One of the first things in planning a ride and the probably the most obvious is where to go. Consider your skill and the skills of the friends that are going with you. One of the worst things is getting on a trail and finding out one or more riders are just completely overwhelmed by a too difficult or technical trail.
Check the weather and make sure you have the correct clothing for the trip and plan for changing weather. Check with local shops, as these folks are usually avid riders and have a lot of knowledge of trails. Look for weather cams in the general area you want to ride just to get an idea of what's happening now.
Maps and Road Closures
Try Google Earth to get a good overview of the area and some basic land marks and elevation changes.The Forest Service, Fish and Game and BLM can provide maps of the area you want to ride and closures for trails and roads. Try to become familiar with their web sites and see what they have to offer. Also keep their phone #’s of local offices in case of an emergency. They will usually be closer to you and have a better knowledge of the area you’re in. This is in no way to replace the 911 call you should make in case of emergency, just a supplement. Great link for web cams. Northwest web cams
Check Your Ride
Make sure your bike is ready to go. This includes all fluids and tire pressure. Don't forget the fuel. Also make sure your hauling vehicle is in good working order. The same check list applies to your truck and trailer. Just a little bit of time checking before you leave can mean the difference between making it to the trail or making it back home.
A good tool kit can be a life saver. The tools that came with you machine can do most of what you may need, but a good socket set for changing tires and a repair kit for punctures are also a plus. Don't forget the compressor for pumping up those flats or leaking tires.The newer ATVs also have some fuses. Know where they are and have extras. Check your owners manual for more information.
Sharing your plan with friends, family, Facebook, twitter or even here in the comment section can save your life. Having someone else knowing where you are going and when you are expected back is one of those things that's a must. With bigger better faster and more comfortable machines we are going for longer rides and traveling farther than ever before and increasing the risk of an accident or brake down. Let someone know where you are going and when you should be back so if you don't show up at least they know where to start looking.
Plan To Get Back
Imagine going for a ride on a cold snowy winter day. Think of the clothing you would ware to stay warm: bulky coats and boots right? Now every thing goes wrong and you are walking out. Really? Don't think so Skippy. Walking out for miles in heavy winter riding boots or even some of the motor-cross type boots can prove to be a real challenge. Not that it cant be done, but make it a little easier. If you can dress in layers for starters, not only will you stay warmer but if you get hot while walking you can always take something off. Hiking boots. Toss a good pare of hiking shoes in your bag. It might be nice to slip on a pair for that long walk out.
Keep in mind this is just an overview. I know there are some things I have missed or failed to talk about here. But maybe this will get you thinking before you take off on your next ride. Leave a comment or your question below, they are welcome. Be safe and make 2012 the best year of riding ever.