ATV/UTV Tips: 5 Ways To Prep For The First Ride

Rick Sosebee, Outdoors.com Contributor

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first ride

So, you just loaded the brand-new machine up into the bed of your truck or trailer and the only thing on your mind is hitting the gas station then finding the nearest trail. Well, that is a great way to start a day for sure, and being the owner of a brand new or new-to-you ATV/UTV is an awesome feeling, but you might want to pump the brakes just a little. Getting out on the trail is the goal, but let’s be realistic about trusting the machine you just purchased to be as safe and fitting for you as it possibly can be. Even though there are many items checked on at the dealer, sometimes a technician, and surely a private seller, will overlook items that should be on your priority list.

Looking over the new machine is a must do and it only ensures that the experience is a positive one as well as a safe one when the rubber meets the dirt. I’ve owned my share of new machines, and the below list includes some ATV/UTV tips you don’t want to overlook before turning the key and heading out on the first ride.

Wheels and Tires

The one thing that makes contact with the trail and secures the grip on the ride of your first ridemachine is the tire. Be sure the tire has the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure and there are no obvious signs of issues on the tire. If the machine is new then chances are you will not have any problems as far as tread and structure but always check the air pressure before ripping out the trail. This will give you the best handling and traction for the machine. The wheels on your machine would be the next item and its not really the wheel itself but the wheel lug’s that need to be checked. Make sure the wheel lugs are tight and torqued properly so the wheel stays on the machine!

Controls

Getting on your new ATV or in the UTV or your dreams and finding out that the steering wheel isn’t close enough or the handlebars and levers are too far from your reach is a first ridebummer. This is why we suggest you adjust everything to your liking before you get out in the woods. Sliding the seat up so you can reach the pedals is important for safety and comfort. Getting the brake, gas and switches on your ATV handlebars positions correctly is also good for a fun day of riding and not a day of fighting the machine. Be sure to check the foot brake as well on your ATV as it may need to be adjusted for comfort and good braking action. Do not forget to check the grips on the handlebars. If one of those gets loose or is loose then you will be pressing the trail with one hand and trying to hang onto the quad with the other.

Fluids 

There would be nothing worse than to get out on the trail and have the heart of your first ridemachine quit working. Starting a dead machine is trouble as well as a headache on the trail. Check important fluids like the engine oil. A quick check on the dipstick will let you know if you are ready to ride or not. You might think it’s not possible, but I have seen new machine owners take off, right out of the trailer with only a splash of gas in the tank and no oil in the machine.

You will need some fuel for the ride so just twist off the gas cap and see what you have or first rideif you have a digital dash that lets you know that level then be sure to take a peek. Also be sure to look at the coolant level. Overheating an engine is not a great thing to do and it can have lasting negative effects if not treated. Coolant overflow bottle is typically the place for excess fluid and if you do twist the cap off of the radiator be sure it is before you start the engine. Always check coolant when the engine is cold and not hot.

Break-In Procedure

first ride

If you have just purchased a brand-new ATV or side by side be sure to know and respect the break-in procedure. If you “ride it like you stole it” as soon as you buy it then do not expect it to last very long. Engines need time to get broken in to run well for the expected life of the machine. Smooth throttle and lower than normal riding speeds will ease the engine into its proper running capability without busting the insides apart. Don’t be the guy who comes back to the dealer after spending thousands of dollars on a new machine and has to get a motor replaced due to operator error.

READ Owners Manual

Getting familiar with how your ATV or UTV operates is important. This gives you an idea of how the machine will function and it will also familiarize you with how each feature is bestused. Know the braking procedure, know what buttons do what and all of the service intervals are also listed in there. Now, I know all of the “experts” who may be reading this will most likely jump on the rig and just hammer down, but it will be that same person at the end of a ride who inevitably asks “how do I do this?” or “what’s that?” on their machine. Just read it and be happy besides, reading is good for you!

first ride

The premise of this article is to make sure your new machine is ready to go before your first ride, but the reality is you need to make sure your follow a pre ride check before every ride. The old saying is, if you stay on top of the preventative maintenance you can cut down on the corrective maintenance (AKA I broke something big because I didn’t take care of something little).