Some lessons are learned the hard way

Keep speed in check and ride within your skill limits

by Darren Stozl |

Darren Stolz lays on a couch with his arm in a cast.

Darren Stolz is recovering from his injuries. — Photo courtesy Darren Stolz

Sometimes in life, it is simply better if we learn from others' mistakes rather than having to learn on our own. Humble enough to share his life lesson with us, Darren Stolz of Wynyard, Saskatchewan, has this to share about his impactful life lesson on speed, ATVs and terrain navigation. This letter has been edited with authorization from Stolz to suit a PG audience.

To whom it may concern:

You won’t be seeing me riding for a couple months. My quad went end over end yesterday. I’m wearing a hospital gown as I type this letter with my one good arm.

I was doing about 40 mph when I came over a hill but saw there was a steep cliff and slough directly in front of me. I quickly hit the brakes, but instantly the back end of my quad was on top of me. I don’t know how many times it rolled but it came to rest in the slough about 50 yards from my corpse. 

My riding friend Kevin saw this ordeal and came to my rescue. We knew my arm was broken, so we decided Kevin would go grab the truck and trailer alone then come pick up my broken machine and me.    

While he was gone, I stumbled around cleaning up my quad parts. I was going to be waiting a while, as the truck was about 25 miles from my crash site. Looking at my machine, I saw the only thing really bent were the handlebars. Putting all the parts in a pile, I decided I’d save some time and attempt to ride my broken and bent machine out to the road. It’s hard to pull a trailer that far across a canola field.  

Now this is where the story starts to get funny. 

I started my quad while standing beside it. Suddenly the thing took off, crushing my right ankle and foot in the process. It kept on going about 25 mph across the field of rolling hills. I tried to hobble to the top of the hill to see where it was going, but both of my thighs were pretty much useless from hitting the handlebars so hard, and now thanks to running myself over, my ankle and foot were sore. 

Finally I got to a place at the top of a hill to see where my machine was going. I could see it heading east across the fields of canola stubble. With a sick feeling in my stomach I started to laugh, wondering what Lenny and Sheldon were going to say when they heard this story. 

Suddenly I had a glimmer of hope, as I spotted it about a quarter mile away, heading back in my direction! I thought to myself, “Gee, maybe I can grab it as it comes back.” 

That never happened.

To my credit, I got within 200 yards of it but lost sight of it again as it headed over some hills toward Alberta. Defeated, I sat and waited for Kevin.

Kevin found his way back to me with the truck, ready to pick us up and asked where my machine was. 

“It drove away” was my response. Kevin looked at me thinking I must have hit my head quite hard and was delusional and replied, “No, Stolz, it’s in a slough over there,” pointing to where the quad was before I decided to start it and run myself over. 

I explained the story to him, and to his credit he never laughed.

We knew we had to find that silver beast. Good thing we are hunters! We found it in a bush a half mile away. It knocked over a tree about the size of my leg, smashing it to pieces. 

By this time I was done. My arm was killing me along with the rest of me but something good did happen that day. While I did a face plant at 40 mph, my nose moved to the left a little bit. I can breathe better, and I learned that you don’t need surgery to fix your breathing.

Lessons from Stolz 

Here are other lessons that Stolz learned the hard way:

  1. Never underestimate your terrain or the likelihood of a sudden change in terrain. Stolz encountered a cliff which led abruptly into a slough, causing him to slam on his brakes which led to a chain reaction of injuries.
  2.  Keep speed in check and ride within your skill limits. Stolz learned that speed combined with unfamiliar terrain absolutely don’t mix.
  3.  If you are hurt, stay put and wait for help to prevent causing more injury. Your best decisions will not be made after you have experienced an accident causing injury. You will most likely be in a state of shock impairing your decision-making process. 
  4. When an ATV has experienced a huge crash, especially where handlebars have been affected, it may be stuck wide-open throttle, so it’s best not to start a damaged unit. Throttles can and will become stuck wide open with consequences.
  5. Stolz was unable to work while he was recovering from his injuries. Financial loss to the tune of $80,000 was felt while he healed. As Stolz lay injured after the initial crash, the first thing that went through his mind was not the pain from his injuries but family finances. He had just purchased a snowmobile the day earlier. He wondered how he would pay for that luxury along with his other household bills. It can be difficult, so he urges others to keep this in mind when deciding to push the limits of speed out on the trail.


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