Planning A Great Day Ride

Other, Utility ATV — on August 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Riding off-road is an escape from the norm for ATV enthusiasts. It’s their chance to explore nature and put a smile on their face. However, that smile could be replaced with a frown and supporting expletives if a rider takes his sport and machine for granted.

Whether it’s a trip through the mountains, a drive in the desert or a slow cruise in the forest, a successful day ride on an ATV requires advanced planning. Here’s a list of things to do before you go on an ATV adventure.

day tripATV Inspection
The first step for taking a day ride on your quad is to examine it closely and do the routine maintenance. Create a maintenance checklist and go from there. Take it in for a tune up or inspect it yourself. Replace worn parts and consult your owner’s manual (or see your local dealer) for proper maintenance tips.

The Quick Check List
• Fluid (oil/gas/coolant)
• Nuts (be sure they’re tight)
• Cables (brakes and throttle)
• Lights (be sure they work)
• Air filter (clean vs. dirty)
• Tires (condition and air pressure)

Safety and Repair Kit
Now that your ATV has been thoroughly inspected, make sure you have a good first-aid kit and emergency repair kit. The emergency kit will consist of special tools to help you fix your ATV or at least limp it home. Some are take-along tools and others can remain in your trailer or tow rig.

Where to Ride
Exploring new riding areas is always fun, but blazing down a familiar stretch of tacky black dirt feels rewarding. While Hawaii has its perks — and ATV trails — many quad riders would be just as happy pounding the soil in Kansas. When choosing a riding area, be sure to pick something that best suits your skill level and one your ATV can handle. For example, you wouldn’t go to a motocross track on a utility quad.

Depending on where they live, ATV owners must select a riding destination and then trailer their machine to that locale. That means the trailer daytrip1has to be operational as well.
Destination Tips

> It’s a day ride, not a weekend getaway. Pick a trail that’s relatively close so you can spend most of your time riding not driving. If you’ve got a three-day weekend or more to burn, be more adventurous and check out new terrain.

> Check for multi-use trail designation (hiking, biking, equestrian) and follow trail etiquette. Don’t zip past the horseback riders. Instead, pull to the side of the trail, turn off the quad and remove your helmet. Talk to your fellow trail users and then move on when it’s OK to do so.

> Study the trail maps for difficulty ratings and distance.

Riding Season
Due to their versatility, ATVs can be used daily for a variety of chores and for recreational play all year long. However, not all states have riding areas open year-round. Before you ride on any public trail (federal or state-operated land), you must first research the trail you plan to ride and the state’s ATV legislation. Even if a trail is open from April to November, it could be temporarily closed due to weather and trail conditions. Never assume a trail is open before checking with the park owners or trail system. Also, checking the weather report can prevent you from having a cold, miserable day on the ATV.

daytrip2Riding Party
You should never ride alone. Trip preparation should be treated in a similar fashion. Give your family or friends advanced notice so they can help you prepare for the trip. Whether it’s checking trail fees, OHV registrations, bringing supplies or helping with maintenance, more assistance should mean less stress for you. Also determine which of your riding friends can best handle the conditions and terrain at the park you’ve selected. Follow the age restrictions on the machines to ensure the safety of all riders.

Everyone in your party should know who to contact in case of an emergency. Your group should also set a time and a rendezvous point in case you get separated during the ride. And give each person a map of the area so they won’t get lost or take a trail that is too difficult for them to ride.

Another way to find riding partners is to join or start a club. For more info on ATV clubs, visit the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s website ( to read “How To Form A Club.” Or join local riding clubs or state associations in your area.

Stay On The Trail
When you ride, you must stay on all designated ATV trails. Although another way through the woods might look fun, if it’s not marked as a legal trail, stay out and stay on the trail! Even if you do remain on the trail, you should ride smart. Tread Lightly!, a nonprofit organization, says its mission is to “proactively protect recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors through education and stewardship initiatives.” It has a list of tips on its website ( for riding your ATV responsibly.

Riding Gear
We’re firm believers in riding with a helmet who just can’t envision our heads being the center of a rock/ATV sandwich. You need to wear gear for the type of riding you’ll be doing. If you’re riding motocross, then dress for it. And also dress for the weather, which could mean layers, waterproof gear or both.
Mandatory Gear
> Helmet
> Over-the-ankle boots
> Gloves
> Goggles
> Long pants
> Long-sleeved T-shirt For Motocross and Race tracks
> Chest protector
> Motocross boots
> Knee pads or braces
> Neck protection
> Hydration pack (endurance racing)

ATV Gear
You remembered to pack your gear, but don’t forget to pack your quad’s clothes. OK, so they don’t wear clothes, but cargo boxes and bags could be considered ATV clothing. Depending on what supplies you take with you on the trail ride, adding more cargo space is always a good idea. Fender bags are great for holding cell phones, snacks and water. Sport quad riders can even add a rack or fuel tank bag if need be.

Another ATV item you should also consider is a United States Forest Service (USFS) approved spark arrestor, if your machine didn’t come with one as standard equipment. And always leave your competition exhaust at home. Loud pipes don’t save lives, instead they tarnish an ATV’s image and end up closing our trails and public riding areas. Check with the riding area to see what decibel level restrictions it has in place. For example, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area has a 93 dB limit, so your 96 dB exhaust would be illegal to operate.

Have Fun But Don’t Push It
Once you’ve planned the ride and finally arrive, don’t forget to watch your stamina level, the time and your machine’s condition. Remember to check its fuel levels, especially if you’re not bringing any extra fuel. Check your own fluids as well — stay hydrated and rest when you need to.

Also, if you use up all your energy and tire yourself out on the trail, your drive home could be more difficult. In the end, it’s about the off-road experience and having safe, responsible fun.

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    1 Comment

  • ice4safety says:

    Sounds very responsible and very informative…..maybe joining efforts at promoting ATV safety and preparedness might be in order….

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