ATVs vs. Dirt Bikes: Off-Roading Tips for Beginners

Off-roading is a popular activity that gives you a chance to have an adventure. Exploring places close to home or seeing parts of another country with an off-roading adventure is possible. Today, off-roading and off-road vehicles are popular, influencing contemporary vehicle designs

Off-roading involves leaving the asphalt behind and driving off the road over sand, rocks, rivers, mud, snow, or other unpaved surfaces. Many off-roading enthusiasts enjoy the opportunity to spend time in nature or test their driving skills in natural environments. Whatever the reason for your interest, if you’re new to off-roading, you might wonder about the pros and cons of different off-road vehicles, the driving skills you’ll need, and what to wear on your first off-road adventure.

What makes a good ATV/UTV/off-roading driver? 

People driving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) need strong driving skills. The best off-road drivers know how the terrain affects their vehicle and can drive safely in various environments.

Off-road drivers should also have good instincts. You face different risks when driving in natural environments and need good problem-solving skills to overcome potential obstacles. For many off-road drivers, that’s part of the sport’s appeal.

ATV vs. dirt bike: understanding the pros and cons of each

Comparing ATVs and dirt bikes starts with understanding what these vehicles are. What is an ATV? An ATV is a motor vehicle designed to be driven on a range of unpaved surfaces. 

Comparing a dirt bike to an ATV is misleading. Technically, a dirt bike is an ATV. According to Collins Dictionary, an ATV is a variation of a dirt bike

Although these vehicles share some features, the term ‘ATV’ is also used for specific off-road motor vehicles with four tires, while dirt bikes have two. ATVs are more straightforward for new drivers because you can use an automatic ATV that doesn’t require you to shift gears, an essential skill when driving a dirt bike.

Although ATVs are easier to learn to drive, dirt bikes are less expensive, which makes them more appealing to new off-road drivers on a budget.

Five basic skills every ATV driver should master

ATV drivers can enjoy safer off-roading experiences by mastering the following skills:

  1. Posture: ATV drivers should have their bodies tucked and be comfortable leaning into turns to help balance their vehicles. They may need to stand up when driving over obstacles and should understand how to keep their knees and arms relaxed to avoid injuries.
  2. Active focus skills for driving forward and reversing: ATV drivers should focus on the path ahead of them and be comfortable driving in reverse when necessary.
  3. Trail riding skills: ATV drivers should be familiar with different types of terrain, including gravel, mud, and sand. They should understand how their vehicle operates in different terrain and know how to adjust their speed when that terrain changes.
  4. Ability to handle obstacles: Off-roading means encountering the unexpected, including obstacles. ATV drivers should know how and when to apply the gas, how much to give their vehicle, and let off the gas before hitting objects with their back tires.
  5. Hill-riding skills: Drivers use their body weight to prevent ATVs from rolling on hills. 

What to wear when ATV riding

You may wonder what to wear on an ATV tour if you haven’t gone off-roading. Before searching for off-road tours or ATV tours near you, ensure you have the following essentials:

  • Closed-toe shoes: Whether planning a half-day or full-day tour, your footwear should have a closed toe to protect you from injuries. Your footwear should also rise over your ankles to prevent sprains and keep your feet dry.
  • Eye protection: Getting sand, pebbles, or wood in your eyes can cause irritation and prevent you from seeing while driving. Goggles prevent debris from hitting your eyes.
  • Gloves: Wear gloves that fully cover your fingers. Your gloves protect your hands and improve your grip while steering.
  • Helmet: A helmet is a safety essential. Before heading out for a Las Vegas ATV tour, choose a snug helmet that provides even pressure around your head. 
  • Long-sleeved shirts and a jacket: It’s easy for ATVs to kick up rocks, branches, and other items that can cut you if they hit bare skin.
  • Pants: Wear pants to protect your legs from debris.

Ride with Awesome Adventures

Ride with Awesome Adventures

Join the millions who have discovered the thrill of off-road adventuring. Contact our tour operators to learn about our half- and full-day options. Let our off-roading guides introduce you to off-roading with one of our adventure tours. Book your off-roading adventure today.


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Capayas, M. (2021). ATV Sizes Chart – Choose the Right Quad Size.

Definition of ‘ATV.’ (2023). 

Gastelo, G. (2022). Americans want more off-road-style vehicles and automakers are here for it.

Off-Road Driving Techniques. (2023). 

Pollack, N. et al. (2019). On Loving Off-Roading, Even When You’re Pulling for a Future That’s All-Electric.

Surprise: Two Wheels Safer than Four in Off-Road Riding and Racing. (2010).

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