As much as you may try, sometimes it's impossible to avoid injuries when riding your dirt bike. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a slow trail ride or an all-out last lap pass for first place, no matter how experienced you are and as careful and calculated you try to be with your riding, there will be those rare instances where things are just out of your control and you might end up in the dirt.
There’s an old phrase that goes “dress for the crash not the ride.” Basically this means, a crash can happen at any time no matter how slow or fast you are going, therefore before you toss a leg over the seat, make sure you’re geared up for the worst. We’re not talking about just throwing on a moto jersey and pants, what we referring to is what’s under that stuff, the protective gear you don’t typically see.
Dirt bike protective gear has come a long way since the old timers would just slip on a long sleeve t-shirt, a pair of jeans, ¾ helmet, some lace up leather boots, and then kick their bikes to life. These days we’ve got high-tech, moisture wicking fabrics, lightweight carbon-fiber materials, and enough armored gear to make you look like a modern day knight before you even toss on your jersey or moto pants. Of course even with the best protective MX gear there’s still the chance that you might get injured, but you’re much better with it than without or to borrow another common phrase “better to be safe, than sorry.”
Below we have put together some of our favorite MX protective gear to provide a comprehensive list to cover you from your head to your toes.
By far the most important body part to protect is your head and one of the best options you have is the Bell Moto-9 Flex Helmet. Based around Bell’s highly popular Moto-9 helmet the Flex incorporates Bell’s latest achievement, a three-layer impact liner comprised of a combination of advanced polymer materials designed to tackle low, mid, and high speed impacts. The liner has been optimized with a slip zone to reduce rotational energy from angular impacts. As the energy of impact increases the higher density layers are engaged to manage the force.
The three layer liner features an EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) inner layer for mid speed impacts, an EPO (Expanded Polyolefin) flexible middle layer for low speed impacts, and a EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) outer layer for high speed impacts. The exterior of the helmet is a composite carbon shell construction that is not only extremely tough but is also lightweight to help reduce injury and rider fatigue.
In the event of a crash or impact, the Magnefusion Emergency Removable System (MERS), which features a magnetic cheek pads, allows for easy helmet removal. Used in conjunction with the Eject Helmet Removal System, MERS allows first responders to gently remove the helmet from a rider's head, reducing the potential for secondary neck or spine injuries.
The Moto-9 Flex also features Bell’s segmented liner that automatically conforms to a rider's head for a better fit and more predictable energy management. Outfitted with a removable, washable extended wear interior and Bell’s Velocity Flow Ventilation system the Moto-9 Flex will not only be one of the safest helmets you’ve ever worn but also one of the most comfortable. If you don’t like the Vice design Bell offers the Moto-9 Flex in a variety of graphics and color ways.
Eye protection is second only to head protection in importance. If you can’t see you can’t ride. Oakley’s Airbrake goggles are a leader when it comes to high quality motocross goggles that offer superior eye protection. The key to the Airbrake’s safety is the high impact resistance capability of the innovative lens. Made from injection molded Plutonite, the lens is tested to the highest standards. The goggles meet and exceed ANSI Z87.1 and EN 1938 Standards and are put through the same rigorous testing that is required of military spec and law enforcement eyewear.
Beside its top rated safety characteristics, Oakley’s Plutonite material is also one of the most optically pure lens materials available and delivers optically correct geometry and clarity. With an extremely wide view the Airbrake gives riders an advantage on the track with better peripheral vision as composed to traditional goggles.
The frame is composed of ultra-strong, yet lightweight, O Matter material and combined with flexible urethane. This allows for a rigid outer frame that holds the lens securely without bending which can cause visual distortion. For comfort, the goggles also feature a soft and pliable inner faceplate that conforms to your face like it was made just for you.
The Airframes do come with a high price tag, however, they are equipped with a fully adaptable and serviceable chassis, allowing you to easily swap outriggers between tear off and roll off configurations, replace worn out foam faceplates, or switch the strap to match your style. Oakley offers the Airbrakes in a wide variety of colorways and signature series versions, and the frames are also compatible with the new Prizm lens.
Not everyone wears a neck brace when they ride, but if you’ve been thinking about getting one, definitely check out the Carbon 6.5 from Leatt. Extremely lightweight due to its MaxiWeave Carbon matrix construction, this neck brace weighs in at 1.3 pounds and sports an extremely low profile design for a comfortable fit with easy movement.
The GPX 6.5 has been CE tested as certified personal protective equipment and features a rigid structure design which helps to transmit energy from your helmet to your body, bypassing your neck. According to Leatt this is extremely important for reducing neck forces and is called Alternative Load Path Technology (ALPT®).
Riders can fine tune the 6.5 for an optimal fit thanks to three-way adjustability and sliding front and rear SureFit adjusters. You can also dial in the rear thoracic strut adjustment with its three-angle positioning to fit most body shapes. With its wide range of adjustments the GPX 6.5 is an extremely versatile neck brace. The nice thing about the GPX is that you can make all the adjustments and customize the fitment without the need for tools. When not in use the thoracic strut can be folded up so the neckbrace is more compact when storing in your gear bag.
Some of the other features that make this a really great option for neck protection is that it has a sculptured, split front for improved comfort and fit, a low profile push-button open/closure system, and easy-to-use emergency release mechanism. Injected, durable, and easy-to-clean foam padding on the top and bottom of the collar aides in comfort while the AirFlow ribbed body padding allows for optimum ventilation to help keep you cool.
Motocross is a very strenuous activity that results in extreme body temperatures and lots of sweat which is the perfect combination for irritation and chaffing. To help combat this a good base layer is highly recommended. Fitting your upper torso like second skin, the Virus VMoto Stay Cool tank top is made with high tech thread that has been infused with recycled jade. Thanks to its unique cooling properties jade feels cool to the touch thus when combined with the compression design of the tank top it helps regulate your body temperature.
The tank materials also have wicking properties that draws moisture away from your body to help prevent chaffing. Lightweight and extremely comfortable the StayCool features Virus’ Power Mesh which allows for great airflow to also help keep you cool. With its four-way stretch and cross back design, Virus claims the compression tank will improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and decrease pain.
If you’ve ever come up short on a jump you know the pain that can be incurred from slamming your chest into the handlebars or the ground. Troy Lee Designs CP 5900 Roost Deflector can help prevent this with its lightweight design and plenty of coverage for vital body parts such as the ribs, chest, back and clavicle.
Added safety has been incorporated with a hinged chest design that provides extended rib coverage, a better fit, and will also maintain proper positioning in crash situations. This roost deflector has been designed to fit with most neck braces and still allow full range of uninterrupted movement.
With more than fifty configurations to adapt to rider preferences you can adjust this roost deflector for custom fit and protection. Convenient strap locations and integrated fast lock buckles make it easy to put on and take off as well as tailor fit the roost deflector to your body.
To help keep you cool, Troy Lee Designs integrated its Vent-Trak into the roost deflector which circulates air through flexible channels over the skin. And thanks to a slim profile the deflector easily fits under your jersey without adding a ton of bulk to your upper body.
Taking a knock on your funny bone isn’t all that funny, worse yet is a really hard slam against a competitor’s bike. Leatt’s AirFlex Elbow Guards deliver excellent protection without weighing you down o hindering arm movement.
The key to these elbow guards is the 3D molded Armourgel panels that are soft and flexible but then stiffen up on impact. They have been CE tested and are certified as Level 1 elbow protection. In order to keep them in place and prevent them from slipping down or rotating around your arm the guards have silicone laminated, non-slip cuffs as well as cupped elbow grips. To combat heat and sweat, they feature MicroCool and AirMesh fabrics that wick away moisture and reduce odor. Exceptionally thin, these elbow pads are only 6mm thick, and weigh in at 1/2 lbs., which means you’ll hardly notice the extra protection on your body but will be extremely thankful for it when you hit the dirt.
There’s a lot of damage that your hands and finders can be exposed to if you’re not riding with a pair of motocross gloves. The Fly Racing Patrol XC Lite Johnny Campbell Signature Series gloves will protect your digits and keep you twisting throttles. They offer a four way stretch and Lycra finger sidewall for flexibility, comfort and airflow. On the underside a single layer of perforated synthetic leather in the palm helps improve airflow and provides a lightweight feel.
For an extra tacky feel on the levers, the pointer and middle finger tips have silicone grippers incorporated into them as well as the palm area for solid traction on the grips. To keep your knuckles protected there is raised rubber sections over each knuckle, and embossed ultra-light neoprene cuffs result in a more secure and comfortable fit.
Loaded with impact protection, these shorts from Leatt can mean a world of difference in the event of a spill on the track or trail. These compression style shorts feature 6mm 3D molded Armourgel protection pads at the hips and sides of the thighs.
Just like the elbow guards, the Armourgel material is soft and flexible but hardens up on impact to help protect your lower body. There is also a removable Coccyx/tailbone protector—if you’ve even taken a hit to the tailbone you know that injury can last an extremely long time and effect nearly every movement you do.
For ease of movement the shorts have a pre-shaped 3D design that also aides in better comfort and fit. As an under layer these shorts not only offer impact protection but can help reduce chaffing and sweating thanks to their MoistureCool and AirMesh fabrics that provide moisture wicking, ventilation, and anti-microbial properties.
It’s impossible to count the number of motocross careers that have been put on hold or ended due to knee injuries. You knees act as additional shock absorbers as you ride and they take a lot of abuse and therefore can sustain some serious injuries. Hits, twists, bumps, and bruises the Mobius X8 braces are designed to act like armor and protect your knees from just about anything and everything.
The braces are constructed with an injection-molded, 20% PIM glass filled nylon shell that is designed to be flexible and rigid to offer maximum comfort while creating a 360 degree range of protection that will not rotate or slip. An overlapping patella area with zero degree CNC forged 6061-T6 anodized aluminum stop leaves no gaps exposed regardless of how far the knee is bent for a full range of protection.
One of the key elements of the X8 Braces is the 7x19 strand core type 304 stainless steel CCRS (Continuous Cable Routing System) that adjusts the fit and is designed to be flexible, resist fatigue, and produce nearly 1000 lbs. of tensile strength to reinforce the main ligaments in the knee. This cable system can be adjusted as necessary to ensure a snug and secure fit via the CNC forged 6061-T6 anodized aluminum dial that sits just above the knee cap. The unique figure-8 cable routing system and behind the knee adjustment pad greatly strengthens the joint yet works as freely as your body's own ligament system to ensure easy maneuverability and protection from twisting or unnatural movements.
While it looks like they would be a pain to put on and take off, the knee braces feature Velcro Straps with TPR (Thermoplastic Rubber) pull tabs numbered in order to provide proper fitment and easy entry and exit. For all day riding comfort there is plush molded closed-cell EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam and impact absorbing rubber internal padding. They are pricey but the knee pads do come in pairs and are a lot cheaper and less painful option than going under the knife for knee surgery.
As one of the most popular boot models in the motocross scene, the Crossfire is constantly evolving to provide better fitment and protection for riders of all skill levels. The Crossfire 3 SR motocross boots have a lot of great features and have been given some great upgrades from the previous version.
The SR in the name stands for Sole Replacement, and this is where one of the biggest changes has been made. If you’re familiar with the Crossfire 2 you’ll recall that the entire sole was serviceable and was held in place with a plethora of bolts. To change out the soles on the Crossfire 3s there are only four bolts and only the center high wear area is removable. This makes for less hardware to worry about and a quicker/easier sole change.
Another significant improvement is that the "boat" or inside of the sole features a more cupped and thicker design. This places the rider's foot deeper into the sole system for more engagement between the boots upper and sole in manufacturing which will extend the boots lifespan. Fans of the Crossfire legacy will appreciate that these 3s have an articulated joint on the ankle, called a "Hyper Extension Block", with completely revolutionized technology. This specific design prevents hyper extension of the ankle, and protects the instep and the posterior tendon when the leg is flexed forwards or backwards for much improved rider’s safety.
Sidi uses an innovative material called Technomicro. Technomicro is a composite microfiber material created from strands that are so fine, each one is less than one thousand the thickness of silk. These fibers act like natural leather skin, but with the advantage of better strength, softer texture and lighter weight. Technomicro is also water resistant, highly resistant to abrasion and tearing and is easy to clean and maintain. Technomicro doesn't stain and offers reduced weight, more flexibility and a better feel than leather or other synthetic material boots.
The Crossfire 3s are lined with anti-abrasion Cambrelle in the foot area for comfort and the upper is lined with Teflon. These materials will not retain water or sweat on the inside of the boot. The inner heat shield is made from a high grip material and the inner boot gaiter has a larger circumference than the Crossfire 2, making for a tight seal around the rider's lower leg no matter which knee brace system is used.
Similar to the Crossfire 2s, outside the boot you’ll find four micro adjustable buckle closures with indented memory regulation straps. The buckles have just one fixing point (by a screw), which allows them to be easily closed making the boot adaptable to the rider's position. The buckles, straps, and retaining clips are easily replaceable as are the other bolt on components on the boots, meaning you can get hours and hours of use out of these boots and then rebuild them part by part or from the sole up as needed.