When dirt bike racing was in it’s infancy riders wore whatever was available to protect themselves. Open faced helmets, Jofa pants, leather protection… as the protective equipment was not specifically made for dirt bike racing, riders looked more like confused hockey playing bikies than dirt bike racers!
As the sport (best sport in the world mind you :) became more popular, the growth was then able to sustain ‘parallel’ or complimentary manufacturing industries. Companies like JT USA, Sinisalo etc. could now focus primarily on making only motocross gear.
More money was now being pushed into research and development of motocross gear, sponsorship of riders and marketing programs. More emphasis was being placed on style so colour was added to gear to match dirt bike colourings or just to be outrageous and different. Pink was big mid eighties (I did not say it was always in good taste).
Body armour moved to be worn over the top of race jerseys therefore they became more stylised to appeal to users. In itself becoming a fashion statement, but was researched and tested to also be practical and offer maximum comfort. Today’s body armour has ‘floating’ shoulder cups as well as flexible back and side panels to cater for both sitting and standing positions when riding. Can come in a range of colour options including clear as well as built in kidney belts on some models.
Race pants received there own special treatment made out of heavy duty nylon with doubled stitching, extra room in the butt to cater for the crouched/sitting riding position as well as cordura, kevlar and leather panels in high wear areas such as the seat and knees. Spandex panels are used to allow for movement where necessary. A quality race pant will offer extra room in the knee area to allow for knee braces that more and more riders are wearing.
Jersey material went from cotton to sweat/moisture wicking polyester/cotton blends to offer greater comfort for prolonged periods of riding. Vented panels were placed in ‘hot spots’ and even little touches like rubber strips in the tail to hold them into the race pants on even the roughest ride.
Boots were being designed to deal with high impact landings and ultimate ankle protection. Replaceable soles and buckles prolonging their use. They are now carefully constructed to avoid the damaging lateral and hyperextension movements around the ankle area.
Dirtbike gloves – choose them wisely and make sure they fit correctly. Some gloves are better suited to certain types of riding than others. Motocross gloves offer better feel for the rider with less padding in the palms. Enduro gloves can be the opposite with more padding to give greater comfort for longer rides.
Elbow protection can be found in a “sleeve” that also covers the forearms. Knee/shin guards are lighter as well as stronger and some hinder ‘lateral’ movement of the knee (gone are the days of using skateboarders protection). Although with the onset of lightweight, composite materials it is possible to have the ultimate in protection with knee braces.
All this protection would mean nothing if you cannot see. So it is very VERY important to properly protect one of your greatest assets (as well as one of the five senses) in your sight. Different goggle manufacturers have their own registered names for their lenses, but they basically mean the same thing – scratch resistant, shatterproof protection for your eyes.
So next time you go for a dirtbike ride, dress in the latest motocross gear and be comforted in the knowledge that you have minimized risk to your body as much as possible. That will allow you to focus on what you are there for… enjoying the ride!
By Mark Sturge