9 Tips for Riding Your ATV on Various Terrains

ATVs can blast through thick patches of mud, climb dunes and spider-crawl over rigid rock beds, exploring areas otherwise beyond reach. However, you need to adjust your riding style and modify your vehicle to overcome these obstacles. Your off-roader handles differently depending on the terrain. Use these rough riding tips to master all types of trails.

Preparing for Various Terrains

Every type of terrain has quirks that can lead to slips and falls. Wearing a helmet significantly reduces your risk of head injury. Keep your arms and legs covered to shield yourself from the sun and insects. Use goggles to see clearly unless your helmet has a visor. Wear knee, shoulder and elbow pads for extra cushion if something goes wrong. Use this ATV riding gear list to ensure a safe trip.

Ride with a friend who can watch your back on the trail. Give each other a heads-up if the trail looks unsafe. They can also share tips in real time without distracting you from the path. Find off-road communication to talk hands-free on the trail. It syncs automatically when in range, so all you have to do is set it and go.

Thoroughly inspect your ATV for the challenge, including the tire tread, suspension, brakes, belts and battery. Clean off any dirt from your last trip to check for underlying damage. The new mess will only make the old stains harder to wash off.

Terrain-Based ATV Riding Tips

  1. Adjust Your Tire Pressure

Your tires need to grip onto the ground to gain traction. ATV tire pressure ranges from 3 to 12 psi, depending on the firmness of the terrain.

Your average 5-6 psi works well for moderate terrain. Decrease tire pressure to 3 psi when traveling on soft sand to let the rubber move with the shifting ground. Avoid sharp glass that could puncture the sidewall. Increase air pressure to 8 psi in muddy terrain and wet sand. Go up to 10 to 12 psi on steep rock formations to protect the rubber from sharp edges.

  1. Change Tires

Consider swapping out your tires based on where you’re riding. Each type of ATV tire is designed to handle specific terrain. All-terrain tires have moderate treads for handling multiple environments in a single trip. Sand tires have flat paddle tires that look like innertubes. Mud and rock tires have thicker tread patterns that push dirt and debris away from the trail to clear the way for the rear.

  1. Prepare for the Worst

All types of terrain, including mud, sand and snow, can leave your ATV tires spinning out if the tires fail to latch on. Don’t hit the throttle to get unstuck — this will only dig a deeper hole. Dig out the space behind your tires and try reversing. Bring traction pads and a winch to pull yourself out of a sticky situation.

  1. Ride at an Angle on Dunes

Loose sand will fall away under the tires, digging them into a hole. Ride at an angle, turning left to right, when climbing dunes to avoid burying your vehicle.

  1. Waterproof Your ATV in the Mud

Most ATVers don’t mind getting dirty, but your ATV might. Seal the electrical components with rubber to prevent water from zapping the battery.

  1. Don’t Submerge Your Ride

Driving in deep water will ruin even the most durable ATVs. Keep the radiator, exhaust and air intake valve above the surface to avoid ruining the engine.

  1. Watch the Suspension on Bumps

Your suspension system smooths out all those imperfections on the trail to keep you comfortable behind the wheel, but too many bumps will wear down the coil springs. A rough ride isn’t just a nuisance. It can cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Reduce your speed when running over obstacles or avoid them altogether if your suspension can’t handle the bounce.

  1. Slow and Steady on the Rocks

Aim for steady slopes and flat sections in the formation, and avoid sharp edges that could blow out your tires. Gently ease the vehicle forward, watch your every move and consider your path far in advance to give yourself plenty of time to steer clear of obstacles.

  1. Secure the Underside

Any firm obstacle could damage the undercarriage of your ATV if you run over it. Secure the bottom with skid plates when battling rocks and tree roots.

Master Every Terrain with Confidence

Riding an ATV should give you access to hard-to-reach areas and natural wonders beyond description, but only if you have the skills and know-how to get there. Play it safe on the trail, and don’t take on jumps, swamps or cliffs your ride can’t handle. If the mud looks too deep, the rocks too sharp or the dune too steep, it probably is. Take the path of least resistance and save your energy for another day.

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