Racing ATVs is a great way to stay active, meet new people, and enjoy some healthy competition. But if you want to be safe and successful, you can’t just wake up one morning and decide, “Huh. I think I’ll go enter myself in a quad race this afternoon.”
ATV racing is an intricate sport that requires a good deal of preparation before that first gate drops. It’s not always clear how to get a foot in the door, though. That’s why we’ve put this ATV racing guide together. We’ll cover everything you need to know before entering your first race.
We will note that we’re approaching this topic as if you already own a four wheeler and know how to ride it. If you’re brand new to riding, check out our guide for breaking into the off-road industry. It covers everything from choosing a machine to finding your go-to ride spot.
For those of you who already have a machine and are ready to roll into the racing scene, read on!
While the race is what spectators flock to see, a lot of the work you’ll put in happens long before race day. Here are some things you should do before becoming a regular at the race track.
The first thing you need to do is find a race track so you can keep an eye out for upcoming competitions. Joining area-specific Facebook groups or local racing clubs is a great way to find tracks near you. You can also check with local quad dealers—they can be a helpful resource if you’re looking for race track or event recommendations.
On a national level, you can check out the American Motorcyclist Association’s ATV racing page to learn about the different racing series out there. You can also go to the AMA event calendar and search by state to find specific races near you.
If you want to race, we’re guessing you’d also like to win. But you can’t win if you don’t follow the rules. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules and guidelines of each specific race before the event starts. Otherwise, you could end up DQ’d before the race even ends.
Even experienced riders will want to get some practice time in on the track before entering their first competition. No matter how hard you ride, tearing up the trails is totally different than tearing it up on the race track.
This part is optional, but it might be something to consider if you are serious about racing. The American Motorcyclist Association sanctions more motorsports competitions than any other organization in the world. Most national series races will require that you have an AMA membership in order to participate, though.
AMA memberships can be pricey, which is why we’re only mentioning this as a suggestion—not a requirement. Most local- and state-level races do not require an AMA membership, so don’t feel like this is something you have to do right off the bat.
The most important part of preparing for a race is making sure you have the appropriate gear, for both yourself and your machine. Staying safe and protected should be a top priority any time you ride, but especially if you’ll be racing.
If you’ve never raced before, it’s not likely that you’ll have race-appropriate clothing chillin’ in your closet somewhere. Most race organizations are particular about what you wear at events, and for good reason!
While requirements may vary from track to track, here are the most common articles of clothing you’ll want to have:
What you wear is important while racing, but what’s on your machine is just as crucial. Here are some additions you’ll have to make to your ATV before racing.
Tether cord/kill switch: In case of an accident, the cord will pull free from the machine and shut off your engine. Some ATVs come with this from the factory, but if not, you’ll want to install one. They’re not expensive—usually between $20 and $40—and they’re easy to install.
Nerf bars: These are only required for certain types of racing, but even if your specific track doesn’t make you install nerf bars, we recommend them. A little extra protection for your legs and feet never hurt.
Number plates on the front and rear: Almost all race tracks will require that you display a unique three-digit race number on your machine. This helps to reduce confusion in scoring.
Transponder: Many races will also require that you mount a transponder to your frame. This small box has a chip inside that helps race officials track your ATV during the event. You can purchase your own, but renting is an option at many race tracks.
Aftermarket upgrades: There are no rules stating you have to deck out your ATV with specialized tires or upgraded suspension parts in order to race. However, upgrades like this definitely don’t hurt if you’re in it to win it.
So you have your ATVA registration, race clothing, and modified machine. You’ve found a race track and put in some practice hours, and now you’re ready to register for your very first event.
The first thing to decide is what class you’ll race in. Classes are based on engine size, experience level, age, and/or gender. The biggest piece of advice we can give you here is to look at experience level above all else. You don’t want to jump into an intermediate or expert-level race on your first try. Click here for an example of what classes are available for ATV Motocross’s 2021 season.
Once you’ve pinpointed your event and know what class you’ll race in, it’s time to register. Most events offer pre-registration, which we recommend out of convenience. It’s much easier to fill out your registration form online than scramble to get it done the morning of, when there’s a long line behind you.
When race day arrives, you’ll want to show up early to get a good parking spot and leave yourself plenty of time to sign in. (Even if you’ve pre-registered online, you’ll have to sign in when you get to the race track.) Expect big crowds and long lines, and plan accordingly!
Find out ahead of time if there is a racers’ meeting before the event and then allow yourself plenty of time to attend. This is your chance to review the race rules one last times and ask any questions you may have.
You may also have to attend a tech inspection prior to the race. An official will inspect your machine and make sure you have a functioning transponder and kill switch, and that your race numbers are visible and in the proper location.
As you can see, getting ready for your first ATV race requires a lot of planning and prep work, and that preparation isn’t always cheap. Like most competitive sports, ATV racing is an investment.
But how much money can you expect to spend when starting off? It’s hard to say exactly, when helmets can run you anywhere from $90 to nearly $750.
We still want to give you a rough estimate of what everything could potentially cost, though. So we’ll drop some averages down below and you can take those with a grain of salt, remembering that a lot of these expenses, like how much you spend on that racing helmet, will vary.
Adding all of these up gives you a total between $800 and $1150. (Again, these are just rough estimates!)
So there you have it—a quick step-by-step guide to joining the ATV racing community. Starting something brand new can be intimidating but with the proper preparation, gear, and machine, you’ll be set up for success in no time.
We’ve gone over a lot of helpful information today, but we’ll end on the most important note—stay safe and, just as importantly, have fun with it. Good luck at your first race!