A great way to get kids outdoors and adventuring is to introduce them to an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). With a bit of pre-purchase education, and some post-purchase parental supervision, you can create a love for safe riding that will last a lifetime. Before searching the want ads and dealerships for a new unit, here are a few tips to help instill the responsible use of ATVs.
When it comes to selecting an ATV, the choices may seem endless, but take solace knowing the major manufacturers have made the job of pairing the correctly sized ATV to your youth’s age, size and skill level easy for you. On every youth model ATV, minimum age rider ratings are listed on a safety warning label, which should be affixed to the bodywork in a location where it's easily visible. There are five minimum age categories tailored to riders (ages 6, 10, 12, 14 and 16).
Some states require riders to complete an approved safety course to operate an ATV, but even if they don’t, it’s best that both you and your child take an ATV safety class together to understand safe riding practices. There are a variety of online and hands-on ATV safety classes, and most are free or low cost. These classes teach you important safety tips, proper riding techniques, trail riding etiquette and basic ATV maintenance. Search the internet for these classes, visit your local dealer to inquire or call your local ATV club.
Riding an ATV has major benefits for kids, but like any sport, it also comes with risks. As a parent, you can make ATV riding safer by ensuring your child has the proper gear, and wears it every time he or she gets behind the handlebars. Most important, start by purchasing a safety-certified, properly fitting helmet with some form of eye protection (goggles or helmet face shield). Additional riding gear can be upgraded over time, but is most likely already in your home closet – over-the-ankle boots, gloves, long pants and a long sleeve shirt are a must.
By this point, your safe rider checklist should be dwindling and your child is getting anxious to ride! For brand new riders, start by practicing by reviewing the basic components of the ATV with the engine off. In the seated position, make sure their hands can reach the handlebars at all times and both feet reach the footrests. Practice squeezing the brake and throttle without glancing away from the path of travel until it becomes second nature. When it’s go-time, find a large, flat location to start off in without risk of hitting any stationary obstacles. As your child’s skills progress, add some safety cones to practice taking left and right corners.
There’s a big off-road world to explore via the seat of an ATV, and it can be extremely rewarding to share the adventures as a family. The barriers to getting started riding ATVs are easy to overcome when you get properly trained, wear the right gear and instill safe riding practices.