Don't be that rider.
The one who starts a forest fire.
A recent study detailed on Smithsonian.com indicates human activity whether intentional or unintentional resulted in 84 percent of forest fires. Between 1992 and 2012, humans caused more than 1.2 million of the 1.5 million fires as noted in the U.S. Forest Service's Fire Program Analysis Occurrence Database. And 11 percent of those of those 1.2 million fires came from equipment use. In other words, off-road vehicles like dirt bikes and ATVs.
According to the National Geographic, people cause 95 percent of fires in California. The publication goes on to describe the fire triangle, the three conditions needed for a wildfire to burn: fuel, oxygen and a heat source. Though dirt bikes and ATVs have fuel, the fuel in the triangle usually refers to dry vegetation. Certainly though, a running engine offers the presence of a heat source. Additionally, the cost to fight fires has grown to more than $2 billion a year and this figure does not take into account the impacts to recreational lands.
So, you know what happens next? Trail closures. And worse yet, perhaps the total ban of OHV vehicles because you know how lawmakers react to impactful events whether or not the subject of their ban had anything to do with anything.
Therefore, when riding trails whether public or private, equip your ride with a spark arrestor as a precaution against fires and to cover yourself in the event one flames up nearby.
What is a Spark Arrestor?
A spark arrestor looks like a wire mesh or screen and fits inside the tailpipe thereby preventing the emissions of sparks or carbon from the engine. Though most modern engines don't have a problem with shedding sparks, older engines and those not well-maintained have a build-up of carbon that can spit out and catch fire. The carbon is actually the spark and when it heats up and expels from the muffler it can flare up resulting in a forest fire if the carbon, now a small flame, lands on dry vegetation.
Spark arrestors also help decrease the engine decibels another reason why public lands require their use.
If your 2-stroke or 4-stroke dirt bike or ATV does not have a spark arrestor you have two options: Install a spark arrestor in your existing tailpipe or buy a slip-on with a pre-installed spark arrestor.
Installing a spark arrestor requires you to remove the end cap. A number of spark arrestors exist but you have to find the arrestor appropriate to the make and model of you dirt bike or ATV OEM exhaust, or one approved for the aftermarket exhaust you run, usually offered by the exhaust manufacturer.
You can also remove your existing muffler and attach a slip-on (muffler) equipped with a spark arrestor or upgrade to a complete exhaust system that features a spark arrestor. You don't need a spark arrestor for Motocross racing but those concerned with losing performance probably won't notice much of a difference. A spark arrestor does inhibit the power slightly (less air getting out) but unless the same bike gets tested back-to-back - with and without a spark arrestor - you will enjoy ripping the trails on your converted MX bike just the same.
Some off-road race sanctioned events also require the use of spark arrestors so check the posted rules but trail dirt bikes for general use often come with a spark arrestor because of the wide prevalence of the laws requiring their use on public OHV systems.
Do I Really Need a Spark Arrestor?
Yes! If you plan on riding public OHV trails. Follow the rules. Ride only on approved trails that allow dirt bikes and ATVs and use a spark arrestor. Most, if not all, federal and state run lands that allow dirt bikes and ATVs require the use of a spark arrestor. If you plan on riding public trails check the park ordinances for whether or not you need a spark arrestor but, in our experience, go ahead it get one if you don't have one installed already.
Other Precautions to Prevent Forest Fires While Riding
Though likely rare and no data readily exists, placing your recently run dirt bike on the ground on or near dry vegetation can ignite a fire from the scalding hot engine case. Likewise, don't park an ATV directly over grass or near plants and other foliage. And, remember when camping, extinguish camp fires thoroughly before leaving and only start a fire where approved and in appropriate vessels.
Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.