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ATV Adventures: Creative tricks for handling breakdowns in the backcountry

By Lynn Blamires - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 16, 2021

Lynn Blamires, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Fred checks the pressure on the tire that we were able to successfully reseat the bead.

Anyone who has read my ATV Adventure articles knows how much I love ATV Adventures. The beauty of the backcountry and exploring its many nooks and crannies is one of my favorite things to do. However, it is one thing to venture far from civilization and another thing to make it back to the place you started. This article is about creative ways to handle breakdowns when service is nowhere near.

To enhance MacGyver-like creativity, you need an emergency kit. It should include the following:

  • A 20-foot tow rope
  • A tire repair kit with plugs
  • A mini-compressor
  • A headlamp
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra fuel
  • Food for an extended stay
  • Extra water
  • Fire starting kit
  • Socket/wrench set with common sizes
  • Zip ties
  • Folding saw
  • GPS
  • Glow sticks
  • Garmin Inreach
  • Ratchet tie-down straps
  • Emergency sleeping bag
  • Folding shovel
  • Winch and a winch kit
  • Leatherman
  • Bungee cords
  • Fire extinguisher

This list is comprehensive, but I have had a need for each of these items in different situations on the trail. Never venturing out on your own is a basic rule of riding. With that in mind, as long as there is an inventory of these items spread among your riding group, you will be in good shape.

The reason for carrying some of these items is easy to understand, while others are not so obvious. Ratcheting tie-down straps, for example, are good for more than securing your UTV to a trailer.

I was riding from the Tie Fork Rest Area between Spanish Fork and Soldiers Summit on Highway 6. I was following a friend who wanted to show me a new trail. At the time, I didn’t know that he liked to ride more extreme trails.

Lynn Blamires, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Fred goes over the machine that tumbled down the mountain to be sure it is ready to ride back to the truck.

Coming to the bottom this cliff, everyone stopped to watch him climb the cliff on his ATV. He was leaning far over the handlebars with his rear wheels spinning to find purchase on the loose ground. He made it to the top and stopped, waving to the rest of us below.

Without thinking, I followed suit. However, I was not prepared for the extreme climb and I didn’t make it to the top. It tumbled back down with me on it. I was protected from injury by a good helmet, a full camelback, and a hard side cargo box, but the ATV didn’t fare so well.

I was able to start it, but a back tire had completely separated from the rim. There was no way it was going to hold air. My friend, Fred, had an idea. He took a ratchet strap out of my cargo box and secured it around the tire tread. Tightening the loop with the ratchet, he forced the bead of the tire onto the rim of the wheel. Using my mini compressor, we pumped air into the tire and the bead sealed. I was able to ride my ATV back to the truck.

There is another way to reseat a bead, but it is risky. You can spray starter fluid liberally around the area between the tire bead and the rim. Stand back and throw a match at the area you sprayed and BOOM! The explosion will instantly inflate the tire and seal the bead. Many examples of this method are available to view on YouTube. I have never tried it and it looks scary.

Another item on the list that has multiple uses is the 20-foot tow strap. By definition, it is used to tow a vehicle that is disabled to a place where the disability can be dealt with. However, it comes in handy when a tire needs to be changed on a UTV and you have no jack.

Position your machine perpendicular to the side of a UTV needing help. Attach one end of the tow strap to a spot on your chassis in the front. Attach the other end to a spot high on the roll cage below the roof. Back up until there is tension on the strap and then slowly continue to back until the opposite side of UTV is tilted off the ground enough to change the tire. Hold your position steady and get the assistance of others to help steady the UTV.

This maneuver can be used to deal with most work that needs to be done on the undercarriage. Stay tuned for more creative ways to handle breakdowns in the backcountry. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and plan ahead to stay safe on the trail.

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

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