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Riding Double on an ATV

When I was in high school, way back when Moby Dick was a minnow, my buddy and I used to ride double on a motorcycle all the time. One day after school we were tooling along when a police officer pulled us over for not having extra foot pegs for a passenger. Not only did I have to pay a ticket, but to tell you the truth, two guys on a motorcycle could probably have been misconstrued by others anyway. That episode soured me on the riding double thing and I stopped doing it for many years.

When I began riding ATVs, it didn't take long to figure out that riding double on an ATV is a horse of a different color. Since riding a four-wheeler is so simple to do and to learn, at least on non-challenging roads and trails, taking a friend along can enhance the ride quite a bit.

Choosing the Right Riding Partner

For most men, I think they prefer to ride with their wife or their girlfriend, and hope that the two never meet. (If I type LOL after a bad joke, will that make it funnier?) My favorite doubles partner is my wife. She's not an experienced rider so that means I have to do all the driving, which I prefer. It gives us a chance to spend quality time together where she can talk in my ear for hours and I don't have to respond or even listen. It's like Heaven on earth (LOL).

Your passenger doesn't need to be an experienced rider who knows how to work ATV paddle tires to their fullest, lean into the turns, or keep their feet up; just someone who you are comfortable with wrapping their arms around you and getting fairly up close and personal. In my line of work I see a lot of children riding behind parents and grandparents; sometimes just a couple of kids ride together. The most important thing is make sure it's someone you will have a good time with.

Safety Considerations when Riding Double on an ATV

There are always safety concerns no matter where or when or how you ride, but when doubling up on the same machine, you should consider the following issues.

  • Your Machine
    Some ATV's are made for one rider only. If you do not own a 2-person ATV, don't ride double.
  • Helmets
    This is a no-brainer. Always wear a helmet, whether the law requires it or not. It's just smart. If you and your riding mate want to talk to one another more easily, then get a helmet intercom system.
  • Foot Placement
    Ok, so there aren't foot pegs on a four-wheeler, but you still need to keep from getting your feet tangled up. Since the driver needs both feet for shifting and braking, the passenger needs to keep a little distance. Most ATVs don't have enough room for two feet on each side, so it's really the passenger's burden to resist the urge to play footsie. Most kids' are too short and it won't even be an issue with them.
  • Tires
    As always, make sure you have the right ATV tires for the type of riding you're doing, but when you take a friend along, be sure to check the air pressure, tread quality, etc. before you head out. Remember that the added weight can change tire performance. If you're taking a 45-pound child, don't worry about it, but if you are taking Ricky or Bubba from Storage Wars Texas, those ATV sport tires just aren't going to perform the same as normal.
  • Back Rest
    There are innumerable styles of backrests on the market today, but for the sake of your passenger, use something with padding. A few years back I had a riding partner who ended up with a nasty bruise. Every time we hit a bump she slid into the cargo rack. You can get “passenger seats” with armrests, storage compartments, seat belts, drink holders, and many other options.
  • Extra Gear
    Remember to pack enough of everything for two people. You'll want to take an extra rain slicker, food, water, etc. You'll even burn through a little extra gas. For most rides that won't be an issue, but it's something to think about ahead of time.
  • Trail Conditions
    When my wife and I ride, we generally stick to forest roads or well-maintained trails; however, on occasion, I opt for a shortcut on an unknown trail and that's when the trouble begins. Steep slopes, off camber trails, and rock climbing are not the best places to ride double. Take a look at a map if you're heading into unfamiliar territory to be sure you, your partner, and your ATV are up to the challenges that lie ahead.

Make it Fun

When riding alone I tend to shoot across the landscape, clawing at the trail as fast as my Maxxis Bighorns will take me, occasionally catching a little bit of air. I don't always pay attention to scenery or weather or hunger or anything really. When my wife is along for the ride it's much more pleasant when we slow down and enjoy the trip.

Take a camera along and capture some of the imagery that city dudes never get a chance to see. Then post the pictures on Facebook and make them all jealous. Pack some cold chicken or sandwiches so you can stop and have a picnic beside a stream or on a mountain peak. Another good way to make the ride more memorable is to pick a destination with special places to visit like historical markers, old cabins, scenic vistas, watchable wildlife, or unique geology. Stop and do some rock hounding, gold panning, fishing, or splashing in a stream.

No matter where you ride or who it's with, be sure to be safe and have fun, but above all, share your love of riding ATVs with others in your life.

Ryan Richards

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