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Dirt bike riding is an extreme sport where the riders take their bikes from rocky mountains to slippery tracks and tight woods. In the process, their dirt bikes get exposed to hits from rocks, ledges, logs and roots.
Even though dirt bikes are built well and can take a beating, some parts of the bike still need protection. This way, you don’t have to worry about failures out on the trails.
One of the things you definitely want to protect is the engine and the frame. And you can do that by installing a dirt bike skid plate.
Next, we will tell you all about the different types of skid plates. We will also help you to find the dirt bike skid plate that best suits your riding style and the conditions you ride in.
What Is a Dirt Bike Skid Plate?
A skid plate is a cover that is mounted at the bottom of the dirt bike. It protects the engine and frame from flying gravel, mud, sand and other debris as well as any impacts from boulders and rocks that would otherwise damage the parts.
Installing a skid plate is a great way to protect the dirt bike frame, engine and sometimes even the clutch case. Especially if you plan to ride a single track, enduro or on rocky terrain.
Do I Need a Skid Plate on My Dirt Bike?
The short answer is yes.
You need a dirt bike skid plate when riding in the woods or around rocks. A skid plate protects your dirt bike efficiently from rocks, logs and other flying debris.
It is relatively easy to hit your engine case to a log or a rock and crack the engine beyond repair. So riding without a skid plate is just not worth the risk. The cost of a skid plate is small compared to what you would have to pay for replacing and repairing the damaged parts, such as cases, shifters and brake pedals.
You may be thinking that your dirt bike is going to be just fine even though you ride on the trails without a skid plate. That might be the case for now but you will run out of luck one day. And you don’t want to get stranded with a cracked engine in the middle of nowhere.
All it takes is one rock or log to make a hole in your casing so that your bike loses all the oil and the engine stops running. And flying gravel or hitting branches can do some serious damage to your oil filter. These are the scenarios you want to avoid.
So, you should definitely get a dirt bike skid plate if you ride on trails and don’t already have one. If you are on a tight budget, look for a cheaper solution available but definitely buy one.
Different Types of Skid Plates
Dirt bike skid plates come in many shapes and materials.
The most common materials used in skid plates are plastic, composite materials (such as carbon fiber), aluminum and steel. These materials allow the skid plate to withstand stronger impacts and thus offer a better protection for the parts.
A skid plate is an important protective item but it also affects the riding performance. When choosing the skid plate, the main factors to consider are durability as well as the performance of the skid plate in different riding conditions.
Plastic and Composite Skid Plates
Plastic skid plates are commonly made of polyethylene or polypropylene plastic whereas carbon fiber is the most popular composite materials used in skid plates. They are durable, lightweight and flexible.
Plastic and composite skid plates are usually less durable and do not hold up to the rough stuff as well as the aluminum and steel ones. But they are much lighter in weight and quieter.
In addition, they slide over obstacles much better compared to aluminum and steel ones creating less friction. Many riders often use the skid plate to get over obstacles and slide over logs in tight spaces.
And if you do hit a rock, dents in plastic and composite skid plates can spring back into shape, unlike in aluminum and steel ones. Plastic skid plates also have enough inherent flex so they do not affect the frame rigidity, which is a common issue with the aluminum and steel skid plates.
When it comes to the price, plastic skid plates are the most less expensive options with the price that is half that of carbon fiber skid plates. Carbon fiber skid plates are the most expensive ones from the batch.
Aluminum and Steel Skid Plates
Aluminum and steel skid plates are heavier and they can take harder hits. But the trade-off comes with added weight and higher friction.
You can easily feel the friction when crossing a log and when the skid plate slides off the log. Plastic skid plates seem to glide over easily whereas aluminum and steel ones may even stop you aggressively on top of a log.
Aluminum or steel skid plates can also increase frame rigidity, which is not a good thing. To prevent this and to maintain the frame flexing characteristics, some aluminum skid plates now offer bolts with rubber grommets.
In addition, aluminum and steel skid plates are louder. They may also rattle in the dirt bike driving some riders crazy when they try to find the source of the noise. You can try to fix this by placing some padding, such as high density foam, between the plate and the frame to make it quiet. However, most riders get accustomed to the sound quickly.
Aluminum and steel skid plates definitely cost more than the plastic ones but you can bash away with it.
Pros and Cons of Different Types of Skid Plates
When it comes to choosing the dirt bike skid plate, there are pros and cons in both plastic and composite ones as well as in aluminum and steel ones.
Plastic and Composite Skid Plates
|They allow the frame to flex in the way it was designed to flex.|
|They are lighter in weight.|
|They are quieter as they do not resonate as much engine noise.|
|They snap back to their original shape if dented.|
|They cost less (plastic ones).|
|They are less durable.|
Aluminum and Steel Skid Plates
|They can take harder hits.|
|They are extremely durable: they wont move, cut or gouge.|
|They are long-lasting as they do not wear out.|
|They are heavier.|
|They are louder.|
|They have a higher friction and do not glide over obstacles.|
|They increase frame rigidity.|
At first glance, it looks like the plastic and composite skid plates have way more pros and less cons compared to the aluminum and steel skid plates. Still, it is not as easy decision as you’d think.
The superior durability of aluminum and steel skid plates is often valued more than the other characteristics. For that reason, aluminum and steel skid plates are a very popular option.
Our Dirt Bike Skid Plate Recommendations
Dirt bike skid plates need to fit perfectly on the frame. Otherwise, they will not be able to protect all the parts of the engine. The best skid plates cover most parts of the motor and linkages. At the same time, they are durable and strong to withstand impacts.
If you choose to go with a plastic skid plate, our recommendation for you is the Acerbis off-road skid plate. Acerbis Skid Plate (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) provides protection for the engine cases and frame rails. It is made of lightweight polypropylene and it is easy to install. The skid plate is shaped to fit snugly against the engine, reducing space for mud collection. It is machine-specific and available for most dirt bikes.
Our recommendation for a carbon fiber skid plate is the P3 Carbon Skid Plate. P3 Skid Plate (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) provides your motor and frame with the most protection possible. It is made by hand from kevlar, carbon fiber, and biaxial fiberglass. The skid plate has a quick-release mechanism that allows a quick and easy installation. The skid plate is machine-specific providing a perfect fit.
If your choice is an aluminum skid plate, we recommend you get the Richochet off-road skid plate. Ricochet Offroad Skid Plate (click to check the current price on rockymountainatvmc.com) provides protection for the engine, frame and cases. It is made of tough anodized aluminum. The long-lasting skid plate connects to the frame with steel clamps that do not get loose easily. The skid plate is available for all brands of bikes.
Rough riding is bound to happen when dirt bikes are involved. So, you want to protect the most exposed parts of your bike the same way you protect yourself.
A dirt bike skid plate will protect your bike when sliding over logs, grinding over rocks and jumping over ledges.
And more importantly, the riding will be more fun when you do not have to worry whether your bike—and your wallet—will suffer damage.
Last updated: December 22, 2021