All-terrain vehicle

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A group of quad bike all terrain vehicles

The term "all-terrain vehicle" is used to describe a number of small open motorised buggies and tricycles designed for off-road use. The 4-wheeled versions are also called quad bikes or more often quads. Models with 3 wheels are called all-terrain (motor)cycles or ATCs. 6 and 8 wheel models exist for specialized applications. The rider sits on these models just like on a motorcycle, but the extra wheels make them more stable at slow speeds.


Development of ATVs

Honda made the first ATV models for use by farmers. The ability to go anywhere on terrain that most other vehicles could not cross soon made them popular with US and Canadian hunters, and those just looking for a good trail ride. Soon other manufacturers introduced their own models.

Safety issues with 3 wheels caused all manufacturers to switch to 4-wheeled models in the late 80's, and 3-wheel models are no longer made. The lighter weight of the 3-wheel models make them popular with some expert riders. The safety issues were in cornering: having only a single front wheel required the rider to lean to the inside and slow down more than expected, leading to a number of rollover type accidents.

Models today are roughly divided into the sport and utility markets. Sport models are generally small, light, two wheel drive vehicles which accelerate quickly, have a manual transmission, and run at speeds in excess of 70 mph (102 km/h). Utility models are generally bigger four wheel drive vehicles with a maximum speed of up to 60mph (approximately 96 km/h). They have the ability to haul small loads on attached racks or small dump beds. They may also haul small trailers. Due to the different weights, each has advantages on different types of terrain.

Sport models are often built with a mind towards motocross racing, either in the design of the machine or at least in the marketing of it. To be successful at motocross racing, a quad must have light weight, high power, good suspension and a low center of gravity. There are many other types of riding and racing such as GNCC (woods racing), Baja (desert racing), hill climbing, and trail riding.

6 wheel models have a small dump bed, with an extra set of wheels at the back to increase the payload capacity. They can be either 4 wheel drive (back wheels driving only), or 6 wheel drive.

There also exist 6 and 8 wheel models where the rider sits inside. These vehicles may float and are designed to go through swamps as well as dry land.

Criticisms of ATVs

ATVs have become controversial among some groups, namely child-safety advocates, rural landowners, and environmentalists.

Despite the move from 3-wheel to 4-wheel models, some deaths and injuries still occur. Some localities have either banned minors (typically those under 14 years of age) from using ATVs or are considering such legislation. Advocates of ATVs argue that starting younger improves safety. They recommend that children can develop the necessary expertise by starting as young as 8 years of age instead of waiting until age 14.

Often ATV riders go through privately owned property in rural areas. Further, environmentalists criticize ATV riders for riding through sensitive areas, especially wetlands and sand dunes. The deep treads on ATV tires are effective for navigating terrain that is muddy and has tree roots and small rocks. Unfortunately, these treads also:

  • dig channels that drain boggy areas of water
  • tear out fragile plants vital for maintaining the integrity of sand dunes
  • damage well groomed snowmobile trails, during the snowy winter months

To address these land usage concerns, ATV advocacy organizations have been springing up to:

  • purchase property and/or obtain permission of landowners
  • build and maintain trails suitable for ATV riding
  • educate ATV riders about responsible riding

Unfortunately, as with watercraft and snowmobile operators, a few irresponsible people (derogatively called yahoos) assert their right to ride anywhere and, given the recreational role of these vehicles, even operate the vehicles while intoxicated. This mindset is exacerbated by marketing that uses names like Predator and Outlaw and emphasizes unrestricted stunt-like riding in wilderness areas.

Manufacturers of ATVs

External links

fr:Quad (vhicule) nl:Quad ja:全地形対応車 pl:Quad


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