A slight deviation from the typical Motor Verso coverage. As you might know, we tend to stick with exotic cars news, reviews, photography etc. But for this special occasion, I have something that differs from what we’re used to. But bear with me here, it will actually be something that’s distantly relevant.
Summer is upon us yet again, and although in Britain it doesn’t actually mean much as the weather will still be, as per usual, typically British. However, by chance that the day might be sunny, the best idea will probably be to drive a nifty little convertible about the back roads, like a Mazda MX-5.
However, if throwing a little roadster around the curvy b-roads isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps due to the sole reason that you don’t own a convertible as the prices of those type of cars actually rise due to the summer, or if there just isn’t a nice driving road around the local area, I do have a suggestion for you to pass the summer, and it doesn’t actually cost more than buying a £1,000 MX-5.
And that answer is all-terrain vehicles, otherwise known as ATVs, quads and trikes. Nowadays, for a few hundred quid you can own a quad and a few more will fetch you a road-legal one. You can even stretch a bit more and get an off-road buggy if you wanted to, and I think in terms of fun for the buck, after I’ve ridden on one, can’t be beaten.
Before you can start moving around in an ATV, you need a venue. Since ATVs are relatively versatile, it’s not too difficult, a grassy field or a gravel dirt track will work, I, for instance went to a beach. Do note though that you will need a method to bring the ATVs with you if it’s not road legal.
The ATV that I rode in was, well, a bit basic, it’s quite literally just a green fibreglass body mounted onto a chassis with a carburettor-injected 110cc single cylinder Honda engine bolted into it. Now, some ATVs can actually be very clever, but the one I rode on was probably more representative of what you’ll be buying if you were to buy one. At the same time as my test there was actually another ATV, in blue, that’s larger and has a more powerful engine, a fuel-injected 250cc V-twin, which will inevitably deliver a noticeably greater grunt from the l0w to mid range rev band.
One of the best things about an ATV is the lack of weight, thus it doesn’t need a lot of propulsion to get it going, a small motorbike engine will more than suffice, and a simple engine means that not much maintenance is required.
ATVs actually act a lot like a motorbike, except that it has four wheels. Imagine it as a small car that can be chucked around easily. However, be wary of the rounded tyres as the ATV can actually topple if you corner too fast, thus, if you have a lead foot, getting one with a flat profile tyre will be a better idea as it doesn’t fall over, bar some loss in terms of off-road performance.
Then, we get to the tyre’s tread type. Sure, a tailor made off-road tyre with very aggressive treading will definitely fare better in tough terrain, but they wear much faster, so keep it simple, go for the normal street treads, you will lose the all important traction, but isn’t the whole fun about the lack of traction?
While you might have four wheels and a solid Japanese engine, you still need something to transfer the power from the engine to the wheels, namely gearboxes. Again with the simple theme, a basic 2 or 3 speed transmission will more than suffice, riding on an ATV for the first time at 60mph isn’t what you want, trust me on this one.
Now, safety is quite important when you’re riding on something that can potentially flip, you need helmets. Good, solid helmets, chest protectors, boots, goggles, and gloves. Similar to what you would wear if you were to ride on a dirt bike, getting thrown off an ATV is a real possibility especially in your first ride, imagine it as riding in a convertible car with no seat belts and headrests.
Admittedly, I didn’t abide by the law of safety, so I would like to think that as an excuse as to why I didn’t push the quad to the limit. To make it clear, EXERCISE THROTTLE CONTROL! ATVs can and will be brutal if you squeeze the throttle all the way yelling ‘POWERRR!’ Thanks to inertia, you will be pushed back very violently and if you do the same when braking, you will be thrown forward, and the ATV will attempt a somersault.
Since it’s very similar to a dirt bike, you’d expect it to act like a dirt bike too. Thanks to the decent power-to-weight ratio, it accelerates quite fast, and the sense of speed is very much present when you’re exposed to the elements of nature. The torque is quite prevalent as there is no headrest in an ATV. Bumpy rides aside, little can beat the feel of a go-anywhere quad revving hard and taking on obstacles at a strong pace.
Convinced to buy one? A good rule of thumb to follow is to stick with the Japanese, despite them being slightly more pricey, you might regret going for the Chinese ones that will abate the storm on your wallet, but you would be devastated when you realize that you have to end up spending more than the ATV itself is worth to maintain it.
Ended up deciding not to buy one? I can’t blame you, but I do urge you to at least rent one for the weekend and toy around with it by the beach at a sunny day, the sapphire coloured backdrop with white clouds above with an ATV might just change your mind, and with so many engine options available now, ATVs are widely accessible to even children, with 50cc to 90cc engines.
All in all, I adored the time that I spent with the little green quad, even though admittedly it was very bumpy, it vibrates more than a woodpecker on drugs, and it nearly burnt my feet with the hot side exit exhaust, it was great fun. Your time to provide your input, have you ever ridden an ATV? How was it? Are you an expert or a rookie? Give us your comments below.