beginner riding an atv

Beginners Guide To ATV Riding

So you’ve decided to take on a new thrill seeking hobby, huh?  I bet it’s something that you’ve been thinking of getting into for some time now but maybe you thought you were too young, maybe now you thinking you’re getting too old and if you don’t do it now then you never will, or maybe you thought it was going to take a lot of money to purchase your first vehicle.  Honestly, whatever the reason may be, if you’re responsible enough, you’re never too young, too old or too broke to enjoy the excitement of exploring the outdoors with an ATV!

You may be thinking to yourself that there are so many things to consider when taking up this sport – what are the state laws and regulations, what kind of 4 wheeler should I go with, what kind of protective gear do I need (or should I go with), how do I even drive an ATV and how do I get it around?  That’s understandable, these are all valid questions.  After all, it’s not like you’re taking up building a new train set, this is serious and people could get hurt!

I know you’ve got a lot of questions that you need answered before you dive head first into 4 wheeling, so in this extensive post, i’ll do my very best to cover what you need to know about this awesome sport, from A-Z.  Once you’re done reading the content within this post, you’ll have a strong understanding of what you’ll need to get started, picking the right quad, riding techniques, transporting your ATV, ongoing maintenance, and even purchasing your first 4 wheeler.

If you’re ready to get started, then so am I!

State Rules and Regs:

I’m not trying to sound overly wholesome here (who are we kidding, i’m a procrastinator and don’t like too much government) or come across as being extremely conservative because i’m not, but when it comes to state laws, just follow them.  I’m telling you from years of experience that if, and eventually when, you get caught violating motor vehicle state and local laws, you’ll get your hand slapped (or worse) and those fines, fees and penalties don’t go away!  It’s a source of revenue for the state and they will keep following you, they’ll double and triple in size, and the judgements against you can get even worse (ask me how I know).

So, my (non-legal) advice to you is to check your state laws for rules and regulations about legally riding your ATV in the outdoors.  Also, the link above will tell if you need to get licensed in your particular state – rules can vary but chances are you’ll need to register, and insure, your ATV similar to the way you would register your car through your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV).  Your state may also charge you a fee to obtain a permit to ride on popular public trails, the funds are supposed to go to maintenance of these trails, though that can be questionable at times.  I recommend you even check with some federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service who offers seasonal passes at a discount for frequent ATV riders.

Get Formal ATV Training:

Just like anything else in life, there is no substitution for personal experience.  Though the intent of this content is to be extremely thorough and provide as much information as possible to make you feel comfortable when you ride for the first time, words can only take you so far, and at some point, you’ll have to jump on your very own 4 wheeler and get used to the way it handles and reacts as well as determine your own risk tolerance.

That being said, if you don’t have anyone who can introduce you to the sport of ATV riding, there are plenty of sources available to you where you can get formal instruction, in a student-teacher setting, that will teach you how to ride an ATV.  Similar to the instruction you received when you took drivers-ed, the instructor will go through state laws, etiquette, basics of driving, driving techniques and more.  Tuition for these classes are usually really cheap and they will at least give you a good foundation for ATV riding, not only that, but they will help you in preparing for, and passing any state required exams you might need to take.

What Is The Difference Between A Sport ATV and UTV?

Now that you’ve got the legal stuff out of the way, we can start getting into the good stuff.  There are several different niches of ATVs within the broader category of ATVs, such as two-up ATVs, side-by-side ATVs, sport utility ATVs, etc and they are all extremely similar to each other except for subtle nuances that distinguish them from the traditional ATV.  To keep things as simple and straightforward as possible, we are going to outline the differences between two of the most common ATVs available in the market – the sport and utility models.  Although they have many more similarities than they do differences, it is good to know why you might want to select one over the other.

UTV

Also known as a Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV), these vehicles are usually designed with a specific purpose in mind.  The first thought that usually comes to mind when hearing the name UTV is a motorized farm car to haul bales of hay or other fruits and vegetables.  In the past, and even today, they are sometimes used with tilling attachments to loosen the soil for smaller plots of land.  That’s not the only place you’ll find a UTV though, most commonly they can be found on the golf course, train stations, and in construction sites.  It is uncommon to see them as a one-person vehicle, instead, they come as a side-by-side with open room in the back for hauling cargo.  UTV’s have made a come back and don’t have the same boring feel to them as they once did.

Sport ATVs

sport atv riding in the dirt

Usually the most obvious way to determine whether you have a sport or utility ATV is just by looking at the frame.  Sport ATVs are not as “boxy” looking and they have more aerodynamics to them.  The wheel frame is taller to allow for more clearance when the wheels make impact with the ground as you’re landing jumps.  They require a more sporty suspension on them since they catch more air than utility 4 wheelers do.  With the better suspension comes better handling as well, which is important to a rider who thinks they will be spending a lot of time in the woods, or in areas where agility is essential.  Sport ATV’s also usually have two wheel drive with the rear wheels acting as the drive axle propelling you forward (or backwards).

A sport ATV usually weighs in the realm of 400lbs, which make them much lighter weight than their Utility ATV counterparts who commonly come in at more than double that weight.  For this reason, Sport ATVs are much easier to clean the underside as they can be turned vertically to remove dirt and debris.  It also makes it much easier to inspect the vehicle for significant wear and tear or to assess any potential damage to your vehicle.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Sport ATVs have more modifications that can be done to them to make them look completely customizable and personalized.  It’s easy to get sucked into the world of modifying your 4 wheeler because it really does makes a huge visual difference, but if you don’t keep a close eye on your budget, it’s very easy to go overboard (words of caution).  From upgraded tires to new suspension, new header pipes and exhaust, the list of modifications can go on and on.  Start modifying slowly and only one item at a time, if you modify several items at once, you won’t know what caused a certain change for better or worse.

Like anything else in life, there are some Cons to choosing to purchase a Sport ATV over a Utility ATV.  Sport ATVs are lighter and when you get stuck, there is no relying on a winch to get you out.  In cases when you’re stuck in the mud, as an example, you’d need a winch from a Utility ATV to get you out.  Sport ATVs also don’t have the option to mount storage or gun racks on top of them.  Well, I guess you could but not only would it making racing more difficult, it would look really funny.  It’s just the way it is, but Utility ATVs tend to be more comfortable than the sport models are.  With the sport model, you’re after results not necessarily comfort and there are sacrifices you make to win those lower times – comfort being one of them!

What Are The Fastest Sport ATVs Available

  1. Can Am Outlander 1000
  2. Yamaha Raptor 700R
  3. Polaris 850 XP Scrambler
  4. Yamaha Banshee
  5. Honda TRX450R

Sport Utility ATV

sport utility atv through woods

Just as the Sport ATV is distinguishable by sight, the Sport Utility ATV has its own certain set of recognizable characteristics.  At first glance you’ll see that they are much bigger, both in length/height and girth and they typically carry a boxier figure to them.  They don’t usually come with many modifications available to them because these tend to be used as working vehicles on the farm, for hunting, or pulling and hauling.

That’s not to say that Sport Utility ATVs don’t have modifications to them, because that’s not true either, they simply get modified in different ways.  The more traditional modifications consist of mud modifications which include snorkels, lift kits, skid plates, radiator relocators, mud tires and the likes.  In addition, Sport Utility ATVs can withstand the force of a winch and are good at getting other ATVs out from being stuck or they can get themselves out by simply using a winch kit and something firmly planted to the ground, such as a tree or boulder.

These machines also differentiate themselves in one other way, they have the ability to add more storage space to their frame.  Storage can be found in the front, rear, and sides, but you can also add storage for things like helmets, guns and even additional passengers and pets.  Sport Utility ATVs are able to do this because they have larger frames, much larger engines and they weigh usually around twice as much as a Sport ATV so they can handle a lot more.

What To Wear When Riding Your ATV On Trails

If it’s your first time riding an ATV on the trails then you may be experiencing a sense of nervousness, you probably have cold, clammy hands and your imagination that something is going to go terribly wrong is eerily taking over the best of you.  When you get out there on your first try, you’re probably going to start off slow, you’ll take calculated and subtle turns and the throttle will be lightly used, but as you become more used to your 4 wheelers nuances and reactions, you’ll find yourself growing more and more aggressive with the throttle and taking sharper turns.

It happens to all riders and it’s natural, but because of that, it’s extremely important that you take precaution upfront and anticipate the worst.  To be blunt, I hate thinking morbidly like that, but you need to.  Driving at speeds of 30-40+ mph in open terrain with large trees, rocks, hills, cliffs and other ATV riders can be life threatening.  Not to over-exaggerate, but riders who don’t take their safety seriously wind up getting critically injured ALL THE TIME.  

Since I know that you’re serious about your health and safety, below is a list of safety gear to consider wearing when your riding you ATV.  Some of them are absolute “must haves” and others are “should haves”, depending on your risk tolerance level.  Either way, it is good for you to know the protective gear that is available to you.

ATV Helmet

dirty ATV helmetWithout a doubt, this is the very first piece of safety equipment you should purchase and it’s an absolute MUST HAVE!  In fact, you should never even jump on your quad (on or off) without it.  There are way too many serious head trauma motocross accidents every year that could have been prevented or greatly reduced if a helmet were worn.

Helmets are relatively cheap compared to the price of your quad and they are extremely comfortable and fashionable.  Not only that, but since taking videos of your 4 wheeling adventures is extremely popular, ATV helmets allow you to mount cameras onto them allowing you to capture some really cool moments.

Motocross Goggles

atv goggles in caseATV goggles are another piece of necessary safety equipment that needs to be purchased.  It’s far too easy to get dust, mud, rocks, tree branches and other debris in your eyes and when it does happen, you cannot afford a second or two to clean out your eyes.  That’s an easy way to cause an accident for yourself and others.

There are many on the market, and people have their preferences just as I, but knowing how to pick the right ATV goggles is worth doing some research.  Goggles have really come a long way in terms of keeping the bright sun out of your eyes while highlighting certain colors and shadows in the ground that help you stay centered on the trails.  Not to mention, they are extremely light weight, have solid ventilation, and allow great peripheral vision while riding.  For you runway divas, did I mention they come in several unique styles and colors to make your ride as fashionable as possible?

Boots

motocross atv bootsAvid riders would probably disagree with me on this but I wouldn’t say motocross boots are absolutely necessary for you to ride safely, but I would very strongly urge you to consider investing in a good pair of ATV boots

A good pair will not only keep your feet and ankles tight and well supported, but they will ride up through your shins and calves to protect them from very hot temperatures that are released from the engine and your exhaust pipe.  Years ago, boots were made for short term use and as soon as you were done with them, they would come right off.  I’m not saying that ATV boots should replace your everyday gym shoe, but in today’s boot market, you can find a good pair that will feel comfortable to walk in for long periods of time while still delivering the protection you need.

Gloves

dirty motocross gloves for atv ridingA good pair of ATV gloves are a strong “should have”, not because they can keep you from critical injury (though i guess indirectly they could) but because you’ll definitely regret it if you don’t.  

Have you ever tried swinging a big hammer for a long period of time without gloves?  Maybe digging a ditch without gloves? What happens if you don’t wear them?

Deep regret – that’s the answer!

Without even noticing, your hands are tightly gripping the handle bars like a vice and the faster you go, and the wilder you get, the stronger the grip becomes.  Before you know it, your hands have turned to mush.  Blisters take over and it’s an extremely uncomfortable experience.  To make matters worse, if you expected to ride again the next day, or anytime very soon, your ride will be miserable.  

You’ll also come to find out that the vibrations from the engine get absorbed through your hands and travel throughout your body and minimizing the absorption of those vibrations is in your best interest.

Having said that, the best ATV gloves for you will change depending on the time of year (or day) you’re riding.  Commonly, the two types of gloves you’ll encounter are warm weather and cold weather gloves.  Each has their unique set of characteristics but in my attempt to over-dumbify (is that a word) things, cold weather gloves should only be used in the cold and warm weather gloves should be used on warm days.  It’s extremely difficult to create one glove that has the proper ventilation for two different riding experiences.

Chest Protector

More often than not, you’ll find that 4 wheelers don’t wear chest protectors and that’s a question of risk tolerance more than anything.  This item is another one that is strongly urged but not a “must have” though they definitely have a strong place in protective gear, and good ones will have a lot to offer.

Chest protectors such as the Leatt 5.5 Pro provide 360 degrees of protection including rib cage protection and shoulder pads (similar to football shoulder pads).  This individual piece of protective gear usually comes into play when your ATV rolls over or flips backwards and lands directly on top of you.  As you can imagine, an 800 lb. machine landing directly on your chest can cause serious damage.

Neck Braces

A solid neck brace will absorb shock that is directly sent to your spine and disperse it throughout your body so that it’s impact isn’t concentrated in any particular area of your back.  Accidents directly focusing on your spine can be severely debilitating and cause permanent spinal damage.  Some neck braces can seamlessly attach to chest protectors providing complete protection to the upper torso and spinal column.

Inspecting Your ATV Before Jumping On

You should make it a good practice to always inspect your 4 wheeler before jumping on and going for a ride.  There are items that are detectable with the naked eye that could be on the verge of being popped, torn, ripped or snapped and it’s always better to spot these things in your garage than in the middle of the trail, miles away from your car.  Here are a few recommendations before leaving the house:

  • Do a complete walk around and thorough inspection to make sure there is nothing glaringly wrong or suspicious
  • Make sure to look under your 4 wheeler to confirm nothing is leaking and/or parts aren’t torn, broken or just dangling (bad)
  • Inspect the tires carefully to make sure they look good, not flat
    • You’ll need to get down low, maybe even on your knees, to look for excessive tread wear
    • Keep your eyes peeled for cracks and bubbles along the tread and on the side walls
    • Nails and other items that are lodged in the tire need to be addressed immediately, you can take it to your local tire replacement shop and they can patch a hole with very durable material and it’s very inexpensive
  • An obvious item that a lot of people overlook until they actually jump on their ATV and are ready to take off is checking the gas tank to make sure there is sufficient gas for the day.  It is always good practice to bring a couple of extra gas cans with you just in case.  As a recommendation, use the gas from the gas can to fill up your tank because gasoline does break down and has a relatively short life cycle
Where To Sit On an ATV (What Is The Proper Stance)?

how to ride an atv

So now that you’re sure your ATV is good to go, you’re anxious to take off! But what is the proper stance you should be taking on your 4 wheeler?  You obviously want to be well positioned to be as nimble and agile as possible to properly take turns and not be shaken when hitting a rock or hole.

Again, always make it a habit to put on your helmet before jumping on your quad, even if your ATV isn’t turned on. Take a seat directly in the center of the ATV in a position that feels comfortable to you and avoid sitting too close to the handle bars or too far from them.  If you’re seated too close to the handle bars then they will practically hit you in the rib cage when you are making an abrupt turn and is very dangerous if your center of gravity is off.  Being too far back on the seat is equally as dangerous because you won’t be able to reach the far handle bar when making a turn, both hands should always be in control of the handle bars or you can quickly find yourself losing control and thrown off your quad.

Sitting towards the rear of your ATV is also not a desirable position because your center of gravity will be thrown off.  When you sit at the back, you’re weight will be improperly distributed to the rear making it much easier to pop wheelies when you take off or suddenly give it gas.  You also shouldn’t be leaning towards one side or the other (with the exception of turns, but we’ll get to that later) since that will also throw off your center of gravity.

The point is, your should always position yourself in a way that you are balancing the center of gravity, whether you’re in motion or not.

How To Start Your ATV and Take Off

Similar to cars, not all ATVs will start exactly the same, some will have slightly more sophisticated ignition systems than others and some with have more basic ways of starting them.  If you drive a car with a manual transmission, you may have to engage the clutch, the process is similar with a manual ATV.  If you’re really confused about starting your ATV i’d recommend finding a good youtube video by searching “how to start a [insert your make and model number] ATV” or by simply reading the owners manual.  If you purchased a previously owned ATV that didn’t come with an owners manual, you can simply google “[your make and model number] ATV owners manual” and it’s sure to give you some solutions.  These two options will be your best bet. Assuming you don’t need them, or it’s simply too much work, these instructions will address most ATVs:

  1. The fuel switch should be on and the switch should be pointing in the same direction as the fuel line
  2. Make sure kill switch is off
  3. Most 4 wheelers come equipped with a safety switch so make sure both the parking and foot brakes are pressed
  4. Press the on switch and allow the vehicle to sit idle for a few minutes
  5. Put the gear in drive mode
  6. Slowly engage the throttle to move forward
  7. Note – many beginner atvs have a throttle control which governs the amount of gas the throttle gives out, this is a safety mechanism so that you can safely get adjusted to the 4 wheeler slowly
  8. For your first time around, make sure to drive on flat terrain and get used to the ATV’s handling and reaction to bumps and other landmarks

Stopping Your ATV

Stopping your ATV is intuitive and straightforward.  You’ll do it by pressing on the brakes gently until you come to a complete stop.  Once your 4 wheeler has stopped, place the gear in neutral and set the parking brake on.  Immediately remove the keys from the ignition and dismount from the ATV.

Words Of Caution While Riding

  • Always keep an eye out for blind spots – never take corners or jumps without knowing whats on the other side as doing so is extremely careless, reckless and dangerous if you happen to land on top of someone
  • Learn how hand signals work – hand signals are the same for group riding wether you’re on foot, horse, or any other motocross vehicle
  • if you’re riding as a group then stay as a group, don’t leave others when there is a fork in the road, it’s easy to get lost
  • prepare for the trail you’re about to ride – if you’re riding a state park, take a map, bring water and also an emergency kit

Basic ATV Riding Techniques

Proper Posture

This is key because you always want to be aware of your surroundings while riding, not only from a safety standpoint (though it’s extremely important) but being aware means having the agility to immediately react to certain situations and even anticipate them before they occur.  To put yourself in the best position available, your head and eyes should always be up, looking forward into the distance and always in control of your peripheral vision.

If your peripheral vision is compromised because of your helmet or goggles then your helmet is probably too big or your goggles are too small.  Your shoulders should also be relaxed and your elbows should be bent outward pointing away from your body as if you were riding a Harley.

Your hands should always remain on the handlebars at all times, it’s just too easy to lose control with only one hand steering the vehicle.  Your knees should also point inwards towards the gas tank and your feet should remain firm on the footrest (or preferably nerf bars) and toes pointed straight ahead.

Turning Basics

To reiterate, when riding your ATV, the goal should always be to maintain your center of gravity whether vertically or laterally.  If you are headed for a turn then you should shift your body position and weight into the turn.  The sharper the turn, the more you will need to throw your weight into it to maintain the center of gravity.  If you don’t balance out the weight, you will end up rolling your ATV in the opposite direction you intended to go in (remember Einsteins law – an object stays in motion with the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force).  Make sure to always be looking in the direction of your turn and if you feel that your ATV is beginning to tip, or the wheels are starting to take flight then that’s your signal that you need to slow down right away and shift more weight into the turn.

Climbing Hills

atv riding up hillOnce you’ve started to get a hang of basic turns and handling you’re going to want to naturally take on the next phase of riding which is climbing steep hills.  They may look like an easy obstacle to tackle but looks are sometimes deceiving.

When climbing a steep hill always use your common sense and don’t try and take on more than you can chew.  Even if you think you can climb the hill, you ATV may not have the necessary power, tires, clearance, etc to make it through.  Also, remember to never ride past your visibility and if you can’t see over the other side of the hill, then approach the crest slowly until you can.  Too many severe accidents are caused by assuming the rider knew what was on the other side when in fact they didn’t.

When attempting to ride up a steep hill, imagine what you body posture would look like as if you were walking up the hill.  How would you be positioned? If you walk up hills like I do, then you’d be leaning forward with your head positioned in front of your body’s center point of gravity.  You wouldn’t lean backwards as that would cause you to easily lose control and fall backwards.

The same concept holds true for riding ATVs.  When climbing a steep hill, make sure to sit close to the front, lean forward and keep your head’s center of gravity in front of the ATV’s center of gravity.  Do not lean backwards or you’ll find yourself off balance and rolling backwards will be extremely easy to do.

Shift the gear into a lower gear before you start ascending – this keeps the torque higher and gives you more power should you need it.  When you shift gears, do so quickly, if you’ve been riding with a lower gear then you really shouldn’t feel a jerk or skip and the transition should be smoother.

Descending Hills

atv riding down hillAgain, imagine yourself walking down a hill.  What does your posture look like? Instead of leaning forward when you climb a hill, you’d be leaning backwards trying to keep yourself from gaining too much speed and momentum that gravity can cause.

Make sure your head’s center is position behind your ATVs center of gravity and always sit towards the read of your quad.  If you shift your center of gravity towards the front of the ATV then you’ll have a higher chance of flipping over the handlebars. Use your brakes very often and never let gravity overcome your control of the quad.  

Years ago when I used to go do steep mountains on our Jeeps we would actually go down the right way, but our gears would be in reverse so that we would only rely on gravity to take us down, but we could control the speed by reversing.  I don’t know that that is always the best idea, but on a manual transmission quad, it could definitely help!

Handling Obstacles

Obstacles are what make riding ATVs so much fun, but when you see them, don’t go at them with full speed, go at them with skill and tact.  Remember, you’ve gotta be smarter than the log!

Stand up off your seat as you approach the obstacle and attempt to ride your ATV much like you would ride a horse (if you’ve never ridden a horse then you’ve probably seen a jockey ride one on TV).  Be nimble on your feet and have your knees act “spring like” as if your torso never moved up and down. The goal is to have your lower body absorb the impact much like the shocks do. Apply a small amount of throttle as your front tires clear the obstacle then do the same with the rear tires and be sure to let the back tires clear before you apply more throttle.

Riding A Manual Transmission ATV

If you have any experience driving a stick shift car then hopefully this will feel like second nature to you and you’ll find many similarities in driving a manual transmission ATV to driving a stick shift car.  If you don’t have any experience in either, your best bet will be to keep practicing. I promise, the more you keep practicing, the easier it will become. One day it’s just going to all make sense and everything will “click”, until then, practice and practice more often.

As i’ve mentioned before in other posts about riding manual transmission ATVs, the most important part of the transmission to master is the clutch.  The clutch is everything! If you don’t learn this, or try to fight it in any way, you’ll make your life so much more difficult and your riding experience much less enjoyable.

The clutch is a neutral setting of the transmission where you cannot stall the 4 wheeler, nor can you accelerate because there isn’t a gear that has been engaged.  It’s just neutral. But in order to start the ATV from rest, your clutch must be engaged and you’ll need to place the gear into 1st.

As a strong tip, don’t worry about giving your 4 wheeler too much gas, as long as you release the clutch very slowly, your 4 wheeler won’t stall nor will it jerk around.  You’ll notice that your starts are very smooth and fluid.

With the gear in first position and the clutch completely pressed in, give your ATV a generous amount of gas so that it almost sounds like you’re just revving the engine.  Don’t let go, keep the engine slightly revved. Begin slowly releasing the clutch and you’ll see that the ATV will inch forward. Be mindful of the way the engine sounds and feels, if you don’t hear it revving and you feel it trembling then you probably aren’t giving it enough gas as you’re releasing the clutch.

Continue practicing just that one step over and over.  As you become better at inching forward, you’ll reach the point where the clutch is completely released and the only thing left is to give it more gas to move faster.  If at any time you’re feeling uncomfortable or you simply want to stop, just squeeze the clutch again and press the brake till you come to a complete stop. Place the gear in neutral and you’re safe.

When you can consistently take off from a dead stop without stalling then you should practice catching more speed and changing to higher gears, eventually reaching the top gear.

I know i’ve over simplified this but you’ll soon see that by practicing frequently, you won’t even think about what to do or why you do it, you’ll just find yourself doing it!

How To Transport Your ATV To and From Your Destination

The time will soon come when you are ready to conquer other trails and you’ll need to transport your ATV responsibly and legally.  So, how do you do that? Well to begin with, you’ll want to make sure you have some tools available before you make attempts to manually load your ATV onto your truck or trailer (there are videos on youtube on how to do this but it is NOT recommended).

To begin with, you’ll want to make sure you have a solid loading ramp that can support the weight of your 4 wheeler and a couple of strong sets of ratchet straps to help tie down your quad to the truck bed or trailer.  Caution: it is irresponsible (and probably illegal) to load your ATV onto your truck and not tie it down securely.  Unexpected obstacles can appear suddenly while driving causing severe and dangerous accidents if your ATV were to fall out of your bed.

First thing you’ll want to do is find a level area where your ATV can be mounted, it is not recommended to load in an area where there is any type of grade to the land – incline or decline.  Once you’ve found a flat area, load the ramp onto the truck bed or trailer and secure the ramp using a couple of your ratchet straps. Make sure to secure the ramp to sturdy parts of the bed (preferably iron hooks or loops) as you don’t want anything to snap.  

Do Not Skip This Step – if you don’t secure the ramp to the bed, there is a strong chance that the ramp can slip from underneath you causing everything to collapse or the ATV to end up on top of you!

Now for the “tricky part”, you’re going to have to find a way to get your vehicle up the ramp.  It’s not that challenging to be honest, but you’ll want to go at it with a plan. Before jumping on your 4 wheeler, make sure to put on your helmet.  Again, you should get into the habit of doing this every time no matter the circumstance.

Slowly roll up to the ramp, place the gear in a low setting to take advantage of more torque at lower speeds then gently give it some gas.  You’ll want enough gas so that you can get up the ramp without excess speed and without the need to slam on the brakes once you reach the top.  If need be, take a few “practice runs” going a quarter of the way up the ramp then let gravity roll you back down. Then take a few going half way up and again letting gravity take you back down.  Once you get a feel for the amount of power you’ll need and the speed it takes to get half way up, it’ll be a better measure for what is required to softly get all the way up the ramp.

After you’ve made it all the way to the top and your ATV is not parked on your trailer bed, you’ll want to find four potential hooks or loops on the bed/trailer where the ATV can be tied to.  Take the ratchet straps and throw one end around the frame and the other end on the hook. Avoid the axles of the tire as you don’t want to compromise them at all. Now that you’ve done it once, find three other areas on the ATV where you can do the same so as to secure all corners of the 4 wheeler down tightly.

Finding The Right ATV For You – A Used ATV Buying Guide:

  • Just like anything else, there are brands in the ATV space that have proven their name over time for quality, longevity and overall user satisfaction.  My suggestion to you would be to narrow down your search to reputable brands such as Honda, Yamaha, Can-Am, etc. it’s not to say that these brands don’t ever go bad or that they don’t produce lemons, but it’s a great starting point when selecting brands.
  • if it’s a private sale and the vehicle hasn’t been washed, then be aware.  There is no need to run away from the sale, but just note that it could be because the seller is attempting to hide something or that the owner just didn’t care well for the vehicle
  • It’s important that you look for oil leaks either on the quad itself or on the ground directly underneath the 4 wheeler
  • See if you can find where the ATV sleeps at night, if it’s inside a garage that’s even better than always sitting out in the driveway
  • Make sure to look in the hard to reach areas of the quad, particularly between the frame and the skid plate as this is where you can find indicators such as beaver hay and swamp grass that could give clues to how the previous owner drove the ATV (and lacked caring for the ATV)
  • Sure an ATV is meant to be driven in outdoor terrain, but a good way to check how hard it’s been driven is by checking the winch.  Test the winch buttons but also make sure to extend the spool at least 15 feet. You’d be amazed at what the line can tell you it’s in your best interest to check if the wire is bent, frayed or even completely torn.  If it’s extremely dusty or if there is outdoor matter stuck in the spool, it’s a strong indicator that the ATV hasn’t been cared for properly.
  • Whether the ATV has a winch or not, go to the rear of the 4 wheeler and check out the half shafts and CV boots which are the pieces of rubber located near the tire.  Run your fingers on each of the CV boots for any leaking oil which is a bad sign. Oil on CV boots is a sign of guaranteed failure which will lead to down time and you coughing up some serious money.

Conclusion

I’m really hoping that this comprehensive beginners guide to ATV riding will help you understand the basics of getting out there and riding your 4 wheeler safely but aggressively.  This is an amazing pass time sport that allows you to enjoy nature with friends and family while being competitive.  If there is any take away you get from reading this post is that safety should always be at the top of your mind when doing any kind of moto cross activity.  Traveling at high speeds without a seatbelt can be dangerous, but again, that’s where safety equipment, maturity and experience come into play.

There is no substitute for first hand, out on the trails experience that a book, video or blog post can overshadow.  Like anything in life, you’ll learn so much more by actually getting out there and doing, vs reading or watching, plus it so much more fun.

Be safe, plan in advance, and most of all enjoy!

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