Are Dirt Bikes Dangerous? A Guide to Understanding and Minimizing Dirt Bike Risk.

Yes, dirt bikes are dangerous. They go really, really fast, there is zero external protection to the rider (except for riding gear) and there are all kinds of obstacles in the way. Combine these things together and you have a dangerous situation.

That being said, it is important to understand that the rider controls the level of danger that they are willing to accept.

What do I mean by this? If you jump on a dirt bike and ride it slowly and carefully around your backyard, are you in danger? No.

Is anything likely to happen to threaten your health or your life in this situation? Not likely. Even if you fall off you probably won’t hurt yourself.

Now lets change that scenario to riding a dirt bike at top speed down a steep mountain full of rocks and trees without any experience…  Are you in danger? Yes. Big danger and possible death awaits.

Understanding the Danger of Dirt Bikes.

Here is a brief table that summaries the dangers of dirt bike riding in several common scenarios. (I explain further below).

Low Danger  – Riding at slow to moderate speeds. (trails and sand).

Medium Danger  – Riding at high speeds. (trail and sand).

Medium-High Danger – Riding on a motocross track with jumps.

High Danger – Riding competitively (enduro. motocross, supercross)

High Danger – ATV (4 wheeler) riding.

Very High Danger – Freestyle riding.

Deadly Danger – Drinking alcohol while riding.

Deadly Danger – Riding without dirt bike gear.

The Dangers of Riding Off-road on Trails – Low Danger

Riding off-road can either be low risk or high risk, depending on how you ride.

If you ride like you are being chased by a demon and you hit obstacles as hard as you can with little experience, expect serious injury.

If you ride carefully and within your abilities, even if you do fall off, your injuries will be minimal provided that you are wearing the right protective gear.

The Dangers of Riding on Motocross Tracks – Medium Danger

Motocross tracks would be low risk if they had no jumps.

Every time a motocross rider jumps their bike, the risk increases exponentially the higher they go into the air.

Why? Because the level of potential impact increases the higher and faster you go… And you need higher speeds to launch off the bigger jumps.

Big jumps = Big injuries. Small jumps = smaller injuries.

According to this study, 50% of all injuries occurred on a motocross track! That is really high when you consider that the huge majority of riders go trail riding and don’t use moto tracks!

Also, leg injuries are really big in the motocross world.

This is because turning at speed requires riders to put their leg out for balance. If the bike crashes, the first thing to snap is the leg bone and knee.

According to this study, 89% of all broken bones from dirt bike injuries were orthopedic (in the legs and feet).

 When riding on moto tracks, always wear knee braces. The level of strain on your knees from hitting corners at speed can snap your knees and legs. Top quality knee braces are a must for motocross riders.

The Dangers of Riding Competitively – High Danger

If you want to go professional, your level of risk increases.

Why? Because the risk increases when you are pushing yourself and your bike to the limit, like any sports.

The rate of injuries are huge. I’m still yet to meet a pro rider that is without injuries.

The next time you are standing next to a pro rider (especially freestyle), ask him about their crashes and injuries… then you will know why competitive riding is a high risk venture.

Here is a good example taken from the Instagram account of dirt bike champ Brian Deegan. In this post he is describing his injuries and asks his followers to chat about their injuries as well. (This post went for quite a while.)

are dirt bikes dangerous

Why are ATVs so Dangerous? High Danger

Why is ATV riding extremely high risk you ask?

Well because they are really heavy and they tend to roll easily in a crash.

They are heavier than a dirt bike and the rolling effect of an ATV can crush the rider.

Also, when a 4 wheeler rolls, they have a lot of momentum and tend to continue to keep rolling for a while, greatly injuring the rider or anyone in its path.

This is unlike a dirt bike, where a dirt bike tends to lie flat quickly in a crash.

 To compare weights, a typical dirt bike is around 200 pounds while a standard ATV is 650+ pounds!! That’s a lot of weight.

I’m not just talking shit though, here is some research that proves that ATV riders are 50% more likely to die from an ATV crash then a dirt bike accident.

How Many People Die from Four Wheelers?

According to State ATV Fatality Rate Statistics, 300-400 people die every year in the USA from ATV riding.

Since 1980 the number has risen dramatically and it doesn’t look like it will be stopping anytime soon unfortunately according to the below chart.

are dirt bike dangerous

 The moral of this story is SELL YOUR ATV and get yourself a dirt bike. You will be a whole lot safer!!

The Dangers of Freestyle Riding – Very High Danger

 Freestyle riding is very high risk and expect a multitude of serious injuries or death from freestyle.

Why? Because freestyle riders fly so high off the ground at high speed and perform such difficult acrobatics that one small error means a huge crash, awful injuries and sometimes death.

Kids under 17 are in the Highest Risk Category!

According to all the previous studies I have cited as well as this study done by the CDC, kids under 17 years old are at the highest risk of injury.

Why? According to the CDC, “Off-road motorcycle riding, like operating motor vehicles on roadways, requires physical skills and judgment that children and young teens do not possess”.

Reducing the Dangers of Dirt Bike Riding.

Wear Protective Gear.

Additionally, dirt bike gear also protects you even further from injury as the technology in protective gear is really awesome these days, a lot better than where it was 25 years ago.

 Riding without gear though is extremely dangerous and expect serious injury and even death if you aren’t properly geared up.

All it takes is one good smack on the head at high speed without a helmet and you will either land in a wheelchair or wind up dead.

The bare minimum you must be wearing is a helmet, goggles, gloves and boots, but always look to over protect than under.

Keep your Bike Maintained.

Additionally, the level of risk is reduced again in dirt bike riding if you keep your bike properly maintained.

A well maintained bike will protect you from issues that can put you in danger (like the throttle getting stuck).

Build Your Dirt Bike Riding Experience.

There’s no doubt about it, the most experienced dirt bike riders avoid all sorts of injuries and minimize accidents by knowing what to do in a bad situation.

This is because they have many hundreds of hours of riding experience and are confident in their riding abilities.

 To gain more experience, get out there and ride as often as you can within your capabilities. Your confidence will grow exponentially and this will result in fewer accidents.

The Dangers of Riding after Consuming Alcohol.

 If you drink alcohol and ride, you are an idiot. According to this study, half of all dirt bike riding deaths were the result of alcohol use.


If you don’t want to have really bad injuries, ride carefully, build as much experience as you can and always wear protective gear . Also, avoid ATV’s and don’t ride while you are intoxicated with alcohol.

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