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How To Climb Hills On An ATV: Beginners Guide

How To Climb Hills On An ATV: Beginners Guide

When you’re out on the trail, you end up coming across some pretty big obstacles. Learning how to tackle hills is a big part of riding ATVs in the wilderness. After a good amount of practice, you will eventually be able to tackle big hills without even slowing down to think about it. Here are some tips I’ve put together to help you take on that big hill in your way.


As you start heading toward a big hill you want to climb, try getting your speed up. It’s important to have enough momentum to take you all the way to the top of the hill. Sometimes that’s not possible, but if you have even a small straight away or wide corner, take advantage. Get on that throttle and get some momentum behind you as you start the climb.


You have to be smooth with the clutch and shift at the right time. If you don’t shift correctly at the right times it could slow your speed and momentum and you won’t make it to the top. Shift too early, and you won’t have the power needed to continue the climb. This is even more important in deeper soil, which is already working against you as it is.


You have to pay attention to your throttle control. Nice and smooth like you did with the clutch. You need to give the ATV gas to get up the hill, but a burst of throttle will cause your tires to slip, and you won’t make it to the top. Not enough throttle, and you’ll bog down. Losing speed and momentum will end a hill climb quick.

Body Position

This is an important one to get good at. If you don’t position yourself correctly on the quad, you could end up tipping over or falling of your ATV.

You want to lean forward on your quad in a standing position. The upper part of your body may even need to be over the handle bars. Standing and leaning forward will give you some forward momentum. But more importantly, it will help keep your front tires on the ground. Depending on how steep the incline is determines how much you should be leaning. It’s one of those things you get a feel for the more you do it.

Keep Your Head Up

A lot of riders I notice will look at the ground just in front of their quad when they first try to climb a hill. Although it feels natural, try not to do this. If you already know the terrain, then great. But if you’re not looking ahead, you could miss other obstacles on the hill like roots, ruts, or rocks. You don’t want to be taken by surprise, it could ruin your hill climb, and put you in danger. Always look up the hill in the path you are heading, and be ready to make any changes to your course if you need to.

Pick A Line

Have your line picked out before you start your climb. Knowing what path you’re going to take will help you out a lot. It can ease some of the nerves too, if you’re new to climbing hills on a quad. It can go badly very fast if you get half way up a hill only to find a rut or steep incline you weren’t prepared for. Victory loves preparation.

Pick a path you know you can make. Know your limits, be safe, and don’t try anything you’re not ready for.

Turn Around

If things start heading south on you and you don’t think you’ll make the climb, you need to know how to turn around without tipping over. The earlier you can tell if you’ll make it or not, the better. If at all possible, find the widest area you can to turn around in. You want to make sure your ATV has enough room to make the turn.

In this case, it’s best to dismount the ATV to turn around. When you get off your quad, make sure you hold the front brake and get off on the upside of the hill. That way if your quad takes a tumble you’re not in the way. Now that you’re off, you can steer the quad to one side or the other until perpendicular with the trail. Now you can turn the handle bars facing down hill and get back on.

If the terrain is too steep, or you feel uncomfortable turning around on a hill. You could always hop off the same way and walk your quad down backwards the way you came up. Use the front brake to slow the ATV down as you bring it back down the hill.

I’ve been able to stay on the ATV and roll back down a hill I failed to climb before. If you run out of momentum just simply continue leaning forward, get into neutral, and slowly roll back down the hill using the front brake. It’s not as safe as getting off the machine, but on hills that aren’t very steep or dangerous, it will work.

Safety Gear

Safety first when trying new tricks or hill climbs for the first time. Having the right gear on could save your life if something ever did happen. ATV trail riding is generally pretty safe, but accidents do happen. Make sure you at least have on a helmet and goggles when you’re out riding. For hill climbing, I would even recommend a chest protector and riding boots as well, because of the potential for the machine to roll on top of you and crush you.

To check out some great safety gear options, visit the Recommended Gear section of this site.

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