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The ATV & Side-by-Side New Owner’s Guide

Essential tips and advice to make off-roading safe and fun.

So you’ve just taken a dive into the exciting world of ATV and side-by-side (SxS) off-roading. Before you get muddy, there are some bits of advice that’ll make enjoying or working with your new vehicle safe and fulfilling. This guide covers some key knowledge like pre-ride essentials, riding tips, your warranty, essential off-road gear, and how to maintain and repair your Can-Am ATV or SxS. Let’s get to it!

What you need to know before turning the key

Before turning the key on your new vehicle and getting to work or hitting the trail on an adventure, there are some important pre-ride essentials that are a must. Let’s take a look at two big things to consider: laws and regulations, and pre-ride inspections.

Know the laws & regulations regarding ATV and SxS riding

Obviously, laws and regulations surrounding off-road vehicle use vary from region to region. Local, state or provincial, and federal laws can all apply to registration requirements, speed limits, open and prohibited trails or where you can ride, and other rules when it comes to your ATV or side-by-side.

Just like with your car or truck, states or provinces impose specific rules regarding how old an off-road vehicle operator must be. The type of your vehicle or engine size can also affect age requirements, so be sure to be certain anyone operating the vehicle meets those standards.

In some regions, riders under a certain age must wear a helmet, but in reality, anyone operating an off-road vehicle should wear a helmet, so the best practice is to ensure everyone on board has proper head protection. Even if not required by law, safety is top priority. Check if an approved safety course is required in your region before operating an ATV or side-by-side, which is often the case for younger riders.

The essential pre-ride checklist

Whether it’s your very first ride or your hundredth, it’s vital to always thoroughly inspect your ATV or SxS before even starting the engine and hitting the trail. Pre-ride inspections will reveal any damage or issues that could cut your day short. Better to discover it at home before than late in the middle of nowhere, right?

But what should you look for? Check your tire pressure and inspect the tire treads and sidewalls for any punctures, wear or foreign objects stuck in the rubber. Double-check the tightness of the wheel and axle nuts and give the tires a little rock to look for loose fasteners or worn bearings. Check the lights, switches and gauges in the cockpit to make sure they’re working properly. Check your oil and coolant levels and look for any sign of leaks. Make sure your throttle, shifter and brakes are all working and check how much fuel you have, obviously.

Inspect any accessories or racks to be sure they’re not damaged and are attached properly; you don’t want to lose anything out there, especially since you put some much love into customizing your vehicle, right? Also check for any potential loose parts or any cracks that could cause problems.

Your ATV or side-by-side will have come with an operator’s guide that contains an inspection checklist. Use it every time you take your new vehicle out and before long, you’ll be doing the inspection quickly without giving it a second thought. Remember: any small issue you find now at home is a big problem you avoided while out on the trail.

Essential ATV & side-by-side riding tips for beginners

If you are new to the world of off-road vehicles, it’s vital to learn as much as you can about riding before heading out. Safety is the highest priority, and while it may seem like a lot to learn now, before long it’ll be second nature. Having fun on the trails or getting big jobs done is why you got an ATV or SxS in the first place, but avoiding incidents and accidents should always be number one.

Safe and comfortable seating position

A proper seating position is crucial for comfortable and safe operation of an ATV or side-by-side. As you become a seasoned off-roader, sitting, standing and leaning will become natural, but be aware as a new rider of how shifting your body weight can stabilize your ATV over terrain or in turns. Never lock your elbows and knees, keeping a relaxed stance to avoid painful stress to your joints, feet and hands.

Make sure you can achieve a naturally comfortable sitting position on your vehicle without having to strain or reach for controls. Seats should be adjusted to allow easy control of the pedals with a relaxed driving position with elbows bent. You’ll be more comfortable this way and avoid strain and tightness in your back and shoulders, which can grow painful through a long day of riding. Your passengers should also be comfortable and have easy access to holds or bars to stabilize themselves.

How to ride different terrain

Different terrain requires different skills and as you evolve as a rider. You’ll collect a toolkit of skills to tackle different conditions. Learn which off-road vehicles (ORV) and accessories are appropriate for which conditions, and remember that the wrong setup can decrease your vehicle’s performance. After your learn basic off-roading skills, you’ll begin to collect the experience you need before hitting the rougher, more difficult trails or advanced terrain like dunes or deep mud.

Love learning fast? Can-Am’s Driving School video series can help you learn key skills and make you into a better rider. Off-road legends Dale Brisby, Dustin Jones and Hunter Miller will give you the secrets to skills like taking turns at higher speeds or hydroplaning on your side-by-side.

Extending the life of your vehicle with warranties

With pre-ride inspections and key advice, what you’re really after is worry-free adventure on the trails. But what really makes days long and carefree are your warranty. The protection of an extended warranty like Can-Am’s B.E.S.T. lets you focus on your vehicle and enjoy every mud-sprayed minute. You enjoy 6-, 12-, 24-, 30- or 36-month coverage beyond the manufacturer’s limited warranty on most BRP vehicles, kicking in the second your vehicle’s limited warranty expires. B.E.S.T. repairs can be done through any authorized BRP dealer in North America. You get maximum enjoyment and dependability from your vehicle since B.E.S.T. doesn’t saddle riders with mileage or time restrictions.

Extend your warranty and make days on the trails truly worry-free. Learn more about what is covered and what the service offers no matter the mileage.

A head-to-toe list of essential ATV & side-by-side riding gear

For your safety and total enjoyment of your ATV or SxS, proper off-roading gear is a must. Let’s take a look at some essentials:

Besides protection in the event of an accident, a good DOT-certified helmet will protect you from all the branches, flying dirt and rocks you’ll have coming your way on a regular day on the trails. Off-road and motocross helmets offering full-face protection and moulding that protects your chin and jaw are the single most effective means of preventing head injuries. They also shield you from noise, water and flying bugs that feel a lot bigger when you hit them at speed. Shop helmets now!

Protecting your eyes is extremely important with off-roading being a world of flying dirt, rocks, dust and debris. If you get something in your eyes and can’t see where you’re going, it’s a big problem, so be sure to get a good pair of goggles and always wear them. Shop goggles now!

Off-road-specific shirts and pants are a vital part of your safety on the trail. They’ll not only protect you from the flying branches and debris mentioned above, but also offer insulation and protective padding while keeping you comfortable. Adding elbow, shoulder and knee pads, as well as chest protection, takes safety to the next level, and it’s wise to invest in good riding gear. Don’t forget that clothing is your protection from the elements, and you’ll more than thank waterproof or warm, insulated clothing when the weather turns rough. Shop pantsjackets and shirts now!

Proper boots protect your feet against rocks, brush, debris and heat coming from the engine and exhaust of your vehicle. Don’t forget that proper footwear can make a big difference when it comes to comfort.

Gloves are your grip on your vehicle’s controls and protect them from flying rocks or branches while keep them protected against chafing or blisters. Padded gloves also reduce fatigue by dampening your hands from your vehicle’s vibrations. Shop riding gloves now!

Must-have accessories for your new ORV

Whether it’s for work or play, every off-road experience is different. With different terrain and climates, vehicles can vary enormously from place to place. That’s why there is a seemingly endless variety of quality accessories available for Can-Am off-road vehicles.

Side-by-side accessories

Some of the most popular accessories for side-by-sides include:

Often the first place to begin accessorizing. From adventure racks for more cargo space, to day-extending light support bars, and even speaker systems, the possibilities are, well, through the roof. Shop side-by-side roofs now!

With options for half, full or flip windshields, you can equip your vehicle for any weather or season. Wiper and washer kits even keep windshields clear in the dirtiest or wettest conditions. Shop side-by-side windshields now!

Provide protection from the elements, keeping you warm on cold days, and are easily removable for hot summers. Shop side-by-side doors now!

Provide protection in tough terrain, along with mounts for countless accessories that provide more cargo capacity or lighting. Shop side-by-side bumpers now!

ATV accessories

Some of the most popular accessories for ATVs include:

Available in many materials, they are designed for various jobs and functions. Besides offering mounts, the protection a bumper offers can extend the life of your vehicle. Shop ATV bumpers now!

The extra carrying capacity of cargo boxes can change the whole purpose of your ATV into a hard-working, load-hauling worker, or a long-distance touring rig. Countless options mean you can easily mount cargo boxes in the material and size that suit you best. Shop ATV cargo boxes now!

Transport more gear and increase your storage by fitting racks. With options suitable for both hard-working ATVs and more recreational vehicles, racks ensure you can transport what you want in a way that’s both secure for you and any passengers along for the ride. Shop ATV racks now!

How to keep your ATV or SxS running smooth

Of course, Can-Am dealers are there for any questions or maintenance issues you may have while owning your ATV or side-by-side. To learn about basic repairs and maintenance you can do yourself, why not check out our Gettin’ It Done video series, presented by Dustin Jones, where you’ll learn how to change the oil and filter on your Can-Am vehicle like a pro, or learn the easiest method to change the battery or the spark plugs on your ATV or SxS. Our Tech Talk Tuesday video series also shows you tips and tricks on how to maintain, install accessories on and modify your Can-Am Maverick X3.

Time to hit the trails!

Now that we’ve given you some insight on what you need to know before hitting the trails, we hope you have an excellent and safe time out there. Be sure to keep doing your pre-ride inspections and that you always have all of the clothing, gear and accessories you need to keep your time on the trail long and safe. Have fun out there!

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