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So little Johnny wants a dirt bike and you're not too sure how that sits with you. At first you flatly deny him this privilege because you fear for his safety. You hoped it was a phase and it would pass, but it has not.

You have heard the horror stories of young riders who have been killed, or seriously injured, and you are extremely hesitant about letting your son or daughter get a dirt bike. You heard about the local kid who was stuck out in the woods with a broken leg, and no one knew where to find him for hours and hours. Well we are here to tell you that motocross can be safe and fun, if treated with respect like any other sport.

Of course you know he or she needs a quality motocross helmet, goggles, gloves and boots. Even motocross pants, pads and jerseys are essential to make your child safe and confident. All of these items can be purchased at your local motorcycle shop.

So you have all the proper gear and are still a little tentative about letting your sons or daughters go off into the woods. Well let us put your mind to rest and tell you that your participation is your child’s safety.

In virtually every part of this country there are controlled environments that feature organized races for children as young as three and four years old on little 50cc mini-bikes. Local motocross tracks are the safest and most effective way for both child and parent to learn about the sport, and participate in it safely.

Most of these tracks even feature motocross schools that offer the latest in technique and safety, where you and your child can learn the finer points of this rapidly growing sport from the professional athletes themselves.

These local races are fun and entertaining for the whole family, and feature many levels of competition from peewee to expert. The races are catered to the level of skill desired by the participant, and most are sanctioned by the AMA (American Motorcycle Association) to make the environment safe and fun for all involved. All the bikes are also required to pass a safety inspection, which is sound piece of mind.

Your local motorcycle dealer should have more information on where to find these tracks, and may even offer discounts to the local motocross schools. Some of the popular manufactures like Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha, have from time to time, even offered a free lesson at a few of the local schools with the purchase of a new bike. We strongly recommend that you take them up on these offers, because it is the best place to learn.

For the safety of your child, we do recommend that you not let him or her go out into the woods, or even on an unsupervised track, until they have been riding for a good long while. And when the time does come for them to go out for a day ride on their own (because it is eventually inevitable) we want you to instill the following things in them.

Although this should go without saying, it often is forgotten. Never let your child ride without full gear. The importance of a helmet can not be understated. Goggles, boots and gloves alike are important, they can keep a little fall from being a trip to the emergency room.

Here are a few simple safety precautions all riders should follow.

1. Never ride alone: First and foremost. For obvious reasons, there is safety in numbers. And being alone in the woods with even a simple problem like running out of gas, or popping off a chain, is no picnic.

2. Never ride in unfamiliar territory: The area should always be “scouted” for debris, as well as sinkholes or drop-offs. The most dangerous thing you can do is go speeding down a trail that is not familiar.

3. Never ride where bikes are not wanted: Many people do not take kindly to dirt bikes near or around private property, and have been known to do very mean things. I have seen wire and cable strung across the trails, spike strips sunk into the dirt, and many other “traps” designed to cause injury to the rider or damage to the bike. If it says no trespassing, respect that. Several states even prohibit dirt bikes on state land, and even others require permits. So it is a good idea to contact local officials and ask where and what boundaries, if any, do exist.

4. Always do “quick inspections” of the bike before riding: Check all the major components like the brakes and foot pegs. Make sure the throttle is free and clear, and not binding or stiff. Be sure nothing is loose, especially axle bolts and handlebars.

5. Always make sure someone knows: If your child and a friend are going for a ride, make sure they tell someone where they are going, and make sure they go there. It is just a simple rule that I have seen overlooked in my experience.
Motocross can be a fun family sport, if it’s handled like any other organized sport. It can be safe, and educational for all involved. It can instill confidence, determination and discipline.

Too often in the past it has been treated by parents as a renegade sport that they didn’t want their child involved with, and that is the kind of attitude that can lead to an unsafe situation.

With the rising popularity of motocross and its indoor brother supercross, more and more children are diving into the fold then ever before, and there are no signs that it’s going to go away anytime soon.

More people are seriously injured on football fields each year in America than on motocross tracks. Like any other sport, learning the finer points can make the difference between years of fun and accomplishment, and getting hurt in the first fifteen minutes and giving up the sport forever.

So embrace your child’s will to participate in this amazing sport. Learn with them, supervise them, and stress safety, because safety breeds fun and fun breeds the desire to excel.