Off the Beaten Path

A growing number of people — maybe even you — are discovering the exciting world of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). But before you begin shopping for an ATV, you should assess your needs and your skill level. After all, ATVs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are designed to perform different duties, from racing to farm work. Are you the solo adventure type, or would you like to share your ride with friends? Do you feel the need for speed or is a heavy-duty utility vehicle more to your taste? Do you have prior experience with ATVs?


Once you’ve found your ATV, it’s time to focus on safety. While ATVs are not hard to operate, there are risks associated with riding them and accidents do happen, unfortunately. How they handle certain terrain, combined with uneducated operators, can spell trouble. Unlike a car, with seatbelts, steel doors, a windshield and a dashboard with airbags, an ATV does not offer this kind of protection, so you cannot operate it like you would your car.

ATV safety goes way beyond just wearing a helmet. There are many things to consider before you start riding. What is required by your state? How do you actually perform a pre-ride inspection? What safety gear do you need? These are just a few of the many questions you need to ask yourself.

Luckily, there are resources that can help you become a safe rider. Over the last decade, manufacturers, law enforcement, state agencies and the ATV community have come together to raise awareness of the dangers associated with unsafe ATV riding practices. Currently 11 states offer ATV safety courses, several of which are mandatory, and it appears more states will soon be jumping on board to require operators to take some form of ATV safety course.

Kalkomey, a leader in recreational safety education, offers a wealth of information for both new and seasoned riders on its website. Kalkomey works with state agencies to develop safety education certification courses and also offers real riding scenario videos to help you learn how to be safe and reduce your risk while enjoying your ATV.

Rules of the Ride

After you have received your safety certification, it is time to hit the trails. Thanks to the increased interest in off-roading, there are lots of ATV-friendly places to ride. A quick search on the Internet will typically yield plenty of potential riding spots. A phone call to your ATV dealer may also be worth your effort. Seek out local ATV clubs as another resource.

Although there are plenty of accessible trails across the United States, there is one important rule to remember: Not all trails are created equal. On some public and private lands it is unlawful to take your ATV off designated trails due to the possible damage ATV wheels can cause to the terrain. As with anything, it is your responsibility to know not only the rules of riding ATVs, but also the rules of where you can ride.

If blazing down a dirt path only a handful of people know about sounds fun, or if you enjoy slinging a little mud, then you owe it to yourself to venture off the beaten path and experience the freedom that comes from taking the road less traveled. If you haven’t tried ATVing, there’s no better time than now.

Are you an ATV rider? Leave a comment below with your advice for first-time riders. 

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