Being the New Wheeler
or What's OK But Most of Us Won't Admit To

by Shawn Pagan

Each of us has been the "New Guy" at some point in time... in school, at the "Y", or, perhaps, a new church your parents took you to as a kid. We have all felt the anticipation and sometimes dread at going out and trying something different. The same feelings and concerns are felt by new 4 wheelers. These feelings may be amplified at large events and gatherings.

Think back (some of you may have to think WAAAAAAYYYYY back) to when you were new to the sport. You probably felt some of the following (depending on age, personality, etc.); concern, gung-ho, worry, a need/desire to fit in, expectations - what do they expect, what do I expect of myself, or even fright (although most of us would never admit it).

I think that we as statesman of the sport that we love so much should go out of our way to make everyone feel welcome on the trail; or even when they show up for a meeting. I think that most people in the sport attempt to do this, but I also know that there are some people that have the attitude of "If it ain't extreme, I don't care" This is evident when we meet some of our fellow "enthusiasts" on the trail, but the majority will always take the time to help out the new guys.

I think a good rule of thumb is to make sure that our new friends (especially those in our own clubs) understand the events that we have outlined or planned. One idea is to create a listing of the expected trails and the relative toughness of those trails in an easy to understand form. This could be a formal thing or simply a personal thing - perhaps take a new person aside (one that has expressed interest in a run you are going to) and help them out.

We also need to make sure that each individual (new or old to the sport) has the ability to say "No, I am not doing that." This is not a point at which we should give someone criticism. Instead, this is a point where we should praise that person for using their head to point out when and where THEY need to draw the line. We have some responsibility to these new people and their families. We also want them to go back to work and to their everyday lives and feel like they like the sport and us.

Why do I say they need to like what they are doing? Simply because most of the other people around them just won't understand - and now they probably don't either. If they leave an event feeling down or upset because they got on a wrong trail or everyone refused to help them, then it becomes very easy for them to agree with the time honored statement of "Why would you want to do that with your vehicle?"

Four wheeling is a great family sport. Both the classic family (Mom, Dad, kids, pets, etc) and the 'wheeling family (our clubs, friends, trail buddies, late night mechanics that stay open for us, guys who own welders etc.). It is our duty to help maintain and expand our families so that this sport can grow and prosper to bring new generations the thrill of tackling that hill for the first time.

List of "New Guy" Truths (They work for all 'wheelers' but some people won't admit it):

1. Never be afraid to say "NO".
2. Remember it's your vehicle and your well-being.
3. Just because someone else can, you might not. If someone else can't, you might.
4. The vehicle is only half the battle - the driver is the other 75%.
5. Making it look easy takes experience and experience takes time.
6. Skill can never be made up for with equipment.
7. Know your vehicle and it's limitations - AND YOURS.
8. Don't drink and drive (on the street or on the trail).
9. Stock vehicles can have fun too.
10. It ain't what you bought; it's how you build it. (Of course the part of the saying that they never finish is: How you build it depends on what you want to do with it - which might simply be to get down to your favorite fishing hole!).

In the end, I would extend a challenge to every member of the four wheeling family to aid in the endeavor to bring new people into the family. And, I would encourage all the new four wheelers to not be afraid to ask questions. What trails should I run? What's the best line to try? What's the best part to buy? What shop should I use? Which locker is better? Why did you do that? Just never ask the dreaded "What's the best vehicle?" - unless, of course, you want to spend the night having a knock down, drag out, bloody, fist-a-cuffs debate!

Remember, that everyone in four wheeling has an opinion. Everyone will be happy to give their opinion to you. Your best bet is to find people you know and trust, listen to them, and then make your own decision based on what you want to do or accomplish. I would like to think that most of the 'wheelers I run with are those type of people.