Quad-biking is a hoot, but it could also pose serious risks if your ATV is not handled correctly, CARtoday.com's motoring correspondent Patrick van Sleight writes.

by Patrick van Sleight

The ATV segment is the fastest-growing sector of the local bike market, where it also accounts for the highest number of accidents... Many people, including experienced bikers, are unfamiliar with the handling and controls of this type of bike.

ATVs are designed for off-road riding only, although some local authorities do allow these vehicles to be road-licensed under special conditions. It is not recommended though, since the off-road tyre designs and drivetrains will affect an ATV's handling and control on public roads and paved surfaces. There is also the risk of colliding with other vehicles and pedestrians.

As is the case with many 4x4 vehicle owners, ATV riders have come under fire from environmentalists and nature-lovers. So, when riding off-road, respect the natural environment, private property, as well as the peace of campers and hikers. Approach livestock and wildlife with caution and pay particular attention to horseback riders. Keep to designated paths and trails, and obey trail markers and closure signs.

Do not replace your standard exhaust with a louder, after-market item, which could disturb the wildlife and annoy fellow trail users.

ATVs differ from one another, so familiarise yourself with the controls, technology and characteristics of your machine. Consult the owner's manual and practice starting, braking and turning manoeuvres before riding.

As with any motorcycle, protective gear is essential. Riding in nature will expose you to hazards not regularly found while driving, including mud, dust, flying stones and low-hanging tree branches. These hazards are unavoidable, and if you use a helmet designed for off-roading, the use of goggles is imperative to protect against impaired vision, particularly while riding in convoy.

Wear a long-sleeved shirt or sweater, gloves and long-pants for protection against dehydration, sunburn, excessive windblast and abrasion from trees and bushes. Bright coloured gear increases visibility when riding in dust or shadows.

Boots must be one size bigger and lace- or zip-up over the ankle to accommodate thick socks that cushion your feet and absorb perspiration. It also provides sure footing when getting off the quad in rough terrain.

The correct posture is essential when riding an ATV. To enhance its performance, you must shift your bodyweight to move the centre of gravity while keeping both feet on the footpegs as it is easy to lose your balance and fall. Removing a foot from a footpeg and having it come into contact with a spinning rear wheel is one of the most common quad-biking accidents.

Learning and practising these skills cannot be overstated. As the ATV market continues to explode, the need for responsible riding will become even more highlighted. Fortunately, there are many ATV clubs and events organised by some dealerships and outdoor adventure companies to provide a safe and sociable environment to come to terms with this new craze.

Honda has launched its ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) Training Academy where new quad-bike owners receive six hours of free training worth about R1 000.

For those unfamiliar with quad bikes, a session at the academy is strongly recommended as it not only teaches you how to deal with obstacles, but will also allow you to become accustomed to your quad bike.

The academy, which has a permanent training facility in Gauteng, operates from mobile unit in other provinces. The mobile training unit is a steel construction that allows ascending, descending and traversing slopes under the guidance of a team of skilled instructors.

If you choose to take a partner along, that person will need to pay R125 to attend the course, while non-Honda riders will have to pay the full R1 000 fee.

Contact Heine Engelbrecht at the Honda ATV Training Academy on 012 361 3737, or e-mail him at [email protected], for more details and information.

Original article from Car