Looking for a fun and existing outdoor adventure? Look no further than ATV trail riding! But before you hit the trails, it’s important to know some essential tips to keep you safe and make the most out of your ride.
Basic Safety Tips for ATV Trail Riding
- Take an ATV safety class or ask for guidance from an experienced rider.
- Always wear your safety gear.
- Never ride alone.
- Never ride with a passenger on a 1-up model.
- Never ride while intoxicated by alcohol, drugs, or medications.
- Don’t show off; that’s when most ATV accidents happen.
- Avoid riding on public roads.
- Ride according to your skill level.
- Understand hazards and how to manage them. ATVs are fun to ride but not a toy.
Things to Bring On Your ATV Trail Ride
When you’re out on the trail, you typically don’t need a lot of gear to manage. However, it’s a good idea to bring a few extra items besides the essentials so that you’re prepared if or when things don’t go as planned.
If you’re on a race quad, wear a backpack to bring your gear, but if you ride a recreational ATV, it might have sufficient space for the gear in various storage compartments.
Basic Riding Gear
Wearing the recommended ATV riding gear is essential to maintain rider safety out on the trail. However, as you’ll learn, wearing proper gear is just as crucial in remaining comfortable.
Flying rocks, sticks, dirt, rain, bugs, and other debris quickly become tiresome when riding fully exposed.
So while putting on the riding gear might seem like a burden the first few times, it soon becomes second nature.
- Helmet. Always wear a helmet that is suitable for ATV riding. The helmet should have a chin guard and meet or exceed the minimum safety standards. Bicycle helmets or other helmets without a ching guard are not sufficient.
- Eye protection. Always wear shatterproof goggles or a helmet face shield. Sunglasses or other glasses are not sufficient.
- Gloves. Off-road-style gloves with knuckle pads and good grip are recommended.
- Boots. Wear sturdy, over-the-ankle boots with low heels. Dedicated MX boots or motorcycle boots offer the best protection.
- Clothing. Wear long sleeves and long pants to protect your arms and legs. Wear riding pants with knee and hip protection and motocross body armor with shoulder pads and back protection for the best protection.
Food & Water
ATV riding burns more calories than you might think, and if things don’t go as planned, your quick 1-2 hour ride may turn into a full-day endeavor.
That is why you should never go ATV trail riding without bringing plenty of water and some extra food & snacks.
Most of the time, the tool kit that came with the ATV will get you a long way in performing emergency field repairs; just ensure the kit is still there and has all the tools.
Sometimes adding a few items like a lug nut wrench, duct tape, a couple of zip ties, and a multi-tool can be helpful. Also, ensure you bring a spare spark plug and spare fuses.
Tire Patch Kit & Bicycle Pump
Getting a tire puncture out on the trail and potentially miles from the nearest tire shop is not fun, but you can fix a flat immediately with a few items.
I recommend getting a string plug patch kit, which allows you to seal the puncture without removing the tire from the rim. A standard bicycle pump with the proper nozzle should be sufficient to bring the tire up to the recommended pressure, typically around 5 to 8 PSI.
If your ATV doesn’t have a winch, you’d be amazed at how much you can do with a basic tie-down strap in a recovery situation. It won’t be as fast, but you might be able to vet your ATV out of the mud inch by inch.
The strap doubles as a towing rope if one of you blow a drive belt or encounter engine problems.
First Aid Kit
You never feel as helpless as when you encounter an injury far away from the nearest help and have nothing to help you. Always bring a basic first aid kit in your ATV, and sign up for a first aid class as a potential life-saving investment in yourself.
You might plan to get back home before dark, but if your ATV breaks down, you get lost, or you have to perform an emergency field repair in the dark, you’ll thank yourself for bringing a flashlight with a fully charged battery.
Bringing an extra layer of clothing is always a good idea, particularly if you expect bad weather or in the wall where the nights get colder.
GPS or Map and Compass
At least one in your group should bring a map and compass (and know how to use it) or a GPS if you suddenly find yourself outside the marked trails.
Perform a Pre-ride Inspection
To reduce the risk of breakdowns on the trails, ensure the ATV is appropriately maintained and always perform a pre-ride inspection before you go.
I recommend learning the T-CLOC procedure:
- T: Tires and Wheels
- C: Controls
- L: Lights and Electrical
- O: Oil and fluids
- C: Chassis and drivetrain
Please check out this guide for more information on how to do a pre-ride inspection on your ATV.
Ride Within Your Skill Level
As a beginner, practicing basic safe riding techniques is essential to avoid accidents.
- Avoid sharp turns at excessive speeds.
- Don’t drive on hills steeper than 15º incline.
- When driving up or down hills
- Drive straight up or down and not at an angle.
- Choose a lower gear and maintain a steady pace.
- Never accelerate when driving up a hill to avoid a backflip.
- Don’t turn on a hill.
- When facing an obstacle outside your comfort level, look for an alternative path.
Don’t Go Too Far Alone
New riders tend to underestimate how far into the woods an ATV can take you in just a short amount of time.
Let’s say you ride for just one hour at an average speed of 25mph, and then you run out of fuel due to a fuel leak. With an average walking speed of 2.5mph, you now face a 10-hour hike back home.
Going in groups significantly reduces the risk of getting into trouble due to a mechanical problem or an accident.
Get Familiar With the Trail Before You Go
Talking to someone who knows the trail before you go to learn about the trail’s condition and potential rough spots or obstacles that could cause you problems can be worthwhile.
Many trails are not built to fit ATVs wider than 50 inches and cannot accommodate larger UTVs or some ATVs with oversized wheels.
Ideally, when riding a new trail, you should go with someone familiar with the area and have previously ridden the trail.
Choose Trails That Suit Your Skill Level
There are many types of trails with difficulty levels ranging from easy to extremely challenging. Before you go, ensure your chosen route fits your skill level and personal preferences.
Some riders want more excitement and don’t mind mud and technical challenges, while others prefer a smooth and safe route with scenic views for the family to enjoy.
Ask to Go With an Experienced Rider
If you want a shortcut to a safe, fun, and exciting trail ride, you should ask if someone more experienced can accompany you.
An experienced rider that knows the area has a lot to teach about proper riding techniques and can keep you out of situations not suited for a beginner.
Going with someone with local knowledge reduces the risk of getting lost or unwillingly riding into an area where you are not welcome.
Follow Local Trail Rules and Regulations
Before you head out, you should know the local rules and regulations. ATV laws vary by location, and when riding in an unfamiliar place, they might have regulations that catch you off guard.
- You can ride on public roads in some places, while it will leave you with a fine in others.
- In some areas, children below 16 can legally ride ATVs, whereas, in other places, they cannot.
- In some places, helmets are mandatory; in others, it’s up to the rider. Wearing a helmet is always smart tho.
- Some areas require that your ATV is registered for its specific use.
- In many places, you’ll need permission to ride on private land.
- In some places, all reading outside the trail is illegal.
As you can see, it’s easy to mess up if you don’t know the local rules. So do your research in advance, and your wallet and stress levels will thank you.
Take Frequent Brakes
As we get tired and our energy levels drop, we become less alert and tend to stray from proper riding techniques. The solution is to take short breaks for a sip of water and a snack to charge your batteries.
This help ensures you stay safe but also makes for a more enjoyable ride and ensure you can ride for longer without experiencing rider fatigue.
Tips to Keep ATV Trails Open
ATV trails are at constant risk of getting closed due to noise complaints, reckless driving, wildlife concerns, and countless other reasons.
To ensure as many trails as possible stays open and to give new trails a better chance at being opened, everyone must do their part to reduce the negative impacts of ATV riding on those around us.
- Stary within the established bounds of the trail.
- Follow trail rules and all posted signs.
- Follow ATV trail etiquette.
- Slow down if you encounter a hiker, parked vehicles, or animals.
- Avoid careless riding.
- Please don’t leave your trash behind; leave the trail in no worse condition than you found it.
Dont Ride in Closed-off Areas
Ensure the trail is open for ATV riding and not closed off private land.
Other areas are closed for parts of the year due to hunting or wildlife concerns.
Not only does riding in closed-off areas ruin things for everyone else, but having to explain yourself to the local authority or an angry landowner for trespassing is something to avoid.
Keep Focus and Remain Vigilant
While established trails provide a safe and somewhat predictable route, it’s not like driving down the highway.
One of the essential parts of staying safe out on the trail is staying focused and keeping your eyes up to plan and look ahead.
Take Extra Care in Unfamiliar Terrain
When on new and unfamiliar trails is advised to ride more conservatively so that sharp turns, bumps, ruts, rocks, animals, hikers, or other ATVs won’t catch you by surprise.