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Wearing protective dirt bike gear can help prevent injuries and also improve your ability to stay better focused on trail riding.
Essential dirt bike riding gear includes at least a high-quality helmet, goggles, gloves, knee and elbow protection, and boots. It is important to select specifically designed dirt bike gear that fits well and offer good injury protection while enabling good riding posture and performance.
In this post, we are going to cover the essential dirt bike riding gear that every rider should consider wearing in dirt bike trail riding. We will also cover gear brand options in each category and explain main points affecting your gear selection.
How To Select Correct Dirt Bike Riding Gear?
Finding the essential dirt bike gear can be a difficult task. Comparing products online and reading reviews is not necessarily the best way for beginners to find good, fitting, and correct type of protective riding gear.
Begin your search by thinking what type of riding you are going to focus on. Motocross gear may seem similar to trail riding gear and even mountain bike gear, but they are all different. If possible, talk to other riders out there on the trails and ask a lot of questions.
Typically beginner riders want to get out on the trails as quickly as possible and test out the new dirt bike. However, it’s very important to stop for a minute to plan your protective gear to keep riding without injuries.
Most likely you will upgrade your riding gear few times before finding the best options that work for you. Keeping this in mind, there are several things you can do to make sure you’re selecting the best options to extend the life span of your new gear as some options are not typically cheap.
Consider the Level of Protection the Dirt Bike Gear Offers
In many cases, like with helmets and knee braces, more higher quality does typically mean a higher price point. If you are committed to riding and already know you are going to continue to ride, invest in high-quality gear from the start. Cheap helmets are typically offering only minimal protection and can break in use very quickly and may be unsafe in crashes.
Knee braces and knee pads are another great example. While both offer impact protection, they function in completely different way and cheap pads cannot offer same level of protection as the high end braces. Keep reading as we will cover the difference between the two designs and why it makes sense to invest into knee braces.
If you wish to spend less to get started, buy used high-quality gear. There are several ways to find used dirt bike gear for considerably less and usually they are in great shape. If it wasn’t a good match for the previous owner, it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with the gear. It can still perfectly fit your body.
Fitment and Function Should Be High Priority for Dirt Bike Gear
Have you ever tried riding dirt bikes with boots that are couple sizes too large? I think you know where we are going with this. Riding gear needs to fit well. Too large or uncomfortable gear is not protecting or working the way it’s designed to and can really ruin your day. You can typically spot beginner riders from their gear and how well it fits.
When selecting dirt bike gear, pay attention to sizing charts and test them well. If it’s uncomfortable, something is wrong. Jerseys and pants need to be tight and material that will not chafe or cause abrasions. Boots, helmet, pads, gloves, and braces need to be fitted to your body well and need to stay in place. If the protective gear flies away in the first crash, they cannot protect you.
The dirt bike gear is the only surface that connects you to the dirt bike and if you choose gear that slides and moves around you too much, such as baggy pants, you cannot control the dirt bike the way you should.
Read also: The Best Dirt Bike Gear for Hot Weather
1. Choosing a Dirt Bike Helmet for Trail Riding
Helmet may be the most important safety gear for trail riding. Good quality helmets will last several years with good care.
Correct Dirt Bike Helmet Needs To Fit Well
When selecting the helmet, fitment is a very important factor. You should test fit the helmet properly and make sure it is snug when new and that it fits well together with your goggles.
Helmets are not only different in sizes, but also in shapes. Some helmets will fit your head shape better.
When looking for a new helmet, you can usually walk to a local dirt bike dealer and test fit to find the brands and models that fit well.
A Light Helmet Will Be More Comfortable To Wear
In addition to fitment, check the helmet weight. Even the smallest weight differences in combined helmet and goggle weight will have a big impact on how comfortable the helmet will be during long riding days. Neck and upper body issues can be caused by a heavy helmet and goggle combination.
As far as materials go, carbon fiber helmets may be a popular choice for lighter options, but you should always check the actual weight and not be fooled by the marketing jargon. The weight of the helmet is usually marked on the sticker on the lower back on the helmet, next to the size. If you cannot find it, it usually means it’s not light and you should check the actual weight online.
Washing the Helmet Padding and Overall Cleaning Is Important
When riding dirt bikes, you will sweat a lot. The dust and dirt will easily get inside the helmet and it’s important to be able to easily clean it.
Check the helmet padding and how easily the padding can be removed for washing. Make sure the way the padding is secured on the helmet is sturdy and will not brake off easily and that you can find replacement padding when needed.
Other Things To Consider When Choosing a Dirt Bike Helmet
Good Airflow and Closable Vents
Check airflow vents and their design. Are they open enough to actually let the air inside the helmet? You can drill the holes bigger for hot weather riding but they should have a good sturdy air vents you can close when needed.
Helmet Strap Securing Method
The helmet strap and securing methods also differ among different helmet manufacturers.
D-Ring, where the strap is looped around to D shaped metal rings is very secure but some users may find it difficult to use with gloves on. You have other options like clip style quick release methods and some even use a magnetic strap securing method.
Select the one that you feel comfortable using with gloves on. Avoid cheap clip type quick release straps as they may come loose too easily in a crash.
Internal Hands-free Hydration Options and Fitment
If you ride in hot weather conditions, check that the helmet is or can be equipped with a hydration hose option, if you decide to use one in the future. Some helmets may be very uncomfortable or difficult to use with an aftermarket hydration fitment.
Read also: Hydration Pack Options For Trail Riding
Summary: Choosing a Helmet
In summary, select a helmet that is lightweight, offers the best protection in your price range and is easy to clean. After that, other options are more or less compromises.
Finally, choose the color scheme to match with pants and jersey designs and your dirt bike plastics and sticker sets. Luckily, you have great options these days to choose from.
When it comes to dirt bike gear and specifically helmet brands, we like 6D, Troy Lee Designs, and Klim. They all offer helmets in great price ranges that are lightweight, offer a good level of protection, and are generally very good quality. Stay on the upper half on the price range for best quality.
2. Choosing Goggles for Trail Riding
Goggles help protect your eyes from rain, dust, and debris. They also prevent eye injuries and improve your vision in sunny conditions. Selecting the correct style goggles will improve your riding experience.
What should you look at when selecting dirt bike goggles? Fitment and compatibility with your helmet is top on the list. The frame design together with the lens surface area affects the size of your vision field. Check how easy the lens replacement process is going to be like. Some goggles are better at ventilation and preventing fogging than others.
Testing the goggles with your helmet on is important. Some goggle frames are too wide for certain helmets and sometimes can get snagged on the front of the helmet. When fitting the goggles, make sure no air is able to be drawn in around the goggle foam area. If the goggle doesn’t make a good seal, dust and airflow will get inside quickly causing issues. Test many frame designs to find a good fit to your helmet.
Good ventilation inside the goggle is key to prevent fogging. Issues with improper fitting is usually the main reason with fogging issues rather than lens material. The ventilation around the lens and the frame design also contributes to how easily they fog and gather moisture inside the lens.
When testing goggles with your helmet, pay attention to how easily they fog under heavy breathing.
Goggle Lens Replacement Options and Ease of Use
You will eventually scratch the lenses and they will need to be replaced. Cheap goggles usually do not enable lens replacement and replacing the goggles becomes costly. It makes sense to invest into a high-quality frame with replaceable lenses. They also come in different level of shades and reflective materials that offer increased vision in low or high brightness riding situations.
Test how easy the lens replacement process is. Don’t trust the sales pitch, test it yourself. Some frame and lens designs are very difficult to replace without damaging and scratching the lenses and can be frustrating to say the least.
Goggle Field of Vision
Goggle frames come in all sizes and shapes. There are plenty of wide and tall lens designs, that offer much bigger field of vision.
We recommend selecting the largest lens and frame designs, that fit well into your face and helmet. Your vision should not be obstructed by the goggles at all or try to minimize it as much as possible.
Summary: Choosing the Best Dirt Bike Goggles
When selecting the best dirt bike goggles, choose the ones that fit your face and helmet the best. Next, focus on the size of the field of vision and how easily you can replace the lenses. Ventilation is important and usually good when the goggles fit well and are using the modern frame designs.
3. Choosing Dirt Bike Gloves for Trail Riding
Gloves are an important safety gear in trail riding. They protect your hands from chafing and also help with painful branch whips and when falling. They can also help prevent or manage arm pump and to maintain a better grip in most conditions.
For riders suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, choosing the correct padding thickness and location can greatly improve preventing CTS symptoms. The key is to be able to relax your grip and arms when riding, and gloves do have a big say in how relaxed you will be able to ride.
Read also: 11 Tips To Prevent Arm Pump in Trail Riding
Glove Sizing and Fitment
Again, testing the gloves for a good fit is important. The dirt bike gloves should be snug and fit your finger length and palm area well. Many riders tend to buy one size too large gloves. Too large gloves may make riding more difficult, as the hand is sliding inside the glove. This also increases chances for chafing and calluses.
Gloves also provide padding in various areas and sometimes it can be good, but not always. More lighter gloves are better for some riders and conditions, so it is makes sense to try out several different models and brands.
Best Dirt Bike Glove Types
Every now and then we see riders wearing very thick, street type gloves with protective padding or guards on the top side of the gloves. We cannot recommend these type of gloves mainly because of the fitment and gripping issues. They tend to be overly thick in some areas and while they do protect more, they wear out the rider very quickly.
In trail riding, you should focus on the fitment and comfort. The normal dirt bike gear style gloves offer decent protection against the elements you typically face in trail riding.
Summary: Choosing the Best Dirt Bike Gloves
Fitment is again key to good gloves. Next, you can focus on the padding and level of protection. Gloves usually last quite a long time. Hand washing the gloves regularly extends the lifespan and keeps them fitting well.
Some of the best brands for dirt bike gloves in our books are O’Neal, Troy Lee Designs, and Fly Racing. Our favorites gloves are O’Neal Element gloves, simply because of their fitment and perfectly placed padding.
4. Choosing Elbow Guards or Pads for Trail Riding
Elbow pads come in all kinds of shapes and forms. Their primary function is obviously to protect your elbows from direct hits and scratches from trees and branches and to save your elbows in crashes.
You have a wide selection from very lightweight sleeve type elbow protectors to more sturdy hard pads. Let’s dive into these category options in more detail to help you choose the correct elbow protection type.
Lightweight Elbow Sleeve Guard Options
These lightweight sleeve type options are getting more and more popular, and for a good reason. They typically offer great option for decent protection while being the most comfortable and best fitting designs. Some models are very popular among mountain bike riders, but they are also gaining popularity among dirt bike trail riders.
These lightweight sleeve designs typically use soft protective material that hardens upon impact. This technology enables the use of a very thin and flexible material and the sleeve guards are commonly very comfortable to wear. An example of these lightweight sleeve designs are Troy Lee Designs Speed Sleeve.
Medium Protection Elbow Guards
Similar to lightweight sleeve guards, this medium elbow guard category commonly uses the same material that hardens with impact. They also use more thicker elbow cup designs and materials.
They are offering more durable and increased crash protection designed for dirt bike trail riding, and sometimes combine the soft protective impact hardening material with hard pad surface. Example of these type of medium level protective guards are Leatt 2021 AirFlex Elbow Guards.
Hard Elbow Pads
Hard elbow pads are guards that incorporate a hard protective, usually plastic, elbow cover with a fitted cup for your elbow. While these pads may seem most protective, they can be very uncomfortable and can really hurt in a crash. They are usually the cheapest options available and typically are very similar in design.
They are also typically bulky and may not fit well inside jerseys. Hard pads are commonly used by beginner riders and most advanced riders seem to steer away from them as there are many better options available in similar price ranges. We cannot recommend hard pads unless you know what you are buying.
Considerations for Elbow Guards
Other than fitment, you should consider how well the guards are staying in place. In trail riding, your arms are constantly shaking and being rapidly pushed up and down with the handlebars. This can cause the guards to slide down out of place and cause issues not only when crashing but by being uncomfortable and forcing you to stop to readjust them.
Some riders may suffer from arm pump or carpal tunnel syndrome. Elbow guards should also be considered when preventing especially arm pump, as some designs may prevent good blood flow around forearms.
Finally, if you regularly ride in hot weather, also consider the cooling capabilities. Unfortunately some of the lightweight sleeve designs come with long sleeves that may be uncomfortable in hot weather.
Summary: Choosing the Best Elbow Protection
Steer away from the cheap hard elbow pads for your dirt bike gear arsenal and focus on the more lightweight options in the market. The elbow sleeve guard designs usually offer great level of fitment and comfort and stay in place methods with good protection levels.
Our current elbow protection of choice comes from Troy Lee Designs with their EGS5500 model. These models fit well and offer a great level of protection. Sadly they have discontinued their previous model that had longer forearm protection, so we are now testing other models for a new favorite.
5. Choosing Knee Protection for Trail Riding – Pads vs. Braces
Knee related injuries are likely one of the most common injuries we all need to worry about with dirt bike riding. After finding a good helmet, you need to consider the best options for protecting your knees.
Basically you have two categories to choose from for your dirt bike gear when it comes to knee protection: knee pads / guards or knee braces. The main difference between the two is that the pads will not offer any protection for bending and twisting your knee, whereas the braces will offer higher prevention from these type of injuries.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons for each option.
Knee Pad and Guard Options
Similar to elbow pads and guards, you have several protection options. The designs are very similar to elbow protection styles and offer hard knee pads, knee guards, and sleeve type knee protection.
They all are similar in design, where the main protective element protects against a direct impact rather than supports the knee from overextension and twisting.
Knee braces offer the highest level of knee protection. Similarly to knee guards and pads, they offer a direct impact protection but they also prevent your knees from overextension and twisting.
You have several types of brace designs but they all generally rely on a rigid frame that closely follows your natural knee movements. They can usually be adjusted for overextension and tightness to further prevent knee injuries.
Summary: Choosing the Best Knee Protection
You have plenty of options for knee protection. In our experience, the knee braces offer a superior knee protection and are worth the investment as soon as from the beginner level.
The simple reason is that knee injuries are very common and take relatively long to recover. Braces are the only option to increase the level of knee protection. This is especially true for beginner riders as learning dirt bike riding can make beginner riders more prone to accidents and knee injuries.
Our choice for knee protection has been Asterisk Ultra Cell 3.0 for quite many years and we love them.
6. Choosing Boots for Trail Riding
Dirt bike boots are an essential protective dirt bike gear that is a must for trail riding. They protect your lower legs, ankles, and feet from direct impact damage. They also prevent your ankles from twisting and overextension.
Dirt bikes are designed to be ridden with dirt bike boots and while new boots may feel uncomfortable especially for new riders, they are a must.
Again, fitment is important. Some boot designs are more narrow and thinner than others and finding a good fit might take some test fitting.
What To Look For in Good Dirt Bike Boots?
Premium level dirt bike boots usually offer a hinge mechanism on the ankle area. It makes shifting and braking easier as the boot has less resistance when moving your feet up or down. The hinge mechanism also prevents the boot and your ankle from overextension.
Another thing to consider is the size of the boot. Some boots are bulky and may make shifting difficult when upshifting and adjusting the shifter for correct position.
Boots may also wear quickly in some strategic areas. The sole gets eaten out by the sharp foot pegs, so you may want to select boots that offer replacement soles. The straps also tend to brake and being able to fix them is a good feature.
Water proofing is also an area to consider. In our experience, only few boot designs out there offer 100% waterproofing capability. Best options for very wet conditions, such as river beds, usually call for a good waterproof boot socks and over the boot pants. However, good quality boots need to keep your feet dry in all other conditions. When test fitting, look at the lining inside and if the boot is only relying on the outer leather layer, water will get in quickly in rainy conditions.
Summary: Choosing Dirt Bike Boots
Choose the best fitting, thinner leather based dirt bike boots. Focus on the quality of the materials, the straps, and the ability to change critical parts such as soles and straps. When test fitting the boots, make sure to wear your actual knee protection braces or guards and pants. They need to fit together well.
Our choice for dirt bike boots are Sidi Crossfire 3 SRS Boots. They offer a slim design for a good fitment and usability, an ankle hinge with overextension prevention, and plenty of replacement options for repairs.
Selecting the best dirt bike gear for trail riding is a process. Test fitting several brands and models will help you decide what works for you. Talking to your fellow riders for feedback can also help.
When it comes to essential riding gear, you should aim for the higher price category. Over time, good quality products will protect you better against injuries and they tend to last longer in use.
Last updated: July 3rd, 2022