I am a first-time buyer looking for the best ATV for my uses. I plan to use it mostly for work around the farm and hunting. What do you suggest?
This is one of those questions that is really, really hard to answer because everyone is different. Now let me say what I look for in an ATV. I want a very smooth engine and transmission. I like the transmission to engage very early so it doesn't require a lot of rpms to putt around the ranch or at slow speeds out on the trails. I prefer it to shift easily and on the left side so I can keep one hand on the throttle and front brake when shifting (if needed). That means that I also like ATVs with separate front and rear brakes. And the rear foot pedal should fall easily under my right toe as I use that brake often. I want the ATV to handle well. That means it should have a low seat height and a very low center of gravity so it's the least tippy in extreme conditions as well as on faster trails. I want very easy steering even in 4wd — steering that doesn't yank your hands one way or the other going down the trail. It should be able to be ridden with one hand if needed. I love a complete set of gauges. I want tubular racks, front and rear. And I want proven reliability.
Maybe if I listed some of my favorite ATVs by class it might help:
Youth class — Suzuki LT80
Entry Level 2wd — Suzuki Ozark, Honda Recon
400 class — Suzuki King Quad
500 class — Yamaha Grizzly, Honda Rubicon, Suzuki King Quad
Open class — Yamaha Grizzly 700, Suzuki King Quad 750, Kawasaki Brute Force 750
2-Seat — BRP OutlanderMax 650
Utility — Mule 4010
SxS — Kawasaki Teryx, Polaris Ranger RZR
SxS Sport — Polaris Ranger RZR S or RZR XP
Sport — Yamaha Raptor 700
I recently purchased a new open-class 4x4 ATV and wonder what kind of tire you would suggest to put on it?
First let me say that the original equipment tires that come on ATVs are typically designed with light weight and low cost as priorities. A couple of manufacturers, most notably Polaris and Can Am seem to send their ATVs out the door with good tires, but the Japanese companies don't.
I recommend radial tires as they help to make your ATV steer better and handle better on the trails. I also suggest that you come to grips with the truth about what you want your tires to do — work good or look good! It's a very common error to go with larger diameter, deep-lugged tires because they make your ATV look really good (or bad, whichever your perspective).
Larger, heavier tires affect your ATV in a number of negative ways. First, the added height results in taller or higher gearing. This will make your ATV accelerate slower. Second, the added weight adds to the flywheel effect of the tires making them much harder to start turning and harder to stop turning. This both slows your ATV down and wears the bearings and brakes out quicker. Third, the tire's added weight is more unsprung weight that dramatically increases the percentage of unsprung to sprung weight and will cause your ATV to ride much rougher. Fourth, the added height of the tires will affect the front geometry causing the steering to be much quicker feeling and less stable.
Tall, deep lugs are another feature that more often than not has more to do with looks rather than performance. Except in very muddy conditions, we have found less aggressive tires work just as good as the big mud and snow tires. Yes, even in the snow we found that the deep-lugged tires were not an advantage, and oftentimes found that on ATVs without locking front differentials the high traction mud and snow tires actually performed worse! And in typical work and trail conditions these mud and snow tires tore up the terrain much worse than more normal tires.
With that said let me add that ridden normally and not hot rodded around corners and up hills, the deep lugged tires are not much worse than a trail tire. Let me also add that because consumer demand is toward bigger and heavier treaded tires, we see few real good radial trail tires compared to trail mud and snow tires. That's really a shame!
So stick with a tire that's as close as possible to the size that came on the ATV. The big bore 4x4s can usually handle a 26" tire without too many problems when mounted on a 12" wheel. I prefer an all-around tire such as the Carlisle ACT. These work best when mounted on the stock wheels. Next would be the ITP Holeshot Terra Cross.
Should I install my tires on 12-inch or 14-inch diameter wheels?
Definitely 12" wheels, and the reasons for this are the same as why not to run larger diameter tires. The larger wheel (so far) is typically found only on 27" and taller tires. This wheel just adds to the already increased unsprung weight causing slower performance and worse handling.
Does all this same tire and wheel information apply directly to side-by-sides as well?
No. The greater weight of a UTV, RTV, or side-by-side allows for a bit heavier tires without sacrificing as much handling. And in the case of the Yamaha Rhino or the Kawasaki Teryx, 26-inch tires actually help the gearing a bit on the trails, although it will suffer in extreme conditions in low range.
We have run 27" tires mounted on 14" wheels on the Rhino and they seem to work great! The best we've found so far (and by far) are the new Terra Cross radials from ITP.
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I saw that you made some modifications to your Yamaha Grizzly and Kawasaki Brute Force to lower their center of gravity and make them less tippy. What did you do and where do I get more information?
We added a set of Works Performance shocks and radial tires. Most IRS ATVs are set with their suspensions at full height with all their travel upward in movement and no downward travel. This looks great on paper showing the tremendous amount of ground clearance an ATV has but does not work well in the real world. First, you need the suspension to drop down into ruts and gullies, and second, the higher the suspension sits the taller an ATV sits. That gives it a higher center of gravity and a more tippy feel. An additional problem that comes with the suspension being set topped-out is the amount of scrub the rear tires have. (Scrub is the amount that a tire moves out as the suspension moves up.)
The Works Performance shocks are set to what they call the "TV Set-up". This is a soft spring so that the ATV will set about 2 inches lower. Amazingly enough though, the shocks will still provide almost 2 inches more travel than the stock units. They are set soft enough that a rider under 200 pounds will use all of the suspension travel at slow speeds. If you watch the ATVs on our tests they almost never seem to move more than a couple of inches. The shocks make the ATV ride way more comfortable, even leaning a bit in the corners and squatting under acceleration and dipping under braking.
The radial tires were Ducks Unlimited on the Grizzly and Holeshot ATRs on the Brute Force. Both sets were mounted on ITP C-Series wheels. The wheels are offset an additional inch which gives the ATV a wider more stable stance. It adds length to the overall a-arms that adds additional travel as well as softens the ride because of the added leverage. Radial tires by design are far more stable and precise than bias-ply because the tread stays in more constant contact with the ground, not rolling over on hillsides and turns.