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What Are the Different Types of ATV Bikes?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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All-terrain vehicle (ATV) bikes come in several types and styles, including three- and four-wheeled bikes in both two- and four-wheel drive versions. These ATV bikes also come in performance and racing packages, as well as models suited best for working or leisurely trail riding. Many of the models commonly used for hunting and recreation are available in camouflage finishes, while the racing style ATV bikes are often sold with very colorful and flashy paint schemes. These typically come complete with decal packages to add to the visual excitement the vehicle commands. The four-wheeled vehicles are available in the typical, quad-style design, and the larger, two- and four-place "Gator®" and "Mule®"-type vehicles.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the ATV bikes began to take the American off-road enthusiasts by storm. Soon, the bikes were being ridden on trails and through landscapes all around the world. The first and original ATV bikes were of the three-wheeled type, with the lower-end bikes being equipped with low-power engines, automatic transmissions and fat, floatation-type knobby tires. Soon, refined versions of these ATV bikes began to emerge with upgraded motor packages, manual shift transmissions and smaller, performance-type tires. This high-performance version of bike was commonly marketed as the "R" package, which soon became synonymous with the racing package.

Consumers began to complain about the very tipsy and dangerous riding characteristics that the three-wheeled bikes possessed. The manufacturers were forced to redesign the ATV, and the four-wheeled ATV bikes, or quads, began showing up on the dealership showroom floors. Although slightly larger than the three-wheeled versions, the four-wheeled bikes could be used as hunting and fishing machines as well as farmers' tools. It was not long before four-wheel drive versions of the quad began to gain popularity. The four-wheeled bikes were soon being used as both recreational and racing vehicles.

These four-wheeled bikes could occasionally accommodate two riders, seated in line, however, this was typically uncomfortable and commonly unsafe. The designers went to work to produce a vehicle that could continue to be used off-road as well as a performance, utilitarian and leisure type of vehicle. The side-by-side ATV was soon finding its way into showrooms and became a hit with consumers. Again offered in both two- and four-wheel drive versions, these ATV bikes can be purchased in camouflage finishes and racing parts are abundant for most models of the newest ATV bikes offered by most manufacturers.

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