Sales of dirt bikes have surged since the pandemic hit. This is one adventure that can be enjoyed anywhere in the world, and kids as young as three are getting in on the action, making it a great activity to enjoy as a family.
With just a few months to go before I give birth to my first baby boy, I’m already worried about what kind of mischief he will get up to; balls in the house, skateboarding accidents, and viral social media challenges like the recent Tik Tok Milk Crate Challenge.
At first, the thought of dirt bikes terrified me, but after reading up I found that they are actually quite safe and a great way to get your kids outside and away from staring at screens.
Like anything, it’s about being prepared rather than preventing your child from experiences. Learning to ride a dirt bike at a young age can set up your child for better success when it comes to driving a vehicle later on, and can be a rather safe activity with the right equipment and teaching your kids the correct safety procedures.
If your child has shown interest in dirt bikes, here are some things I learned which will help get them prepared to ride and kick start their dream of exploring the world on two wheels.
Dirt Biking for Kids: What to Know & Where to Go
First Things First
Before I get into how to select a dirt bike for your child and where to get them started riding, let’s cover some of the basics.
First off, I was surprised to learn that there really is no minimum age requirement for riding dirt bikes on private property in most countries. You may not even need any kind of permit or license unless you’re planning to ride on certain public lands.
This has meant that many parents are teaching their kids how to ride a dirt bike as young as three. By age four, many kids are already becoming quite skilled on their mini motocross bikes.
One way to tell if your child is ready to ride a dirt bike is whether or not they have mastered riding a bicycle already. If they can ride a bicycle with relative ease, that is a good indicator they may be ready for a bit more power on two wheels.
That being said, learning to ride a dirt bike can still be a bit scary for kids at first, so it’s important to guide them along their journey. Let them ask questions and never push them too hard.
Both you and your child also need to prepare for the fact that there will be falls, cuts, and bruises along the way, but with the right safety equipment and proper training, watching your child become skilled at dirt bike riding can be as exciting for you as it is for them to ride.
Kids Dirt Bike Protective Gear
Before we get into talking about selecting a bike, let’s first talk about some of the must-have protective motocross gear for your child since keeping them safe is likely your top priority.
When it comes to making the switch from a bicycle to a dirt bike, your child is going to require a lot more than just a simple helmet to stay safe.
Dirt biking is a proper sport and requires as much gear as a baseball or football player, if not more. There are knee guards, elbow pads, gloves, boots, goggles, special helmets, pants, neck braces, and of course the obligatory killer-looking jersey to really allow your child to look the part.
The truth is, your child will fall and likely many times when they’re just starting to learn. That’s why it’s vital to protect them as much as possible from those unavoidable spills.
The most important thing when purchasing dirt bike gear is making sure it fits your child properly. Ill-fitting gear equates to inferior protection.
Must Have Items
Unlike a typical bicycle helmet, a dirt bike helmet is a full-face helmet that will keep your child’s precious eyes, ears, nose, and chin safe. As stated before, a proper fitting helmet is vital.
Neck Brace and Armor
While you may think a neck brace would be used after suffering an injury from a fall, a neck brace is worn by dirt bike riders while they ride to keep their neck supported in the event of a fall. Preventing an injury is always the best medicine.
In addition to a neck brace, you will also want to look into getting some kind of body armor that will provide chest and back protection. Your armor should also be accompanied by knee and elbow pads.
Not only do proper dirt bike boots provide protection to your child’s feet and shins, they also allow them to possibly start riding at an earlier age by giving them extra height to reach the ground while seated on a bike.
While a helmet and its visor may offer some protection to the eyes and face from hanging tree branches and such, you’ll need goggles to help keep dirt and debris out of their eyes.
Trails can be dusty and kickback debris can be common when trailing behind other riders. There may also be flying bugs to watch out for.
Gloves not only protect the hands in the event of a fall, but they can also offer better grip of the bike handles.
Remember, instinct is to brace your falls with your hands, so they are one of the main areas of your body that are most prone to getting cut and injured when taking a tumble on your bike.
Special long dirt bike pants are designed to keep your child’s legs from getting scratched and banged up, and some even come equipped with integrated knee guards.
And when it comes to jerseys, in addition to making your child look cool, they are actually designed to also help keep them cool during rides.
When your child is just learning the ropes of dirt biking, it may be wise to start them out with training wheels to allow them to focus more on how to operate other aspects of the bike first.
There are a lot more gadgets to learn on a dirt bike than a bicycle.
Choosing a Dirt Bike
Your child’s height will likely determine what dirt bikes will be available to them. They need to be able to balance themselves while seated on a bike, therefore, they will need to be able to touch the ground with both feet while seated.
Keep in mind that your child will gain a bit of extra hike while wearing boots, so ask to try on a pair when sizing up a bike.
Not all kids will fall into the average height for their age, so you can’t simply head to the bike shop and ask for a dirt bike suitable for a four or seven year old.
Keep in mind that some bikes may be able to have the suspension lowered to accommodate your child and then you can later have it raised as they get older.
It’s wise to start out with a small wheel bike for younger kids and then have them work up to a big wheel bike as their skills improve later on. Whichever bike you chose, make sure it’s covered by a good warranty and maybe includes a bit of servicing to start out.
Younger kids often start out on an electric powered dirt bike and then move onto a gas/petrol bike. Electric models may feature something like a 350 or 650 watt electric motor that can give your child anywhere from 30 minutes to more than an hour riding time.
Having your child learn on a lightweight bike with lower power is often the best plan of attack.
Child gas dirt bikes range from a 50cc engine to a 125cc engine. Anything greater is generally reserved for older teens. Going with a four-stroke 50cc engine offers easier throttle control and is therefore the best choice for kids falling in the four to seven age category.
Start your child off with a four-stroke engine which offers smoother acceleration than a two-stroke engine. Two-stroke bikes can prove difficult to control at low speeds and require more attention like pre-mixing petrol and oil when refueling.
You can move to a more powerful bike when your child becomes more confident and possibly wants to enter into the world of motocross which favors a bike with added acceleration over top speed which a two-stroke can provide.
I should note that some dirt bikes for smaller kids also often allow you to set adjustable speed limiters which will allow you to control the maximum speed your child can reach on the bike. They also may include a safety kill switch for added protection.
Starter System and Transmission
Then there is transmission and the starter system to consider. While older or more powerful dirt bikes may feature a kick starter, easy push-button electric start engines are found on modern basic starter kid bikes.
Small dirt bikes designed for young kids also usually sport an auto clutch, meaning they won’t have to worry with changing gears when first learning how to ride and control their bike.
As they master the basics of dirt biking, you can then move them onto a manual transmission bike where they can then learn how to use a clutch and master gears.
Where to go Dirt Biking
When your child is just starting out with dirt bikes, the best place to learn is at a nearby motocross club or ride park. Not only will they have safe and easy tracks for them to start out on, but they also often offer beginner/junior rider coaching and special junior ride days for younger riders.
In addition to junior coaching programs, your local motocross club may also hire out bikes so you can get a feel for different bikes before making a big purchase.
If you don’t have a motocross club or park nearby, the next best thing is a nice piece of flat open land, wherever it’s legal to ride of course.
Once your child gains skills, you can then move onto local off-road trails. Nearly every country offers up a wide range of trails in the great outdoors, some designed for advanced riders while others are perfect for families with smaller children.
If you’re looking to take your family dirt biking abroad, places like Australia, Costa Rica, many European nations, and New Zealand’s Queenstown (the adventure capital of the world) are great travel destinations to start with.
In the US, nearly every state offers up great off-road trails. This is especially true out west in places like Southern California, Moab in Utah, and the Mojave Desert.
Incredible places to enjoy dirt biking and motocross in Europe include Royal Hills in France, Hungary’s Dirt Park, Lleides Park in Spain, and Austria’s indoor motocross arena named Area 47.
Dirt biking will only continue to gain popularity and as you now know it’s never too early to start your kids learning how to ride. Even some of the world’s most notable people are hopping on dirt bikes.
Prince William is said to have had a dirt bike from the age of eight and I recall both him and Prince Harry taking off together several years ago on Honda CRF 230s, super-light 200cc trail bikes as they tackled the Enduro Africa bike trek across South Africa to raise money for charity.
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