ATV Riding

Essential ATV Riding Tips and Gear List

Looking to maximize your ATV riding experience? Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced rider, learning about the right gear is essential. From safety tips to a comprehensive and actionable gear list, get ready to hit the trails in style and safety with these essential ATV riding tips and gear that I’ve prepared for you.

Just like in any sport, safety should be your number one priority when going on an ATV ride. Having all necessary protective gear ready, such as a helmet, gloves, boots, and eye protection, is always the best practice. Also, making sure your ATV is in good shape helps you handle even the roughest terrain.

Having the right tools for the job will make your ATV-riding experience much more enjoyable. For example, you can invest in clothes that are comfortable and allow you to move freely, tires that can handle different types of terrain, and good handgrips or footpegs. You’ll also need a few basic items like a first-aid kit, flashlight, spare tire, and repair kit.

Having the correct knowledge of proper techniques is key to successful ATV rides, especially in the beginning. But, with all this jargon, it might seem overwhelming at first. Don’t worry; in this article, I will share riding tips such as acceleration techniques, braking methods, and terrain navigation to keep yourself safe while having fun at the same time! With this guide to essential ATV riding tips and a gear list, you’re sure to have an incredible off-road journey.

So, let’s jump right in and talk about the essential ATV riding tips and gear to help you jumpstart your ATV riding experience.

ATV Safety

A person doing ATV riding following ATV Safety and best practices.
Image Source: Pennwatch

ATV riding is a great hobby, but like any other vehicle-centered sport, you need to be aware of ATV (all-terrain vehicle) safety. Before I teach someone how to ride an ATV, I always tell them to use it safely and responsibly. This keeps accidents and injuries from happening because the rider will know how to use the ATV well.

First, you must check if your ATV is in top condition. You can check these by making sure the brakes are working, all lights and indicators are functioning properly, and the tires have a good grip for different terrain types.

Knowing how to read ATV tire sizes is also an important part of making sure your ATV is in good shape. This will help you choose the right tires for your car and make sure they work well on all kinds of terrain. Checking the tire pressure often and keeping the wheels aligned can also help your ATV tires last longer and give you a better ride.

You should also have some simple tools, like an ATV winch, with you to get you out of the mud in case you’re trapped. Also, don’t forget to check your gas tank for possible leaks to avoid the risk of fire. You don’t want to risk your life while enjoying an ATV ride by neglecting these safety measures.

So, having these few inspections of the ATV itself will save you some headaches, and possibly your life from any serious injury.

Wear Your Gear

A man with full ATV gear.
Image Source: RX Riders Place

Once you’ve got the vehicle in order, it’s time to focus on wearing proper gear. Aside from the fact that it looks cool, wearing gear makes sure you are safe while riding. I always say that you should not skimp on wearing protective gear, no matter how new or experienced you are.

To start, helmets are a must-have at all times. You don’t want to risk having a head injury because you chose not to wear one. Next, you should also wear gloves. Not only will it improve your grip, but at the same time, it will protect your hands from blisters and sunburns.

Once you have a helmet and glove on, it’s time to put on quality boots. Get at least ankle-high protection, and make sure it is comfortable enough to wear for hours of riding. Last but not least, always carry a pair of protective eyewear at all times to protect your eyes from dirt, mud, and dust.

In general, your body will be exposed to rough bumps and bounces, so make sure to keep all your skin covered at all times. All in all, with the right gear, you can enjoy your ATV ride for hours and still come out safe at the end of it all

Learn The Controls

The Dashboard of an ATV for learning of controls.
Image Source: ATV Illustrated

You’ve checked your ATV, and you have your safety gear on. Now, let’s go to the exciting part—operating your ATV.

If you are a beginner, it’s very important to learn first how to control your ATV on beginner-level terrain, mostly with less mud and more level ground. This will give you enough space to practice at a slow pace and get used to the throttle.

There are a lot of controls to learn if you are new to ATV riding. It could be overwhelming, but let me highlight the most important ones to get you started.


ATV switches
Image Source: Polaris ATV Forums

Your ATV has a range of switches to control the various electric components on the vehicle. The main ones you should know are the ignition key switch, engine stop switch, and high/low beam switches. Other, more advanced ATVs will give you more switches for your safety, so make sure to study all of those.

To start the engine of your ATV, pay attention to the position of your ignition key switch. You should see a Stop icon, a Lights On icon, and a Start icon. To fire up your ATV, you must ensure the engine stop switch is in the RUN position, the key is turned on, and you hit the ignition button. Depending on the model of your ATV, other prerequisites such as engaging the park gear and depressing the hand brake lever may also be necessary for startup.

Once your engine is running, there are two main things that you need to understand to control your ATV. The first thing is the throttle, then the brakes. You have to make sure you use them smoothly and correctly with great timing, or else you might just topple over with your ATV!


An ATV Thumb Throttle
Image Source: BoostATV

You can find the throttle of your ATV on the right handlebar, which resembles a thumb lever. Gently push the lever forward to gradually accelerate, then slowly release it to decelerate engine speed and bring your ATV to a stop. Make sure to get used to this first, then move on to trying the brakes.

Adjusting the throttle with your thumb is made possible through an electrical or electro-mechanical system known as drive-by-wire. For older or more economical ATVs, a continuous steel cable bridges the lever and carburetor.

Remember, do not go fast yet! Before you hit that “full throttle,” make sure you also understand and know how to brake.


An ATV Hand Brake
Image Source: Boost ATV

Braking is a fundamental skill to master when it comes to riding an ATV, as your ability to stop could be the difference between staying safe and putting yourself in danger. Depending on your model of ATV, you may be equipped with up to two handbrake levers, a foot brake lever, and even a parking brake feature. Understanding these features will help ensure that you can come to controlled stops whenever necessary!

The hand brake lever is positioned on the handlebars and controls the ATV’s front brakes. Push the lever against the handlebar gradually until you come to a full stop. 

Squeezing the lever too hard may cause your wheels to slip or slide. Reduce lever pressure to recover control of the ATV if this occurs. You can also use the foot brake by simply stepping on it to engage and lifting your foot from it to disengage. The foot pedal controls the rear brake of the ATV.

Is your ATV Automatic or Manual?

An ATV with manual transmission
Image Source: Honda Pro Kevin

Another thing to look at on your ATV is its gear system. Automatic ATVs often include a hand lever that allows you to move between gear ranges such as park, reverse, neutral, low gear range, and high gear range. The gearbox and clutches manage the gearing automatically in an automated transmission.

Semi-automatic ATVs, on the other hand, often use a push-button type gear changer where you press UP to change gears and DOWN to change gears. However, some child ATVs and low-cost adult versions include a manual transmission with a foot pedal for shifting gears.

Similar to an overland vehicle with a manual transmission, if you have a manual ATV, these versions include a clutch hand lever that must be depressed each time you change gears. The gears are normally laid up such that the pedal is all the way down for first gear, one click up for neutral, one more click up for second gear, and so on.

Find Safe Places to Ride

Now that you know the ropes of operating an ATV, it’s time to start exploring safe riding spaces. Sure, YouTube videos may show some wild and audacious stunts with ATVs, but as a beginner, it is recommended to seek out more level and even terrain because safety always comes first! Enjoy your ride while taking all necessary precautions.

Public Land

Three ATVs parked in Chugach State Park in Alaska
Image Source:

To begin your ATV journey, search for public land that permits ATV operation. Remember that not all public roads or neighborhoods allow ATV riding, so make sure to investigate places or public lands where ATV driving is legally permitted.

One of the best public lands to drive your ATV on is Chugach State Park in Anchorage, Alaska. Nestled close to Anchorage, Chugach State Park offers true wilderness–in the Alaskan sense of the word, if you know what I mean–and awesome ATV riding. Here, you can explore breathtaking landscapes that are unique to Alaska with your four-wheeler! Make sure you look up access points on the park’s website before heading out, along with making sure that both yourself and your vehicle adhere to all relevant regulations.

Other awesome public lands you can visit are the Spider Lake Trails in Minnesota, Eisenhower State Park in Texas, and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. In places like these, you can ride your ATVs to your heart’s content.

ATV Parks

An ATV Rider jumping in the Louisiana ATV Park
Image Source: Women Wandering Beyond

Another great place to practice ATV riding with like-minded people is ATV parks! These parks are like little communities of ATV riders who come together to explore their shared hobby. Here, you can gain access to tons of trails and even rent out specific ATVs for the day at an affordable price.

You can find some great ATV parks all across the United States, from Louisiana’s Bonnet Carre Spillway ATV Park to Arizona’s Rancho Cucamonga MX Park. With special safety courses available at some parks, along with ATV gear and parts at others, ATV parks are perfect if you’re looking for a more organized experience while honing your skills.

Practice Your New Skills

An ATV Rider practicing his skills
Image Source: KTM ATV

You’ve got the ATV, the protective gear, the skill to operate, and the place to ride. Now, all that’s left is to practice your newfound ATV skills! If you don’t know where to start, here are some of my tips and tricks for you.

Begin practicing basic riding skills like starting, stopping, turning, and accelerating in an open area. Once you feel comfortable with these skills, you can move on to more advanced techniques like hill climbing and off-road water riding. Remember to start with not-so-steep hills and only on shallow mud and ponds of water if you want to feel the rush of real off-roading fun!

Another tip for you: when you’re practicing on an ATV, make sure not to go at full speed until you get a good handle on the vehicle’s operation. It’s easy to lose control of the ATV at higher speeds, so be very careful. And make sure you always have a more experienced ATV rider with you if you try to challenge yourself with harder terrain.

Also, do not forget to review the route you’re taking. There might be landslides or fallen trees that lead you into dangerous situations. Reviewing ahead of time these possible routes will keep your ATV riding safe and ultimately fun.

In all of this, it’s important to never remove appropriate safety gear and to never ride beyond your skill level. Don’t jump to harder terrain if you are not trained to do it. Consider taking an ATV safety course or practicing with an experienced rider to improve your skills and gain confidence in your ATV.

Essential Gear List

If you made it this far into the post, I have some great tips for you. Because, in this section, I’ll be sharing with you my essential gear list as well as my top recommendations based on my experience. If you don’t know where to start with essential gear, you can never go wrong with either of these suggestions. So, let’s get into it!


ATV Polaris Sportsman Red
Image Source: Polaris ATV Forums

Some ATVs are meant for riding in the mud, but only a few have been specifically crafted to make sure you’ll have the most thrilling experience possible. The best ATVs right now on the market are the Can-Am Outlander X series, the Polaris Sportsman, the Yamaha Grizzly, and the Artic Cat Alterra. These are the leading brands and units designed for high-level mudding, so you’ll be assured that these ATVs will not fail you in any terrain. Also, don’t forget to invest only in the absolute best ATV tires only to make the most out of your new ATV.


Klim F3 Carbon Phantom
Image Source: Klim

For the helmets, you really can’t go wrong with the Klim F3 Carbon Phantom, the Alpinestars Supertech M8, and anything from Bell in their Moto series. I’ve written a deep dive into the best ATV helmets you can buy today, and if you’re on the hunt for a new helmet, you should check that out.

Riding Jacket

Klim Badlands Pro Jackets
Image Source: Klim

Choosing a riding jacket is quite overwhelming, as there are many affordable and high-quality jackets out there. One thing is for sure: choose only from reputable brands that will deliver in terms of protection, not just for their cool looks. If you have no idea at all, you can start with the Klim Altitude and Badlands Pro jackets, KTM PowerWear, Fox Racing Defend Drive jackets, and the Alpinestars RHOD Windstopper.

Riding Pants

A Thor ATV Riding Pants
Image Source: Amazon

You don’t want to skimp on riding pants on an ATV. Make sure you don’t get pants that are too tight for your legs; if they are too loose, they might get caught up in branches, either. I’d recommend the MSR Axxis Proto Pant series, the Fly Racing F-16, or the Alpinestars Fluid Chaser pants. They are so reliable and comfortable that you can keep riding for hours.


Close up of biker putting on black gloves and sitting on motorcycle. Front view.
Image Source: Connect2Local

There’s a lot of gripping involved in riding an ATV since you steer it like a motorcycle over harsh terrain. Hence, you only want the highest-quality gloves that will keep your hands free from blisters. Check out the Cofit Full Finger Gloves, Fox Racing Defend, and Typhoon Motocross Gloves for Youth and Kids. They are the cream of the crop, and they offer exceptional handling for your ATV riding needs.


ATV Boots
Image Source: Ore-Keiba

There’s a lot of gripping involved in riding an ATV since you steer it like a motorcycle over harsh terrain. Hence, you only want the highest-quality gloves that will keep your hands free from blisters. Check out the Cofit Full Finger Gloves, Fox Racing Defend, and Typhoon Motocross Gloves for Youth and Kids. They are the cream of the crop, and they offer exceptional handling for your ATV riding needs.


What kind of protective clothing should I wear for ATV riding?

When it comes to ATV riding, safety should always be a top priority. It’s important to wear full-length pants and a long-sleeved shirt made of durable, breathable fabric to protect your skin from scrapes, cuts, and bruises. You should also buy off-road boots with ankle support to prevent ankle injuries. For extra protection in case you fall or hit something, you could also wear a chest protector, elbow pads, and knee pads.

Can I ride an ATV without a helmet?

No, you should never ride an ATV without a helmet. A properly fitting helmet is essential to protecting your head and brain in case of an accident. It’s important to choose a helmet that meets the safety standards set by your country and fits snugly on your head without being too tight or too loose. A helmet can also help shield your eyes from dust, debris, and bugs while riding.

How do I know if an ATV is suitable for my riding level?

Choosing the right ATV for your experience level is crucial to ensuring a safe and enjoyable ride. To determine if an ATV is suitable for you, consider the engine size and power output. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start with a smaller, less powerful ATV and work your way up to larger, more powerful models as you gain experience and confidence. If you are still on your teens, check out this Youth ATV safety guide so you would know the best practices for your riding level. You should also take into account the type of terrain you’ll be riding on and the amount of weight you’ll be carrying on the ATV.

What are some basic ATV riding techniques I should know?

To ride an ATV safely, it’s important to master some basic techniques. Shifting your weight properly while riding can help you maintain balance and control over the ATV. To avoid accidents and keep a safe speed, it’s also important to use the brakes and throttle correctly. You should also keep your feet on the foot pegs at all times and be mindful of your surroundings on the trail, looking out for obstacles and hazards such as rocks, fallen trees, and uneven terrain. And lastly, always keep a high-quality winch with you, so in case you get deep in mud, you can still find your way out.

ATV Riding Summary

With the right gear and proper knowledge, you can make your ATV riding experience a safe and enjoyable one. Investing in ATV riding knowledge and safety gear will give you peace of mind as you travel through different terrains.

Last but not least, remember to always use the correct techniques when riding your ATV to ensure an epic off-road journey! So don’t wait—gather up these essential ATV riding tips and gear and hit the trails today!

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