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An ATV at Night.

Riding Through The History Of ATVs

Many individuals who enjoy riding on ATVs might not be aware of the full history of the vehicle they love riding on so much.

The best place to start with is the basics. ATV stands for all-terrain vehicle and they share many similarities with motorcycles, but they have four tires that give riders a higher degree of safety and control while they’re riding on unpaved terrain. The extra wheels also give the rider more stability while they’re going at slower speeds. ATV is usually used to describe small tricycles and buggies that are mainly intended to be used off road.

ATVs have been used for racing, farming, hunting, recreational purposes, plowing snow, moving grass and even navigating through slow streams and rivers. Their versatility is owed to their small stature and tremendous power.

Where it All Began

ATVs first came about in the 1970s and started out with three wheels as opposed to four and a rather weak engine. Originally they were used for recreational travel and it wasn’t until technology started advancing that ATVs started to be built with more powerful engines. The way that three-wheeled ATVs were designed was the very reason that they eventually became obsolete. They weren’t very safe and were no longer in production by the year 1987. The late 1980s saw the birth of the four-wheeled ATV.

With the introduction of the four-wheeled design, ATVs were now faster and had much more powerful engines. Four-wheeled ATVs were also the original basis for advanced suspension designs. By 1987 Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki, who were the top three ATV manufacturers, started creating high-quality, high-performance ATVs. Soon their designs were seen blazing across America at motocross tracks as a way to display the capabilities of advancing technology.

Making Moves in the Marketplace

In the 1980s, ATVs were most widely used for racing, recreational and utility purposes. Farmers enjoyed using ATVs because they didn’t guzzle as much gas as tractors and weren’t as expensive to maintain. ATVs only used eight percent of the gas that was needed to run a tractor. In 1985, thirty percent of ATVs were used mainly for recreational and utility purposes, and now roughly eighty percent of ATVs are used for recreational and utility purposes.

In 1985, Suzuki premiered the very first two-stroke, high performance ATV, the QuadRAcer LT250. The very first North American ATV company to make their debut into the ATV business was Polaris Industries. The way they changed the ATV game was by replacing floorboards and manual gearboxes with automatic transmissions. The next year Honda released the most popular racing quad in ATV history, the FourTrax 250R two-stroke. 1986 was also the year Honda introduced the FourTrax 350 4x4, which was their very first four-wheel-drive quad.

History of Safety

As the sales of ATV started to take off in 1984, so did the reports of accidents associated with ATVs. The Consumer Product Safety Committee soon launched an investigation where they compiled statistics that showed that a majority of ATV accidents were the result of riders not taking heed of the warnings given to them by ATV distributors. There were no actual flaws found in the overall design of three- or four-wheeled ATVs. Soon, Honda started reiterating the importance of riding an ATV properly. There was also a national industry safety campaign that resulted in a 33% decline in recorded accidents between 1984 and 1988. It soon became apparent that he national industry safety campaign wasn’t enough to properly satisfy the Consumer Product Safety Committee when they struck an agreement with ATV distributors to strengthen their safety programs. One part of the safety agreement included complimentary training courses for riders as well as training incentives for anyone who bought or owned a newer model ATV. Another part of the agreement was that ATV distributors would buy back all three-wheel ATV that were unsold and stop marketing them.

Working through The 90s

Even though the 1980s was when more and more people started to see that ATVs were quite a workhorse capable of getting various jobs done faster and more efficiently , it wasn’t until the 90s that ATVs really started to become prominent on farms, apple orchards and ranches. Other popular locations for four-wheel ATVs included banana plantations, pig farms and golf courses.

Foreign countries that didn’t have very many financial resources or an infrastructure started using ATVs to do jobs that required the manpower they didn’t have. Work that was once impossible or impractical soon became entirely doable. After 1990, Honda ATVs became widely used in over 30 different countries where before they were mainly used in the US.

1995 was the year that the Forearm 400 4x4 was debuted and quickly rose in the ATV ranks to become the most powerful and versatile Honda ATV. What made the Forearm so significant was that its engine had a longitudinal design that made it so that the crankshaft was positioned perpendicular to the axles. The ATV powerhouse also had rear and front drive shafts that supplied power to all of the wheels and didn’t siphon as much power whenever the vehicle switched directions.

Model Division

Even today you’ll still notice that ATV models are divided into either utility or sport markets. A sport ATV is lighter, smaller and has a two-wheel drive. They’re also known for their fast acceleration capabilities and ability to reach up to 80 mph. Sport ATVs are commonly used for racing while their bigger and slower utility model counterparts are commonly used for more labor intensive jobs. Utility models are also used to tow light loads and can have racks attached to them as well. There are also amphibious ATVs that are capable of navigating through different bodies of water.

ATVs have come a long way since there original inception, and it seems as though new innovations are being made every year. With the many new technological advances being made in modern times, there’s no telling what ATVS will be capable of next, but it certainly will be exciting to see.