By: CJ Rena Johnson
Women and ATVing: Safety On and Off the Trails
Keeping the center of gravity low.
Female riders are drastically increasing in
numbers every day. Look for them at any
trailhead, and you are bound to notice a growing
percentage of the riders these days are indeed
Getting out on the trail and riding full speed
ahead is just as exciting for women as it is for
the more traditional male rider; however, before
you hit the trail wide open, there are a couple
of things that you need to take into
First off: Always be prepared! Remember: You
must prepare for the accident then enjoy the
Don’t be misled. There is a common misconception
that ATVs are a lot safer, say for instance,
than a dirt bike, just because they have four
wheels and can stand up on their own. This
assumption sometimes leads to disaster. Sure an
ATV can stand on its own. So as long as you are
sitting there, looking pretty posing for a
picture, you should be just fine! However,
going around a curve, up a hill or slamming into
something head on, you might want to be aware of
a few other facts.
For instance, an ATV is typically 2 to 3 times
heavier than a dirt bike; and when it lands on
top of you, you will know why that is important!
Also, this will be important when it gets stuck
in the mud or off over an embankment. Always be
prepared to lift something 3 or 4 times your own
weight out of an unplanned location! The
best way to do this is utilize either the buddy
system or a winch/tow kit on the ATV itself.
This fact also has to be taken into
consideration during loading and unloading the
Speaking of the buddy system, that is always a
good idea. Never ride alone and always
make sure someone knows where you are going to
be riding and when you plan to return from your
There are other things to remember as well.
Always carry a first aid kit, a bottle of water,
a whistle and a radio. The first aid kit
will come in handy if you or another rider is in
any sort of accident, or even scrape your hand
trying to change a spark plug! A bottle of
water is useful to wash out any cuts or
abrasions or to wash the dust out of your mouth
after following too closely behind someone up a
dusty trail. The whistle will definitely come in
handy if you happen to go off over an embankment
and need someone to find you. A whistle is much
louder than a scream and is more likely be heard
over the sound of the motors of passing ATVs.
The radio can come in handy to let others know
of your location or to call for help in an
emergency. You can also use it if you get lost,
or maybe to have your mate bring you an extra
soda on their way up to where you are.
Don’t skimp on safety gear, either. Always wear,
at least, a Snell- or DOT-approved helmet and
eye protection. I also recommend gloves, ankle
high boots, long sleeves, and pants. You
never know when a briar across a trail either
will suddenly rip through your skin or get
brushed out of the way by the denim of your
jeans or better still, your riding pants. The
choice is yours.
Always check your equipment thoroughly before
you take off.
Be sure to check the tire pressure. They should
all be inflated to the same pressure. If the
pressure is different in tires opposite each
other, it will make the ATV very difficult to
handle even in the best of situations. The
appropriate tire pressure is usually between 2
and 6 psi. Check your owner’s manual for the
appropriate psi for your ATV. (There is usually
a sticker on the ATV with this information as
well.) In addition, check the tires for
cuts or gouges that could lead to leakage or a
Make sure the brakes are fully functioning as
well as the lights, kill switch, ignition, and
throttle. Don’t forget to check the fluids like
gas and oil for evidence of any possible leaks.
When camping on the trail, make sure to take
everything you will need with you. Nothing is
worse than waking up to horrible morning breath
miles from the nearest store and instead of
being excited about the day’s ride, all you can
think about it is how you would trade those new
hand warmers for one dental travel pack!
Always pay attention to personal and equipment
safety as well. ATVs are high on the list
of ‘most often stolen items,’ as they are
regularly sold again and again throughout their
life without license, titles, bill of sale,
certificate of ownership, etc., which makes them
very hard to trace. In addition, being in
the minority as a woman rider, you do stand out
on the trail, so take extra precautions with
your personal safety. Be aware of your
surroundings and again, the buddy system is
recommended on all rides.
Use the radio to have my mate bring me a
Loading up after a full day of ATV
Here are a few other quick tips for everyone:
- Be familiar with your ATV and look
at the owner’s manual if you have any questions.
- Never ride beyond your ability!
- Do not ride double unless your ATV
is built specifically for double riders. Doing
so makes the ATV less maneuverable, harder to
handle, and more likely to turn over or flip.
- Riding on hard surfaces actually
makes it harder to turn an ATV. Do not ride on
hardtop unless you have tires specifically for
that type of surface.
- Ride legally and always leave the
area better than you found it.
- Keep the noise levels down by
making sure your muffler system meets the 96
decibel limit that was established in 2003.
- Alcohol and drugs do NOT mix with
- Be courteous to other riders. When
on a trail, always show respect to the
environment and other riders.
- Never lend your ATV to unskilled
riders. Know and respect the laws about letting
children under the age of 16 ride an ATV.
- Never put your foot down when
riding an ATV as a cast will definitely put a
damper on going dancing next Saturday night!
- Lean forward when going up a hill.
Go slow going up a hill, but try not to have to
stop or change gears, as either one of these
actions can cause the ATV to flip backwards.
Never back down the hill. Turn the quad
around and go back down the hill forward. Be
sure to lean back as you are going down the
- Aways try to keep the center of
gravity as low as possible by keeping all the
weight you can on your feet. You can
usually accomplish this by standing up. Remember
to keep your knees flexible to avoid possible
injury or strain. Do not pull back on the
handle bars when going up a hill.
- Never use the front brake when
going forward at excessive speeds or down a
These are only a few of the tips you should heed
when heading out on the trail, but they are a
good start. There will be other things you
discover along the way.
One final note: Don’t let this article
discourage you from riding. It is meant to
install enough fear to make you a bit more
cautious and safe enough to ride for years to
come. I hope to meet some of you out on the
trail, always with the rubber side down! Have an