Remember to S.E.E.

Always look well ahead of you by scanning the trail before you.  Keep your eyes moving, looking where you want to go.  Sometimes people have a tendency to focus on a point just ahead of the front wheel(s).  If an obstacle comes up. there is not enough time to avoid it.  Instead of focusing on the road ahead there is a good rule of thumb to follow:

At any given speed, you should be looking that many yards ahead.  For example, at 30 m.p.h. you should be looking 30 yards ahead.

By looking far enough before you, you’ll be able to pick the best “lines” over and around obstacles, knowing when to slow down.  If you approach a hazard, you will not need to look directly at it.  Instead, by having scanned ahead, you will be aware of its presence as you avoid it. You should always be scanning ahead for the next obstacle.

There are good phrases to remember when reading the lay of the land.  They are:

S=Scan the area, E=Evaluate what could/will happen, and E=Execute your decision to avoid the hazard.

Riding Through Water and Mud

Your ATV is designed to ride in water and mud, but there are some precautions that must be taken.When riding through water you should keep your feet firmly on the footrests.  Never cross any stream with deep water because your tires may float, making it difficult to maintain control.  Smaller ATVs can be submerged up to about eight inches; larger ATVs up to twelve inches.  Always check your owner’s manual to find out the maximum depth your ATV can travel in.

Choose a course through a stream where both banks have a gradual incline.

Crossing Sinker Creek
Ride slow through the creeks to avoid damage to stream. Photo by Pauline Jones.

Try to cross at a known ford, or where you personally know it is safe.  Safely determine the depth of the water or mud before riding

through it.  A clue to look for is the height or rocks emerging from the surface.  Use a stick to help determine depth.  Be careful of swift moving water.

Proceed at a slow, steady speed to avoid submerged obstacles and slippery rocks.  Dry the brakes after crossing by applying light pressure to them while riding until they return to normal power.

Avoid water crossings where you may cause damage to stream beds, fish spawning grounds, or erosion to the banks of the stream.  By this precaution you are not only ensuring your own personal safety, but are preserving the environment for others to enjoy as well.

Don’t ride through too fast.  Water and mud slow the vehicle very quickly and could cause you to lose control if you approach too fast. Try a moderate speed with higher than usual RPMs.

After running in the water, be sure to drain the trapped water by removing the drain screw.  Please refer to your owner’s manual for the exact position of the drain screw.  Wash the machine with fresh water if you have driven your ATV in sea water.

Body positioning is very important.  At times you may need to take weight off the rear by leaning far forward, while other times you may need to sit right over the rear to gain traction.  You may also need to rock the vehicle from side to side to work the ATV out of a hole.  By scanning ahead, you will rarely need to look directly in front of your front wheels(s).

When traction is low as in mud or snow, allow the tires to rotate at a speed that allows them to “bite.” Don’t rev the engine up thinking you’ll go faster–you won’t.  Watch for mud buildup and remove often.

Trail Riding

Be careful of going from a sunny to shaded trail.  Rocks or ruts may “hide” in the shade and your eyes cannot adjust quickly enough to see them.  Gradient lenses will help this condition.  Most properly designed trails are “outsloped” to allow rain to run off the surface.  This means your ATV may be more “tippy” and you will especially need to keep your weight shifted into the hill.

Never ride on single track trails.  Use only trails designated for ATVs.

In shaded areas, scan ahead for potential obstacles. Photo by Pauline Jones.

Plan out your ride.  Don’t take a trail you know you can’t make.  Always ride within your limits.  Remember that one short difficult section on an otherwise easy trail would put the trail beyond your capabilities.  Standing up on the footrests slightly will aid your ability to take on rought terrain.  Always be prepared to meet oncoming traffic, as most trails allow two-way travel.  Maintain a safe distance between your ATV and those of others in your group.  Following too closely can cause rear-end collisions.

Night riding requires extra caution. Nighttime is the most dangerous time for riding your ATV. Be sure your lights work properly. Don’t overrun your lights! Slow down and avoid unfamiliar terrain. Carry a flashlight.

Speed and Handling

No matter how experienced you are, an ATV can only go so fast over rough terrain.  Never operate your ATV at a speed that is not reasonable for the conditions.  Many operators who have been involved in accidents claim that they  “lost control” of their vehicle.  What this really means is that they were going too fast for the conditions to maintain control of their vehicle.

When you drive too fast, you risk the chance of crashing and hurting yourself or hurting someone else.  If other people are around, you also give the impression of being a reckless driver.  Your reckless actions reflect on all ATV operators and lead to a bad image of ATV riders.  Being a “good rider” means being safe, responsible, and knowing your limitations, as well as the limitations of your vehicle.

Dune Riding

Dune riding offers great thrills and fun, but certainly safety precautions are necessary to fully enjoy this type of terrain.  Makle certain that your ATV is equipped with an antenaa flag so other can see you better.  The antenna and safety flag should be a least ten feet from ground to tip (with the tip lighted at night).  Assume that wet sand is soft and could be quicksand.  Do not attempt to cross unless it is known, safe place.

Be sure to have a 10 foot high flag when you ride the dunes! Photo by Pauline Jones.

Keep off vegetation because it helps stasbilize the dunes and may hide an obstacle or hazard.  Be aware of “razorback” dunes which have a gradual incline on one side (usually the windward side) and nearly a sheer drop on the other side (leeward).  Dunes shift in size and shape.  Never assume that everything is the same from one visit to the next.

Be extra careful when the sun is directly overh3ead because no shadows are created.  Sunny days produce a three-to four-inch heat hze on top of the sand that my create the illusion that the sand is level where large bumps and holes exist.  Travel slowly under these conditions.  Night riding demands extra caution.  The best best is to slow down.  When stopping for a rest, always park at the crest of a dune.

Sources:  Idaho All-Terrain Vehicle Manual, Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation.  Photos: Pauline Jones, Boise ATV Trail Riders Club.