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What is an ATV?

Rita Putatunda
ATVs, or all terrain vehicles, are small, motorized vehicles that are designed for off-road use. Did you know that off-roading vehicles were made available for use as early as the 1960s? Read about their origins, evolution, and development and the different types in which they are available here.
An ATV, or an 'All Terrain Vehicle', is a term used to describe three or four-wheeled small and open motorized buggies that are designed to be used off the road or in a rough terrain. In New Zealand and Australia, ATVs are usually called quads or quad-bikes.
These vehicles are extensively used for agricultural purposes, particularly in terrain that is hilly and rugged. A single operator drives it, although two-seater models are being considered.
The rider sits astride it as on a motorbike and operates it likewise, with handlebars for steering it in the desired direction. The only difference is that the vehicle is more stable in lower speeds due to the extra wheels, compared to regular motorbikes.
Although the ATV usually comes with 3 or 4 wheels, there are 6-wheel models that are used for special applications. The sizes of engines currently available are in the range of 49 cc to 1,000 cc.
ATVs are popular for both recreational purposes, as well as for utility purposes like in forestry and agricultural sectors.

The Origin

A decade before the modern-day Japanese models were introduced, the US had designed and manufactured similar 3 and 4- wheeled ATVs. Similar, small-sized vehicles meant for off-road use were made by several manufacturers during the 1930s. These were designed for traversing over dry land as well as streams, ponds, and swamps.
Commonly made of fiberglass or plastic tub, they were usually equipped with 6 wheels which had low pressure tires. These amphibious vehicles were the first all-terrain vehicles. Unlike the ATVs of today, these were meant for multiple riders, and had control sticks or steering wheels, instead of handlebars.

Safety Issues of 3-Wheel ATVs

Due to legal battles about the safety issues concerning 3-wheel ATVs during the latter part of the 1980s, and consent decrees, all manufacturers ended the production of these vehicles in 1987, switching to 4-wheel ATVs.
Because the 3-wheel ATV was much lighter, they were very popular among some expert riders. Cornering is far more challenging with the 3-wheel vehicle as compared to the 4-wheeled vehicle, since it is even more important to lean into the turn.
Since the 3-wheeled ATV has a single wheel in the front, which makes it lighter, a potential danger is the chance of flipping backwards, particularly when climbing up an incline. Rolling over also occurs during going down a steep incline.
However, with the consent decrees expiring in 1997, manufacturers began making the 3-wheeled models once again, although very few of them marketed these days.

Sport and Utility ATVs

Sport ATVs are usually light and small 2-wheel drive vehicles, which have the ability of accelerating quickly, can be driven at speeds of up to 130 km per hour, or 80 miles per hour, have manual transmission, and are performance-based.
Utility models, on the other hand, are usually larger in size and are 4-wheel drive machines, which can achieve speeds of about 110 km per hour, or about 70 miles per hour.

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They are also capable of hauling small loads on racks that are attached to them or small dumpers. They can also be used for towing small trailers. Because of the difference in the weight of the two, each type of ATV has its own advantages on different terrains.
Manufacturers have been surprised by how people adapt their quads to their farming requirements. The 6-wheel models are usually fitted with a small dumper, with a set of extra wheels at the rear end for increasing the payload capacity. These vehicles can either be 6-wheel drives or 4-wheel drives.