Written by Eli Madero
For many people, their first time on an ATV was pretty simple. I remember my parents putting me on an old Honda ATC 90, clicking it into first gear with the throttle restrictor screwed in almost all the way and sending me off. Over time through trial and error I learned that technique plays a great role in how an ATV handles when you’re riding. Now, at 33 years old, I feel that I’m a good rider, as far as technique is concerned, but am not as willing to do what I would’ve done 10 or 15 years ago. If I had known then what I know now, I could even be a pro rider. Either way, I still love riding ATVs for fun and getting in an occasional race.
Nowadays, people can learn or teach their children to ride the same way I was taught, or they can attend a class that’s offered through the ATV Safety Institute (ASI). Getting properly trained is especially important since many states require riders under the age of 18 to either have a certificate so they can ride an ATV without adult supervision or their supervisor or guardian must hold a certificate. Certified or not, riders 14 years old and younger are required to be in the presence of a certified guardian over 18. Some people look at this mandate as a pain while others look at it as common sense.
Many people will read this and start wondering about how to get one of these certificates. Yes, you can sign up with the ASI (see our handy-dandy sidebar), but when you purchase a new ATV, many manufacturers will offer to enroll you in one of these classes at no charge. Honda has even gone a step further than just offering to enroll you in a class through the ASI by building its own training centers. In addition, if you purchase a new Honda ATV and haven’t taken the course, the company will pay your course fee as well as pay you a $100 incentive.
Honda’s Tim Patnode invited the ATVR staff to the Red Rider Ranch in Colton, California, to participate in one of the ASI classes and tour the state-of-the-art facility. With an opportunity to get out of the office staring us in the face, we jumped at the chance. A simple memo sent through the office e-mail instantly had volunteers lined up to take the course. Who wouldn’t want to get a day out of the office to go riding?
The training center Honda created not only offers safety training for ATVs, but for dirt and street bikes as well. This is what you could call your one-stop safety center. We all showed up in our casual attire and were guided to the changing area. The Red Rider Ranch is equipped with a full array of off-road safety gear ranging from boots all the way to helmets and goggles. Thanks to Honda, we walked in as civilians and hustled out looking like professional racers. Now we were ready to go to the quads.
Waiting on the off-road training grounds was a new Honda Foreman 500 and five 250EXs. These are very rider-friendly for beginners and proved to be very reliable with simple maintenance requirements. All looked to be in immaculate condition and gave us the feeling that we were going to be on a brand-new machine, but don’t get too excited just yet. Before you’re allowed to throw a leg over any of these machines you must go through the standard “classroom” portion of the course. This is a basic refresher in common sense for most people.
Most ATV riders understand the risks of riding these fun machines, but many people are first-timers and need to know that they aren’t all fun and games. Students are made aware of the range of safety gear available and what they should have as a bare minimum. Next is becoming familiar with the controls of the machine. It’s easy to just hop on a quad and stab the throttle, but if you don’t know where the brakes are, you can get yourself into big trouble. This is the less glamorous part of the course but required nonetheless.
Once the slower portion of the class was finished, it was time to ride. The course we signed up for was designed for customers who have never ridden an ATV before. Luckily enough, some of the women in our office and the offices at
Honda had not. The curriculum covers the basics of how body positioning affects handling and stability. From a simple sweeping turn to a slalom and evasive maneuvers, all of our students were improving their riding skills and having a good time while doing it.
In the middle of our in-the-seat training came a break where the student were guided through the facility’s trail system. This trail system features the five ecosystems found in California and gives the instructor the opportunity to show students the different plant life that they’ll find when out on the trails. The instructors also explained the various trail signs that riders will come across when they’re out exploring their local riding areas. These guys want to educate the consumer as much as possible about conservation and trail-friendliness.
One of the biggest reasons for closing land to OHV use is because of lack of education. People who don’t stay on designated trails sometimes don’t realize they’re straying because they don’t know what to look for. This may be a no-brainer for many experienced ATV riders, but for a newbie to this sport, it could just be a lack of understanding. That’s what makes this course and facility well appreciated and shows that many companies in the ATV industry care about how their product is used in the field.
After the final steps in the training were finished, it was time for the much-anticipated graduation trail ride. Everyone fell into line behind the instructor as he led us into the trail system, which would put the newly acquired riding skills to the test. From water crossings, boulder-laden roads and riding through a water trough, the class enjoyed a good 15-minute ride that proved to be challenging, scenic and fun. If school had been like this when I was growing up, I may’ve studied harder.
When everything was done for the day, the ATVs were washed down before being stored and we turned in our gear. As we left, we were given a complimentary Honda Red Rider Ranch T-shirt and a card issued by the ASI to prove that we passed the class. Keep this nearby when you’re out on the trails. You never know when you may need to show the local law enforcement officers that you’ve been certified. If you have kids, it could even save you a hefty fine.
This facility that Honda has created can be summarized in one word: awesome! Not only can you learn good riding technique, but you can do it in an environment that’s in civilization and also educates you on eco-friendliness. Although this facility is the only one of its kind in California and one of four in the nation, I’m sure that you will see more pop up in the future. The ultimate dream would be to see all the manufacturers combine forces to build similar facilities throughout the country. Each state could modify it to showcase their own ecosystems and generate even more environmentally friendly ATV riders.
Posted with permission from the November 2008 issue of ATV Rider ® www.atvrideronline.com. Copyright 2009, Source Interlink Media, Inc. All rights reserved. For more information about reprints from ATV Rider, contact Wright’s Reprints at 877-652-5295.