What To Do When Your ATV Gets Stuck

Getting Out Ride an ATV for an extended period of time and you will eventually bury it in a sticky, axel-sucking hole, requiring more than a heave-ho push. At that moment, your gear choices combined with your driving skills are your ticket for extracting the bike undamaged and you unhurt. Although the rules of freeing your ATV from bondage vary with each circumstance, for a few absolutes read-on.
Rule #1 Own a Winch A good winch will set you back about $300. When you need one, you would be willing to pay double that price.
Rule #2 Extra Tools Even with a winch, a folding tree saw, shovel, pull strap and an old-school come along are inexpensive tools that could make the difference of riding home or walking out.
Rule #3 Momentum is Your Friend Hitting a mud hole fast and hard is dangerous to you and your bike. An instantaneous stop can throw you forward creating the potential for a serious injury. That said, being prepared for a jolt can keep you on the seat and momentum can be a significant help to push you through the hole.
Rule #4 Don't Slow Down Once you've committed to the hole, don't let off the gas until you know you're not moving forward. Again, momentum is what you're looking for more than speed.
Rule #5 Once You're Stuck, Stop! Although rocking your bike and trying to reverse/forward may help, running your tires endlessly in the mud and not moving can quickly heat up your drive belt and possibly burn it up. If you smell something strange like burnt rubber, stop!
Rule #6 Leave it Running Once you're in the hole surrounded by goo, do not shut the engine down. If you turn it off, mud could creep inside the exhaust, the transmission and differentials.
Rule #7 Assess Your Situation If you're stuck, get off the bike and take a good look around. If you're alone, be realistic about your options. Do you have a winch or tools? Think carefully about a safe extraction. If you're with a buddy talk about how to pull the bike out with the available tools or a strap. Be reasonable, take your time and be safe. If you don't think you have the skill or the gear, go get help.
Rule #8 Connect to Something Substantial Whether it's a machine, tree or rock--make sure the hook-up is solid and will not release under pressure. Try to hook to a lower, sturdy point on the frame of the bike being extracted, not to the luggage rack.
Rule #9 Keep Your Balance Face it. You may not have the option of pulling the machine in a straight line. At times, the bike may high-side during extraction. If that happens, apply your body weight to push down the high-side of the bike. If it feels uncomfortable, try another angle to pull out the machine.
Rule #10 Aftermath/Clean Up Get a hose and spray out the underside of your bike. Mud, grass, and other organic matter can wreak mayhem on cables, springs and seals. Remember, rust never sleeps.
Rule #11 Aftermath/Check Fluids After your dip, refer to the owner's manual and check all your fluids, including oil and your differential/transfer case. If fluids are discolored or have a milky color, change them as soon as possible. If the drive belt starts to slip this may also be another sign of contamination.
Now that you know what to do if your bike goes down the rabbit hole, here are some photos of riders having some very bad days. Remember, if there's more than 10 inches of snow, you better have a tow strap and a snow machine to pull you out. How did this guy even get there?
When you're this deep in the mud you should have your waders on.
If you want to run mud, you should buy special tires and frequent fluid changes should be the rule.
You can run on packed snow, but don't slide off the trail.
Here's a guy who should have brought a boat.