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How To Ride An ATV With A Clutch: Step By Step Guide

How To Ride An ATV With A Clutch: Step By Step Guide

Are you up for the thrill of riding an ATV with a clutch? Get ready for an exhilarating adventure with a manual transmission ATV! Unlike its automatic counterpart that does all the shifting for you, a manual ATV puts you in the driver’s seat, giving you complete control. But don’t worry, driving a manual ATV is easier than you might think. Once you get the hang of it, shifting becomes second nature, allowing you to ride effortlessly. 

To conquer the world of manual ATVs, you’ll need to coordinate your hands and feet. The essential components you’ll need to become familiar with are the clutch, hand brake, shifter, throttle, and foot brake. Once you’ve mastered using these components, riding a manual ATV will be a breeze. Say goodbye to any worries about handling a manual ATV!!

Now, let me be your guide as we take a step-by-step journey through starting, getting into gear, and shifting with a manual ATV. Get ready to embrace the thrill of commanding your ATV with confidence and finesse!

What are the Manual Transmission ATV Components?

Are you eager to discover the key components of a manual transmission ATV? Get ready to unlock the secrets! When it comes to manual ATVs, there are a few essential components that put you in the driver’s seat of control and excitement. Keep reading to learn everything you should know. 

  • Clutch: The clutch is the lever in front of the left-hand grip. If you pull this lever in, the plates in the transmission pull away, causing your ATV transmission to be disengaged. It is similar to being in neutral, you could give it gas and not go anywhere, you’ll just rev the engine.
  • Shifter: The foot shifter is located next to your left foot. This is what you will use to shift gears up or down using your foot. You will only shift gears with the clutch lever pulled in.
  • Throttle: The throttle lever is located on the right-hand grip. You will use your thumb to press the lever to give the ATV some gas to allow you to accelerate.
  • Hand Brake: The hand brake is located in front of the throttle on the right-hand grip. This brake will activate the front tires only.
  • Foot Brake: The foot brake is located next to your right foot. This brake is used for the rear tires only.
quad clutch layout

Starting An ATV With A Clutch

To ensure a smooth start, it’s recommended to begin with the quad in neutral gear. However, don’t worry if you find yourself in a different gear. As long as you hold the clutch lever, you can start the ATV in any gear

It’s important to remember that when you engage the clutch lever, you’re essentially putting the quad in neutral, as long as you keep the clutch lever pulled in. This gives you the flexibility to start your ATV with ease, regardless of the gear you’re in. 

Notwithstanding, if you start your quad in gear, you need to pull in on the clutch and start the engine. Be careful though, if you let go of the clutch with the engine running and the transmission in gear, you will stall and could do damage to your transmission. I only start mine in neutral so that way I can let off the clutch and the quad will idle, and I suggest you do the same.

To get into neutral before starting the quad, you need to pull in on the clutch lever and use your left foot shifter to find neutral. Neutral is usually located between 1st and 2nd gear. You typically won’t be able to get into neutral from 2nd gear though. You should shift to 1st gear by clicking down on the foot shifter, all the way down to 1st gear. Then lightly shift a half-click up into neutral. A full click up from 1st gear will put you into 2nd gear, and a half click up will put you into neutral.

Start Driving From Neutral

This is the part that everyone gets hung up on, I know I did when I first learned. It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it though, it takes some practice. Don’t let yourself get discouraged too easily and you’ll be just fine.

Start by being in neutral with the engine running. Pull in the clutch lever and hold it in. Now shift into 1st gear by pressing down on the shifter with your foot. To start accelerating, you need to give it some gas with the throttle while you slowly let out the clutch. You have to do these at the same time, that’s what usually gets people.

When you feel the clutch engage, the quad will start to move forward and you can let go of the clutch altogether. You’re now in 1st gear moving forward. Be careful though, if you come to a stop without pulling the clutch back in, or getting back into neutral, the ATV will stall.

It may help to just practice getting the quad moving in 1st gear using the clutch and throttle for a bit. Every quad is a little different so it’s hard to say how much throttle to give, and how far to let the clutch out before it grabs. A good starting point though is to try about half throttle and let the clutch out slowly until you get a good feel for it.If you keep stalling your engine, you’re either not giving enough gas or you’re letting the clutch out too quickly. If the front end lifts on you, you’re probably giving it too much throttle when you let the clutch out. It may take patience to get the hang of it, but just take it easy and practice.

Shifting Through Gears

Manual ATV Gears

Once you’ve got the ‘start driving’ part down you’ll want to go faster. Luckily this isn’t as hard as getting the quad moving in the first place. To shift up a gear you want to be about 75% or more of the rpm range for your engine. 

You typically want to shift up in the higher rpm ranges or you will just bog down the engine. For example, being in 4th gear but only going 5mph will give you no power, and you might even stall.

Shift Up

When shifting up, release the throttle and fully pull in the clutch lever. Then, use your left foot to pull up on the shift lever, moving into the next higher gear. Once you’ve done that, let the clutch out gradually while giving it a throttle. Remember, when shifting from 1st to 2nd, a full click up is needed for the shift; a half click will land you in neutral.

If you feel more comfortable, you can slowly release the clutch while applying gas, just as you did when starting in 1st gear. However, it’s not necessary. That’s why shifting between gears is often easier than starting in 1st. Simply release the throttle, pull in the clutch, shift gears, release the clutch entirely, and apply gas again. With time, you’ll become faster at this process, and it will become second nature. So, get ready to experience the smooth and seamless transition between gears as you ride like a pro.

When it comes to downshifting, the process is quite similar. Just follow the same steps as before, but this time, use your left foot to press down on the shifter. It’s crucial to remember that downshifting at high speeds can lead to engine redlining and potential damage. Therefore, downshifting is typically necessary when you’re slowing down.

Personally, what I find effective is keeping the clutch engaged whenever I’m decelerating. Once I’ve reached the desired speed, I shift down into the appropriate gear for that speed and gradually release the clutch.

Knowing the optimal gear for your speed is essential. Unlike shifting up, where you usually go through gears one by one, when downshifting, you can shift down through multiple gears depending on the degree of deceleration. If your ATV doesn’t have a speedometer, you’ll need to rely on your instincts to gauge your speed and determine the appropriate gear.

With practice, you’ll develop a keen sense of what gear suits your speed, allowing you to navigate with confidence on your manual ATV.

Stopping An ATV With A Clutch

This is the easiest part, but the most important, you should know how to stop before you even try riding an ATV with a clutch. To come to a complete stop simply let off the throttle, hold in the clutch, and apply the front and rear brakes until you’ve stopped moving. 

You can downshift while you’re slowing down or wait until you’ve stopped to downshift to 1st gear. Either way, you must hold the clutch in this entire time. Once you’re into 1st gear, do a half-click shift up into neutral. Now you can let off the clutch and the engine will idle.

The front brake is applied by using the front brake lever on the right side of the handlebars. The front brake is typically about 3/4 of your stopping power. Some people never even touch their rear brakes at all, which is fine. To use your rear brakes apply the foot brake on your right foot. The rear brake becomes more useful when you start to learn more advanced braking and cornering, or if you just like to skid to a stop.

That’s It!

That’s it! now it’s time to practice, a lot. You’ll get the hang of it and you’ll want to start trying more advanced maneuvers in no time. As always, remember to wear proper safety gear. 

At the very least, make sure you wear a helmet, goggles, and a decent pair of boots. If you want to check out some gear I’ve tried, tested, and recommend myself, check out the Recommended Gear section of this site.

Thanks so much for reading to the end! 

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