Finding ATV Trails to Hit your Next Time Out
Perhaps you’ve been hitting the same ATV trail for a few months now and it is getting too crowded or too familiar for your tastes. How do you go about finding ATV trails in your area? How do you find the best ATV trails to hit as you plan your vacation three states away? Finding ATV trails is a concern for anyone who loves touring the great outdoors via their Quad. Here are your best options for finding ATV trails where you want to ride.
1. ATV maps: Many riding clubs and associations put out annual maps of the best trails in a certain area of a state or region. They update these ATV maps yearly by adding new trails or showing where old trails have been closed for repairs, logging, excessive danger, or other reasons. These ATV maps can be found in a variety of locations. They’ll show up in local gas stations and convenience stores, outdoor gear and sporting goods stores, and anywhere that ATVs are sold or repaired. When you are exploring a new area in which to get in a great ride, finding ATV trails can be as easy as picking up a map in the town closest to the trail head. They usually range in cost from just a few dollars up to $10 or $15.
2. Your ATV dealership: The guys at the local ATV dealership likely get out and ride every chance they get. Ask them for ideas on where to ride. They may even let you in on where their favorite ATV trails are, complete with fantastic scenery, maybe a cool lake for a hot summer day, or breathtaking vistas overlooking valleys.
3. Word of Mouth: This time-tested way of gathering information might be your ticket to finding ATV trails that are often overlooked by others. In areas frequented by ATV riders it’s not unusual to see them at the gas station, the local fast food restaurant, the trail head, etc. Start a conversation and pick the brains of other riders about trails they really like.
4. Find them Yourself: You’ll need to know your state or county laws for this one, but it may be allowable to ride your ATV on state or federal land in your area, regardless of whether or not it is a certified ATV trail. This may potentially open up hundreds of miles of two-tracks and other off-road opportunities. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is just one place where ATV riding is allowed on state land unless where specifically prohibited and marked.
5. Online: There are a host of websites that provide information on local, statewide and even national ATV trails. Doing a web search on the area you want to ride can be a fast and easy way to find ATV trails where you want to ride.
6. Local ATV riding clubs: Check out the website for the All-Terrain Vehicle Association to find riding clubs in almost any area of the country. These clubs know how to find ATV trails and help keep them in good repair as well as clearing them of downed trees and debris.
Do some digging to find ATV trails that will deliver the kind of ride you want. And while many ATV trails are well-known and heavily travelled you can always find overlooked gems that offer a unique and satisfying ride.
Learning to ride an ATV can be exciting and rewarding. Even though most of us would not admit it, we have all dreamed of the day when we can do some of the advanced techniques that we have seen professionals perform in competitions. However, before you get too carried away, remember that even the professionals were once beginners. You need to start with the basics - safety and the proper gear is critical.
With this in mind, the first thing to do is to make sure you have the correct gear. Unlike a car, an ATV offers little protection in the event of an accident. Therefore, it is important that a rider has the proper equipment. Most important is to have a helmet. The helmet should fit snugly and have a chinstrap that can be securely fastened when riding. Make sure the helmet is an approved dirt bike or ATV helmet.
The next important piece of equipment is eye protection. You must be able to see clearly and should also protect your eyes from flying objects, such as rocks or branches. Normal sunglasses or regular glasses do not offer you enough protection and are not strong enough to withstand anything but very small rocks. Goggles or a face shield is a must for any ATV rider.
It is also important that you protect your hands and feet. Wear ATV boots and or motorcycle gloves. Gloves will keep your hands from getting sore and cold. Also, they will help you grip the controls better. For your feet, the best boot is an over-the-calf one that has a low heel and a good sole to keep your feet from sipping off of the footrests.
As for the rest of your body, the minimum you should wear is a long-sleeve shirt and long pants, even in warm weather. However, if you are going to do more that just a try ride, you should also consider investing in specially designed off-road gear, such as off-road pants with kneepads and a jacket with shoulder pads. These offer better protection in the event that you come off of your ATV and skid. Finally, never wear oversized or dangling clothing, such as scarf. The last thing you need is your clothing getting caught in a mechanical system on your ATV.
Now that you have all the correct gear, the next thing is to know the ATV that you are riding. Make sure you know where are the controls are. For example, which lever controls the brakes, throttle, and shifting? How do you start the ATV? Also consider your seating position. Are you comfortable?
Like an air plane pilot that has a pre-flight inspection checklist, you should also have a ritual that you go through before riding your ATV. It only takes a minute, and it can mean the difference between you having an enjoyable ride and you being stranded half way through your ride. Check you have all of your gear, and then check your ATV. Make sure the tires are inflated to the correct pressure, check the wheel nuts, and rock the tires back and forth to check for a worn-out wheel bearing. Also check the levers to make sure the have free movement, and check the fluid levels such as oil and fuel. You might want to take a look at our Basic ATV Maintenance Guide for more information.
Also, when you are learning to ride, you should consider your riding position. Once you are on the ATV, having the correct riding posture will help you to be more comfortable on your vehicle and will also help you to easily operate the controls. You should keep your head and eyes up and as with driving a car or a motorcycle look far ahead. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows bent slightly out when your hands are on the handlebars. When you place your feet on the footrest, keep your toes pointing straight ahead and your knees in towards the gas tank.
It is important that you are comfortable and relaxed with your position so that you can eventually learn to shift your body weight to enhance the performance of your ATV. Starting with a good posture at the beginning of your ATV riding career will help you avoid bad habits that will be difficult to break as your riding skills advance.
Now that you are completely set, you are ready to go out on your first trail ride. Go out with other ATV riders, but make sure that the others understand that you are a beginner. You do not want to feel pushed to ride above your abilities. You will improve quickly and can save more advanced terrain for the future. For the first ride, make sure that the more experienced riders take you only on terrain that is suitable for a beginner.
One thing to consider to improve your confidence before your first ride with more advanced riders is to complete an ATV safety training course. Some states actually require this, but even if yours does not, it is an investment that will pay off. In addition to covering all of the signals, controls, and basic starting, stopping, shifting, and turning of ATVs, these safety courses will also cover emergency stops and swerving. They will also teach hill riding basics and teach you how to ride over obstacles and the skills required for negotiating different terrains. A local ATV club should be able to recommend a suitable course for beginners.
Riding an ATV can be exciting and provide hours of entertainment. With the right equipment, some basic training, and maintenance checks, your days out can be even that much more rewarding. Have fun, but remember to always ride within your limits, and remember to always put the safety of yourself and other first when you ride.
Because there are so many different types of ATVs, there are a number of different maintenance routines that can be followed. All of the manufacturers will have their own maintenance schedule that they suggest should be followed. Also, there are different levels of maintenance that owners actual feel comfortable doing themselves.
Below is a list of some basic maintenance that anyone can perform on there ATV to keep it in good operating condition for longer. It will also keep you safer if you do some basic checks on your ATV at regular intervals.
First of all, check your tire pressure before you ride. If your tire pressure is not set at the correct level, you could have steering or handling problems with your ATV. You can find the recommended air pressure for your tires on the sides of your tires. Correction - you can find it under all the mud on the side of your tires. Make sure all your tires are inflated to the correct level before you ride.
You should also check your engine oil level regularly. You can significantly damage your engine, resulting in a costly repair, by running at a low oil level. As with your tire pressure, check your oil every time you ride. Always change your engine oil and filter at least once a year.
Check your air filter at least once a month. Despite what most car service centers would have you believe, air filters actually operate more efficiently when they are slightly dirty. However, complete caked with dust from you last ten outings, will not help their efficiency. Check your air filter and rinse and wash it, if necessary. Replace the air filter according to your ATV manufacturers guidelines.
Check your differential and rear gear case oil for contamination. Water can condense when these hot components come into contact with cold water or mud. Check if the oil is milky. If it is, drain it and refill it.
Boots & Bellows
Always check boots and bellows for damage and tears. They are there to protect the more expensive components that are underneath them. If the boot or bellow is torn, the underlying component can be exposed. If left unfixed, a higher cost component failure could be the result of a relatively inexpensive, but damaged, bellow.
The next thing to consider is general cleanliness of your ATV. I know you are proud of all of the mud that you have caked onto your ATV. However, you should clean off the layers of dirt and debris when you are done. Pay specific attention to the radiator, engine head, and brake system. For example, if the radiator is covered in mud, it may not provide the cooling necessary for your engine to work properly. The same goes with your brakes.
Nuts & Hoses
Check that your wheel nuts are tightened to the correct torque level. An over-tightened joint can be just as dangerous as a loose joint. Also if you remove a wheel nut, check the stud and nut for damage before re-tightening the nut.
All hoses on your ATV should be checked periodically for any obvious damage. Pay particular attention to fuel and brake lines. Also check that the cables on your ATV are not trapped or damaged.
Once a year, take your battery to a local garage and have it load tested. The test will tell you the approximate life span of your battery. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of nowhere and stranded with a dead battery.
Levers, Lights, Electrics
Check you brake, clutch, and gas levers to make sure they are fully releasing and depressing. Also, make sure that your lights are working before you go out on a ride. Often electrical connectors can become dislodged. If you headlights or brake lights are not working, you could be putting yourself and others in unnecessary danger.
Finally, your fluid levels should be check frequently. Coolant levels should be checked weekly if you have a liquid-cooled system on your ATV. You will not need to remove the reservoir cap unless you need to add anti-freeze solution. If you do need to remove the cap, make sure you do not do this while the engine is hot.
The above list of items is not difficult to check on your ATV, but they do take time and discipline. However, there is a reward. A little upfront maintenance could save you a lot of money in the future. Many of these small items have the potential to turn into very expensive component failures of left unattended. So, take the time to check your ATV before you go riding. It will not only save you money, but it will be safer too.
Getting involved in ATV racing can be very expensive. However, if you want to try it and you do not have the budget to go with your big dreams, there are cheaper ways to go about getting a good ATV that is race ready without taking out a second mortgage on your home.
However, before we discuss your options. You need to know what your ATV needs in order to start racing. To set your ATV up for racing you will need to add Nerf bars and a tether kill switch. Nerf bars are to help keep your feet and legs protected. A kill switch and tether will stop the engine if you come off of your ATV. You will also need to invest in front and rear number plates for you ATV.
Some experts will tell you that you need aftermarket tires, handlebars, and suspension upgrades to make your ATV race ready. However, riders have been known to start racing without these upgrades. There are other ATV aftermarket options that you can upgrade your ATV with. However, since you are on a budget it is better to save this money and really decide if ATV racing is something you will enjoy first.
If you are at all mechanically inclined, one place to consider going to for parts that you can use to upgrade your ATV to make it race ready is an ATV salvage yard. ATVs are becoming more and more popular and stores based with salvage yards will sell you used parts - stock and aftermarket - for very low prices. Sometimes they will even be willing to accept trade-ins on parts to reduce your costs. You can considering buying a used ATV and build it up to race standard with parts you are able to obtain from a salvage yard.
If you cannot find a salvage yard that specializes in ATVs, go to your local car salvage yard. They will probably be able to tell you where the specialist salvage yards are located.
Of course, inspect any parts that you are considering buying from a salvage yard before you buy them. However, usually you do not need to be worried that the parts from the salvage yard stores are of very low quality. These stores have reputations to keep. Since the used ATV parts market is relatively small when compared to cars, stores that are offering poor quality parts will not stay in business long.
Also, do not be afraid to haggle at the salvage yard. Often you can get a part cheaper than you originally expected by negotiating with the store.
Another place to consider getting cheap parts from to finish your racing ATV is from other racers and enthusiast clubs. ATV racing is a very close community. Often racers have multiple projects that they are involved in with different machines. They also often use specially designed components such as frames for their racers. You may be able to buy stock components or frames that are race quality but are just not wanted by the racers anymore if you get into the right conversation, at the right time, with the right person.
Other places to search for used quality parts are classified ads, garage sales, and of course, eBay. You would be surprised how cheap people are will to sell components for hobbies that they are no longer interested in just to recover some of their initial costs.
Now that you have your ATV ready, all that is left is for you to find a track to ride on. When looking for a track, make sure that they allow ATVs. Despite the popularity of ATV racing, some tracks still only allow dirt bikes. When you get to the track, start off slowly. Do not try to imitate others. Just go at your own pace until you are completely comfortable. Also learn from the other riders that are there. Riders usually like to share their experiences, and you may be able to learn some tips for saving money from the more experienced racers.
Owning an ATV can be an expensive hobby. Getting involved in racing an ATV can be even more expensive. However, as with anything there are cheaper ways to get involved. If you are interested in getting involved in racing ATVs but you are on a limited budget, you do not need to be discouraged. There are cheaper ways, such as specialist ATV salvage yards, to get race level components without having to buying new. You will need some mechanical knowledge and some patience. However, with a little bit of work, your ATV can be ready for your first racing experience in no time.
An all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is typically a four wheeled vehicle that is designed for off-road usage. But, there is so much more to ATVs than just that simple description. There are many options available to a new ATV rider that you should be aware of before purchasing your new ATV.
There are two main categories for ATVs - sport models and utility models. Utility models are designed to have more power and less speed than the equivalent sport model. The reason for purchase is usually more work-related than pleasure-related. Utility models are the type of ATV that is used on farms, for trailer towing, or for hauling small loads.
Because of their usage requirements, utility models have different component characteristics than a sport model. For example, a utility ATV will have a more durability driveshaft than what is used on a sport ATV. Typically, the utility models have four-stroke engines. Utility ATVs with gears offer low first gears so that they can provide excellent torque for towing capability. They also usually have stiffer suspensions and larger tires. Utility ATVs are larger and heavier than sport ATVs.
Even though they are considered work vehicles, utility ATVs can be very fun to ride for recreational trail riding. Overall, they are easier to learn how to ride on and are often the purchase choice for beginner riders.
Unlike utility models, sport models are small, light, and fast. They are designed for recreational use and performance. Sport models will have either two- or four-stroke engines. Most sport ATVs have either five or six gears with a manual clutch. Many of the models also come with a reverse gear. The gear ratios tend to be higher than a utility ATV. In addition, the suspension systems are set-up to handle hard landings from jumps and are generally softer with longer-travel than the suspension system on the equivalent utility model.
The steering on a sport ATV is responsive and designed for quick movements. Sport ATVs are not used for hauling items. In fact, manufacturers try to keep weight to a minimum to improve jumping and handling performance. Overall, sport ATVs are more difficult for the novice to learn how to ride on but are more funny for the more experienced rider.
Two Wheel or Four Wheel Drive?
Now that we have described the two main categories of ATVs, there are other classifications that we can look at within those categories. For example, ATVs come in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. The difference is the same as in regular cars. Two-wheel drive means that only two of the wheels are actively driven by the engine, and four-wheel drive means that all four wheels are actively driven by the engine.
Four-wheel drive means more components and usually means a slightly heavier unit. However, four-wheel drive also means that the ATV can go almost anywhere in all weather conditions. If you ride on only moderate terrain, than a two-wheel drive ATV is probably fine for you. However, a four-wheel drive ATV provides some security if you ride in more difficult and muddy or snowy terrains.
Two Stroke of Four Stroke Engine?
The other major classification that we can look at for ATVs is whether an ATV has a two- and or four-stroke engine. A four-stroke engine is what is in your car. It takes four strokes of the piston to complete one firing cycle of the engine. The four strokes are an intake stroke, a compression stroke, a combustion stroke, and an exhaust stroke. The spark plug only fires once every other revolution and there are intake and exhaust valves that are required to control the air flow of the individual strokes.
Two-stroke engines combine all four engine firing events into two strokes, as the name suggests. Also in a two-stroke engine, the intake and exhaust valves are not needed because the inlet and exhaust ports are in the walls of the combustion chamber. The spark plug on a two stroke engine fires on every stroke.
The main advantage of a two-stroke engine is that it has more power because it fires every revolution of the crank shaft. A two-stroke engine is also lighter and is less expensive than a four-stroke engine. A two-stroke engine also does not have an oil sump so the engine can be orientated in any direction.
However, there are disadvantages to a two-stroke engine. Because there is no dedicated lubrication system, the engine will have faster wear rate and a shorter operating life on average than the equivalent four-stroke engine. A two-stroke engine also requires a special oil to be mixed with every tank of gas and is less fuel efficient than a four-stroke engine.
Making the Right Decision
Hopefully, you can see that there is more to an all-terrain vehicle than a four wheeled vehicle that is designed for off-road usage. The new ATV rider has many options to consider when making there first purchase, and it is important to understand the basics before heading out to purchase your new ATV.