ATV clubs celebrate growth spurt

More than 200 all-terrain vehicles raced into the Taymouth woods Saturday morning. More families are getting involved in the off-road activity, say organizers.

'The sport is slowly changing from ATVs to side-by-sides'

More than 200 all-terrain and side-by-side vehicles were registered for the Nashwaak Valley ATV Club Poker Run Saturday morning. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The woods near Taymouth, N.B., were filled with the sound of more than 200 engines Saturday morning.

A record number of all-terrain and side-by-side vehicles were registered for the Nashwaak Valley ATV Club Poker Run, the result of an uptick in interest in the sport, say organizers.

"It tended to be a male-gendered sport years ago," Bob Randall, the club's president said. "It's getting now to be more couples and families." 

Organizers say there has been steady growth in the ATV sport sector in recent years. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Saturday's 80-kilometre route is mapped out for riders to complete throughout the day. There is an option to add an extra 20 kilometres.

Participants receive a playing card at stops along the way. Prizes are awarded to those who collect the best poker hand.

It's just one of several events available to the local ATV community. Randall says the activity is growing due to the shift in the type of vehicles used and they number of seats they offer. 

"The sport is slowly changing from ATVs to side-by-sides," he said. "Last year I would say 40 per cent of our bikes were side-by-sides. You see it when you go out on runs. They're a lot more family-oriented."

Bob Randall, president of the Nashwaak Valley ATV Club, says more couples and families are enjoying the sport. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The newer vehicle designs offer different seating arrangements based on make and model. Double-seating, arranged in the same way the driver and a passenger sit in a car, is the minimum with larger models offering seating for a driver and five passengers.

Power-steering, enclosed canopies, seatbelts, radios and cup holders are also common in the side-by-sides. Traditional ATVs offer a more open-air experience with fewer comforts for riders.

The growing popularity of the side-by-side model of all-terrain vehicle may have a lot to do with the activity's growth. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"It's probably a little bit safer," Randall said of side-by-sides that often have roll bars and steel cages. "These bikes are wider, more comfortable. And the newer bikes, every year something new comes out that makes it a little more comfortable to ride than the older bikes.

"You see families going with the four-seater, five-seater, even six-seaters now," Randall added. "So it's just growing."

Provincial growth 

The trend has been noted around the province.

"Side-by-sides have come so far, I believe now it's 50-50," said Roger Daigle, president of the New Brunswick ATV Federation, the body that governs the local clubs throughout the province.

Side-by-sides offer more seating and more comforts than traditional ATVs. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"Side-by-sides are a huge, huge market now because you can bring your partner with you now," said Daigle, who travelled to Taymouth from Bouctouche for the poker run. 

"Because with regular ATVs you always ride with two. And with regular ATVs your wife or the passenger sits behind you. But with a side-by-side they're sitting next to you and you've got your roof, you got your roll bar. It's more comfortable.   

"It's practically like driving a car," said Daigle 

In an effort to continue to develop the ATV industry, the provincial government recently invested nearly $16 million in funding to develop trails in what they're calling the New Brunswick Trails Action Plan.

The plan includes the development of 11 "signature trails" for multi-purpose use, including motorized trails for ATV and snowmobile users, as well as greenway trails for hiking, cycling and outdoor enthusiasts, according to a government news release.

The funding is from the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture's 2018-19 capital budget.

More members, more money

Daigle says improved regulation governing ownership and operation of off-road vehicles has led to better organization of clubs and the trails they own and maintain.

"It's the law," said Daigle. "You have to have your machine registered, plated. And you have to have insurance. And on managed trails you have to have a trail permit." 

Roger Daigle, the president of the New Brunswick ATV Federation, says participation has been increasing in recent years. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

More vehicles registered with each club, and large turnouts for fundraisers such as Saturday's event, means more resources for infrastructure

"This is important because this a moneymaker for the clubs," said Daigle. "This is the money that they use to build these trails.

"Without clubs, we wouldn't have trails. And without trails people would be riding everywhere, on farmers' fields and stuff. And now the big thing is with the trails, where there are trails, they stay on the trails."

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.