By: Staff Report
Bad things can happen when you’re marooned at home in the dead of winter. The mind starts to wander, the waistline begins to expand and a despondent, gloomy attitude takes over. Without going into historical examples of snowbound survival gone wrong, there are plenty of reasons to stay active during the winter and ways to use the off-season to your advantage.
Perhaps knitting, cross-country skiing or ice skating isn’t your thing. No worries, as your four-wheeler can be an all-season vehicle to save you from boredom. Aside from keeping your battery alive throughout the season, riding your ATV can get you over the mid-winter slump. Here are our suggestions for warding off boredom, while getting your ATV fix this winter.
That’s right. Why not ride in the winter? Rear-wheel drive and slippery terrain can make things especially entertaining and four-wheel drive can usually keep you moving, even in the deep stuff. But where can you ride in the winter, you ask? Many snowmobile-friendly areas have shared-use trails that allow ATVs to ride all year.
ATVs are also a great way to conquer the white stuff at home. Forget shoveling your way through the season. Take that 4X4 quad and add a plow or a snow thrower kit to move serious amounts of snow in a hurry. Watch out, as plowing can become addictive. You might make some new friends in the neighborhood, though, after compulsively plowing out all of your neighbors.
ADD A TRACK KIT
We’ll admit it: Enough snow can stop any ATV in its tracks, especially the deep fluffy stuff. While they’re not cheap, track systems will allow your ATV to get through any blizzard without a hitch.
Some are designed for all-season use, while some models are snow-specific. All-terrain track kits are usually heavier and slower, so choose accordingly. For installation, budget an hour or two and get yourself an assistant. For riding, bring a saw if you’re heading into the woods. While you will never run out of traction with a track system, fallen logs can become an impassable hang-up if you straddle them with the tracks.
GO ICE FISHING
Depending on where you live, ice fishing is also a great excuse to pull your quad out of hibernation and put it to good use. There are numerous ATV ice shelters out there, and accessories for staying warm while you ride. Do as the snowmobile riders do and dress for the conditions. Windproof jackets, hand guards, electric hand warmers, balaclavas and specially designed cold weather riding gloves can make things much toastier for winter riding. Don’t forget the goggles, if you’re not wearing a full-face helmet, and cover any exposed skin!
Because of their lighter weight, superior traction, cargo capacity and go-anywhere ability, quads are a better choice for serious ice fishing than a snowmobile or a truck. With mobile shelters, there’s nothing stopping you from picking up and moving to new waters if nothing’s biting. Just make sure the ice is thick enough before you head out there.
HOOK UP AND GO
Surveys show most Americans are choking on vacation days – our companies give them to us, but we all feel like we’re too darn busy at work to actually use all of our hard-earned vacation days.
Don’t be “that guy” that loses his vacation days and retires with too few memories. Instead, load up your ATV and point yourself south, or west or wherever the great ATV riding awaits. Many of the best and most famous ATV riding areas have year-round trails that are not crowded in the winter and early spring. Leave Cancun to the granola-eating types and spring breakers — take a quality winter vacation doing something you truly love.
PLAN A PROJECT
You thought about it last summer, you considered it last fall — you know, that pesky project that you really should do, but didn’t have the time to plan out and execute? Maybe it’s the retaining wall and landscaping project. It could be the food plot you’ve been thinking of putting in. Does the yard need a complete overhaul? Is there a chunk of your property where you’d like to cut a trail?
Use wintertime as planning time. Think about what you want to build, how you’ll get it done, and the pieces of equipment you’ll need to complete the task.
Once the holiday expenditures have started to clear their way through your credit card bills, it might be time to buy a little something special for the four-wheeled friend sitting in the garage.
How about a storage box for the rear rack? Maybe a gun boot for hunting season, or a pull-behind trailer for getting projects done around the yard? From new riding gear to hard parts for your machine, there are plenty of options available.
PLAN A SPRING GETAWAY
Maybe you’ve read about the great trails of West Virginia’s Hatfield-McCoy, Missouri’s Chadwick or South Dakota’s Black Hills, or dreamed of playing in the sand at a place like California’s Imperial Sand Dunes, Oklahoma’s Little Sahara or Idaho’s St. Anthony Sand Dunes. “We’ve got to get there one day,” you and your friends tell each other. Well, we hate to break it to you, but you’re not getting any younger sitting on the couch!
This winter, take the time to do the research, plan ahead, get a group of family and/or friends lined up and plan a trip for the coming riding season. Read the magazines, search online and plot out the trip of a lifetime. You’ll be glad you did.
BUILD YOURSELF A WORKSPACE
Be a man; build a workspace. Move all those storage bins filled with holiday decorations, garage sale items and junk. Hang the kids’ bikes, wagon, the baby stroller, ladders and other items from the ceiling or wall. Once you’ve cleared an area, focus on building an ATV shop complete with a bench, proper lighting, great tools and various ATV parts and supplies. If your garage is not heated, bring in one of those propane or torpedo heaters to force yourself to work. The more room you create for you and your ATV, the more you’ll enjoy wrenching on that bad boy.
However, if you move all your stuff and still don’t have room in the garage, pitch the wife on letting you add on, or at the least, park her minivan outside. Better yet, get one of those backyard sheds to store all your junk. That way, you can build a quad shop that would make Tim “The Toolman” Taylor jealous.
TAKE ON A PROJECT
Don’t be surprised one day if your ATV decides to quit on you. How do you think Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre has lasted so long? Protection and maintenance, that’s how. You need to rejuvenate your quad every year so it continues to soldier on. Make time this winter to fix damaged or worn parts and do normal maintenance.
If you’ve never greased a zerk, try it — you’ll like it. Clean or replace the air filter to give your quad its lungs back. If you own a quad with belt drive, open it up and examine the clutch assembly and belt for excessive wear and tear. If the silencer sounds spits, leaks or sputters, think about refurbishing or replacing it. This is also a good time to replace the brake pads and bleed the system.
Fun, fast projects include adding new wheels and tires, a thumb throttle extender, replacing handgrips, adding a new seat or seat cover and bolting on ATV armor so your quad is tougher. Use the winter to transform an ordinary ATV into a serious hunting vehicle, by adding camouflage skin, a cab enclosure, winch, mud tires and more.
It may not be the most amusing way to kill time, but use the off-season to form an ATV club, get involved in a local trails project or attend land access meetings in your area.
The U.S. Forest Service is re-evaluating motorized access across the country and many districts are hosting a series of public meetings to find out if people care about maintaining or expanding ATV trails. Make your voice heard! All too often riders do not become involved until it’s too late. Such meetings are a great way to meet fellow riders in your area, who may become future riding buddies or club members.
Consider this your last resort. Sometimes the beauty of winter means planting your tookus on the couch for an afternoon. All things in moderation, right? Whether it’s quality time with the kids, or keeping yourself entertained on a snow day, cable ATV shows, extreme riding videos or the latest generation of offroad games can offer a much-needed electronic ATV supplement.
If the phone lines are still up, cruise the web for discussion forums or new places to ride. Use the downtime to book hotel rooms or cabins early, research riding areas or to map future routes on your GPS in advance. If you’re feeling really motivated, check out state laws and trail fees so you can have a turnkey trip waiting for you as soon as the spring thaw comes.
Originally published in the March 2008 issue of ATV Magazine ©