"The ATV is one of those products that people are finding new uses for every day," said Michael Mueller, a district sales manager for Arctic Cat, a leading U.S. manufacturer of ATVs and snowmobiles. "I meet husbands and wives who use ATVs to ride around their acreage together. And older persons are using ATVs to rediscover areas of the outdoors that had become inaccessible to them."
First-time buyers are drawn to the versatility and ease-of-use that characterize today's machines. Unlike a motorcycle, which usually requires a fair level of skill and experience to operate, the current range of ATVs -- including automatic models that do away with gear shifting -- can be driven by just about anyone.
At the same time, ATV makers are expanding the range of engine sizes, features and options in ways that offer something for riders of most ages and skill levels. The 2002 product line from Arctic Cat, for example, features the most new models ever introduced by an ATV maker in a single year. With a growing number of models to choose from, new ATV buyers use their machines for a new range of utility and recreational activities:
* Trail riding. "The South is booming with recreational trails and public lands that offer ATV access," said Chris Bryant, owner of Outback Motorsports in Monroe, Va. "I'd say approximately 50 percent of our customers buy ATVs for trail riding." Find out more about accessible trails across the country by visiting the ATV Illustrated Web site at www.atvillustrated.com/trails.
* All-around workhorse. Many buyers use their ATVs as multipurpose machines. "I see first-time home buyers using their ATV to lay mulch and plow snow," Bryant said. "And people with a small acreage or hobby farm are discovering that they don't need to buy a huge, expensive tractor for farming. Instead, they buy a larger ATV and several different attachments. They spend a third of the money and still get a versatile utility vehicle that fulfills lots of farm equipment needs."
* Social groups and riding clubs. Families and small groups of ATV enthusiasts join together to spend a day or weekend participating in recreational ATV rides in areas not accessible by most motorized vehicles. "Family and group riding is really gaining popularity because of the growing size and scope of available trails around the country," Mueller said. You can find an ATV riding club in your area by visiting the ATV Source Web site at www.atvsource.com/clubs.
What to Look For
For outdoors enthusiasts who want to enter the world of ATV ownership, Mueller recommends first-time buyers look for a machine that excels in several key areas:
* Dependable and easy to maintain. "First-time buyers should look for a machine that features maintenance-free suspension and an easily accessible oil filter and filler. Disc brakes are also desirable, because they generally require less adjustment and maintenance than drum brakes."
* At least 300 pounds of cargo capacity. "Even if you'll be using your ATV primarily for recreation, it's likely that you'll want to haul a weighty load at some point," Mueller said. For the 2002 model year, even ATVs at the low-end of the Arctic Cat size range offer 300 pounds of total (front and rear) rack capacity.
* A fully sealed, waterproof engine. A sealed engine can help ensure that an ATV will be able to go through water, mud and snow without problems. "Customers want an ATV they can use in a variety of weather and trail conditions," said Mike Loscheider, owner of Waconia Farm and Home Supply, Waconia, Minn. "They want to be able to use it for ice fishing in the winter and hunting or recreational riding during the warmer months." A sealed engine can also help prolong engine life by keeping out moisture.
* Smooth ride, easier handling. "No one wants to spend their day riding the ATV equivalent of a mechanical bull," Mueller said. A smooth ride is only one attraction offered by Arctic Cat ATVs with fully independent front and rear suspension. "Independent" means that all four tires stay in contact with the ground, reacting independently to terrain changes. Improved tire contact enables better cornering and more stability.
If you're one of the thousands of Americans who will be taking to a four-wheeler for the first time, make sure you're buying a machine that will fit with your intended uses. For example, if you're going to use your ATV as a workhorse or for heavy-duty trail riding, you'll want a machine that has plenty of rack capacity and ground clearance.
You should also consider taking a training course. The ATV Rider Course is a fast-paced, half-day rider training course that is free to ATV buyers. To learn more about the course or to find a session in your area call the ATV Safety Institute toll-free at 1-800-887-2887, or visit the organization's Web site at www.atvsafety.org.
For more information on buying an ATV, or to find an Arctic Cat ATV dealer, call (800) 587-4275. You can also see the full line of Arctic Cat ATVs and accessories at www.arcticcat.com
Courtesy of ARA Content, www.ARAcontent.com, e-mail: info@ARAcontent.com