Ripping through mud and dirt while mastering a mechanical beast is an experience that’s like no other. However, before you’re able to tear into the soil, you’ll need to understand some basic aspects about the equipment and skills you will be working with. A little time spent now can prevent a costly accident in the future.
The performance of tires in the mud is going to be heavily impacted by their tread. Choosing the best tires for the job can often mean the difference between tearing up the earth and getting stuck in it. Off-road tires have specialized knobs that give the tread a chunky appearance. By biting into the mud, these knobs help to maintain traction and grip. However, they shouldn’t be used on actual roads. Besides the fact that they’ll run with an excessive amount of noise, off-road tires will have limited traction on pavement. In some cases, it can actually cause one to flip over if they’re ridden on pavement. They’ll also often get worn out quickly by driving them on asphalt or concrete.
Since larger tires are associated with larger engine sizes, it’s usually a good idea to keep a good balance between the two. For example, tires with a 27” height really shouldn’t be matched to an ATV that runs anything smaller than around a 450cc engine. Tires larger than 27” are usually only suggested for serious off-roaders who have ATVs that can handle them.
Safety equipment is sometimes expensive, but it’s foolish to go without it. While a helmet might be the most important piece of safety gear, it’s not wise to go without other protective apparel as well. Full suits are available that are similar to those used in the sport of motocross. Chest protectors are also on the market to help reduce the likelihood of some types of injuries.
Likewise, eye protection can be costly, but it’s one of the most important things. A pair of goggles may not look like much, but most riders would rather have muck accumulate on their eyewear than on their eyes. These are generally of a variety that wrap around a helmet. Generally, it’s best to purchase helmets and other safety equipment new. That way, you don’t run the risk of getting a piece of equipment that has already taken a beat but doesn’t show it.
After a run through the mud comes the question of how to clean off caked mud. This is probably the most commonly malady associated with off-roading in the great outdoors. Some riders treat their quads with a silicone-based detailing fluid. It reportedly lasts longer than most treatments, but it’s very expensive. Liquid windshield water repellents are much less expensive, and some riders treat the plastic with them before a day out in the mud. A quick run of the hose will then get rid of most of the mud on the treated areas.
Anyone who does a lot of riding out in the mud will notice just how bad the bearings can take it. That’s why some avid riders grease them every time they clean their quad. Getting into this habit is good, especially if mud riding is really the only activity you’re into.
If you ride with an open-air box, it’s not a bad idea to care an extra air filter with you. Oil and clean it, then seal it in a plastic bag. You’ll be able to change the air filter in the field, and the spare will always be with you when the installed air filter gets too dirty. New riders might see this as a bit paranoid. On the other hand, anyone who’s gone out expecting mud, and found nothing but dusty trails, can probably see why it’s not such a bad idea.
More than anything, talk to other riders. Try to find out their tips and tricks. They’ll more than likely be willing to swap ideas with you. People who spend a lot of time in the mud pick up a lot of experience, and by sharing information you’ll probably save a lot of heartache. In a way, getting on a ATV inducts you into a sort of unwritten club, and you should make every effort to be an active member of it with other riders.