An Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) is a 2, 3 or 4-wheeled motorized machine that is designed to be operated on trails and in other state-approved recreational areas. Basically, if there’s pavement under your tires, you’re in the wrong place for riding and it’s probably illegal for you to be there. So get a move on.
The absolute BEST way to get to know your machine, no matter what type of OHV you’ve chosen, is to get in the driver’s seat and read the owner’s manual from front to back. Seriously, this vantage point will give you a feel for the location and purpose of the controls, lights, gearshift, brakes - everything you need to become familiar with will be right in front of you. Your owner’s manual will also give you information about riding techniques and provide some insight on how the machine will handle different types of terrain. Different types of OHVs are defined differently state-by-state. These are the most common definitions:
ATV: An ‘All-Terrain Vehicle’ (ATV) is a motorized, gasoline-powered, off-highway vehicle that is designed to travel on four low-pressure tires. To ride an ATV, the operator straddles the machine and uses the handlebars for steering control. Smaller bikes are designed for single riders and some larger machines are designed to fit both an operator and passenger. Remember, it’s illegal (and really unsafe) to double-up on a single-seat ATV.
OHM: An ‘Off-Highway Motorcycle’ (OHM), or ‘dirt bike’, is a motorized, gas-powered, off-highway vehicle with two wheels. The operator straddles the bike and uses the handlebars to control the steering. Dirt bikes come in a wide variety of sizes and styles to accommodate the age and skill level of the operator. They will also vary depending on the intended use of the machine (i.e. off-roading vs. motocross). Be prepared to do some work when riding one of these - dirt bikes don’t balance themselves and they don’t come with training wheels.
UTV: A ‘Utility-Terrain Vehicle’ (UTV), or ‘side-by-side’, is a motorized, gas-powered, off-highway vehicle that’s designed for multiple passengers and is controlled with a steering wheel. These sturdy machines are usually enclosed with a cage structure or ‘roll bars’ above the passengers’ heads. They also have seatbelts to protect the passengers if the machine flips over. UTVs often have a hauling bed for carrying heavy loads and are available with either two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) capabilities. Side-by-sides are often used as work machines at job sites, farms, ranches and by law enforcement officers.