ATV Riding Techniques and Tips

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Advice for a smooth ride

When you take your ATV out for a spin, you can encounter many different types of terrain. It’s important to be prepared for wherever your ride takes you and to stay safe as you navigate through different types of land.

Know the basics
Terrain techniques
Safe driving tips

Know the basics

Practicing in a large, flat, open area will help you master your riding skills. Consult your owner’s manual for full details and consider taking a riding course, such as the one offered by the Canada Safety Council.

Here are some of the basics that all ATV riders should keep in mind.

Maintain correct riding posture
To stay in control of your vehicle, you should:

  • Keep your head and eyes up and look ahead at all times.
  • Have both hands on the handlebars and both feet on the footrests with your toes pointing straight ahead. If you remove even one hand or foot, you will reduce the ability to control your vehicle and possibly lose your balance.
  • Keep your elbows bent slightly out and away from your body and your knees in.

Read the terrain
Always look ahead and be prepared to react to what’s coming up.

  • Know the terrain and what you and your machine can do. It’s important to be familiar with the area you choose to ride in and use existing trails wherever possible. If you venture into unfamiliar terrain, ride slowly and exercise caution.
  • Always watch for bumps, holes, ruts or obstacles that lie ahead of you on the trail. Knowing what’s ahead will help you prepare to travel around hazards before you encounter them.
  • Go at a speed that is appropriate to the terrain, the visibility and your experience.


Terrain techniques

Each type of terrain is different. Here are a few tips to help you manage your vehicle in various areas.

Riding on sand dunes

  • Be prepared for changing sand.
  • Avoid wet sand.
  • Be careful in full sunlight; it’s difficult to see hazards or obstacles when the sun is directly overhead and there are no shadows.
  • Always use an antenna flag in sand dune areas.

Riding in mud and water

  • Determine water depth before crossing. Go across in shallow water only. Keep in mind that wet brakes may have reduced stopping ability. Always test them after a crossing.
  • Avoid fast-flowing water.
  • Choose a spot where banks have a gradual incline.
  • Keep an eye out for submerged obstacles.

Riding on snow

  • Ride on firm snow only.
  • Choose groomed trails.


Safe driving tips

No matter what terrain you choose to ride on, keep these tips in mind when you’re out on the trails.

    Some tips for braking

    • Release the throttle.
    • Shift to a lower gear. This will help slow the vehicle.
    • If your vehicle is equipped with both front and rear brakes, apply them equally.
    • Avoid excess braking while going around corners.
    • Shift to low gear when going downhill.

Some tips for turning

  • Move body weight forward and lean in the direction of the turn.
  • Look in the direction of the turn while turning handlebars.
  • Maintain your balance by moving your body weight further toward the inside of the turn.
  • If your ATV starts to tip, lean further into the turn and slowly reduce speed. Make the turn wider if possible.

When you are going uphill

  • Know your capabilities and those of your ATV. Some hills will be too steep for your ATV regardless of your abilities.
  • Never ride past the limit of visibility. If you can’t see over the crest of the hill, slow down until you have a clear view.
  • Keep your weight uphill at all times. Keep your feet firmly on the footrests.
  • Shift into a lower gear and speed up before climbing the hill. This will enable you to maintain momentum.

When going downhill

  • Select a route that requires little or no turning.
  • Shift your weight uphill. Move back on the seat while keeping your feet on the footrests.
  • Maintain slow speed.
  • Brake gradually.
  • Use a lower gear.
  • Always look ahead.