How to Drive a Manual ATV

by Chris Gilliland
Sport-focused ATVs use manually operated transmissions to allow the rider to adjust for changing riding conditions.

Sport-focused ATVs use manually operated transmissions to allow the rider to adjust for changing riding conditions.

Most utilitarian All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) are equipped with an automatic transmission, allowing the rider to concentrate on the trail without having to worry about shifting or operating the clutch. Sport-focused ATVs, on the other hand, utilize a manually operated transmission, allowing the rider to fine-tune the machine's performance at any given time by pulling in the clutch lever or shifting to another gear. Learning to operate a manual ATV is not difficult, but does require a small amount of practice to get the hang of working the clutch.

Familiarize yourself with the ATV's shift pattern, the order in which the gears are arranged on the shift lever. The shift pattern is found in the ATV's owner's manual or imprinted on the ATV's motor next to the shift lever.

Turn on the ATV's ignition switch and start the motor. Pull in the clutch lever and press the shift lever down with the tip of your left boot to shift out of neutral and into first gear.

Release the clutch lever slightly to engage the clutch. The ATV should begin to roll forward slightly. Pull in the clutch lever quickly to disengage the clutch before the motor stalls. Practice engaging and disengaging the clutch until you are familiar with the clutch's engagement point.

Release the clutch lever slightly to engage the clutch. Using the throttle lever on the right handlebar, open the throttle slightly as the ATV should begin to roll forward. Release the clutch lever gradually and add a small amount of throttle to drive forward. To stop, pull in the clutch lever and release the throttle. Use either the handlebar mounted front brake lever or the foot brake to slow to a stop. Using the tip of your left boot, gently tap the shift lever upwards to shift into neutral. Practice until you are comfortable with starting and stopping the ATV.

Disengage the clutch and accelerate to a comfortable speed. Load the shift lever by positioning the tip of your left boot under the shift lever and gently pressing upward on the lever. Pull in the clutch lever and close the throttle slightly. Push the shift lever upwards completely with the tip of your left boot to shift into second gear. Release the clutch lever and open the throttle to accelerate. Repeat to shift into a higher gear as your speed and comfort levels increase.

Shift into a lower gear by loading the shift lever, placing the tip of your left boot over the shift lever. Pull in the clutch lever and close the throttle. Push the shift lever down completely to change gears. Release the clutch lever and open the throttle to accelerate.

Tip

  • Shifting into neutral can be difficult at first. Instead of pushing the lever upward forcefully, use a gentle tap to lift the lever out of first gear.

Warning

  • At a minimum, wear a helmet and proper eye protection when operating an ATV to prevent the risk of traumatic head injuries.

References

About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.

Photo Credits