Dirt bikes are exciting and fun. But they can also be dangerous. Studies show that dirt bikes, while certainly not too dangerous to be enjoyed by responsible people, are not toys — they can and do cause serious injuries, especially when riders do not take the proper steps to keep themselves and others safe on the course.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to master the safety basics that will protect you when you ride. If riders keep just a few basic things in mind and commit to responsible behavior when riding, then they’re overwhelmingly likely to enjoy a safe and injury-free day of riding. Here’s what you need to know about staying safe on your dirt bike.

Gear up

There’s a lot that you can and should do to avoid crashes on your dirt bike. But the fact is that not all crashes are avoidable. Reducing your odds of getting into a collision or a slide are not the same thing as guaranteeing that those things won’t happen to you.

Riders need to prepare themselves for the possibility that they will end up in some kind of accident. And that means that responsible riders need to outfit themselves with all of the proper dirt bike gear that they’ll need to protect themselves.

The most important piece of gear is your dirt bike helmet. It should fit snugly and should be in good shape. It’s important to replace helmets when they’ve taken damage, because no single helmet can protect you over and over again. Helmet should also be replaced when they get old, even if the helmet hasn’t been in a crash. Mandatory replacement every few years is a good rule of thumb.

Your list of gear essentials doesn’t end with your helmet, of course. Tough gloves, boots, pants, tops, and jackets are must-haves. The more skin you can cover, the better. You do not want your skin exposed to the road or the dirt in a slide situation. Look for tough materials, fitted but comfortable cuts, and reliable brand names.

Scope out the course

Before you hop onto the course, take it slowly and check out all of the turns, rises, and dips. No responsible rider goes flying through a dirt bike course without knowing it well ahead of time. If you miss a turn or go off a bump too fast, you could wipe right out. Knowledge (of the course) is power!

You should also take the time before your ride to communicate with other riders and make sure that you know where they are before (and during) your ride. Collisions on dirt bikes are extremely dangerous, but they can be avoided with proper communication and rider awareness.

Keep your bike in good condition

Your skills as a rider are important, but you can only ride as well as your bike will let you. You need a bike that is responsive to your commands. You need a tough and reliable bike that you can count on to behave the way that you expect it to over and over again. And that means that you need a well-maintained bike.

Work with an expert mechanic to ensure that your bike gets not only the repairs that it needs, but the preventative maintenance as well. You need to be one step ahead of the problems that will come for your bike.

Know your limits

Even the most skilled riders will be in deep trouble the moment that they forget about their own limitations. When you lose control of your ride, it’s hard to get it back. A course that’s too difficult, conditions that you should have considered before riding, or a high speed that you should never have accelerated to all can cause crashes. Be conscious of what you can and cannot handle as a rider, and stay within yourself. From novices to pros, every rider should know his or her limits.

There’s no escaping the fact that dirt bike riding is dangerous, but smart riders manage their risks and are more likely to enjoy a fun and safe day on the course.

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