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HOW-TO: Ride rocks, hills, ruts and more on your ATV

April 11, 2016
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From time to time we bring you tips from pro riders on how to set up your quad and go fast on a track. We know most of you don’t ride tracks and would rather learn how to ride better on trails. So, in this feature we will give you a few tips on how to properly conquer big obstacles you might encounter on the trail. Then, the next time you are out with your buddies they will be impressed with you as you make it over something in the trail without even slowing down to think about it.

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RUTS: We like to ride just after it rains, but with a good rain usually comes ruts. On quads, it’s imperative to not let one side or the other of the quad fall into a rut. It’s best to approach the rut at a 90-degree angle and jump straight over it. You can approach it at a little bit of an angle if it has a small lip to help you out. Pull up on the front end just enough to get your front wheels past the rut and back on the ground. Having the front wheels on the ground quickly will help keep the rear wheels light and help clear the rut.

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HILLS: Take your time to find the hill or trail with the least obstacles in your way. Not making a hill-climb in some situations can turn ugly. On approach, have your line picked out and build just enough speed to make it to the top or over an obstacle. If you have enough speed, traction shouldn’t be an issue, and you can stand up to keep weight on the front end. Hills that have obstacles that require you to check up, should be separated into sections. Again, gain enough speed to clear the obstacle, then get on the throttle again while keeping your weight centered over the machine.

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TURNING AROUND ON HILLS: If you find yourself not making it to the top of a hill, it’s best to call it early on. Try to stop in the widest area you can to turn around. It’s safest to turn the quad around without you sitting on it. As the quad comes to a stop, grab the front brake and step off the machine. Being on the upside of the machine is your safest out. Then, when standing next to the quad, you can easily roll the quad down and steer it to the right. Once the quad gets nearly perpendicular with the trail, you can turn the bars back to the left. This should have the quad facing downward. If not, lock the parking brake on and drag the front of the quad down the hill until you feel safe to ride it back down.

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ROCKS: Riding over rocks is about line selection first and balance second. In most situations, it’s best to let the tires drive over rocks instead of letting the frame and skid plates scrape over them. If you do find a situation where the rocks have to be center-punched, do it with momentum. At first, keep your front end light and get enough speed so the rock will make it at least three-quarters of the way under your frame. Once your front tires hit the ground again, be ready with a steady throttle to drive off of them. If your quad is only 2WD, you have to hit them faster and be sure to keep weight off the rear of the quad when the rock slides to that section. If you have the ability to aim, remember, it’s better to hit the axle than it is to hit your chain or brake rotor.

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SIDEHILLS: Some sidehills can be taken by just moving your weight to the high side of the hill. But keep in mind, you might encounter a section that is more severe than the rest of it. For this section you want to get a little more speed through and keep an eye out for when it levels out and slow down just prior. Another thing to watch out for when riding on sidehills is, if you encounter a rock, root or square-edge bump on the upper side of the trail, you need to be ready for the quad to get even steeper and lean more aggressively for that split second.

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LOGS: Getting over logs is about body position. Typically, you can ride over logs that are no bigger than the size of your tires. Approach the log square on, and with the front end, lightly blip the throttle to drive on top of the log. Before the log catches on your skid plate, let off the throttle and lean your body forward to help keep the quad moving forward. Just as your rear tires hit the log, another blip of the throttle should get you over it safely. If the log is larger than the diameter of your tire, again, approach it head-on. Stand on the rear grab bar as you drive the front tires onto the log. Then, get off the quad and push the rear tires up onto and over the log.

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DEEP TWO-TRACK: Well-traveled trails will become two-track in some cases, and the deeper ones can catch your underbelly or swingarm. Approach them fast and move your bodyweight to the outside of the turn and let the side knobbies on your tires help drive you through.

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SILT: On heavily traveled trails in the Southwest, we have what is called silt. It’s baby-powder-like dirt that takes many people by surprise, like quicksand of the desert. The key is to keep momentum up but only ride as fast as you have to without letting the fluff rise up and block your vision. Silt, like sand, gets rutted up, so you also want to ride to the side of the ruts to keep your underbelly from getting hung up.

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