In Defense of Off-Roading

Dirt bikes and 4x4s aren’t nearly as bad for the environment as you might think. (Hear me out.)

Outside Online image of car in dirtEvery time we publish an article about a truck, dirt bike, or off-road vehicle, some of our readers protest. Off-roading just doesn’t square with a lot of people’s vision of responsible outdoor recreation. I think those people have it wrong. Allow me to explain.

Off-Roaders Don’t Actually Go Off-Road

Probably the biggest misconception about “off-roading” is that people just go out and drive wherever they please. This simply isn’t true. Virtually all off-road driving takes place on designated dirt roads, trails, or in special off-highway vehicle (OHV) areas. In fact, “off-highway” (as in off-pavement) is a much more accurate name for the collection of sports that make up off-roading—it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I spoke with Sam Logan and Molly Chiappetta of Stay the Trail Colorado, a nonprofit that promotes responsible, ethical off-highway vehicle use in that state. They spend their time visiting OHV trailheads and events and informing trail users of environmentally responsible ways to enjoy their vehicles. They say that staying on-trail is the most important thing off-roaders can do to minimize their impact—and that the vast majority of participants are good about doing that. Exact statistics on how many off-roaders leave designated trails are impossible to calculate, but Chiappetta describes them as “the one percent who give us all a bad name.”

“Many roads or trails have been in place for decades,” Chiapetta says. Some even started as wagon tracks in the 1800s. The soil is compacted and stable, making it able to stand up to the weight of vehicles passing over it. On such routes, off-roaders can safely travel into or through fragile ecosystems without further damaging them, she says…

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Excerpt from:
Outside Online
by Wes Siler
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