How to Ride an ATV
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.