All Terrain Vehicle: What Is An ATV Or All-Terrain Vehicle?

ATV All Terrain Vehicle

Definition Of An All Terrain Vehicle:

The term ATV stands for All Terrain Vehicle. It is also known as a quad or quadricycle type vehicle. An All-Terrain motor vehicle could have three, four, or even six wheels. Unlike a motorcycle, generally, ATVs have more than two wheels. This vehicle runs on low-pressure tires. However, it has handlebars instead of a wheel for controlling the steering.

Honda Quad All Terrain Vehicle
Honda Quad (Courtesy: Honda)

As the name indicates, manufacturers design an ATV to handle a wider variety of terrain than regular vehicles. In some countries, it is a street-legal motor vehicle and licensed for use on public roads. However, it is not street-legal or roadworthy within some countries’ states, territories, and provinces.

Riding An ATV:

The riders ride an All Terrain Vehicle by sitting on it just like a motorcycle. However, you don’t need much effort to balance it because extra wheels give more stability at slower speeds. Also, people consider most dirt bikes ATVs because manufacturers only designed them for off-road use. Generally, most ATVs come with three or four wheels. However, some specialized applications require six-wheel models. Engine sizes of ATVs range from as low as 49cc to 1,000cc. However, the size of the engine depends upon the application.

Generally, the intended use of All Terrain Vehicles is by a single operator only. However, some manufacturers make ATVs for use by two. Of them, one is the operator, and the other is the passenger. So, manufacturers refer to these ATVs as Tandem ATVs. The rider or primary operator must wear a helmet just like a motorcycle rider. However, the passenger doesn’t need to wear a helmet in some countries.


The development of the All Terrain Vehicles started way back in the early 19th century. In 1893, Royal Enfield manufactured and sold the first powered quadricycle. The vehicle employed many bicycle components, such as handlebars. However, manufacturers mainly designed it as a horseless carriage for road use.

Suzuki Quad All Terrain Vehicle
Suzuki Quad (Courtesy: Suzuki)

A group of students first designed a three-wheeled ATV or Tri-cartin 1967 as a college project. The Tri-cart was a straddle-ridden with a sit-in rather than sit-on type. Later, many small manufacturers followed this trend and started making it. Then, Honda entered the market and launched its first sit-on type straddle-ridden three-wheeled ATVs in 1969.

Most earlier generation ATVs had large balloon tires instead of a mechanical suspension. However, by the early 1980s, manufacturers introduced All Terrain Vehicles with better components like suspension, racks, and lower-profile tires. In the late 1980s, manufacturers upgraded them to four-wheel models due to safety issues with three-wheel ATVs. Later, manufacturers like Polaris designed & developed the ATVs with six wheels for specialized operations such as the military.

Modern ATVs employ advanced features such as liquid-cooled engines and Twin spark plugs. Some offer independent suspension, automatic transmission, a 4-wheel drive system, etc. Manufacturers categorize modern ATVs in the following categories.:

  1. Utility
  2. Sport
  3. Children’s
  4. Side-by-Side or SxS
  5. 50cc Gas

Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki are some of the ATV manufacturers in the world. In addition, CFMOTO, Tracker Offroad, and Polaris are some of the American ATV manufacturers.

Watch an All-Terrain Vehicle in action here:

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