Collections of stories and anecdotes of ATVing in Canada by Andrew Ryeland of 




- Bob English
, Car Guide Magazine

The ABCs of the ATV world

I've recently experienced some close encounters of the terrestrial kind that revealed some of the positive aspects of those all-terrain-vehicles that in recent years have become such a ubiquitous part of Canadian outdoor life, as well as some of their negatives.

ATVs really are neat machines (see roundup pg.53), and any "car guy" will feel an immediate empathy with them. Most are maids of all work, but they also have recreational and even sporting sides to their character, not unlike the original military Jeep. When surplus Jeeps became available it didn't take people long to realize they could be used for both work and play and to easily access wilderness areas. Today's trendy SUVs evolved from those first Jeeps, but few ever venture off-road with them. It is the simpler and cheaper ATV instead that has become the classic Canadian off-road machine. With virtually year-round capability, ATVs have even eclipsed the snowmobile, outselling them four to one. But along with success have come some problems.

Because they are easy to operate many people tend to see them as toys. Toys that can weigh 250 kilograms or more, with up to 700cc engines. They operate them with virtually no training and even less understanding, often not bothering with a helmet. And they allow their kids to ride them without supervision. The Canadian Safety Council says serious ATV injuries have doubled in the past five years, mostly to fifteen to nineteen-year-old males.

And because ATVs can go just about anywhere, many think it's okay to do just that. I spotted one on my front lawn (okay, it's a three acre field) at dusk the other night. Its teenage rider, with no helmet, had run it out of gas. Typical. The local lads also chase up and down area roads with seeming immunity. I guess they're hard to catch so the cops don't bother. The ATV industry does its best, through educational programs and driver training, but this really only works with the responsible ATVers. The irresponsible and the uncaring just don't get the message. Learners permits are already being talked about and I'm sure before long there will be more restrictive legislation that will impact the freedoms of all ATV riders. Sad, but inevitable.

But there are plenty of good guys in the ATV world. Clubs across the country promote responsible ATVing and people such as Andrew Ryeland of Bear Claw Tours near Parry Sound Ontario and Steven Bruno of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership are busy making them part of the province's tourism program.

Bruno coordinates private sector/public sector partnerships to take advantage of the growing demand for ATV tourism. And is doing it right by providing a structure that takes into account such things as land use and local sensibilities. With three and even four season use possible, ATV tourism offers great opportunities, says Bruno and there's a huge potential market to the south in bordering states. Bruno is working to set up a series of ATV trail-ride destinations, taking in natural and historic features on existing trail networks. Five have been established so far, offering half-day riding adventures.

Bear Claw Tours ( is one of them. Ryeland, a passionate ATV enthusiast, started it in 2001 to give some of the 150,000 summer people who swell the area's population something different to do. It's since expanded to corporate clients. What it offers, for $180, is an ATV, equipment and training, plus a three-to-four hour ATV tour that gives participants an up-close look at Canadian Shield wilderness and wildlife.

Guided tours aren't for everyone, but they're a good introduction to the sport, and will hopefully get new riders launched with the right attitude.