Best Dirt Bike Protective Gear for Kids: A parent’s guide

When my two boys (ages 8 and 6) started dirt biking, I was nervous about how much the protective gear would cost.  I also didn’t want to make any mistakes that would cost me extra.  I learned a lot, and in this post I want to share the things I learned about buying dirt bike gear for kids.

I recommend that kids wear a helmet, boots, chest protector, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves, and a jersey and pants.  I don’t make my kids wear a collar unless they are racing or jumping at an official track.  Most of the time, we are just riding off-road in the woods around Boise.

The biggest suggestion I have for you is to buy as many of the less expensive pieces of gear online BEFORE you go to a local store and try on the gear.  Some of the gear at local shops will cost double or triple what you can suitable replacements for online.  When we first got our dirt bikes, I spent nearly $500 for each of my boys just to get their safety gear.  Now I realize that I could have cut that price significantly if I would have bought a few pieces online that aren’t from the major manufacturers (Fox, Leatt, etc).

While my primary concern with my kids is dirt bike safety, I also wanted to be careful with the budget.

Helmet

My Recommendation: Fox V1 Helmet.  Do NOT buy a helmet online for kids sizes.  They really need to try them on.

Approximate Cost: $120-140

More important than any new helmet technology is simply getting a good fit.  Buying a helmet for kids is tough because they all feel heavy to the kids, and they can’t always communicate clearly which one fits right.  I found the best way to test was to have my kids put on a helmet and not do up the chin strap, then have them shake their head up and down wildly.  If the helmet stayed mostly in place, it was a decent fit.

Be careful with some of the super cheap helmets.  I bought one of those Bilt brand $75 helmets for my son because it fit him, it looked cool, and was cheap.  After a few dirt bike rides, I was surprised that he didn’t seem to be enjoying it much.  He kept going back to the truck and just sitting around, which was very uncharacteristic of him.  His face was always bright red from being too hot.  I looked more carefully at the helmet and found that it simply didn’t have adequate ventilation.  He was boiling in that helmet!  I spent just a little but more on a quality Fox helmet and suddenly he LOVED dirt biking again.  Lesson learned.

I wrote more on purchasing dirt bike helmets here.

Boots

My Recommendation: O’Neal Boots from Amazon.com.  It’s fine to order the boots online.  They should be the same size as their normal shoes, but maybe order just SLIGHTLY larger if your kid is growing, but not too big that they don’t securely protect the foot.

Approximate Cost – $99

The most two important pieces of gear when dirt biking are the helmet and the boots.  Generally, I recommend not going too cheap on boots.  For adults, I recommend spending about $200 on a quality pair instead of getting the cheap ones.  However, I don’t think the same is necessarily true for kids for a few reasons.

The expensive dirt bike boots flex much better than the cheap ones, so you can feel the gear shift lever much easier.  Since my kids don’t shift gears (I keep them perpetually in second gear until they are 9 or 10), this doesn’t really matter.  Also, I don’t like that the cheap dirt bike boots rely so much on stiff leather for protection, because as the leather wears in, the boot is less protective.  However, on a kids boot, they usually don’t fit in them for more than 1.5 years anyway, and they aren’t heavy enough to break in the leather as much.  For this reason, I think it’s okay just to get the cheap O’Neal boots on Amazon. That’s what I got my kids and they work great.

Another tip is to check Craigslist for kids dirt bike boots!  At least in Boise, there are tons of dirt bike boots available on the used market through Craigslist and they are usually 1/4 the price!  Buying new boots will look great… for only one ride.  Soon they’ll be dusty and no better than the used ones on Craigslist.

Chest Protector

My Recommendation: Leatt 2.5 chest protector from Amazon.com.

Approximate Cost – $59

You’ll find lots of really cheap roost protectors on Amazon that are as cheap as $30, but I recommend getting something with better protection.  There is a big difference between a chest protector and a simple roost guard, and I think this is an important part to protect on the kids.  The fox chest protectors (not roost guards) are also good in this category.  I recommend the Leatt here because it has a little better protection than the Fox and has better compatibility with a neck guard if they are required at the track where you ride.

Knee and Elbow Pads

My Recommendation: JBM knee and elbow pads from Amazon.com

Approximate Cost – $13

We tried a few of the Fox knee and elbow pads and weren’t totally impressed.  I like the Fox knee pads, but we haven’t had a good experience with the elbow pads.  Their peewee elbow pads have no hard plastic to protect the kids, and they don’t velcro very well.  They constantly slip off.

So, our recommendation for kids knee and elbow pads are to get these ones from Amazon.  They are really cheap, have what seems to be better protection than the dirt bike specific pads, and they seem to stay on better without constantly falling off.

Generally, you’d want knee pads that extend a little further down than these to protect the shin, but kids legs are so small that these will likely reach to the top of the boot anyway.  Personally, I think these are great and they save you some serious money.

Gloves

My Recommendation: TMS Youth Kids Gloves on Amazon.com

Approximate Cost: $10

My recommendation on gloves is to get something with better protection than most of the official dirt bike gloves.  Kids fall off the dirt bike all the time, so their hands can tend to get cut up from breaking their fall when they go down on rocks or sharp twigs.  So if you want to save a few tears, I might recommend some better padding on kids gloves.

Jersey and Pants

My Recommendation: Fox Jersey and Fox pants but this decision is more about just finding a good price, something that fits, and that the kid likes the look of.  The jersey and pants from the different companies are all pretty much the same.

Approximate Cost: $25 for a jersey and $70 for pants.

There isn’t too much difference between the brands in terms of durability.  If you buy any of the major brands of motocross gear, you’ll get stuff that will last a lot longer than the kids will fit into it.  So just pick one that’s cheap and that the kids like the look of.

One suggestion to save you money on the jersey is to buy 1 or 2 sizes too big.  Then have your kids put on their chest protector UNDER the jersey and the jersey will fit perfectly.  Then, as the kids grow, have them start putting the chest protector on the OUTSIDE of the jersey and it will fit again.  Doing this could save you buying a new jersey every single year.  Big savings!

Be sure to shop around on the pants.  Dirt bike pants cost a lot more than the jersey because the pants need to be very thick to protect the rider from getting burned from the engine, while the jersey is a simple lightweight long-sleeve shirt.  I found kids pants ranging from $70 to $150, so shop around!

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