After eight straight days on the trails in southwest Colorado, I've come to the conclusion that a number of ATV and dirt-bike riders lack manners, riding skills and common sense. Just so you know, I own two ATVs that are used 95 percent of the time for work and 5 percent for pleasure. And, some of my best friends own ATVs and dirt bikes.
First off, I don't understand why anybody would even own an ATV for recreational use, especially families with little kids. Let's do the math: A brand-new Jeep Unlimited that can carry dad, mom and a couple of kids will go out the door for $25,000. The Jeep makes a great grocery-getter or commuter car when you're not on the trail. On the other hand, a couple of big ATVs and a pair of downsized rigs for the kids will cost a minimum of 20 grand. Then there's the trailer, tow rig and extra gear to keep those puppies running. Even buying used, that's another 20 grand easy. And don't forget that you have to store these rigs in a secure garage.
Now, we have to get decked out in the helmets, leathers and so on. That can add another thou really easy for a family of four.
So, now that you've committed two-thirds the price of a really nice doublewide, what do you do next? Head for the mountains, of course. If you've got buddies with ATVs and dirt bikes, you hook up with them so you can string out a line a quarter of a mile long on the trail so that nobody can safely pass in a vehicle. And don't forget to park your tow rigs and trailers in such a way that you block trail access and safe places for fullsize 4x4s to pull over to air down and lock the hubs.
I checked with experienced 'wheelers from coast to coast and I can't find anyone who can verify that the "uphill-has-the-right-of-way" rule has been waived for dirt bikes and ATVs. Quite frankly, I'm checking into the possibilities of installing 22-inch rims with low-profile, all-terrain tires on my Jeep so that I can run bling-bling spinners that are so razor sharp that they will cut down the tires on dirt bikes passing on the right.
This past summer, the San Miguel County (Colorado) commissioners took the initiative to close Imogene, Black Bear and Ophir passes going into Telluride to ATVs and unregistered dirt bikes. San Juan County (Silverton) has posted signs saying that ATVs must carry liability insurance and be operated by riders with valid driver's licenses. Because there is a dispute between San Miguel County and the U.S. Forest Service as to who has jurisdiction on the high mountain roads, enforcement has been delayed until the dispute is resolved.
In spite of my dislike for rude ATV and dirt-bike riders, I have entered into the fray with the San Miguel commissioners to stop the ban on ATVs. Unfortunately, there are more than a few ATV and dirt-bike riders who think that they can spin NASCAR victory donuts in high mountain meadow tundra fields. Throw in some aftermarket pipes with decibel levels that will shatter a plate-glass window and you have a guaranteed group of nature lovers (read: taxpayers and local residents) that will pressure the elected powers to ban the bikes and ATVs.
If the county succeeds in banning ATVs and unregistered dirt bikes on mountain passes, who's to say that 4x4s may not be next?
When it comes to backcountry motorized recreation, we're all in this together. So, if you just bought a dirt bike and are considering the latest in a bazillion-decibel straight-pipe exhaust system, think again.