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ATV History

The ATVs (all terrain vehicles) we know today had very humble beginnings in the mountainous farming regions of Japan. The muddy mountain roads became difficult for the farmers to travel during spring thaws and were almost impossible to drive over with conventional vehicles or big machinery. The Japanese, always a culture to modify and tinker with something until they could improve it, created the three wheeled ATV. This vehicle did wonders for helping the local farmers. The ATVs were less expensive than the larger farm vehicles and it proved to be an excellent little workhorse.

The Japanese didn’t stop there, though. ATV manufacturers took it a step further and realized that they could market these ATVs to Americans. America had nothing like the ATV and the first ATV arrived on our shores in the early 1970’s. Honda was the forerunner of the ATV, and had a proven track record with motorcycle sales in America, having introduced the Honda Cub to millions of Americans only a decade before. The successful marketing slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” came at a time when bikers had a bad reputation and proved to people that the average Joe could enjoy motor sports as well. By the 1970’s, Honda had a reputation for building reliable, state of the art machines and their ATV was no different. This time the marketing scheme would be to show people how thrilling recreational ATV riding could be.

Over thirty years ago the Honda US90 made its debut and was called the ATC90. Oddly enough, the initial intent of the ATVs may have started out at the opposite end of the spectrum from Japan’s working class ATV, but in the end the results were the same. After gaining popularity as a recreational vehicle, the ATV soon became popular as a working vehicle as Americans began to realize exactly how versatile this little three-wheeled vehicle could be.

The ATV proved to have several advantages for the working class man. First and foremost, the ATV was cheaper to operate than a tractor or pickup truck and during the gas crunch of the 70’s that was a big plus. The ATV was also easier to maneuver in tight spots and could travel over practically any type of terrain. The only problem people found was the tires. The tires of earlier ATVs were low-pressure and while this worked fine on mud or sand, the tires punctured easily when going over sharper terrain, like a harvested field or sharp rocks. Overall, the ATV did work that no other piece of heavy equipment could do. The original tires weren’t repairable either.

In 1975 the hubless wheel design was replaced with steel hubs and a wheel lined with a tough fabric on the inside. More durable plastic fenders were added. This time they produced fenders in bright colors for better visibility out in the bush. As the ATV’s popularity grew the Japanese engineers didn’t stop their research and development. They had a good thing going and they were determined to make it better. Their engineers went into the field to see how the ATV’s performed and started gathering data to help with the next round of modifications.

By the 1980’s, ATVs had gone the same route as dirt bikes and motorcycles. The ATV’s were being used as a utility vehicle and for racing. More and more people were buying ATV’s for riding off road trails and competing in races similar to motocross events. By 1985 ATV usage had gone from only 30% in the 70’s to the whopping 80%. In the 1988, Honda made another groundbreaking leap with the ATV’s design, the introduced the FourTrax 300 and a second model called the FourTrax 300 4x4. Up until this point the ATV still had the three wheels, now Honda added an extra wheel and gave the ATV four wheel drives, which provided more stability and power. They also fitted the FourTrax with a four stroke single cylinder engine which was air cooled and gave it a five speed transmission, automatic clutch and a maintenance free drive shaft. Honda also thought to give the FourTrax an extra low gear for hauling particularly heavy objects as big as 850 lbs.

Today, ATV’s are fully ingrained into our way of living. You can find ATVs on the dirt bike trails, on farms, on construction sites and a host of other places. Now countries all over the world are discovering the same thing Americans have; the ATV is a fun and efficient vehicle for handling a wide array of jobs in almost any environment.

Buying a Used ATV

Not all of us can afford a brand new 2007 ATV with all the bells and whistles. As with cars or motorcycles or any large vehicle for recreation or pleasure, we sometimes have to start out with buying second hand. Of course there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a used car, bike or ATV. If you are going to buy used, you have to know what to look for, especially with a vehicle such as an ATV where you know that there is a chance the previous owner might have given the ATV some serious abuse on the trails. Before you begin to cruise the classifieds you have a couple of decisions to make. Who is the ATV for? An ATV for an adult is made differently than one made for a child. Do you want the ATV for purely recreational purposes? Do you want to race or just enjoy some leisurely off-roading with your family? Do you want to use the ATV as a utility vehicle?

The best place to start if you have never purchased an ATV before would be at a local dealership. You may not be able to afford one off the showroom floor, but you can still go look and pick the dealer’s brain for information. At the dealership you can ‘test’ the different classes of ATVs. Sit on a few to see how they fit, each ATV will be different and you might find that some are more comfortable than others. Even though you are trying newer models, there really won’t be too much of a difference between them and the older versions.

After getting all the information you can from the dealership, you will have some idea of what make and model you will be looking for in a used ATV. While you’re at the dealership also check to see if they have a bulletin board for other ATV resources. Sometimes if you contact a club or other organization they may be able to put you in touch with people who have ATV’s to sell. Classified ads and specialized classified magazines like you see for cars or motorcycles will also be a valuable resource. And of course the number one source for finding used vehicles is the internet. Places like eBay will no doubt have a lot to offer, the only problem with that is, unless the seller is in your area, you have no way to view the ATV up close.

When you find the ATV you want to purchase, definitely go to check it out personally. When you see the ATV for the first time, make note of the condition of the plastic on the fenders. The overall outward appearance of the ATV will give you a pretty good clue as to how hard the previous owner treated the vehicle. If the fenders or other plastic parts are cracked and ruined you can bet that you’re going to have to replace them and replacement parts and accessories are expensive. You have to decide how much you are willing to invest in refurbishing the ATV if parts do need replacing. Check the condition of the seat for any rips or tears. Again, a ripped seat isn’t a big deal and is totally replaceable, but do you want to spend the extra money to do that?

The next part of the inspection will take some work. You will want to lift the front end of the ATV up to inspect the undercarriage. With the ATV lifted, closely inspect the frame for any damage. Make sure there are no cracks or dents in the frame or any of the connecting welds Note any areas that might have rust and check them for cracks too. Check the handlebars for any loose play and do the same to each wheel. Loose wheels could indicate worn wheel bearings or damaged ball joints. Oil, breaks and the air filter and air box should also be checked. Ask the owner if they have any records regarding oil changes and maintenance. Some owners might have an owner’s manual that they can pass on to you. Take the ATV for a test drive too if you can to see how it handles.

Lastly, if a title is required in your state ask the owner if they have the title and if it is clear. Most states require a bill of sale with the VIN (vehicle identification number) on it. Whether your state requires a bill of sale or not, it is always a good idea to have one to protect both you and the former owner incase a dispute crops up. Be aware that in most cases you are buying the ATV “as is”, which means the previous owner is not responsible for any problems you might find with the vehicle after you have purchased it and brought it home.

ATV for Beginners 

Since their introduction to the public several decades ago, ATVs have become increasingly popular. They are very appealing to riders because of the amount of the excitement one feels as they are riding. People are now discovering that the whole family can enjoy the excitement of the ATV. On the negative side, though, more people are injured while riding ATVs than in any other recreational outdoor sport. If you are beginning to pursue an interest in ATVs, there are a number of things to know. 

The first step is to head for the trails with someone who has experience with an ATV. Actually ride an ATV so that you can decide if you are really interested in getting one. Once you are certain that you like it, go pick out your vehicle. As of this second, it's not a law but it is recommended that people of certain sizes use ATVs of certain sizes. For example, if you have a son and he weighs 85 pounds, do not try to find an 800 or 900 cc machine for you to stick him on. Try putting him on a 440 or 600 cc machine. This is more in line with something he can handle. Also, make sure that you are fitted to the right machine.  

It is usually not recommended that beginners buy brand new machines. As you end up becoming more familiar with the sport, you will talk with people who have different models, and you may end up finding yourself in constant pursuit of the "next best thing." After you have your first machine, definitely take a safety course. Courses are usually broken up into three or four weeks, with them lasting two and a half hours a night once a week. Consider these to be well worth your time and your money. Some courses even end with the instructor taking the class out on to trails. Courses are not mandatory - but they will most likely be one day! 

Next, you should take the time necessary to sit down at night and read your owner's manual. Keep in mind that each ATV is different, so if there are labels or parts you don't know, the only real answers you will ever find will be in the manuals. Oh yeah...when you go out on the trail, make sure that you carry the owner's manual with you. If you have bought a used machine from a neighbor or someone else, you can get a copy of the owner's manual by taking the serial number off the machine and going to a dealer.  

The next thing that you are going to want to do is to get out on to a trail and practice. That really is the only way that you are going to learn how to drive an ATV. Of course, you will always want to make sure that you have permission from whoever owns the land! In the beginning, be sure that you do what you must to ensure that you are riding sensibly. Ride with experienced people. As with other sports, you only get better by riding with people who are better than you. So ride with people who have a fair amount of experience. In addition, no matter how confident you are, when beginning, make sure that you always ride under the supervision of someone who can guide you. In other words, never, ever ride alone! 

If you follow these simple steps, you will be able to enjoy all of the fun and the excitement that makes up driving an ATV. As with other things, it will take some time before you, as a beginner, are able to do it by yourself. Take the time to receive training on how to do it, and dive headlong into the owner’s manual. Once you feel ready to hit the trails, practice driving your ATV. Remember to have an experienced driver with you. Following these steps will ensure your safety and will guarantee that you have a good time.  

ATVing for the Entire Family

Since their introduction to the public several decades ago, ATVs have become increasingly popular. They are very appealing to riders because of the amount of excitement one feels as they are riding. People are now discovering that the whole family can enjoy the excitement of the ATV. On the negative side, though, people are often injured while ATVing, and because of this, it is vitally important that adults do everything they can to ensure the safety of both themselves and their children.  

To drive an ATVsafely, one needs to be strong, skilled, and, most important, mature. This is why children who are younger than 16 years of age should never operate an ATV. Adults must not forget that it also takes strength and stamina to be a passenger. A rider who is sitting behind the driver must be able to hold on tight for a long period. Often, they must hold on while the ATV goes over very bumpy ground at a high speed. The rule of thumb is that any child who is younger than six years old should never be allowed to ride as a passenger on an ATV. 

It is probably not surprising to discover that head injuries are one of the causes of both death and serious injury on ATVs. These serious injuries usually occur when ATVers crash, fall, or overturn while moving. It should be remembered that children can also be injured if they are towed by an ATV during winter months while they are on a sled, tube, tire, or other device that is being pulled by an ATV. In Canada, statistics show that four children younger than 16 years of age die in recreational vehicle related accidents each year.

So, the question becomes: how can ATVs be used safely so that they are enjoyed by each and every member of the family who is old enough to do so? If your family happens to own an ATV, be sure that no one under the age of 16 is ever allowed to drive it. Again, it is tremendously important that you never allow any children younger than six years of age to ride as passengers. If you are a parent who owns and operates an ATV, consider following these rules to be an excellent opportunity to model the type of safe behavior you want your children to display.  

Before you head out on your ATV adventure, be sure to be careful when fueling the ATV. Burns are possible, and you want to avoid them. Be sure to use the proper lifting methods when loading ATVs on and off trailers. This will help you prevent strains and crush injuries. Make sure that you check the weather forecast before you go out. It is probably not a good idea to venture out if a major storm is brewing. Also, make sure that you check the condition of the trails. Depending on how mountainous the area in which you will be ATVing is, you may want to assess whether there is danger of an accident. In the winter, always be sure to avoid ATVing on ice if you are not 100% certain that the ice is very thick.  

You should also be able to identify the signs of hypothermia if you are ATVing in the wintertime, and know what to do if it does occur. Make sure that you always travel with the right equipment. You will want to have well-insulated protective clothing, such as goggles, waterproof suits and gloves, and rubber-bottomed boots. Of course, you need to make sure that everyone who will be riding is wearing a helmet approved for ATVing. Another thing you can do to ensure the safety of you and your family is to attach brightly colored antenna flags to your ATV. You will definitely want to do this if you are driving in a particularly hilly area.  

Of course, the most important thing you can do to ensure your family's safety is to drive carefully. Use wisdom and caution. If you have followed the preceding guidelines, you will find that ATVing is a very exciting sport that can be enjoyed by members of your entire family.

ATV Safety Issues 

Since their introduction to the public four decades ago, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) have become increasingly popular. They are very appealing to riders because of the amount of danger one feels while riding. This danger, however, should not be taken lightly. ATVs carry with them a number of safety issues which every rider ought to be concerned about. Despite the ongoing effort of ATV companies to make these vehicles safer, accidents are still happening on an all-too-regular basis. 

ATVs originally came as both 3-wheelers and 4-wheelers. It did not take long, though, for the industry and the public to realize the risk of the 3-wheeler. With no true center of gravity, the 3-wheeler was an accident waiting to happen. It was widely assumed that once ATV companies permanently removed the 3-wheeler from the market, accidents would sharply decrease. While there has been a decrease in the number of deaths and injuries due to 4-wheel ATVs, enough have happened that the vehicle's safety is still a legitimate concern within the industry. For example, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that in 2004 alone, there were an estimated 136,000 serious injuries in the United States that were directly related to ATVs. The preceding year, 2003, saw 740 people lose their lives due to ATV accidents.

The troubling aspect of this rather high number of deaths and injuries attributed to ATVs is that the industry and the CPSC recently agreed on a series of action plans designed to improve ATV safety. These action plans represent an agreement between the ATV industry and the CPSC to crack down on several issues that affect the safety level of ATVs. Some of the things that are now required of companies that sell ATVs are the labeling and safe marketing of ATVs. In addition, the CPSC has been given more say as to what ages may ride certain types of ATVs. The problem, however, is that a large number of companies that manufacture and distribute ATVs are based in Asia and Italy. Because of their international status, they are not required to abide by the laws of the CPSC. In other words, many of the companies that are making ATVs are exempt of any oversight by the U.S. government. 

Due to the CPSC's inability to control the safety guidelines concerning the ATV industry, focus has now shifted to state control over the age of riders. Many states have recently enacted legislation that specifically governs the usage of ATVs on state-run land. Some of the factors that states deal with are the ages of riders and the type of engines they use. Several states mandate that the use of machines greater than 90cc by riders under the age of 16 is strictly prohibited.  

Those who criticize these blanket policies concerning riders' ages claim that these rules do not adequately address the issue. For example, critics claim that many early teen males are bigger and sometimes stronger than fully-grown adult females. To protect themselves from this line of thinking, some states are simply prohibiting any minors (those under the age of 16) from driving ATVs. Advocates of ATVs, however, argue that training riders at an earlier age only stands to improve safety. They argue that children exposed to ATVs at an early age will gradually gain the expertise necessary to be safe drivers of ATVs when they reach adulthood.

In 1988, the All-terrain Vehicle Safety Institute (ASI) was formed. This organization seeks to address ATV safety issues by providing training and education for ATV riders. Most states now require that new users of ATVs undergo this type of training. This is one more in a series of attempts by the industry and the CPSC to improve the safety of ATVs. The need to do provide instruction in ATV riding and driving increases as the sport's popularity continues to grow.