atv rider in the snow

10 Mistakes Newbie ATV Riders Make

So you’ve just purchased a new ATV and are pumped about getting out there and tearing up the trails, that’s great and you’ll definitely get your chance, but before you pull the trigger too quickly (or throttle for a better use of words) take a step back and make sure you’re prepped for an amazing experience.

ATV riding should always be about “safety first” and as long as you use proper gear and some common sense, you’re setting yourself up for a heart pumping ride.

Here are 10 mistakes that beginners often make that could easily have been avoided.

1) Slipping of Feet

atv nerf bars

Beginning ATV riders are quick to get the “I got this” attitude, which can cause a false sense of experience while riding. Slipping of the feet from the pegs can cause them to get caught in the back tire resulting in serious injury.

But there’s a good solution to this. Nerf bars.

Nerf bars are large foot pegs that have both bars and nets on them and secure your feet in place to prevent slipping and rolling. They come in very handy when you experience high impact landings and also protect against brush-ups when other ATVs bump into you.

I found my nerf bars at amazon and I had them to include heel guards as well.

2) Rolling over (wheelie)

Not to scare you at all, but it’s actually relatively easy to do. When you aren’t familiar with the power of your ATV it’s easy to give more throttle than is needed. Next thing you know, you are sandwiched between the ground and your ATV.

What happened?

You over-throttled causing the front of your ATV to stand up like a kicking stallion. The rear wheels kept going from underneath you as if they had a mind of their own and physics caused the front to do a 180 degree flip.

Luckily you had your protective gear on (phew)!

But rolling over doesn’t just happen when starting from a dead stop.

During wet or slippery riding conditions the ground can be slick or muddy. The ATV can slow down when you hit a slow patch but then, all of a sudden, the wheels catch traction causing the ATV to jerk forward taking you along with it.

Another common way of rolling over is underestimating gravity.

Taking a little flight off a little hill can be exhilarating and will give you a good dose of heart pumping, but start slow and don’t try to take on too much hill. This is an extremely easy way to land improperly and roll off the front or side of the bike. Don’t ever take on too much speed, especially when you don’t know what’s on the other side of that hill.

3) False sense of security (need equipment/gear)

atv helmets

Even professional riders start at the bottom. They too had to take the time to understand the basics of riding and learn to appreciate the power of the ATV and the potential dangers that come with riding one.

If you think that wearing torn jeans, a t-shirt and tennis shoes is enough protective gear to ride a 450lb four wheeler going 40mph without a seatbelt, then you’re too much of an Evil Knievel for me!

If you want to make it back home in one piece then you should always wear the following protective gear – no exceptions!


Protect your head from any accidents with other ATVs, rolling over, or accidents with trees. I have the LS2 Helmet that comes with a sunshield and it stays well ventilated. You can find it on Amazon here and it comes in different colors and sizes.


Dirt and debris are guaranteed to hit your face, especially under wet conditions. Protect your eyes from the elements as well as from the sun glaring into your eyes. Goggles are an inexpensive piece of gear that should be worn every time you ride.


There are many important reasons you should wear gloves, not only do they protect your hands from debris that gets kicked up, but it also protects them from elements falling down, like branches and other bushes. It also minimizes the vibrations that get transferred to you from the engine and will prevent you from getting painful blisters and calluses from gripping the handle bars too firmly.

Riding boots

Although easily overlooked, riding boots will make your ride more enjoyable. Not only do they provide shock protection and more ankle support for you to ride better, but they snug up higher towards the knee to prevent a leg burn from the heat that gets emitted from the engine

Chest protector

Upper body armor, like a chest protector, is one of those pieces of equipment you will hopefully never use, but if you do, you are forever grateful that you were wearing one. A chest protector will keep your upper torso from getting crushed or punctured. This can happen if another ATV lands on top of you, if you are thrown off your four wheeler and land on a large rock or if you accidentally run into a tree.

Neck brace

A good neck brace is able to offload some of the force that is directly sent to your head and neck area and disperse it throughout a larger surface area of the body. This creates less of an impact and stress to your spinal column, which is such a delicate area.

Knee brace

They are extremely comfortable to wear when you find a model that fits correctly and is very snug and tight when fastened. They stabilize the knee from rotating incorrectly and allow the proper amount of movement without being overly constrictive.

4) Throttle control

Almost all beginners think they are much more advanced than they really are. They turn on their four wheeler, slowly release the parking break, give it a little juice, take the obligatory practice turns, they practice starting and stopping a few times and then end up back at home plate thinking they’ve graduated to intermediate level.

Sadly, that’s not enough.

Just like driving a car, driving an all terrain vehicle requires taking class. You’ll pick up nearly everything you’ll know through on the track experience, but start slow.

Many inexperienced riders have ended up hurt from a roll over, or worse, running into a tree.

Many vehicles come equipped with an automatic clutch, which takes your mind off of having to do one more thing. Become familiar with the basics (and your particular ATV) by taking formal classes and only advancing in risk level when you have dominated the previous level.

5) Loading ATV into truck

This may sound easy peezy but I promise, when you’re new to riding, it’s not. Make sure your heavy duty loading ramps are securely in place. I like the Titan 10’ Long Aluminum ramps and they can be found on amazon here.

Strap on your helmet and place the gear in a low setting, this will increase the torque and help to minimize accidental jerking. Slowly drive up to the ramp making sure that the wheels are aligned with the ramp.

Gently give the quad some gas while maintaining your hand on the break. Be consistent about the gas while being modest at the same time. Once the rear bumper of the quad has cleared the door latch, place the ATV in park and turn it off.

Here is a great example of how to load an ATV into your truck

6) Too much too soon

This one ties back in with number three but it’s an important one. I’m relatively new to the ATV off-roading world. I wasn’t brought up with four wheelers and I started off riding later in life.

But I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker.

I’m quick to think I’ve advanced to the next level when I really haven’t, and I know I’m not the only one. You want to be off-roading for some time to come so take your time and don’t rush into things! Getting hurt isn’t fun and not being able to get out on the trails is probably even more painful.

7) Check Tire Pressure
atv tire

Off Road tire

Just like you check your car tire pressure before taking on long road trips, it’s good practice to check your ATV’s tire pressure before you get out on the trails. Having one (or more) tires under inflated or over inflated is dangerous.

What’s even more dangerous is having a tire blow out while you’re a ways away from camp, or your truck.

Instead of pushing a 400lb ATV with a flat tire for miles, make sure to always carry a flat tire repair kit. They are compact in size and can literally be a life-saver. You can invest in a simple tire repair kit from Amazon here.

8) Secure the handgrips

You wouldn’t think so but hand grips can come undone and you can quickly find yourself without them if they aren’t securely in place.

But there’s a simple fix.

Safety wire.

And you can easily find it at any hardware store or big box home improvement store.

It’s easy. Take a strip of safety wire and loop it around the handle. Some handles actually have groves in them that were made for safety wire to be tied around it.

atv handle grips

As both ends are touching each other, twist them with your hands until it gets difficult to continue twisting. Then take a pair of pliers and twist them in place until they are securely fastened.

Don’t twist them too hard because with time they can cut through the grips, but don’t fasten them too loose because they won’t do the job.

Once you’ve got it just right, snip off the base with wire cutters where the wire has been twisted. Get as close to the base as possible since you don’t want any twisted wire to be sticking out.

If you still have a little piece poking out you can take a screwdriver and press it flat against the handle bar which should do the trick.

You’ll be wearing gloves while riding so you should never get cut from the wire anyway.

9) Proper Ride Position

You should have learned this in the training class you took (and it’s quite obvious), but always look forward and keep both hands a feet on the handle bars and nerf bars.

Removing one hand or foot off the ATV while riding could cause you to loose control and roll over.

Your center of gravity should remain as low as possible to the ground with your body positioned in the center of the seat.

You never want to sit towards the very front on the four-wheeler because that’s an easy way to eat the handle bars (not literally but I guess it’s possible) and you want to avoid sitting at the back end as it can cause you to unintentionally wheelie. Also, remember to shift your body into a turn to prevent a side roll

10) Get to know your quad

This could very well be the most important tip. Always trust your gut instinct and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Not only does this mean you should get to know the strength and handling ability of your all terrain vehicle, but you should also get to know when something is not right.

If you want to know if something is not right, take the time to read the owners manual. I know, I get it. Who wants to read a boring owners manual?

I’m not asking you to memorize it, but knowing the basics of how to operate it will keep you from looking like a newbie when you’re out on the trails. You should also understand its maintenance schedule as well as the features it carries.

If you want to keep the manual underneath the seat, I’d suggest keeping it in a plastic bag to prevent it from getting wet.

I know it can seem daunting with all the precautions you should be taking, but safety should always be your biggest goal when riding your quad. If you take care of the safety issues upfront, you’re setting yourself up for many great times to be had on the trails.

Tear it up (safely)!