6 ATV Riding Tips for Beginners
When it comes to ATVs, looks can be deceiving. While those four wheels evoke a sense of confidence, ATVs can pack a punch of dirt bike-style adrenaline. It’s a unique riding experience that requires plenty of practice time to perfect. Here are some ATV safety tips and riding advice for beginners to make 4-wheeling fun.
Make sure you have solid footing. As a new rider, you’ll have enough to think about without worrying about what to do with your feet. With Nerf bars and heel guards, you’ll get the stability you need. Nerf bars are like giant foot pegs that allow you to keep your feet planted during your ride. Heel guards keep your feet where you want them, giving you more control while riding.
Easy on the gas. The accelerator on an ATV is actually a thumb throttle that you press. Getting the feel of the throttle is important for new riders to help build confidence. Go slowly at first. Giving it too much gas can cause the front of the machine to pop up. Practice easing onto the throttle and you’ll find the delicate balance that will keep you riding safe and stable.
Wear protective clothing. As a new rider, you should invest in all the necessary protective clothing and gear you need. Make sure you have a protective jacket, boots that go above your ankle, a helmet, goggles and gloves. When you graduate to more challenging terrain, add a chest protector and knee/shin guards for further protection.
Practice changing gears. If anyone ever taught you how to drive a stick shift, they probably took you to a parking lot or a field and you practiced working the clutch and shifting gears over and over until you felt confident. This same lesson should apply to new ATV riders. Get on the dirt and practice, and when you’ve accomplished smooth, intuitive shifting, you’re ready to join the group for some trail riding.
Work on your riding position. While an ATV has handlebars like a dirt bike, steering an ATV is different. You’ll still use your body to help distribute the weight, but while you’d lean into a curve on a dirt bike, on an ATV you lean to the opposite side of momentum. So, if you're turning right you'll feel pushed to the left and you'll want to lean right.
When you’re on a flat trail enjoying the sights, go ahead and sit down. But if you're picking up speed on a livelier track you’ll need to stand up. It's easier, gives you great visibility and will end up making you a better rider. Hover just above the seat, with your elbows out and knees bent.
Remember that you’re riding on terrain that can have unexpected bumps and dips. Avoid locking your elbows, and keep your knees loose to absorb the movement along the way.
Make your controls second nature. Over time, your ATV’s controls will become second nature. But in the beginning, they’re easy to confuse. So, practice with all your controls. The clutch lever is on the left side of the handlebars, and the brake lever is on the right. Get in the habit of grabbing the handlebars and draping your fingers over these levers every time you sit down.
Becoming a skilled rider and feeling confident comes with time. Your most important challenge as a beginner is learning to shift and work the brake and thumb throttle. Just suit up and practice on various terrains, and as you slowly increase your speed, your coordination and riding will improve, and you’ll experience real 4-wheeling fun.