What are the best four-wheelers for beginners?
While technically, beginners, dirt bikes qualify as All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) given their off-road capabilities, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to an ATV. And while there’s no harm in continuing the hunt for the best dirt bike for beginners, an ATV could end up being your golden ticket if you’re looking for some fun off the beaten path.
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But before we delve into the awesomeness of this four-wheeled machine, let’s start by breaking down some defining characteristics for all my beginner ATV riders, just in case you’ve been confusing it with the ‘UTV’ (Utility Task Vehicle):
- An ATV is smaller than a UTV and is typically manned by a single person.
- You straddle an ATV to ride, but you sit on a bench or bucket seat to ride a UTV.
- ATVs are designed with a handlebar for steering, UTVs a steering wheel.
- ATVs are ridden mostly for recreation and by sportsmen who wish to compete, while UTVs serve a more pragmatic purpose, like hauling and transporting.
While they share many similarities with UTVs, ATVs are a bit more limited in function and traversing capabilities, which is why their accessories are different in most cases.
Here’s a little history behind the four-wheeler (for beginners who are curious):
Back in 1970 when Honda first popularized the ATV in the U.S., these four-wheeled machines were used heavily by agricultural workers (though the very first ATV, developed in 1961 in Canada, included prospects for sportsmen and the military).
The story goes like this: Knowing motorcycle sales would drop off during the dreaded winter months, Honda commissioned engineer Osam Takeuchi to design a vehicle that could handle unsavory weather conditions. As Takeuchi would soon discover, vehicles with 3+ wheels provided far better maneuverability than their two-wheeled cousins.
After realizing the need for tires that could traverse soft terrain (i.e. snow), and later studying the Amphi-Cat, Takeuchi developed three 22-inch, low-pressure balloon tires. Thus, the US90 ATC (All-Terrain Cycle) was born, a three-wheeled vehicle with multi-purpose appeal. It had a 7-hp engine (don’t laugh!) and sold for $595. Honda even released a smaller version suitable for children.
A decade later, the demand for ATVs was at an all-time high. Their capabilities appealed to both recreationalists and farmers, who began turning to ATVs because they required significantly less fuel than tractors. Today, we see them most often on the racing track.
Video Source: marsh1998 YouTube
Looking for an ATV for beginners? Here’s what to expect:
ATVs have many uses. So, before you buy, give some thought to 1) the climate and geography you currently live in, and 2) whether you want to live out your sportsmen fantasies or simply need a vehicle to help you with some arduous outdoor tasks (in which case, a UTV might suit you best).
No matter what, make sure your beginner ATV is equipped with the following:
Whether you’re an outdoorsman who lives for the ride, or a rancher with a lot of work to do and a lot of ground to cover, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the following features in a beginner off-road vehicle:
- 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD “diff-lock”: The real adventurist needs an ATV with two-wheel and four-wheel drive (luckily, most ATVs are designed this way). Since you’ll be riding on, you guessed it, all terrains, being able to switch back and forth between the two is pretty important, so look for a vehicle that allows you to do so easily. As for ‘4WD differential lock’ (a.k.a. “diff-lock”), this added feature promises stronger traction in those tough-to-get-out-of situations you could find yourself in from time to time.
- Storage space around the chassis: If you plan to take your ATV on an extended trip, a little extra storage space never hurt anyone. If you’re hunting, for example, you’ll want enough storage space to carry along whatever supplies you may need. Additionally, a bed may come in handy for transporting large game.
- Torque and towing capacity: These two ‘T’ words are pretty important in the ATV community, as torque gives adventure-lovers the power they need to accomplish the thrills they desire, and towing capacity allows agriculturists to haul equipment, debris, and other materials that are particularly sizeable long distances. Also, though it may conflict with your vehicle’s warranty, a winch is useful when manpower alone is unable to free your ATV from a sticky situation.
- Suspension: If you’re a beginner ATV rider, off-road trails are full of bumps, ruts, and other obstacles that are bound to cause discomfort, and chances are you’ll be spending quite a bit of time on your four-wheeled friend. A sore rump never made anyone’s day, so make sure to check out the vehicle’s shocks, specifically length and location.
Itching for a little more info on beginner off-road vehicles? Visit Getting Started in Dirt Bike Riding and The Best ATV Accessories (Are Yours Warranty-Approved?) on The Mudslinger blog now!
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