Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: ATV Safety Class @ Hollister Hills SVRA (Hollister, CA)


ATV Safety Class @ Hollister Hills SVRA (Hollister, CA)

Sometimes to have a lot of fun, you gotta get a little dirty!

As part of the festivities of the Women On Wheels® 25th International Ride-In taking place in San Jose, CA last week, I had the opportunity with five other WOW members to take the ATV Safety Class ran by the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. It was held at the Hollister Hills SVRA (State Vehicular Recreational Area). Learning curriculum and material provided was from the ATV Safety Institute.

Waiting for class to begin. Weather was quite mild in the morning but got a bit hot by time we hit the trails. Drink lots of water!
Our class was taught by two CA Park Rangers, a man and a woman, who were both very experienced in off-road riding and working here at Hollister Hills. This course covered the basics, skills, and techniques of operating an ATV safely. We started with an introduction to the ATVs, going through their basic controls and variations between the several models offered for riding. Next, we practiced several drills that focused on acceleration, proper braking, gear shifting, and turning. Later on, we continued with advanced techniques such as swerving to avoid obstacles, stopping while in a turn, managing hills, and running over obstructions. Unlike popular belief, an ATV is NOT easy to ride proficiently! We learned how much it relies on counterbalancing and weight shifting to assist its maneuverability. It's also physically intensive as I found out very quickly, in some cases even more so than the dirtbikes I had ridden in MSF Dirtbike School last September!

I could not help but notice how much of this class echoed many of the basic techniques and safety strategies of the MSF Basic Rider Course., especially in the areas of hazard management and accident prevention. Because of the nature of off-road riding, being aware and alert while out in the wilderness is even more vital to safety and enjoyment in the outdoors. According to statistics from the CSPC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), more than 3498 people have died from ATV-related crashes since 2004 with many others becoming severely paralyzed or injured in accidents. With the sport of off-road ATV riding growing by leaps and bounds, any step to educate oneself about the operation of these machines will only make the experience that much more rewarding.

We had a nice variety of ATVs to choose from with varied engine sizes.
The end of the course culminated with a trail ride through a couple of the easy (and very scenic) paths inside the Hollister Hills SVRA, quick previews of the 300+ miles of trails open to ATVs, dirtbikes, mountain bikes, and other off-highway vehicles. Hollister Hills is only one of several OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) exclusive parks in Northern California. There are dozens more throughout the state and hundreds all over the country.

And to prove that you're never too old to try something new, my ATV class received the unique distinction of having the oldest woman (ever) to complete the ATV school at 71 years of age! She surely didn't look or act her age running over all those giant 4x4 pieces of wood, taking those hills, and hitting the trails!

I definitely recommend this course to anyone who's thinking of purchasing a four-wheeler or planning to spend a weekend off-roading with friends. Spending most of my time on street bikes, I learned very quickly that an ATV does not operate "just like a motorcycle." It is an off-road vehicle with a different set of physics and controls that, in some cases, are counter-intuitive to a seasoned two-wheeled street rider.

Special thanks to Women On Wheels®, Debra Cable of CA State Parks and Recreation, Sue Slate of the Women's Motorcycle Foundation, and the CA chapters of WOW for setting up this event. Interested in learning more about the fun places to ride off-road vehicles? To find the closest OHV park to you, visit your state's park service website. For additional resources, talk to your local ATV/dirtbike dealer, local off-road clubs, and other off-road enthusiasts.