Riding an ATV is a great way to start in powersports and experience the thrill of blazing down a trail or ripping a track while feeling supported on four-wheels.
But don't be fooled, it's easy to underestimate the power and response of a quad and whether you're starting out on a 2-stroke or 4-stroke ATV take the same ginger steps you would when getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time and heed some advice.
Not exactly a "technique" but an ATV is a recreational vehicle so wear the appropriate gear. That means boots, gloves, helmet and goggles. It won't take too long to find your bearings so pushing the envelope comes naturally and you'll want to be ready.
Watch Your Feet
Don't let your feet hang to the side. Step on the foot pegs but most preferably use nerf bars and heel guards. It feels natural to let your feet dangle free but it's easy to get them caught on the spinning back tires. You won't find much viable traction on the pegs which is why most ATV owners install the nerf bars, especially those who race.
Forget about wheelies for now. For whatever reason the beginner ATV rider wants to perform a wheelie which almost always results in disaster. OK, so like the underage college student who drinks, we know eventually you'll test the limits. So, don't stand on the seat or grab bar when attempting this maneuver. Otherwise expect to land flat on your back and possibly underneath your quad.
Practice the Clutch and Shifting
Just like you practiced the stick shift in a car (assuming you learned to drive a manual transmission) practice using the clutch and shifting before taking it to the next level. A smooth ride equals an enjoyable ride so figuring out how to effectively change gears means coming back for more.
Practice the Brakes
Most people generally equate ATV riding with a fast, exhilarating experience. It's all true. But in order to go faster you have to go slower. Learn how to use the brakes and incorporate them into traction control and cornering. And of course, how to stop.
Ready the Levers
You have a clutch lever on the left side of the handlebars and a brake lever on the right side. Keep one or two fingers around them ready to press at a given moment.
If you ride dirt bikes or a bicycle you'll notice the handlebars resemble what's installed on an ATV. But the steering is completely different. On 2-wheels you lean over for cornering on an ATV it's more like a car but of course you need to compensate for the size to prevent the quad from tipping. Hard cornering requires you to lean on the opposite side of momentum. So if you're turning right you'll feel pushed to the left so you'll want to lean right. ATV motocross riders practically hang off the side of their machine when making sharp turns.
If you're in for a lazy stroll down a trail then enjoy the moment and take a seat. But if you're tackling a track or having high-speed fun along a trail you need to stand-up. It's easier, reduces fatigue and makes for a better ride. Hover just above the seat, with your elbows out and knees bent. This is called the "attack position" and allows the ATV to move freely underneath you. Giving up some control to your quad is an important part to riding.
Don't Lock Your Elbows
Don't ever lock your elbows. It gives you less control and really hurts when hitting a bump or other obstacle.
The gas pedal on an ATV is actually a thumb throttle that you press. Push in move forward, release and cut off the fuel supply. When using for the first time, press in slowly! It's easy to jump aboard and jamb your thumb into the lever to start the action. But just like all those YouTube videos of beginners on a dirt bike who roll the throttle to hilarious and sometimes injurious results, the same applies to an ATV.
Some of these riding techniques take time getting used to and remembering. Develop a habit of grabbing the handlebars and draping your fingers over the clutch and brake levers, every time. Then start slow and build your comfort level by increasing speed and terrain complexity while shifting and working the brake and thumb throttle. Ride with an experienced friend or family member who can coach from behind.
Need more? Check out these other ATV related articles:
- 5 Mistakes ATV Beginners Make
- A Beginner's Guide To ATV Racing
- 10 Quick Safety Tips for ATV Trail Riding
Written By: AndrewT