Imagine ripping down a forest trail. Mud flying behind you as the wind whips past your ears. Freedom, control, and you alone with your thoughts. Although humans are social creatures, we need time to ourselves now and then to recharge our batteries. Being able to hop on our machines and enjoy the solitude of a sun-splashed trail is arguably one of the best things about owning a bike, but should you ride a dirt bike alone?
Although riding alone is dangerous, riding alone unprepared is much worse. When going out alone, riders should pack extra essential gear, carry a cell phone with tracking capabilities, and tell someone exactly where they plan to ride.
Continue reading to learn more about riding alone, the most common riding injuries, and what you can do to make your solo trip a little bit safer.
Are Dirt Bikes Dangerous?
Dirt bikes can be dangerous, especially if the rider is inexperienced or ill-prepared. In fact, according to a 2006 study released by the CDC, an estimated 56,870 people were treated in a United States emergency room for injuries resulting from off-road motorcycle crashes in 2003, and at least 245 of those people died from their injuries.
Safety gear, or a lack of it, is one of the biggest contributing factors in dirt bike fatalities, and many riders simply do not take the precautions that they should while riding a dirt bike. For example, one 2010 study estimated that as many as 60% of dirt bike-related deaths resulted from riders not wearing a helmet.
This became a focus for many public health agencies around 2007 when dirt bike-related fatalities peaked, and many of the agencies began creating safety campaigns that targeted younger riders. Since then, the number of injuries has steadily declined each year, but they are still high enough to remind us that dirt bikes can be dangerous machines.
What Are The Most Common Dirt Bike Injuries
Although quite a lot of research has been done to analyze the prevalence of injury for dirt bike riders, extraordinarily little research has been done on the exact nature of these injuries. The research that is available is a bit flawed because it only includes the injuries for which medical attention was sought and does not include those injuries that people treated themselves at home.
One of the most comprehensive studies done was a study published in 2004, which looked at the incident of injuries over a 12-year period. The authors looked at 1500 accidents, and this is what they found.
- Bruises were one of the most common injuries
- 50.9% of fractures occurred in the upper extremities, 38% in the lower, and the rest were to the spine, chest, and skull.
- 5.8% of spine fractures resulted in permanent neurological damage.
- 5.7% of the accidents resulted in head trauma, and 3% of these resulted in a coma.
- 60% of limb injuries were on the left side.
Below you can find a list of some of the most common injuries that dirt bike riders sustain along with a link to first-aid sites for these injuries to help you better prepare for your solo ride.
|Common Injury||First Aid Link|
|Sprained/Fractured Wrist||First Aid – Wrist Injury|
|Sprained/Fractures Ankle||First Aid – Sprain|
|Cuts and Bleeding (Internal/External) Wounds||First Aid – Bleeding|
|Knee Injury||First Aid – Bones and Joint Injuries|
|Broken Collarbone||First Aid for Broken Collarbone|
|Broken Ribs||First Aid – Broken Bones|
|Dislocated Shoulder||First Aid – Shoulder Dislocation|
|Broken Neck or Back||First Aid – Spinal Injury|
|Dental Trauma||First Aid – Dental Injury|
|Head Injury||First Aid – Head Injury|
|Eye Injury||First Aid – Eye Trauma|
|Shock||First Aid – Shock|
Source: Environmental Health and Safety & Web MD
Preventing Dirt Bike Injuries and Accidents
Technique and safety gear—are the two most important things when it comes to preventing dirt bike-related injuries.
Knowing how to use the machine is important, but your riding technique is what will keep you safe. You must understand how your bike works, how it moves, how it will react to different situations, and when not to push it. However, riding technique is not all about skill, and even the most skilled rider will get into trouble if they are acting irresponsibly. If your friend’s bike is too powerful for you, do not ride it. If you are drinking, do not get on a bike. Knowing your limits is just as important as knowing the limits of your bike.
If accidents were always avoidable, they would not exist, which is why it is important to have the right safety gear. Although you might have different equipment for different riding scenarios, you should always have a helmet, boots, goggles, chest plate, and protective clothing. Additional gear, such as elbow pads, shin guards, and knee braces can further protect you from some of the most common injuries. Neck braces might help prevent spinal injury, but some professionals have said they may actually do more harm than good.
Safety Gear Checklist for Riders
- Riding Boots
- Knee Brace
- Neck Brace
- Chest Plate
- Elbow Guards
- Shin Guard
- Dirt Bike Pants and Shirt (Jersey)
Tips For Riding Solo
Although riding alone is not highly recommended, following the steps below can help ensure your safety if you do decide to venture out on your own.
1. Check Your Bike
The last thing you want to do is find yourself broken down in the middle of a trail. Checking your bike before you take it out can help prevent this from happening. Additionally, checking the brakes and lights can help you to avoid any unnecessary accidents.
2. Bring Some Essential Tools
While loading yourself down with weight is not ideal, there are a few things that you should bring when riding alone. Make sure to bring enough gas, spare tubes, and patches for the tires, a small air pump, and any essential tools you might need to repair common issues.
3. Pack a Bag
Again, carrying a lot of stuff is not ideal, but bringing a small pack with you is essential when riding alone. Some of the things that you should bring with you include:
- GPS Tracker
- First-Aid Kit
- Lighter or Fire Source
- Space Blanket
- Waterproof Bag
Basically, you should pack anything that you might need in the event you break down, become stranded, or crash. Make sure you have some way to communicate with help and that you always keep it on you.
4. Map Out Your Trail
Adventuring off the beaten trail can be fun sometimes but should not be done while biking alone. Instead, you should research the trails ahead of time, mapping out the route you plan to take. If you think you might want to check out a few different trails, include those in your plans.
This is important for a few reasons. First, it allows you to let someone know exactly where you can be found. Second, it will help prevent you from becoming lost. Finally, it allows you to research the trails in a bit more depth to better prepare yourself for the terrain you will encounter.
5. Check the Weather
If you are planning a ride in an unknown territory, it is a clever idea to check the weather forecast for the entire day. Heavy rain could cause water levels to rise, and humid weather could cause heatstroke. Even a slight drizzle can change the trail you are riding on, so make sure you are prepared for any weather you might meet.
6. Tell Someone Your Plans
Even if you are just going for a quick jaunt in your backyard trail, tell someone where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. The last thing you want to do is spend the night injured in the woods because nobody knows where you are.
This is also when having a tracking device can come in handy because if you do not return on time, they can quickly find your location and check in on you. Keep your phone or communication device in an easily accessible place on your person so you can always reach it.
7. Know Your Limits
It is not a good idea to try a new jump or try to beat your high speed while riding by yourself. If you find yourself doubting or second-guessing a decision, stop and think it through more critically. The new trail might look like a fun adventure, but it could lead you off the side of a cliff. Being reckless with your friends is one thing, being reckless while riding alone is asking for trouble.
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