How to Drive an ATV: Learn to Ride like a Pro


Learning how to drive an ATV may seem a bit intimidating at first, but it really is easier than it looks. While there are a lot of steps involved, knowing how to ride a four wheeler becomes second nature after enough experience and practice.

If you want to learn how to ride a quad like a pro, it all begins with the first step which you’ve already taken by opening this article. 

Now, let’s learn the basics on how to become an ATV rider.

How to Prepare Before Driving Your ATV

Before we discuss how to actually ride your ATV, let’s go over what you need to do before even sitting down on the seat of your quad bike.

One of the first things you should do is know where you’re going to ride your ATV. It should ideally be a large and open space that has more than enough room to allow you to ride your quad at max speed without covering too much ground too quickly.

You should also get yourself some protective safety gear. A helmet is a must, but also consider investing in some rider’s gloves, safety boots, and perhaps even some kneepads or goggles

Another important step that many people overlook is checking the laws or bylaws in your area to see if its legal to use your ATV in public places. You don’t want your first trip on a quad to be one that breaks the law and costs you a fine!

And if the opportunity is available to you in your area, you could consider taking an ATV safety course. These classes will teach you how to properly and safely drive an ATV.

how to ride a quad bike

Step by Step Guide on How to Drive an ATV

Now that the steps are outlined, let’s go over our guide on how to ride an ATV for beginners:

  1. Place your ignition key into the slot but without starting the engine
  2. Examine your front and rear brakes and confirm that they are both working properly
  3. Examine your front and rear lights, your horn and any other accessories on your ATV to confirm they are all working 
  4. Now put your gearbox in the neutral position. For most quads, this will be confirmed with a green light
  5. Now you can turn on your engine. Give it a minute or so to warm up
  6. Place your quad into first gear. Then release the brake and press down on the accelerator
  7. Start driving forward at a slow pace, periodically checking the brakes to make sure they are functioning 
  8. When you are done driving your ATV, find a proper place to park it
  9. Place your ATV back into neutral and then engage the parking brake
  10. Turn the ignition off and remove the ignition key

Advanced Tips on How to Drive an ATV

The previous section was a more beginner-friendly guide on starting and riding an ATV for the very first time. Once you’ve completed those 10 steps, feel free to continue on in this section to learn more advanced tips for when you’re actually riding your ATV.

Shifting into higher gears

To shift into a different gear, you will need to use your left foot. Do this when the clutch of the ATV is still active. There is a footrest lever on the left side by your left foot. Once it’s lifted, release the ATV’s clutch to place it into gear. Continue doing this as you attain higher speeds so that the higher gears will bring you closer to your ATV’s top speed.

Feel free to practice switching between bottom gears a few times before reaching the highest gears if you still don’t feel fully comfortable reaching the maximum speed yet.

Downshifting into lower gears

Just as you need to shift upwards in gears to go faster, you need to shift downwards when you want to go slower. To do this, hold the clutch with your left hand while pressing the shift gear down lever with your left foot just before letting go of the clutch. You will hear a clicking sound when this is done successfully.

Leaning with your body weight while turning

One of the most important riding skills to learn for a 4-wheeler is turning not just with the handlebars but with your own body as well. ATVs are fairly heavy vehicles so they will turn more efficiently if you use your own body’s weight to help with the turning process. This is also part of the appeal of riding ATVs in the first place – the excitement is all in the turning!

It may seem a little dangerous at first but this is actually how you make riding an ATV even safer. When turning left, you should shift your body to the left. The same logic applies when turning right. 

You should also consider standing up when turning as it allows you to have more control over shifting your bodyweight, but feel free to practice it while sitting down when you are first trying this out. Regardless of whether you are standing or sitting, always have your hands on the handle bars or you will lose balance instead of your 4 wheeler!

Braking via the handlebar levers

Just as you need to practice slowing down, you need to practice safe braking as well. The first thing to know is that front brakes are controlled by the lefthand side lever whereas rear brakes are controlled by the righthand side lever.

Don’t grab the levers too fast. Instead, squeeze them down fairly slowly. It should take about one second to squeeze it all the way down.

how to drive an atv

Common Beginner Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t squeeze both brake levers at once.

It often seems counter-intuitive to beginners but you pretty much never want to squeeze the front and rear brakes at the same time. This can cause the ATV to stop so suddenly that it could launch you off the vehicle.

Don’t let the rear wheels get higher than the front ones.

Most ATV accidents or overturns occur when the rear wheels get more air than the front ones. This tends to happen when going over a jump or doing a sharp turn that is too slow rather than too fast. Without enough speed, the front wheels don’t go high enough, making them get planted into the ground.

Don’t forget to check tire pressure.

Maintenance is important for all vehicles, and ATVs are no exception. Don’t get too careless or too comfortable because you feel you’ve mastered riding an ATV. Off-road maintenance is just as important and can easily overpower any amount of riding experience. Always check tire pressure before going on a ride.

Don’t neglect the manual.

Always read the instruction manual of any ATV you own. There could be some valuable information in there that you didn’t take into account, like some unique feature that this ATV has but others don’t. 

Don’t climb every hill.

While riding an ATV can make you feel invincible thanks to their all-terrain capabilities, that doesn’t mean they can ride every kind of slope. Every ATV has an incline slope climbing limit, so not every steep hill is one that can be conquered. Know your ATV’s climbing rate and stick to it. Always. This is true for going uphill and downhill.

Try to escape muddy pits ASAP.

If your ATV gets stuck in a mud pit, you will want to push the gas as fast as possible. If you wait too long, you risk letting the ATV sink deeper into the mud, making it even harder to get out.

how to drive a quad

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this wasn’t too much for you to take in at once, but with a couple of days under your belt, riding an ATV will be somewhat easy. And in no time, you’ll be riding one like a pro.

As long as you’ve got the right combination of cautiousness and boldness, you’ll be able to ride your off-road 4 wheeler safely but in a way that’s super fun. Thanks for reading and happy riding!