ATV Adventures: A common-sense, safe approach to the coming ATV riding season

Thursday , February 23, 2017 - 6:00 AM

By Lynn R. Blamires

February brought an abrupt change in the weather. We are seeing what the snow has been hiding for quite a while, and it isn’t very pretty but promising.

We have had some 50- and 60-degree days, and it’s easy to start thinking about your twitching thumb and how great it would be to get out on a ride.

Hold on there, bucko!

The trails are still either snow-packed or muddy. You really don’t want to be making ruts for other riders.

If you just can’t wait, the sand dunes by Delta, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, the White Wash dunes south of Green River or Sand Hollow in Washington County offer great riding opportunities. You can also find pleasant temperatures south of the border in Mesquite and Logandale, Nevada.

If you’re like most ATV riders, you haven’t been riding for about three months. Riding safely is a skill that needs to be picked up again after a non-active period.

Spring is a witness to the highest number of ATV accidents of the year. Questions about ATVs being safe to ride are always the result when the real problem is with the rider. That first ride of the year should be a time to get reacquainted with your machine and to review safe riding practices.

The first thing I notice when getting my machines ready to ride is the tires. I usually have one or two that need air. Never go based on the way a tire looks.

Always check the tire’s pounds per square inch with a low-pressure tire gauge. A regular gauge will not even register with an ATV tire. ATV tires run psi levels between five and seven pounds with UTVs running from 10 to 20 pounds. Don’t forget to check the trailer tires. Mine run at 65 psi, but it is hard to tell just by looking at them.

Before starting that engine that’s been sitting for the season, check fluid levels. And while you’re at it, check the service record. You may need to change the oil, service the differentials or bleed the brake lines.

If you haven’t started your ride for a while you might need to jump-start it. That shouldn’t be difficult, but sometimes the battery will need to be replaced.

If you have treated the fuel with a stabilizer when you put it away, it should run smoothly enough. If not, it may need the help of a mechanic to clean the needle valve or fuel rails.

It’s a good idea to go over your machine, checking for anything that needs to be tightened. Crawl under and check for debris. Look for anything that shouldn’t be there.

Once you start your ATV and everything seems to be in order, go for a test ride. Check the brakes for any feelings of being squishy.

Do you feel confident in your ability to stop? Is the throttle smooth? Does the steering pull to either side? If the tires are not properly inflated, the steering will pull to the side with the low tire even if it is one of the back tires.

Will it go in and out of four-wheel drive properly? Do the lights work including the brake light? Does the siren work, just kidding!

If you are riding a street-legal machine, there are additional items to check, such as the turn signals, mirrors, license plate light and horn. The time to find out about problems is not in the middle of the backcountry far from any services.

As I have already stated, the first ride of the year should be an easy one. The purpose being to reacquaint yourself with the machine.

It won’t be a boring ride — the first ride of the season is great because you are actually riding again. There is no need to have wonderful scenery; you are just happy to be riding again. When you go, take plenty of water and keep the rubber side down.

It’s going to be a great year.

Contact columnist Lynn R. Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com

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