.
Dirt Bike Gear for Your Kids
As parents, it is just as important to purchase safety gear for your kids as it is to buy them the dirt bike itself.
Full Face Helmets:
A helmet is the first and sometimes the only necessary protection most parents consider while buying safety equipment, and rightly so. The data regarding how helmets have saved lives is quite overwhelming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), helmets have significantly reduced the fatality risk during bike riding by 37 percent. Helmets have not only saved lives but can also reduce the economic burden on taxpayers. For instance, each year, the United States could have saved over $1 billion in economic costs if all riders wore helmets. Economic costs include, EMS services, court costs, lost productivity, property damage, and insurance costs.
The use and importance of such a critical and practically lifesaving piece of equipment must increase during adventurous dirt biking. The increase in adventure and rough terrains also increases the potential risks for your kid’s safety. Additionally, the helmets you buy for dirt biking must also offer protection for the face against dirt and gravel.
While kids may think that dirt biking and off-roading are only fun and games, you must realize the real dangers of this sport. Chest protection is as vital and equally important as a helmet because any incident can cause damage to the rib bones and cause internal injuries.
Investing in a good chest protector can effectively protect your kid’s chest, arms, shoulders, spine, and waist.
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Knee and Elbow Braces:
Kids start hurting their knees long before they even begin to walk! In this sport, however, the injury can be a little more than a slight abrasion. Generally, pads for knees and elbows are long enough to protect their legs and arms.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most common form of knee injury in dirt bikers. Wearing a knee brace will help to reduce the chances of an ACL rupture by preventing hyper-extension and over-bending. Similarly, buying an elbow-guard will save their elbows from injury and keep them scrape-free.
Your kid cannot ride his/her dirt bike in simple shoes. Boots are another essential piece of equipment. These will not only provide ease and safety but will also help them ride without shoelaces getting caught in the sprocket or chain. Also, boots are thicker and provide stronger protection against hitting an obstacle or falling. If you have bought a bike that is a little big for your kid, boots are the only equipment that can help his feet touching the ground.
Boots will also protect their ankles if they are driving at high speed, and their foot gets caught in the footpeg. Other than this, boots will also protect against mud getting in, and any rock strikes. A weak fitting pair of boots will be useless, as it will not provide support during riding. You must also look for a sturdy sole, lightweight boots and the ones that offer maximum flex around the ankles.
Neck braces are fast becoming necessary safety equipment. Unlike the ones used in four-wheeled sports, neck braces for bikers are separate from the helmets. These braces sit on the shoulders and limit the movement of the head during a crash, subsequently saving the rider from the damage of the Vertebrata, spinal cord, and severe neck injuries.
The first thing that will hit the ground can be your kids’ hands, which can cause a serious threat to wrist bones and skin. A good pair of gloves is all you need to save him from abrasions, cuts as well as fractures.
In case you choose to buy a head-only helmet, a good pair of glasses becomes a must. These will save kid’s eyes from dirt, sand, and anything else that can get in their eyes.
In addition to the safety gear, you also need to tell your child a few safety tips before they start driving. We have listed down a few tips to help you teach your kids.
Teach your kids the difference between the front and rear braking, so they know how to slow down. It is always a good idea to take your kids to a gentle slope and teach them braking without turning on the engine.
Slowly releasing the clutch is something your kids will learn with time and practice. Older kids (10 – 12 years) generally learn and find the spot and confidence to change gears while riding. You can always opt for an automatic variant for younger kids.
Teaching your kids that safety comes before thrill and speed is an important aspect of dirt biking. Some kids’ bikes come with adjustable speed limiters by which you can set their top limit. However, this is something parents need to be vigilant about and set personal examples of driving within the controllable limits.
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Safety during bike riding is a vast topic. Dirt biking comes with its own sets of rules and standards. It is a great outdoor sport that is adventurous as well as a family sport. It is always fun to start riding at a younger age, and kids can tend to forget any safety tips you have told them. Parents must buy the right bike and the right safety equipment to save their kids and themselves from any future mishaps.
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