top of page


Author Ron K

Pursuing Offroad Perfection 

ATV Talk That Rocks

Welcome to the ATV Safety Category

A category where enthusiasts can get some ideas on ways to be safer, pick out the proper gear, share thoughts, and ask questions about Safety. Over time, we hope to have many bits of info to make your adventures long and happy. Nothing ruins a day like falling on your head when you're not wearing a helmet. 

But, you're not planning on having an accident? So, who does? They're called accidents.  


As some of you riders are aware, the only national organization for ATV safety is the ATV Safety Institute where classes are organized for safety through the cooperation (and money) from the SVIA, which is a non-profit company sponsored by the manufacturers of ATVs and motorcycles. 

I'm a certified instructor of ASI and they schedule classes for me of people who have just purchased a new ATV or just want to improve their riding ability. At their site (which you can get to by clicking on the link highlighted above) you can find various types of info such as what type of clothing is recommended or where classes are being held to an actual mini-class you can take on line. 

If you have any questions about this site, or questions of a general nature regarding safe riding, feel free to contact me by private message or just post on the Safety Category. I usually monitor the site every day. Ron K

Ten Things Every Rider Must Know About ATVs---- 

1---ATVs are not toys! They are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles. 

2---ATVs can travel at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour and can weigh in excess of 700 pounds. 

3---ATVs can easily roll and tip over. Their unpredictable nature in off-road conditions makes training and proper use essential. 

4---In 2003, there were an estimated 740 deaths associated with ATVs, including 140 reported deaths that involved children. In 2004, an estimated 136,000 ATV-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms. Or another fact, there are over 500 deaths each year on ATVs. 

5---All riders should always wear a helmet and eye protection when on an ATV. 

6---About one-third of ATV-related deaths and injuries involve children. Anyone younger than 16 years of age should never be on an adult ATV. 

7---Usually, stay off paved roads except for brief crossings at low speed. 

8---Avoid unfamiliar terrain when it's beyond your capability. 

9---Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, only "two-up" ATVs or UTVs. 

10--Do not drive an ATV while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

***Bonus Fact---More people flip their ATV's loading and unloading than anywhere else (actually, 3 out of 4). So always wear your helmet then, too.   Ron K

It's easy to think we can just hop on our ATVs and hit the trail--and we can--but to be more sure we'll make it back okay, there are some things we can do. 

Now, every 20 or 30 hours, we should go over the bike thoroughly, meaning checking the lug nuts, fender bolts/rivets, cleaning any brush/sticks from the undercarraige area, body/rack bolts, battery connections, cable operation, brake fluid level (including foot brake reservoir), brake lights, horn, fluid leaks/levels, checking all bolts, etc. One thing that helps, too, to find something loose, is to 'touch' everything. If it wiggles, it's loose--sometimes just looking at it won't tell. Doing this every trip would be nice, but I'm trying to be practical here. 

There are some items that definitely should be done before each trip. I try to remember them with an acronym that goes: TOWGAL. So if you guys are taking out your favorite gal on a ride, and you don't want to "tow the gal" home, then do a TOWGAL on your bikes. 

Tires (fill to approximately 4&1/2 lbs. each--usually the recommended amount is on a sticker on the fender. Then do a visual check during stops on the ride) 
Oil (check to operating level unless you know you don't use any and there are no leaks underneath) 
Water (eyeball the overflow tank) 
Gas (is it full?) 
Accessories (are the bags secured to the racks and zipped shut?) 
Lights (headlights working--you could be out at night, plus, better to find out you have a weak battery at home) 

Doing a TOWGAL could save your life if it kept your bike running and you didn't get stranded in the boonies at the wrong time. You cover more distance in an hour of riding than a day walking. 

Plus this biggie: The bears don't try to eat ATVs when they're running.  Ron K

In order to be fairly well prepared for your forays into the wild, there are some items that most of us will use at one time or another. It's bad form to always expect others to have what you need when YOUR ATV breaks down, or you need some special item. The list might be long, but it will all fit easily into an accessory storage bag/box that attaches to your rear rack. Some people use a front box for storage also, but front boxes more than several inches high hinder your front vision. Some of these items can also be stored in fender or gas tank bags that can be reached while in the seated position. 

Storage bag accessories (not in any particular order): 

spare atv key, camera, GPS unit/cable, cell phone, maps, tools/hammer, head scarf, ballcap, tire repair kit, medicine, multi use knife, tow strap, folding shovel, tire pump, rain gear, dust mask/scarf, trash bag, tissue paper, Slime for tires, extra clothes, bug spray, suntan lotion, chap stick, lunch/snack, spare lens, water bottles, insurance card, driver’s license, emergency #’s, wire, 1st aid kit, note pad/pencil, tire gauge, duct tape, registration, owner's manual, jumper cable, spark plug, zip ties, wire, work gloves, handi-wipes, wallet 

Some of these items have dual purposes. The work gloves can be backup riding gloves, the rain gear can be a sudden cold weather jacket, trash bag for water or loose oil collection and spare clothes for rags. Also, be sure to wrap/seal up items that might leak (like Slime, bug spray, medicine, or suntan lotion), because who knows, you might happen to hit a bump. Your special circumstances might necessitate additional items. Start your own list if necessary. 

While it can be confusing, there are three ways to buy your helmet. First, and easiest, is to go into a shop and say "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe", and pick out one at random. Essentially, this is what you are doing when you go into a store with generic helmets, or buy on line just from what the pictures look like. 

Second, and a good choice, is to talk for a while with a salesperson that seems to know what they're doing. If the salesperson has used some of the helmets, it helps him know what he's talking about. He can help you make sure you have a good fit. The price and attractiveness of the helmet is for you to judge. Try to wear the helmet around the store for awhile, or even ask about a return policy if the helmet is not damaged if you use it out of the store on a ride. 

Third, and most exhaustive, but best, is to read info from a site like this one and then go into the store. Then you are able to make the best judgement. 

The items you will consider are : 
1. Certification: DOT or SNELL 
2. Retention: Does it stay on? 
3. Fit: Does it wiggle? 
4. Comfort: Can you wear it all day? 
5. Coverage: How much protection? 
6. Faceshield: Shield, goggles, glasses? 
7. Convenience: Little features 
8. Comfort: Venting, padding 
9. Appearance: Attractiveness, eye catching 
10. Cost: $50.-500. 

Try to consider as many of these items as possible. You can sometimes mix padding sizes to make a helmet fit better, or just remove some cheek padding. Also consider having several helmets for different riding, like a shorty for summer and a full face for winter. 

Styles of Helmets 

Studies have shown, and riders report, that helmets not only save lives, but drastically reduce injuries to the head, face, and neck. While the choice of helmet style and size may be time consuming, the potential reward is literally life saving. Helmets designed today are tough, lightweight, weather protecting, wind protecting, allow good vision, allow non-engine sounds, provide traffic visibility, and can be quite attractive. The more expensive ones are usually made of better quality materials, better designed hinges and buckles, better ventilation, and fancier appearance—although these items do not necessarily make them safer. 

Different Styles: 
Half Helmets. This is the most basic style of real helmets. Sometimes called shorties, these are for minimum protection as there is no side or chin coverage. Some of these helmets do have zip in leather sides to make them more versatile. They can be used with an add-on, flip up shield which gives slightly more protection. These are the easiest to put on/take off and are easier to just leave on when talking or eating and are the best for airflow in hot weather. Someone with a strong feeling of claustrophobia would be better off here. 

¾ or Open Face Helmets. This style includes side protection for the head and ears. With the addition of a flip-up full face shield, face protection is greatly enhanced. With goggles or motorcycle glasses, one has eye protection, but can also converse or eat easily. These are somewhat harder to remove than the half style and airflow depends on the manufacturer’s design. 

Motocross Helmets. These have full head coverage including the chin area, plus include a visor for sun protection. These give better protection in front face accidents. They are usually used in conjunction with goggles. Most have elaborate graphics. This style is very common with ATV riders. It is necessary to remove them for eating as the chin guard cannot be moved. 

Modular or Flip-Up Helmets. These are a full head and face helmet with a face shield that is combined with the chin section. Thus, when you want to talk or eat, you push a button to raise your entire face portion so that it is similar to the Open Face Helmet design. It is also as easy to remove as the Open Face. This gives good weather protection, and good accident protection when in the fully closed mode, but could open if the release button where to be activated in a crash—although not likely. 

Full Face Helmets. These give the most protection of your eyes, head, face, ears, neck and chin, by fully enclosing everything. This keeps out rain, wind, bugs, rocks, dust, cold, and sun, due to its wrap around design. It has the least wind resistance and may be easier on your neck strain, too, which is why it is very popular with street bikers. The main disadvantage is the difficulty of putting on and taking off. Here is where good design is important to insure good ventilation and precise fit. 

Standards. Most helmets sold in the USA, and any you should buy, are certified by either the federal government’s Department of Transportation (DOT), or the Snell Memorial Foundation (SNELL). The DOT approved helmets have been certified by the manufacturer that he has met certain standards of safety, but are only periodically checked by independent labs to ascertain correct compliance. All SNELL approved helmets have been checked for compliance, and to higher standards. While there is satisfaction in knowing your helmet has been positively approved (SNELL), there is also some question whether their standards appropriately reflect real world accidents. The lesser protection of the DOT may benefit more head trauma more of the time. I would conclude that choosing the amount of protection desired (i.e.: half helmets, full face helmets, etc.) is more important than whether or not your helmet has DOT approval only, or both DOT and SNELL. 

Just a few tips: 

A helmet looks tough and sturdy, but should be handled as a fragile item. We understand that to some riders, a helmet is not just a "helmet" but is a statement in itself. 

**Here are some general tips to maintaining your helmet: 

· Follow the manufacturer's direction on caring for your helmet. Since they made it - they would know best. 
· Use only the mildest soap recommended. Avoid any petroleum-based cleaning fluids. Strong cleaning agents can cause the helmet to decompose and damage its protective layer. 
· Do not drop your helmet on hard surfaces - it could ruin your helmet. 
· Do not store helmets near gasoline, cleaning fluids, exhaust fumes, or excessive heat. Helmet materials can react chemically to these factors and is most often invisible to the eye. 
· Read the instructions about painting, decorating, pin-striping, or applying decals to your helmet. Some thermoplastic or polycarbonate helmet compositions can be changed if painted or decals are applied. 
· Never hang your helmet on the motorcycle's mirrors, turn signals, or sissy bar. The inner liner can easily be damaged from such handling. 
· Avoid carrying a spare helmet on your cycle, unless it's well protected or on your passenger's head. Bumps and jarring from normal riding can damage a spare helmet. Storing the spare helmet near hot engine parts or exhaust pipes can cause the inner liner to distort or melt at the hot spot. 
· Place your helmet on a flat surface. i.e. on the ground, shelf, or securing it on a rack. On some bikes, putting it on the gas tank may expose it to gas fumes. If you place it on the seat, make certain it's an awfully big seat or it will probably fall off. 

Replacing Your Helmet 
Most helmet manufacturers recommend replacing your helmet every two to four years. If you notice any signs of damage replace it sooner. It is wise to replace your helmet every few years as its protective qualities may deteriorate with time and wear. i.e. the chin strap may fray or loosen at its attaching points, the shell could be chipped or banged… In the coming years, as newer technologies and materials are used, helmet will be better, stronger, lighter, and more comfortable than the one you own now. It might even cost less! Since 1974, all helmets must have the month and date of production stamped on it. Check the chin strap or permanent labeling for this date. It's unlikely, but if you cannot find a date, you can assume your helmet is very, very old and you should replace it NOW! 

**Copyright © 2002 Motorcycle Helmet 

bottom of page