4 Wheels or tracks on snowy trails and fields
beats 2 wheels on Icey Roads!
It’s wintertime in the Midwest and that means snow and ice, frigid temperatures, and less chances to ride our bikes! However, it’s a great time to celebrate other powersports options more appropriate for the snow – ATV’s, Side by Sides, and snowmobiles!
Fun for the whole family!
One of the best things about ATV’s and Side by Sides is that you can ride together with the entire family – even on the same vehicle. I picked up a pair of Polaris Outlaw 50’s and our youngest contributors had a blast this past summer learning how to ride on them. A layer of snow just added a new factor and even more fun to riding for them!
Riding in the snow is an absolute blast – but if you are already invested in a street bike, you may be hesitant to take the plunge with another recreational vehicle. If you need to justify to yourself or someone else – there are a ton of practical applications for ATV’s, UTV’s, and Side by Sides. If you’ve got a lot of property or a farm, chances are that you may already have a four wheeled powersports vehicle, but if you’re in the suburbs and don’t have fields to roam or clear – don’t despair, chances are you still have a driveway that needs clearing in the winter!
A snowplow is an incredibly practical and fairly reasonably priced accessory to mount on an ATV or Side by Side. They can easily be put on and taken off, as needed. Even the most basic ATV’s will make short work of your driveway and it’s even kinda fun. The first snow storm we had this year, I found myself running up and down the street clearing all my neighbors driveways as well. (Just a couple minutes of work – and then how could they possibly complain about the quads racing through the backyards later?)
Prepping for Winter Riding
Check Your Coolant
Water and even old or diluted anti-freeze coolant can freeze in cold weather and you want to make sure that you don’t start the engine while it’s rock solid. Frozen coolant can cause the engine to overheat before all the lines and tank melt. You also risk damaging lines simply with the frozen anti-freeze. Your best bet is to add fresh anti-freeze at the end of summer as part of “winterizing” regardless of your plans to ride or store the ATV over the winter.
Check Tire Pressure
Tire pressure can change about 1 psi for every 10 degrees in temperature change, so make sure you check your tires before heading out in the cold. Over-pressurized tires can blow and leave you stranded – or worse.
Let your engine heat up – before revving!
Keep the RPM’s low when first starting up your ATV when it’s frigid. This will allow the ice-cold oil to heat up and get fully circulated .
Pack / Plan for the Worst
If you’re heading off for the trails or riding away from home, you always want to plan for the worst – regardless of the season. During the Winter, that means considering the weather and getting stuck out in the elements.
Winch & Tow Strap – As always, a winch is your best friend (other than an actual two legged best friend) if you get stuck. Snow and ice don’t change this – and actually increase the chance you’ll need the extra help. Even if you have a winch – you may still find yourself needed a tow strap in some situations. It might be an easier option from the backend if you need a pull from someone without a winch. If you’re riding with others, you may find the need to tow someone as well.
Spare Clothes – A dry bag with extra socks, pants, long underwear, gloves, and maybe even a blanket makes sense. Staying warm and dry is critical when out in the cold – so an extra set of clothes in a backpack or rear rack bag makes sense.
Snacks / Water – Always a good idea to pack – just in case of problems or you simply get hungry!
Just in case – First aid kit, trash bag (for wet clothes), matches, dry bag for your phone, compass (cell phones die or may not even work in the wilderness), and a flashlight. Even if you’re headed out during the day – winter months are the shortest days of the year in these parts and you could be only a few mishaps away from finding yourself stuck out at night.
Winter Trail Riding – Tips from ATV.com
Our first rule of thumb is to never ride alone because getting stranded in normal conditions is one thing, but being left out in the cold is worse. Another good rule is to make sure it’s legal to ride your ATV in the winter and the trails allow quads.
• Snowmobiles, first: The last thing you want to do is hack off a fellow powersports enthusiast. If you can ride on the snowmobile trails, remember sleds are way faster and quicker than ATVs, so be aware of your surroundings and pay attention at all times, especially in blind corners and long straights. It’s good to yield to snowmobiles and practice as much etiquette for these shared trails as possible.
• R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Stay on the trails and respect all posted trail traffic signs (STOP, speed limit, etc.). Although you could ride off the trail because of the snow, your improper prints show disrespect.
• Look Out Below: Riding in the winter also means you’ll be riding in the snow. Therefore it’s sort of like riding in the mud in that you can’t always see what’s beneath the surface. However, if you’re on a trail chances are pretty decent the path is safe and the snow is packed enough to offer safe travels. If you’re legally cutting a trail through new snow, however, beware of fallen trees, hidden boulders or camouflaged drop-offs.
• Ice, Ice, Baby: Exercise caution when riding on frozen ponds, lakes and rivers. Remember, a good rule of thumb is to only venture out on a frozen lake with at least six inches of solid ice. Rivers, depending on where you live and how big the river is, vary so beware.
• Follow the Leader: But do it carefully! Because of icy conditions and whiteouts from snow roost, it’s best to have larger following distances.
The key to dressing for riding in the winter is LAYERING. By layering your clothing, you’re able to add or remove items as needed to fine-tune depending on the situation.
Layer 1 – Your first layer should be tighter to your skin and something that is designed for warmth and moisture absorption. Items such as “performance long underwear” is ideal – wicking away sweat and keeping your heat in.
Layer 2 – The second layer should not be super thick or bulky, but warmer and thicker than the first layer – think flannel and sweatpants.
Layer 3 – You’re looking for something wind and waterproof. Gore-Tex is king but any jacket and pants that are breathable and offer a waterproof shell works. If you’re layered below – you don’t need a lot in the outer jacket and pants. Their main job is to cut the wind and allow the snow to fall off.
Other items –
Goggles – Cold weather goggles cover your vulnerable eyes and skin, protecting them from the cold and wind. Sunglasses lack the foam on the side and make you vulnerable to biting cold wind. Goggles also offer more protection from sticks and other possible debris that gets kicked up.
Gloves – The best cold weather riding gloves keep your fingers warm while still allowing full movement so you can safely operate your vehicle. They should also allow you to grip the throttle and brakes, while offering protection as well. One of our favorites is Mechanix Wear Impact Pro Winter Gloves.
Boots – Good riding boots are essential – or you’ll find yourself miserable after a short time of riding in the winter. You need to find a good pair to keep your feet warm and dry – while also offering protection. They can’t be overly stiff – especially if you’re riding something with foot pegs!
Balaclavas / Face coverings – turning yourself into a “backwoods ninja” is essential to keeping you warm and comfortable while out riding in the snow.
Socks – Quality cold weather boot socks can make all the difference and are relatively inexpensive. You want to find s omething that can help whisk away the moisture and keep your toes toasty.
We will be looking at recommended machines in next month’s Powersports Feature, however there are a few machines that we thought we’d mention.
Polaris Sportsman 450
The Polaris Sportsman is a legend in the industry – having more than enough power for trail riding, hunting, and even work around the ranch or simply clearing the driveway. They are considered unrivaled in terms of versatility and value – and can often be found on Facebook marketplace very reasonably used as well!
Honda Fourtax Foreman 4×4
Although it’s priced a bit more than many of its competitors – the Honda offers electronic fuel injection and a semi-automatic driving system that has various driving modes that are very rider friendly.
More to come in next month’s issue on recommended ATV’s!