12 ATV offroading tips for newbies!
As you might know from reading other parts of my website, I’m an offroading enthusiast, usually using ATVs to go offroad. this started more than 15 years ago when my family used to own a Jeep Wrangler and we used to climb hills with it all the time. I eventually moved to ATVs because they give better results for just 1 person and they are cheaper. and over time I have learned a lot about ATVing and offroading in general. so I decided to make a list of the top 12 tips for somebody new to offroading. this is a list that I wish somebody showed me when I was starting. offroading would have been less of a challenge.
Use the adequate offroading tires
This is first because it’s the most important one. having offroading tires can make a day and night difference on whether you are going to climb that obstacle or not. these tires are specifically made for rough conditions. rock, mud, sand, you name it, they have special threading that is made so that the quad has more grip in those kinds of conditions. this is the best thing that you could do to improve the offroading performance of the quad.
I use SunF All-Terrain ATV tires for light offroading, but if it has been raining or we are going to offroad on a challenging trail then I use the SunF Deep mud tires which are made for more extreme conditions.
If you don’t know what type of wheels you have it might be better to go to an actual physical store instead of going to Amazon. I buy my tires online but I also already know which types of wheels I have. if you don’t know it might be wise to check the manual or go to a mom and pop and store so that they can help you!
Reduce the Air pressure in your tires
After you get a good set of rock/offroading tires, lowering the air pressure a bit should be your next choice. it depends a lot on the specific tires that you have. since they know that people are going to lower the air pressure of the tires, some of them come with a lower pressure setting from the factory. check the information of the tires to see if that’s the case. anyways, reducing the air pressure is important because it helps grip the ground a little bit more evenly. it makes the quad more stable in an unbalanced position and makes it easier to offroad overall because the wheels kind of mushes into the rock and dirt more evenly. taking bumps in your quad should be felt less harsh and traction should be improved!
Carry a winch with you
Having a winch with you can save your day! it doesn’t matter if you have a quad that is very capable or if you have the correct offroading tires, sometimes you are simply way too bogged down! so a winch helps you get unstuck from the mud or any other place. having a winch every time that you are going to offroad is considered essential and I never leave home without it. now, if you are just going to ride in a sand trail then it might not even be necessary, but if you are going to go to a more challenging trail, then you should have your winch handy. the winch that I recommend is the Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35. it’s a heavy-duty winch with 3500 lb capacity (you could even move some bigger vehicles). winches work by attaching to the quad, and a nearby object, preferably a tree, and then you press a button and the internal mechanism pulls the quad out of the hole or out of the mud.
Try not to carry unnecessary stuff
Carrying things that you don’t need will only tire you and make offroading more difficult. depending on the quad that you have, having extra weight might be a detriment. you might put more weight in one part of the quad and that might make a rollover accident more likely! not to mention, if you have a quad that doesn’t have much torque, then you are making it harder on the quad by having things that you are not going to use. I would just recommend having the essentials with you, like food, safety gear, and other things that you deem necessary.
Wear safety equipment
Considering that riding ATV and offroading, in general, is a risk everytime that you do it, it’s imperative that you use safety equipment when trying to go offroad. now the winch can help you, but I’m talking about things like helmets, and boots. most ATV rollovers happen while offroading and head injuries are quite common. getting a proper offroading helmet could be invaluable in case that happens. boots are really important too because it’s really easy to scrape your feet with the rocks beneath or with an ATV part.
I always use helmets and boots when I go offroading and I make my family and my kids wear theirs too! other things that I would recommend is installing nerf bars in your quad, which do a great job in protecting your feet from any potential slippage. the nerf bars I would recommend going to a store with your quads because they won’t fit all quads. get somebody in the store that can help you choose the correct pair and tell them to install them at the store so that you are sure.
Other safety gear to consider include a first aid kit, a chest protector, and even a racing suit if you don’t mind the heat! anyways, in these and these articles, I talk a bit more about protective gear!
Ensure that your quad has the proper ground clearance
Ground clearance for those who do not know refers to the space between the lower part of the quads frame and the ground, so its pretty much how lifted in the air the quad is. this is very useful for offroading for several reasons. the first and obvious reason is that it lets you move through bigger and blockier rocks. it lets you move over obstacles that wouldn’t be possible with a car or something with less ground clearance. this is the first thing that you need to inspect if you are looking for an offroading vehicle. the way to calculate the ground clearance of your quad is to get something to measure and then calculate the inches of travel from flat ground to the lowest skid plate that the quad has. that skid plate is usually in the middle of the quad. anything over 9 inches is great for light to moderate offroading.
There are also ways to increase the ground clearance of the quad if your quad doesn’t have enough of it or if you want to offroad in more challenging trails. the first options are simply getting bigger wheels and tires. switching from a 13″ to a 15″ tire can certainly make a difference on your clearance and thus can make it really easy to climb bigger rocks. it’s also very cost effective. you can increase the clearance by more than 2 inches if you just use a bigger tire. this, and lowering the pressure of the tires can make offroading a piece of cake!
The other, more hardcore options is to simply install an aftermarket suspension. this is for more hardcore off-road enthusiasts because it increases the height of your quad by several inches, but it can really be what you are looking for in terms of performance. there are several options, from buying bigger shocks, to a complete aftermarket suspension kit. all of these options with increase your clearance, and in the case of the suspension kit, will also improve the handling of your quad overall.
The only disadvantage of this is the price of all of this. buying new suspension components for your quad can be pricey. so if you are concerned about that or you just want the clearance for a few rides I would just recommend you to only increase the tire size.
Approach obstacles at the correct angle
One of the basics of ATV offroading (offroading vehicles in general) is being able to approach obstacles in the correct angle. this is where ATVs really shines because you have great visibility of where you are going and in general you can see the angles a bit better. ATVs have something called approach angles, which are higher areas of the quad that allows you to get under the rock that you are trying to climb. that way you do not scrape your quad unnecessarily. for smaller obstacles, you can just approach them head on but for bigger things, you will have to move in a 45-degree angle. move as slowly as possible, especially when the quad in at its limits and keep checking the ground to make sure that you have the proper clearance.
There’s a possibility that your quad might scrape a little bit. this is normal and happens when a rock hits and grinds with a skid plate, with is a material that is made for that exact purpose. however, if you are scraping a lot or if the noise is excessive that means that maybe you are in a very challenging trail with a lot of unevenness. you might need to switch your route because maybe you are moving in the harder path! which brings me to the next point.
Try to follow the established path
Often the tried and true way is the best! in a lot of trail and offroad places, there is usually several established paths that enthusiasts readily use to guide themselves towards their goal. in some other places, the several paths are different and each has a different difficulty. this is something that you can check out on the internet if the trail is famous or has a reputation. anyways, I would recommend following the established path when first getting to a trail. its usually easier and it doesn’t have as many rocks which makes it less of a hassle to maneuver through it. also, you are probably going to see other people ATV through that path. they could even tell you how to move through it!
Make sure the ATV is in working order (fluids)
Most of the time that I’m going to traverse a big trail, I do a quick checkup of the quad that I’m going to use. I would recommend you to do the same. I don’t think there’s anything more annoying than having a mechanical problem with the quad while you are trying to climb over a hill.
The first thing that I would recommend is to check the fluids. the first thing that I would check is the engine oil. I would check the level of it and if it’s too low, then a refill will be warranted. depending on the temperature that you are going to ride in, you might want to change the specific oil that you are going to use. this is because some oils perform better in warmer climates.
After checking the oil, check the fuel of the quad to see if you have any shortages, and if you are going to ride for more than a 2 or 3 hours, then I would carry a moderate amount of gas with me, just in case. other things that I do include checking the suspension settings, headlights, and tire treadwear. you don’t have to do everything but I would recommend it if you are thinking about riding on a rough trail.
Move slowly, but surely
Slow and steady wins the race. not only that, but it’s also the safer way to travel through rough roads. this is something that many offroading enthusiasts know but some don’t. it’s important to move slowly on new trails because of a few reasons. the first one is because you don’t want to break components of your quad! especially in the middle of offroading!
Modern quads are made to handle rock impacts, with a lot of skid plates to protect the internal components, but that doesn’t mean that the quad is indestructible. if you hear some weird or harsh sounds, it might be wise to stop and check whats under you. it might be a signal that you need to go slower or that you need to be more aware of where you are riding. the second reason you should slow down is that, obviously, faster speeds in a rocky trail can be very dangerous for you! and since most offroading quads have 4WD, you could easily lose control of the quad if the tires contact a rock without you noticing.
Try not to offroad alone
Tackling your favorite trail might be really fun, but there are always risks involved. that’s why I wouldn’t recommend offroading alone! having other people near you could be invaluable in the case of something going wrong, from getting stuck, getting low on fuel, to even a serious emergency. sometimes, in that case, helping yourself might not be an option. since many ATV accidents happen when offroading, it might be wise to have people watching your back, especially at night time. not to mention that it’s much more fun with more people! the more the merrier right?
If your quad has different gear options, use them to your advantage!
Not all quads have this feature, but some feature locking center differentials and full-time 4WD. if this is the case, consider yourself lucky! offroading will probably be a blast for you and it will be really easy too! but first, you need to learn how to use these tools, and more importantly, you need to use the gearing to your advantage!
What I would recommend is putting your quad into 4WD with a center diff lock as soon as you get into the trail. not doing so could get you stuck real easy and simply turning the 4WD on might not solve the problem. so to avoid any hardships, try to have it on before you cross any tight or slippery paths. when it comes to gearing, use the first gear when you are riding in slippery sand or mud, anything that you need a quick burst of power. but if you are trying to climb over rocks, then I would recommend 3rd or 4th gear.