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The most common off-road driving FAQs

There are a number of ways to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, but fewer ways are more enjoyable, or fun, than off-roading. Off-roading is a term that is commonly used to describe taking vehicles off main roads, designated driving areas, and heading into open fields, rocky terrain, or through mountains and other various types of environments.

Off-roading aficionados like to drive a variety of vehicles to make their experience even more exciting. Some of the most common off-roading is done in 4x4 vehicles, all wheel drive vehicles, motorbikes, dirt bikes, ATVs and more. If you are new to off-roading, here are some things you need to know to help you get started and enjoy off-roading safely.

What are the different terrains you might encounter?

There are several types of terrain you might find enjoyable for off-roading. These include desert-like dunes, marshlands, cross country, muddy areas, rocky terrain, and snow-covered lands. Some off-roading fans like to drive through rivers and streams, climb mountains, and try their luck on sandy beaches.

What are the different types of off-roading vehicles that are popular today?

Many people will modify their own personal 4x4 vehicles to be able to take them off-roading. However, many brands of vehicles are already primed for going off-road, and with little effort, you can go from street to sand, mud to snow. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) also come in a selection of shapes and sizes including 4-wheel and 3-wheel styles. This is a kind of off-roading vehicle is one that resembles a golf cart. It has an open roll bar design and can be taken off-road with ease.

How can you learn to drive an off-roading vehicle?

There are a number of training centres that you can attend to learn to be safe around an off-road vehicle. When you start looking for a place to train you, you’ll want to find a training centre that will provide you with actual driving time so that you can become comfortable driving an ATV, dirt bike or other types of off-road vehicle. While you don’t need a special license to drive a 4x4 vehicle off-road, you will need a special license to allow you to drive a motorbike, dirt bike, or operate other types of off-roading vehicles. Make sure to check with the government transport centre in your state.

What are some common off-roading techniques?

Once you get into off-roading as a hobby or interest, you’ll find there are lots of ways to enjoy this sport. One type of off-roading that is very popular is called mudding: this gets dirty fast because you are basically driving your vehicle into muddy banks, ruts, dips and puddles. Other types of off-roading include rock crawling and winch-events, where you pull vehicles back and forth.

What are some of the common terms heard in off-roading circles?

  • Winching: attaching a pulley to another vehicle to move it or drag it out of the mud
  • Mods: (short for modify) changes made to a vehicle to make it more suitable for off-roading
  • Bull bar: secured to the front of off-roading vehicles to prevent damage due to impacts
  • Bash plate: secured to underbody of vehicle to prevent damage
  • Ground clearance: how far off the ground the body of the vehicle is from the base of the tyre
  • Off-camber: when an off-road vehicle is at an incline that could cause it to tip over
  • Recovery Tracks: a device used to gain traction when a vehicle gets stuck

What is the best time of year to go off-roading?

The truth is that when an off-road vehicle is properly equipped, any time of the year is good for off-roading. Whether you are in the mountains or in the valleys, weather doesn’t have to be a concern if you are prepared for it. Before you head out, always make sure your vehicle is in good working condition, and always pack extra batteries, tyres, and a tool kit in case you need to make repairs on the fly. Safety should always be your number one priority so off-roading with a friend can ensure you are not alone during accidents or if you have engine mechanical trouble.

What kind of accidents might you come across or be involved in?

There’s no doubt that part of the fun related to off-roading is that you are being thrown all over the cabin of the vehicle, and there’s a slight element of danger. But you can be safe while still having a lot of fun. When it comes to off-roading you should be prepared to see a number of incidents: flat tyres, broken axles, busted front ends, dead batteries, broken glass, blocked filters, and you could run out of fuel. Those supplies we mentioned, like extra flashlights, tools, batteries, tyres, and fuel can make all the difference if you find yourself stuck on a mountain or in a mudhole for a few hours.

What are some general safety rules to follow?

Always scope out the terrain you plan to ride before you do a serious run. It’s important that you are familiar with the lay of the land, so you don’t wind up in trouble. Always tell someone where you are going, and take plenty of supplies to hold you over in case you get stuck and have to wait for help to arrive. Make sure you have the right vehicle for the terrain you are going to take on - there’s no point in taking your Dad's old van into the woods - it won’t survive. Another common practice that off-roaders do is lower their tyre pressure. This makes it easier for the tyres to grip and move throughout the different types of terrain. Always check the depth of water before you take your vehicle into any body of water. What looks shallow in one spot can quickly drop off and turn into a nightmare for you and your vehicle. Finally, know the angles of your off-roading vehicle. If you don’t have enough clearance between the body of your vehicle and the base of the tyres, you might have a hard time climbing terrain and manoeuvring out of tight corners. But most importantly, have fun!

If you are looking for great products to take your off-roading to the next level, check out Yakima’s products for off-road vehicles. They have lots of great options for carrying, cargo management and gear storage.

Last updated: January 2, 2018

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