An ATV is not a toy and can be hazardous to operate. ATV’s handle differently from other vehicles, including motorcycles and cars. Here at Wild West Motorsports, we want our customers to enjoy many safe years riding the recreational vehicles they purchase from us. Below you will find a wealth of information that you should get familiar with – it may save you! In addition to what is found here, we have safety manuals available at the dealership and would encourage you to read them and share the information with your children if they ride.
Never ride an ATV without the appropriate gear. Most importantly, you should wear an approved motorcycle helmet. Full-face helmets offer the most protection, while open-face helmets should be used with mouth protection. All helmets should be used with eye protection. Regular sunglasses do not provide the proper protection – a face shield or goggles are required. Strong, over-the-ankle boots are the recommended footwear. Off-road boots protect your lower legs in addition to your feet and ankles. You will also need gloves – the best type being those that are padded over the knuckles. Always wear long pants when riding; the off-road type has knee pads. Finally, it is best to wear a long-sleeved shirt or an off-road style jersey that features chest and shoulder protectors.
To minimize your chance of being hurt or stranded, it is important that you check the mechanical stability of your ATV. Check your tires for air pressure and your wheels for stability. Check all of your controls. Be sure the throttle and other cables operate properly. Be certain that the brakes are in excellent condition – they are essential to your safety. Be aware of the type of braking system your ATV has; most have front and rear brakes while some have linked brakes and each of these operates differently. Check the positioning of the foot shifter. Be sure that the ignition switch, engine stop switch, and lights are all functioning. Ensure adequate oil and fuel levels and check for leaks. Inspect your chain or driveshaft for adequate lubrication. Remember, also, that rough terrain will loosen nuts and bolts so check these habitually. Finally, be sure to carry a tool kit and a strong tow rope on every ride.
- Reading the Terrain You Are Going to Ride Is Essential – First and foremost be aware of the fact that you should not ride your ATV on paved surfaces. This can seriously affect handling and control. You should also avoid public roads unless it is absolutely necessary to cross a road or highway. If you must do this, be certain to come to a complete stop on the shoulder of the road, yield the right of way to all other traffic, cross at a 90 angle and always assume that drivers do not see you, since most are looking for other cars, not ATVs. When riding in the appropriate places you must learn to read the trails. Expert riders look well ahead and are prepared for what is ahead. Your speed should be based on your observations, not your best guess.
- Various Riding Conditions Require Specific Measures – When riding sand dunes, use an antenna flag, be prepared for changing sand, avoid wet sand and vegetation, and watch for slip faces and razorbacks. Also remember that when the sun is overhead, there is a lack of shadows which can make it difficult to see hazards. When riding through mud and water avoid crossing at areas where you might damage streambeds, cause erosion or damage fish spawning grounds. When crossing water, be aware that footrests will become slippery, and brake systems might be affected. Immediately test your brakes upon leaving the water. Be certain that the water level is not too deep and be prepared to shift your weight in any direction to maintain balance. Watch out for submerged obstacles.
- The Effects of Drugs, Alcohol, and Fatigue Are Serious Considerations When Riding ATVs – Riding ATVs can be more demanding than driving a car and you must be in good physical and mental condition to ride safely. Thirty percent of all ATV riders killed in ATV accidents had been drinking, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In addition, both prescription and illegal drugs present potentially fatal risks when used while operating an ATV. It is safest and smartest to NOT operate your ATV unless your system is clean and your mind is clear! Due to the fact that riding an ATV is more tiring than driving a car, you must always gauge yourself for fatigue. You should protect yourself from the elements (i.e. wind, cold, rain, and heat) as these will tire you quickly. Additionally, limit your distance and riding times. No one should go more than one hour without pulling over, stopping, getting off the ATV, and walking around.
- When Riding, It Is Imperative to Respect the Area Where You Ride and the People and Animals Who Share That Space – Avoid streams, lake shores, meadows, muddy trails, and steep hillsides that are easily scared by spinning wheels. Avoid wildlife and livestock and their natural homes. Avoid running over young trees, shrubs, and grasses. You will damage or kill them. Work to protect the environment and be aware that you can seriously damage it with your vehicle. Be courteous when you meet others on the trail. Pull to the side and yield to hikers and horseback riders. Shut off your engine around horses that may be skittish around loud noises. Also, make sure to educate yourself about the designated areas for riding. Resist the urge to blaze a new trail or cut across switchbacks. Respect the rights of landowners and obey gates and signs. Stay out of designated wilderness areas that are closed to all vehicles. There are dozens of beautiful Colorado trails to explore.
ATVs are rider-active vehicles and it is very important that you are aware of the effects your body posture has on your ride.
Always keep both hands on the handlebars and both feet on the footrests, otherwise, your balance and control can be drastically affected. Your knees should be in toward the gas tank.
When turning, it is important that you move your body weight forward to the inside of the turn and look in the direction of the turn. Climbing hills is tricky and it is imperative to understand that your weight needs to be shifted uphill at all times. Your ATV should be in a lower gear and you must be sure to achieve your desired speed before you start your ascent so that you do not lose momentum. As you go up the hill, move up on the seat and lean forward or stand and position your torso of the front wheels. Should you lose your momentum, keep your weight forward, apply your parking brake and dismount the vehicle. Never allow the ATV to roll backward. If it starts to roll back, don’t apply the rear brake abruptly as this could cause the ATV to roll over backward. Conversely, when you are facing downhill, your weight should be shifted to the rear, in addition to using a lower gear and gradual braking. When traversing a slope your body should lean uphill. If your ATV begins to tip, turn the front wheels downhill if the terrain allows. If this isn’t possible, dismount on the uphill side immediately. Avoid making sudden throttle changes.
We urge all riders to take an ATV operator course approved by the ATV Safety Institute (ASI). For information about the ASI training course nearest you, call the national toll-free number: (800) 887-2887.