North Idaho ATV Association Accommodates All ATV and SxS Riders
When the North Idaho ATV Association was established 13 years ago, Side-by-Side vehicles were not part of the club’s trail rides. They were primarily utility vehicles used on farms and ranches, and too wide to meet the “50-inch rule” created a few years later for OHV trails on nearby National Forests.
In 2008, manufacturers started introducing 50-inch wide, trail-legal SxS machines. Before long, Side-by-Sides (also called recreational off-highway vehicles or ROVs by manufacturers) started outselling regular ATVs. Today, North Idaho ATV club members own nearly as many ROVs as ATVs, and the club has made a few adjustments to accommodate all riders.
“When Side-by-Sides started showing up on club rides, they were treated like any other ATV,” said Frank Axtell, club president. “We have roughly 280 members, with a 60/40 split between ATVs and Side-by-Sides. We put on different rides to accommodate both.
“Due to the 50-inch rule on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land, some of our rides are restricted to 50-inch vehicles. That still takes in the Polaris, Honda and Arctic Cat models with 50-inch widths. They can go on any of these routes. It’s the over 50-inch machines that we have to accommodate occasionally and publish in our ride descriptions.
“Some of our ride leaders have both machines, and some have one or the other. If we have a ride and we know there’s going to be a Y in the road or a place for those with over 50-inch machines to go on part of the route, and meet up on some part of the trail, we often have two ride leaders. One takes off with the over 50-inch machines and one with the 50-inch or less. If there’s a ride where we know the trail requirements are for 50-inch or less vehicles, we’ll publish it as a 50-inch OHVs-only ride. We do, however, have a lot of Forest Service roads where wider machines can go legally and have a great ride. And we’re not too far from some different dunes, where the larger machines work really well.”
Some clubs have changed their bylaws to include ROVs. Others have dropped the word “ATV” from their name, or changed “ATV” to “OHV” (off-highway vehicle) to sound more inclusive of machines with steering wheels and roll cages. The North Idaho ATV Association stuck with their original name. “We’ve talked about changing names, but everyone understands what our roots are, and a lot of us have both types of rigs, so it’s really not an issue,” said Axtell. “Some clubs made a bigger deal out of it than it needed to be. We welcome them all, and in fact we have a few folks with motorcycles that ride with us as well.
“One change we did make was in our monthly newsletter. It was previously called “ATV Starting Line.” We have since taken out the “ATV” and now call it the “Starting Line.”
Axtell adds that, in some areas, clubs have asked the Forest Service for wider trails to accommodate their machines. But that’s unlikely in the Panhandle National Forest, where most of Axtell’s club rides are held. “The feedback we’re getting from the Forest Service here is they don’t have the budget to do that, and our current trail system isn’t equipped to be widened for an over 50-inch vehicle meeting another one on the trail. So we don’t see that happening in our area of the state.”