No, dumbass. It’s not that dangerous and please don’t ask to ride with me!
Is it really though? I don’t think it is (or has to be). Obviously we have accepted the risk that goes along with riding a motorcycle, but I have to only look at my friends who ride mountain bikes, road bikes, play softball, etc… and notice all their injuries. It makes what we do look safe, really.
I was injured myself once (right Achilles tendon) and have seen friends get hurt but it’s really not that common.
Danger carries with it a lot of romanticism though and that is surely used to sell the whole “lifestyle.” I think there’s a bit of that in Brad Barker’s (Ride of my Life) video he did last year on AltRider’s “Taste of Dakar” event.
There certainly can be quite a bit of danger in what we do if you don’t know what you’re doing and/or if you simply don’t pay any regard to safety.
Here are a few things I think contribute to safe riding:
Gear. ATGATT. You need a good helmet, good boots, good gloves and a good riding suit with good armor. I took a particularly nasty spill doing the COBDR (riding too fast to slow down in time for a washout). My fellow riders thought I was going to be seriously injured but I just got up and dusted myself off. I had a small bruise on my right quad the next day and that was it! I also wear a neck brace (Leatt) as well as knee/shin guards.
Proper bike prep. Don’t think you’re a stud because you ride off road with street tires or something similar. You’re just dumb (in my opinion). Ride with knobby tires (aren’t completely worn off). Adjust your seat, pegs, bars, controls so that you can ride comfortably, particularly when standing. Have a bike that’s in good working order with all the tools, spares, etc… you need to handle most roadside repairs. Have enough gas to get where you’re going plus a safety margin, but if you have a GSA and are only riding 60 miles of trails that day you certainly do not need 8.7 gallons of fuel compromising your bike’s off-road handling. Nor should you be riding with hard panniers off-road if you don’t absolutely have to. Air down your tires enough to give you a better contact patch, but not so low you risk damaging your rims (about 30 psi on my bike). Tell people where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Use a SPOT/DeLorme type satellite device if you can. If you have a GPS with tracks, for chrissakes please know how to use it!
Proper body prep. Riding a big bike off road takes a higher level of fitness. Consider going on a diet and exercise regimen. I recently lost 30 lbs myself and notice it’s a lot easier to ride. You should also eat enough and bring enough water (1 liter/hour) and drink it regularly to avoid dehydration/exhaustion. Maybe a session of endurance drinking the night before isn’t such a good idea prior to spending all day on the trail. Accidents always seem to happen when you’re in that “yellow zone.” If you really like riding off road and spend most of your seat time doing that, consider investing in some formal off road training. It’s the best farkle you’ll ever buy.
Proper riding technique and trail/group choice. 100 miles from the nearest highway is not the best place to practice wheelies or riding near 100% of your maximum speed. Slow is fast. Don’t ride beyond what you can see. Don’t ride in dust. If you stop, get off the trail. Joining a group of dirt bikes when you have less than a year of experience (and no formal training) on a big bike is not a wise idea. Joining an “A” group when you’re a “C” rider is also not a good idea. Never ride at a pace faster than you’re comfortable with (they’ll wait for you). Grow up and leave the need to compete or prove your riding skill behind (no one cares). Stop or “post up” at a turn and wait until the person behind you reaches you so they know which way to go. If it’s getting late and you have a bailout point, take it. Don’t pass other riders unsafely. Pick a spot in the riding order you’re comfortable with and stay there. Know how many people are in front and behind you.