Some of you have been riding ATVs since the glory days of the Honda ATC three-wheeler. One, that’s awesome, and two, this article isn’t for you. Every year, a new batch of ATV riders is born, trying out their skills off-roading for the first time. And every year, there are injuries from complete newbies hurting themselves from lack of knowledge. If you have never ridden an ATV before, check out this common sense list before you fire up.
Consider its Abilities – and Yours
First, realize this is a machine that weighs several hundred pounds. Confident and experienced riders are killed by their ATVs every year, and while this should not discourage you from riding, it should provide a measure of caution.
Basically, get to know your machine. Go over all the controls before starting, and know how to stop before you get going. Wear all the safety gear, or at a minimum a helmet and riding boots, if you are going to go easy. If you do not have those two pieces of safety equipment, you aren’t ready to ride.
Finally, consider your abilities. Do you need glasses to see beyond arm’s reach? Buy a strap and crank ‘em down to your face. Have asthma? Bring your inhaler. Too short to have proper riding posture? That machine might not be the best for you, and there will be some maneuvers that are not recommended.
Take it Slow
Start out easy, with flat, level terrain. Yes, it’s boring, but you need to know how the machine handles before tackling a mountain range. Go slow, and figure out how it stops, getting a feel of what it’s like. Take slow turns, maneuvering around objects out in the open. Better to go around that tree stump in a field than on a tight trail. Yeah, it will feel (and look) a little childish, but the problem solver in you should realize there is a whole bunch of interesting physics going on here. Mass and momentum will be unforgiving teachers when you are learning on a rocky trail at 35 mph.
Always Have a Plan
Know where you are going, and how you are going to get there. If there are several trails up to Mount BFE, plan on a specific trail and stick with it. Tell someone where you are going and when you should be back. Nothing is worse than having an accident, being unable to ride, and knowing no one is looking for you. Last, ride with a buddy when you can. Off-roading is a social sport, and it’s much more fun, and safe, having someone else along for the ride.
Take Care of Your Equipment – and Yourself
Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule in your ATV manual. Breaking down is no fun, and can be dangerous. And clean your ATV when you are done! There’s no excuse for not knocking that junk off, as it takes very little time and will make your equipment last longer. Finally, take care of yourself. Stay hydrated, before and during the ride. Be sure you get enough sleep the night before. Consider hitting the gym. Off-roading is very physical, and being in shape makes for a more enjoyable ride. And your significant other will appreciate it too.