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- What Is Off-Roading?
Off-roading is a term used to describe driving on unpaved ground and some people regard it as a sport in its own right. This surface can be almost anything other than typical smooth pavement, including fields, riverbeds, muddy bogs, sand dunes, beaches, mountainsides, gravel, boulders and even roads that have fallen into disrepair. If it’s not paved (or paved properly), it’s fair game for off-roaders.
Years ago you needed to have a specialized vehicle to off-road properly. After World War II, people began to use Jeeps for something other than delivering the officers to the front lines, but otherwise, a heavily-modified truck or Land Rover were requirements to even begin to attempt an off-road expedition. In 1977, a motorcycle won the first Paris-to-Dakar road rally, the world’s most famous off-road race. It took a decade before car manufacturers began seriously outfitting their cars for off-roading.
Of course, until recently, all-off-road vehicles were petrol or diesel-powered, but these days there are a lot of electric off-road vehicles on the market as well.
You can find detailed information on off-roading here.
- When Did Off-Roading Start?
Vehicles weren’t designed to go off-road until the Kegresse Track came along in the early 1900s. Adolphe Kegresse, the designer, started working for Tsar Nicholas II of Russia in 1906, and over the next few years, developed a new kind of vehicle that was designed specifically for off-road driving conditions, including dirt, grass, and snow.
The Kegresse Track is made up of a continuous line of rubber track that moves along a conveyor instead of using traditional interlocking metal tires. Today, it might look like an old-fashioned and odd-looking snowmobile, but back then it completely changed the way people thought about vehicles and what they could do.
A fleet of these new half-track vehicles eventually made their way across the Sahara Desert. Between December 1922 and March 1923, Georges-Marie Haardt and Louis Audouin-Dubreuil traveled from Touggourt to Timbuktu and back again. The event got A LOT of publicity, kick-starting the auto industry’s interest in off-road vehicles and the rest, as they say, is history.
- Is Off-Roading Fun?
Of course! The appeal of off-roading can be explained really simply: driving over rocks and through mud and along dirt tracks and across rivers is just ridiculously good fun. It can be really challenging too.
Tens of millions of Americans count off-roading as a beloved hobby as do millions of people all around the World. Some of them practice dune bashing in their All-Terrain Vehicles (aka ATVs, see below), raiding in their 4×4 or rock crawling in their Jeep. Some off-roaders enjoy the natural scenery, while others love the technical challenge that driving on unpaved ground presents.
Whatever type of off-roading you’re into, it can be a GREAT pastime or hobby, as long as you know what you’re doing and whatever you do you do it safely.
- Is Off-Roading Dangerous?
Hmm. It can be, although it depends on lots of different factors, including the environment, the vehicle being used, the way you drive and how much experience you have.
One of the biggest issues with off-roading is ‘rollover’. Practically all off-roading vehicles, from SUVs to ATVs, can roll over, and driving on unstable, off-road terrain only increases that chance.
However, there are lots of steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe when off-roading, such as using the right vehicle for the terrain, keeping it well-maintained, using safety equipment properly and being prepared for emergencies. Oh, and driving sensibly!
- Where Can I Go Off-Roading?
As we said above, anything that isn’t paved is fair game for an off-roader, although you should check your local laws and regulations before hitting it. I mean, I wouldn’t just take your 4×4 down to the local park and start ripping up the grass as you’ll probably get in a lot of trouble, tempting though it may be!
There’s a ton of information online about local and national off-roading places and locations. You can also join a local 4×4 club or an online forum.
Places you could go to include private land, Federal land, local parks, state parks, city parks, forests and recreation areas.
- Is Off-Roading Legal?
There have been extensive debates over the role of government in regulating the sport, including a Supreme Court case brought against the Bureau of Land Management. Off-roading could be and probably is regulated in your local area, so check first before you buy anything or go anywhere. You have been warned!
For example, in California, all vehicles operated on public lands must be registered, either with a street-legal registration or an off-highway vehicle registration. Registered off-highway vehicles receive either a red sticker or a green sticker, with red sticker vehicles only allowed to operate October 1 to May 31.
Many dirt roads are open to registered vehicles, but there are a few exceptions. For example, dirt roads in Death Valley National Park are open only to street-legal vehicles. Also, in many National Forests, some ‘maintained’ dirt roads require street-legal registration and a license.
- What Is The Difference Between Off-Roading, 4×4 and 4WD?
If you’ve ever heard people talk about off-road vehicles, you’ve probably heard the term 4×4 (four-by-four). And if you’ve ever shopped for a car, you’ve probably heard of 4WD (four-wheel drive). But unless you’re a car buff, you’ve probably wondered: what’s the difference between them?
Well, a lot of people use the terms interchangeably. But that doesn’t mean they actually mean the same thing. 4×4 and 4WD both mean that power is sent to four wheels to control the vehicle, but it’s a little more complex than that – all 4×4 vehicles have 4WD, but not all 4WD vehicles are 4x4s.
Each number in 4×4 has its own meaning. The first number in this format signifies the vehicle’s number of wheels. If you’re in a standard car, SUV, or pickup, the first number will usually be 4. It will only change with larger vehicles like commercial trucks. The second number signifies how many of the wheels receive power to make the vehicle move. In a 4×4, all four wheels receive the power. In a 4×2 vehicle, only two of the vehicle’s four wheels receive power.
However, this isn’t necessarily synonymous with 4WD. Yes, a 4×4 vehicle has 4WD. But let’s say you have a larger six-wheel truck with two powered axles. That would be a 6×4 (a six-wheel vehicle powered by four wheels) and also considered a 4WD vehicle.
With that being said, it’s fairly uncommon to come across six-wheel vehicles on the road. That’s why 4×4 and 4WD are often used to describe all off-road vehicles. However, it’s important to know the difference if you’re shopping for one.
- What Do You Need To Go Off-Roading?
The natural terrain is uneven and can be unpredictable, so it’s important that you have the proper equipment for off-road driving. While technically you can go off-roading in any vehicle, trucks, SUVs and other high-riding vehicles are best suited to handle the bumps and bruises found off the beaten path. You might also want to use four-wheelers, dirt bikes, dune buggies or ATVs, which are specially designed for off-road driving. If you’re taking up off-roading as a hobby, a low-riding compact car probably isn’t going to cut it.
Depending on what type of off-roading you’re into, the type of vehicle – and vehicle modifications – you will need can vary. For instance, the same tires you use to drive over steep sand dunes probably aren’t going to be great for traversing boulders.
One of the best things about off-roading is that you get to talk in a new vocabulary. For example, are you into mudding, rock crawling, dune bashing or green laning? Do you know the break-over angle on your car? Do you know how to pick a good line? Find out more about these terms and what they’re all about in the next sections.
- What Age Can You Go Off-roading?
Honestly, anyone can go off-roading at any age, but it’s not safe for really young or really old people to do it. There are more children than ever before going off-roading, in particular, with ATVs (see below) and the allure of an exciting and versatile activity that can be shared and enjoyed by all members of the family is getting very popular.
There is an increasing number of manufacturers building ATV models that are designed specifically for children with smaller motors, bigger brakes and safety features designed to make them safer. Motocross is also more popular than it has ever been.
As we said above, off-roading can be regulated in your local area and may include age restrictions, so check first before you buy anything or go anywhere.
- What Is An ATV?
An all-terrain vehicle (ATV), sometimes called a quad or quad bike, three-track, three-wheeler, four-track, four-wheeler or quadricycle, as defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), is a 3 or 4 wheeled vehicle with low-pressure tires with a seat straddled by the operator, known as a rider, and handlebars to steer it.
As the name suggests, ATVs are designed to handle a wide variety of different terrains. Although ATVs are street-legal in some countries, they are not street-legal in most States in America.
By the current ANSI definition, ATVs are meant to be used by a single person, although some manufacturers have developed ATVs that can carry a single passenger as well. These are known as tandem ATVs.
The rider sits on and operates these vehicles like a motorcycle, but the extra 1 or 2 wheels give more stability at slower speeds. Dirt bikes are considered to be ATVs as they were designed for off-road use only, although, of course, you also see people riding them on the road. Although most ATVs are equipped with 3 or 4 wheels, 6-wheel models exist for specialized applications.
As with all off-road vehicles, people LOVE to modify, customise and personalise them, known as modding.
See you out on the trails, friend!
The Not Just A Hobby.com Team