Sportsman's Lodge Kukagami Lake, Ontario
So, You Want to Go ATVing?

So, You Want to Go ATVing?

ATV Tips and Reminders for Riders of all Experience Levels

Ontario is a treasure trove of trails ideal for ATVing, and the areas surrounding Sportsman’s Lodge is no exception!

Being experienced riders ourselves, we here at Sportsman’s Lodge have been working for years to clear and maintain over 700 kilometers of ATV trails that are marked and mapped for riders of all ages and experience levels. We can help you with planning your route according to whether you want to take is easy and sightsee, go bush or mud riding, or really challenge yourself as an experienced rider.

No matter what experience you’re seeking, we can help you achieve it!

You don’t need a permit to ride the trails here, but safety is always a priority and we’d like to share a few tips for you to help you ensure a positive and safe ATVing experience.

Know Your Machine

Familiarize yourself with the machine you are going to be riding before you head out onto the trails. Practice riding techniques in an area away from obstacles and other riders. Remember that not all ATVs are the same and handling characteristics and equipment can vary considerably depending on the design of the ATV. For example, some may only have rear brakes while others have both front and rear. Some have electric starters, while some have kick starters or pull starters. Some are water-cooled while some are air-cooled. Some have automatic clutches, others are hand-operated. Some throttles are controlled by twisting the hand grip and some push a thumb lever next to the hand grip.

If you’re going to be heading onto the trails, you’re going to want to be sure you are familiar with how your machine works, what type of controls it employs, and that you’ve practiced enough to be able to react to the trails and any obstacles with confidence and without hesitation. You should be able to find and use the controls without looking down at them. You typically will not have time to look for the appropriate control when you’re riding!

Basic Tips to Get You Started

  • Always make sure a pre-ride inspection is completed, either by yourself or someone else who understands what to look for when checking the mechanical condition of your machine.
  • To help prevent injury, always keep your feet on the footrests while riding.
  • Always wear a helmet and eye protection. Also recommended are off-road style gloves, over the calf boots, a long sleeve shirt and long pants.
  • Make sure the engine is warmed up before you start riding.
  • Apply the rear brake before shifting into first gear, then release the brake after you’re in gear and apply the throttle slowly.
  • If your machine has a manual clutch, release it slowly to avoid engaging it too quickly resulting in sudden movement that can cause you to lose control or fall off the ATV.
  • Use antenna flags in hilly areas and wear bright clothing to be more visible.
  • Be cautious of thin ice that may be camouflaged by snow.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return – especially if you are riding alone.
  • Keep your distance from riders in front of you. It restricts your visibility.
  • Do not carry a passenger. It may upset the balance of your machine and cause it to roll or for you to lose control.
  • Never consume alcohol or drugs while operating your ATV. Your judgement is key to navigating the terrain, as is your balance and perception. You cannot afford to have alcohol or drugs affecting these senses.

Running Through the Gears

  1. Always close the throttle when shifting. This keeps the front wheels from lifting off the ground.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the sound of the engine so you’ll know when to shift to keep the engine in its most efficient range.
  3. If your machine uses a manual clutch, understand where the engagement point is. This will help prevent stalling your ATV and will keep your shifting smooth.

Making Turns on Your ATV

Know if your ATV has solid axles or unlocked differentials! Each requires their own special turning skills.

For Solid Rear Axles

AT LOW SPEEDS – Shift your body weight forward and to the outside of the turn while leaning your upper body in slightly and maintain your throttle through the whole turn. You want to reduce your weight on the inside rear wheel by shifting your weight.

AT HIGHER SPEEDS – Similar to turning at lower speeds EXCEPT, as you increase speed, you need to lean your body further towards the inside turn while keeping your weight on the footrest. This is important in order to balance the higher force created as the ATV increases speed.

Important! If your machine starts to tip while turning, lean your upper body further into the turn while gradually reducing the throttle and make the turn wider.

Never kick out your leg from the foot pegs!

Using the Brakes

Your ATV’s braking system and the type of terrain you're riding on will determine your braking technique, but there are still some useful tips you can use to get the most out of your machine’s performance on the trail and its overall health.

  • Always release the throttle before applying the brakes.
  • If your ATV has both front and rear brakes, apply them both evenly.
  • Do not brake excessively while cornering.
  • Always apply your brakes lightly when on a slippery surface.
  • Shift to a lower gear when descending a hill and avoid riding the brake for long periods. This technique can also be used when slowing down in general.

Know Your Terrain

  • Use existing trails when out riding and learn to read the trail by looking well ahead to prepare for anything coming up. Expert riders stay out of trouble by constantly being alert for hazards lying ahead. In doing so, they can be prepared to react long before it becomes necessary.
  • Travel at speeds appropriate to the terrain, visibility and your experience level.
  • Be especially cautious when approaching hills, turns and other obstacles.

Climbing a Hill

  • Always keep both feet firmly on the footrests.
  • Shift into a low gear and speed up BEFORE ascending.
  • On smaller hills, shift your body weight forward in the seat.
  • For steeper hills, stand on the footrests and lean well over the front wheels keeping as much weight at the front as possible.
  • If the hill is steep and you need to downshift to prevent stalling, do so quickly and smoothly.
  • Don’t forget to close the throttle while shifting! This will help keep the front wheels on the ground.
  • If you don’t have enough power to continue uphill, turn around if you have enough forward momentum and space, and proceed downhill.

Special Note: If your ATV stalls while climbing a hill, do not let it roll backwards. Apply the parking brake before you roll backwards and dismount to the uphill side.

Important! Do not attempt to back down a hill using the rear brakes. Using rear brakes could cause the ATV to roll over backwards!

Once you’ve stopped the backwards decent using the parking brake, turn your ATV around using the following method:

  1. Turn the handlebars fully to the left and grasp them so that you can operate the brake lever.
  2. Release the parking brake and pump the rear brake so that the ATV rolls forward until it is pointing downhill.
  3. Reset the parking brake and re-mount the machine.
  4. Ride the ATV downhill while keeping your weight at the rear.

Descending a Hill

  • Always keep both feet firmly on the footrests.
  • Point your ATV directly downhill.
  • Keep your weight to the rear.
  • Shift into low gear and descend with the throttle closed.
  • Apply breaks to reduce speed as needed.

Understand the Laws

Understand and respect the laws regarding your ATV use. They are in place to protect you by keeping the sport safe, to protect the land by keeping the sport respectful, and protect both land and people in general by controlling riders who are less responsible.

Some helpful links to learn more about the laws in Ontario are;

It’s All About Getting Along with Others

Your ability to ride your ATV all boils down to one fundamental factor…access to terrain.

Maintaining access to land for riding your ATV depends wholly on respecting others to preserve the opportunity. These people include the private land owners, public land managers, and other people also using the land and trails. The better you get along with and respect others, the easier you’ll find and continue to enjoy great riding areas. You only need common courtesy and consideration to ensure this. Some tips for success in getting along with the rest of the world while ATVing are;

Know who’s land you're riding on and make sure you’ve obtained permission if needed.

  • Stay on marked trails.
  • Closure signs are there for a reason. If you see one, obey it.
  • Leave gates and fences exactly as you found them.
  • Pull off and give hikers and horseback riders the right of way.
  • If there is a horse present, turn your machine off. The motor can spook a horse, and a scared horse is a potential danger to anyone present.

Respect Mother Nature

  • Don’t be self-defeating or irresponsible by riding in a manner that harms the land. Instead, ride responsibly and both protect and preserve the terrain you’re riding on.
  • Know the rules and regulations for the area you’re riding in and follow them.
  • Keep your spark arrester in place, keeping your ATV quiet. There’s no reason to make it louder than it needs to be.
  • Avoid running over and damaging or killing young trees, bushes and grasses. Stay on the trail and avoid killing any other plant life.
  • Stay off of soft, wet roads and trails, especially during hunting season when these are needed. When the roads and trails are soft, they are easily torn up and repairing them is expensive!
  • Travel around meadows, steep hillsides and stream banks. These are areas that are easily scarred by your wheels.
  • Stay away from wild animals, especially if they’re rearing their young or are in a food shortage. The stress you may cause them can use up their already scarce energy reserves and put them in danger of survival.
  • Know where the boundaries to wilderness areas are and stay out of them.

The CASI ATV RiderCoursesm

You may also want to consider taking the intensive half day CASI ATV RiderCoursesm that provides skill-enhancing and hands-on training of field-tested techniques. The course is presented by Canadian AQCC Safety Institute certified instructors and they also provide a course for children under sixteen who are permitted by their parents to also ride.

You can find out more by calling 1-888-613-2722 or visiting

Enjoy a Safe and Happy ATV Experience

Regardless if you’re going riding for a couple of hours or making it a lengthy expedition, remembering to stay considerate, safe and sensible will ultimately provide you with endless hours fun as you continue to explore the many vast and varied landscapes of northern Ontario and beyond.

Please contact us if you have any questions about ATVing while staying with us!

Happy ATVing!

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