An all-terrain vehicle (ATV), also known as a quad, quad bike, three-wheeler, four-wheeler or quadricycle as defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a vehicle that travels on low-pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars for steering control. As the name implies, it is designed to handle a wider variety of terrain than most other vehicles. Although it is a street-legal vehicle in some countries, it is not street-legal within most states and provinces of Australia, the United States or Canada.
By the current ANSI definition, ATVs are intended for use by a single operator, although some companies have developed ATVs intended for use by the operator and one passenger. These ATVs are referred to as tandem ATVs.
The rider sits on and operates these vehicles like a motorcycle, but the extra wheels give more stability at slower speeds. Although equipped with three or four wheels, six-wheel models exist for specialized applications. Engine sizes of ATVs currently for sale in the United States, (as of 2008 products), range from 49 to 1,000 cc (3 to 61 cu in).
Royal Enfield built and sold the first powered quadracycle in 1893. It had many bicycle components, including handle bars. The Royal Enfield resembles a modern ATV-style quad bike but was designed as a form of horseless carriagefor road use.
The term “ATV” was originally coined to refer to non-straddle ridden six-wheeled amphibious ATVs such as the Jiger produced by the Jiger Corporation, the Amphicat produced by Mobility Unlimited Inc, and the Terra Tiger produced by the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company in the mid 1960s and early 1970s. With the introduction of straddle ridden ATVs, the term AATV was introduced to define the original amphibious ATV category.
Three-wheeler era (1967–1987)
The first three-wheeled ATV was the Sperry-Rand Tricart. It was designed in 1967 as a graduate project of John Plessinger at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts near Detroit. The Tricart was straddle-ridden with a sit-in rather than sit-on style (similar to the contemporaneous Big Wheel toy). In 1968 Plessinger sold the Tricart patents and design rights to Sperry-Rand New Hollandwho manufactured them commercially. Numerous small American manufacturers of 3-wheelers followed. These small manufacturers were unable to compete when larger motorcycle companies like Honda Entered the market in 1969
Honda introduced their first sit-on straddle-ridden three-wheeled ATVs in 1969, which were famously portrayed in the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever and other TV shows such as Magnum, P.I. and Hart to Hart. Dubbed the US90 and later—when Honda acquired the trademark on the term—the ATC90 (All Terrain Cycle), it was designed purely for recreational use. Clearly influenced by earlier ATVs, it featured large balloon tires instead of a mechanical suspension.
By the early 1980s, suspension and lower-profile tires were introduced. The 1982 Honda ATC200E Big Red was a landmark model. It featured both suspension and racks, making it the first utility three-wheeled ATV. The ability to go anywhere on terrain that most other vehicles could not cross soon made them popular with US and Canadian hunters, and those just looking for a good trail ride. Soon other manufacturers introduced their own models. Sales of utility machines skyrocketed.
Sport models were also developed by Honda, which had a virtual monopoly in the market due to effective patents on design and engine placement. The 1981 ATC250R was the first high-performance three-wheeler, featuring full suspension, a 248 cc air cooled two-stroke engine, a five-speed transmission with manual clutch, and a front disc brake. For the sporting trail rider, the 1983 ATC200X was another landmark machine. It used an easy-to-handle 192 cc four-stroke that was ideal for new participants in the sport. The ATC200X was the first high-performance four-stroke ATV that featured full suspension, front and rear disc brakes with single piston calipers, an 18-horsepower engine, sporty looks and is widely considered one of the best ATV’s ever produced. Today, ATC200X’s can be found on the market in all conditions and prices, and is still highly regarded and followed by the aftermarket community.