A Practical Guide For The All-Terrain Rider

There’s nothing like suiting up on a good day (or bad, if you like that) and riding around a field, forest, beach, or any open piece of land on an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). The feel of the powerful engine, the pressure of the wind pushing against you, and that all round feeling of freedom is something that is hard to replicate with other vehicles. ATVs are extremely fun and can provide many hours of enjoyment.

All this said, there is one thing you need to remember, ATVs are not toys. Serious injury can result from improper use of ATVs, but with preparation and practice, you can safely develop and expand your riding skills. Riding ATVs can be an enjoyable form of outdoor recreation when done properly. ATVs can also be used for agricultural or utility use. ATVs handle differently from other vehicles, such as motorcycles and cars. Proper instruction and practice are important.
Remember that riders under 16 years of age must be supervised by an adult. If you have a youngster who is about ready to ride an ATV, there are special considerations that you should keep in mind. Although a child may be the recommended age to ride a particular size ATV, not all youngsters have the strength, skills, or judgment needed to operate an ATV. You should supervise your youngster’s operation of the ATV at all times, and should permit continued use only if you determine that your youngster has the ability and judgment to operate the ATV safely.

Remember, ATVs are intended for off-road use only. Never operate an ATV on public roads, and always avoid paved surfaces. ATVs are not designed for use on public roads and other motorists may not see you. ATVs are not designed to be used on paved surfaces because pavement may seriously affect handling and control.

Protective Gear

The nature of ATV riding demands that you wear protective clothing. Although complete protection is not possible, knowing what to wear and how to wear it can make you feel more comfortable when you ride and reduce the chance of injury. Never operate an ATV or ride as a passenger without a quality motorcycle helmet, eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket.


Good gloves can help keep your hands from getting sore, tired, or cold, as well as offer protection in the event of a spill. `The recommended protective footwear is a pair of strong, over-the-ankle boots with low heels to help prevent your feet from slipping off the footrests. It is important to protect your skin from scratches. A long-sleeved shirt or jersey and long pants are minimum requirements for rider protection.


Your helmet is the most important piece of protective gear for safe riding. A helmet can help prevent a serious head injury. There are a few basic tips to keep in mind when selecting a helmet. Select a helmet that meets or exceeds your state’s safety standards and carries either the Department of Transportation (DOT) label or the Snell Memorial Foundation label. Your helmet should fit snugly and fasten securely. Full-face helmets help protect your face as well as your head. Open-face helmets are lighter and may be cooler, but should be used with mouth protection. Eye protection should be used with both types of helmets.

Eye Protection

You must be able to see clearly to ride safely. An object such as a rock, branch, or even a bug that hits you in the face can distract you. If you are hit in the eyes without proper protection, you can be blinded. Regular sunglasses do not provide proper protection while riding an ATV. A face shield or goggles will provide you with more protection and should be:

• Free from scratches and bear the standard marking VESC8 (or V-8) or z87.1 in one corner, or should be made of a hard-coated polycarbonate

• Fastened securely

• Well ventilated to prevent fogging

In addition, you may wish to use gray tinted eye protection for riding on bright days or yellow for overcast days. Always use clear eye protection for riding at night.

Pre-Ride Inspection

Inspecting the mechanical condition of your ATV before each ride is important to minimize the chance of being injured or stranded. This also ensures long enjoyment of your ATV. Here are the most common items to check.

Tires and Wheels

Air pressure – Always maintain the recommended tire pressure. Be sure that all tires are inflated to proper pressure.

Condition – Check for cuts or gouges that could cause air leakage.

Wheels – To avoid loss of control or injury, make sure axle nuts are tight and secured by cotter pins, and make sure wheel nuts are tightened properly.


Throttle and other cables – Make sure the throttle moves smoothly and snaps closed with the handlebars in any position. Check cables and controls for damage from a spill or accumulated dirt and mud, which may restrict full operation.

Brakes – Make sure the controls operate smoothly and are adjusted according to the instructions in the owner’s manual. The controls should be positioned for your easy reach. Your brakes are a crucial part of riding and they must always be in excellent working condition.

Footshifter – Make sure the footshifter is firmly attached and positioned for safe operation.

Lights and Switches

Ignition switch (if equipped) – Check the condition of the switch and make sure it works properly by switching it off and on during your warm-up period.

Engine stop switch – Be sure it turns off the engine.

Lights (if equipped) – Be sure all lights are working.

Oil and Fuel

Check oil level while the engine is off. You could get stranded because you are out of oil or fuel. Always start your ride with a full tank of gasoline to give you the best chance of getting home from a long ride. Check for fuel or oil leaks.

Chain/Driveshaft and Chassis

Chain – Inspect your chain for proper adjustment and adequate lubrication. Check for wear.

Driveshaft – If your ATV is equipped with a driveshaft rather than a chain, check for oil leaks. Maintain the oil supply as outlined in your owner’s manual.

Nuts ‘n bolts – Rough terrain will loosen parts. Look and feel for loose parts while the engine is off. Shake handlebars, footrests, etc., before each ride, and periodically check major fasteners with a wrench.