Children’s ATVs and Family Off-Roading
There are more children under 12 years old riding All Terrain Vehicles today than ever before. The allure of an exciting and versatile activity that can be shared and enjoyed by all members of the family is getting very popular.
There is an increasing number of manufacturers building ATV models that are designed specifically for children with smaller motors, bigger brakes, and safety features designed to make them safer for children.
Things to Consider
The most important factors to think about when buying an ATV for a child is the child’s size followed immediately by the child’s skill level. Bigger ATVs are much faster and get considerably heavier.
In order for a person to ride an ATV safely and effectively, they must be able to use their body weight to help make the quad turn. No matter how skilled a child is, if the ATV is too heavy, they will not be able to control it safely.
It is also very important to wear safety gear when riding any kind of ATV. The number one reason for most injuries form ATV accidents is not wearing a helmet. Teach them young to wear proper gear, and it will stay with them for the rest of their life.
When you’re out riding with children always keep them between adults. Having one adult lead and one adult follow will help keep the child safe. Make sure you take a good emergency repair kit that has a first aid kit.
Finally, don’t force your children to ride an ATV. If they don’t want to ride, they will only be afraid and it will greatly increase the likelihood of an accident and injury.
If you are planning to teach your children to ride an All Terrain Vehicle, it is best to start them out early. There are several models of vehicle that replicate an ATV available for toddlers. They are battery powered and very light and slow. Real slow.
Those toy ATVs are not really an “All Terrain” vehicle, and I can tell you from experience that a child does not need to know how to walk to be able to ride this type of vehicle accurately.
Riding a toy ATV teaches children several things, including how to steer and how to make it go and stop. It builds confidence and familiarity in a very controlled environment. Once they get moving, you’ll need to be there often to pick up the front of the quad and turn them around when they bump into things.
50cc Gas ATV
Once a child has learned the most basic skills needed to pilot an ATV, they should be ready to move up to a 50cc gas motor. This type of ATV is small and light, usually with little or no suspension. They are equipped with a governor to control the maximum speed, which is very important to keep low when a child first rides a gas ATV. As they get better and more confident, you can start turning it up gradually.
These small All Terrain Vehicles also come with a safety kill switch that is attached to a tether that an adult can hold while walking behind the ATV. In case you need to quickly stop the ATV you can pull the tether and kill the engine.
Some people may feel that a 50cc quad is too small for their child if they are under 6 years old and a good rider. That’s usually not the case. Riding an ATV safely is not only a matter of skill, it’s a matter of size and strength.
Parents are advised to keep their kids on 50cc ATVs until the child is both a skilled rider and at least 6 years old, or the equivalent of an average 6-year-old child. A 50cc ATV that has 4 gears can easily travel at over 30 mph and it takes physical strength to control an ATV at those speeds.
On to Bigger and Better ATVs
Only after a child has learned to skillfully handle a 50cc quad, and is big enough to safely control a bigger ATV will they be ready to move up to a 70cc All Terrain Vehicle. Children should not ride anything bigger than 70cc until they are 13 years old, and nothing bigger than 90cc until they are 16 years old.
These bigger machines can go much faster and are quite a bit heavier than their smaller brethren. They are also much more dangerous and care should be taken to ensure your child is both big enough (which includes physical strength), and skilled enough to operate these big machines safely.
Once the child gets to 16 years old they can ride any sized quad. That may not be a good idea though, especially if they haven’t had much experience. A smaller, high performance youth quad like the 2011 Yamaha Raptor 125 Sport ATV is an excellent “step-up” quad.
Getting a Late Start?
If your child is older than the recommended age for a certain sized ATV, but they have never ridden an ATV before, putting them on something that is too powerful for their skill level can be extremely dangerous and should be avoided. This is especially important for children who are around 13 to 16 years old because they have usually developed some degree of an invincibility complex.
A false feeling of being in control, coupled with the amount of power today’s ATVs have can prove deadly to someone unfamiliar with an ATV and how it handles. Many people, especially young people with little or no prior experience with a motor vehicle, can easily panic if they accidentally open the throttle too quickly, and panic often results in holding on tight while not realizing they are holding the throttle wide open.
It is very important that parents take special care to ensure that their children are properly trained before being turned loose on an ATV of any size. It is equally important that they wear the proper safety equipment each and every time they get on an ATV, including a helmet, gloves, goggles, boots, long pants and shirt, and a chest protector. Get them professional training if possible and spare no expense to ensure they safety.