ATV Tyre Selection

The selection of a new set of ATV tyres for your quad should not be a difficult experience if you understand the differences between the tyre types, thread patterns and sizes. There are five main points to look for when choosing a new set of tyres as selecting the wrong tyres can decrease the performance which could alter the functionality of the quad thereby causing you to have an accident, alter your fuel economy and affect the speed and handling of the quad. 

Obviously the economics is also a serious factor in the selection of tyres as the most expensive and well known brand is not always the best option for you and you will end up paying far more for a tyre than necessary for the activity that you require the tyre for.

By paying a high fee for a brand just because it is a well known brand but not using it too its full potential is just wasting valuable money which could be used accessorizing or modifying your quad for better performance.

First off you have to be really honest with yourself and purchase according to your budget and your ability which dictates what type of tyre will suit the activities you use your quad for not buying what other riders are buying for the sake of a brand name.

 Tread Pattern

The type of terrain you traverse should be one of the primary factors when selecting your tyres. There are basically four different types of tyres for ATV’s:

   1. Mud Tyres

Mud Tyres – characterised by their inside to outside angled tread pattern as mud tyres are directional tyres that are designed to work in mud. Mud tyres work well for what they are designed for but on other types of terrain they are not suitable.
A medium to aggressive mud terrain tyre would work well in most types of mud regions. There are 3 flaws to mud tyres one must consider:
         1. The tread life of the tyre will not last if you drive anywhere else but mud like hard packed terrain and tarmac surfaces.
         2. The aggressive tread pattern does not offer the optimum ride quality as a trail tyre.
         3. Mud tyres due to their directional, medium tread pattern offer very little lateral stability when the ATV is side hilling an obstacle.

   2. Sand Tyres

Sand Tyres – these tyres are known for their paddle or scoop like tread patterns. The front tyres have typically only one or two raised ribs running down the centre of the tyre and the rears have parallel running scoops. This is the only design which provides the traction necessary to traverse real sandy areas. Sand tyres only have one function and that is for use in sand. Attempting to use these tyres on other surfaces will result in the break up of the tyres with even chunks of the paddles breaking off and the tyres subsequently destroyed very quickly.

   3. Trail Tyres

Trail or All Terrain Tyres – are designed to handle multiple terrain environments. There are many different tread patterns available in the all terrain tyre market with each manufacturer claiming the best in design for optimum versatility, handling and grip.
The tread invariably are between 4mm-6mm deep and have typically overlapping tread pattern with smaller spacing between the tread lugs. Therefore if your activities demand a variety of terrain surfaces you should try and purchase a set with aggressive tread pattern and a deeper lug to ensure you have good grip and will experience less punctures with the deeper lug profile. This selection should also ensure a good self cleaning capability which is important over these types of terrain environments.

   4. Race Tyres

Race Tyres – like specialised mud and sand tyres are designed and engineered for a very specific segment of the ATV market primarily for medium to hard packed circuit and enduro surfaces. They are easily identified by their knobbly flat top construction as they are designed for the high speed, high impact environment. There are many variations of tread patterns for this industry and most professional race pilots will have a variety of tread types, sizes and compound variations to suit the different race circuits and enduro terrains. There are new types of compounds available and different ply’s as the weight and compound seriously effect’s the speed, traction and overall handling of the race ATV.

Tyre Size

   1. Smaller Diameter – a smaller diameter race tyre will decrease the overall speed and increase the RPM of the engine. Therefore it will increase hole-shot speed but will decrease top-end speed. Due to the high RPM racing on too small a tyre can stress a number of components e.g. engine, transmission, axles etc. If you are prepared to constantly repair and maintain your race quad then the smaller diameter is obviously the better option. The smaller the diameter the less flexible but the more firmer the ride.

   2. Larger Diameter - a larger diameter race tyre will increase overall speed and decrease engine RPM therefore it will decrease hole-shot speed but increase top end speed. Large diameter race tyres will provide a softer and more flexible ride. Installing too large a tyre however can stress a number of components e.g. engine, transmission and axle because of the additional rolling mass and the decreased RPM of the tyre which can also overheat your engine as it has too work so much harder to turn the larger heavier tyre. Due to the extra rolling mass your braking efficiency will be diminished.

   3. Wider Tyre – this will increase the amount of tread on the ground, thereby increasing traction particularly laterally. Conversely too wide a tyre, like too tall a tyre, will increase the amount of rolling mass and diminish braking ability and stress the drive train. Selecting too wide a tyre can cause problems with suspension and steering components as tyres will start touching and rubbing against parts of your quad that it should not.

   4. Narrow Tyre – this will decrease the amount of tread on the ground, which is not a good thing although serious mud riders claim that the narrow tyres sink through the mud and make contact with the firm ground below giving the required traction to get out of difficult mud areas. However other mud riders claim the wider the tyre the better as the wide tyres float and skip across the mud, your personal choice.

   5. Side Wall Height – ATV tyre manufacturers have recently started producing tyres that will accept 12” and 14” rims with the advent of the larger ATV and UTV markets. Tyre diameter and height has it’s pros and cons so does side wall height as a short wall tyre of the same overall tyre height means that the rim size is also taller. This creates greater ground clearance but produces less flex than a taller side wall which can be good or bad depending upon the type of enduro you are participating in. A taller side wall tyre will produce far more flex which is great for more technical enduros but bad for high speed. Taller side walls are more susceptible to punctures.

Flat or Round Tyres

This is a common issue that is overlooked by the ATV tyre purchaser, basically all sport quads come with flat top tyres and utility quads come with round top tyres. A flat top tyre will put more tread on the ground and is typically designed for medium to hard packed terrains allowing the rider to conduct power slides in a more controlled environment. This type of tyre also provides superior side wall stability so great for the sport quads. In contrast a round top tyre will typically roll under itself during hard cornering especially on hard packed terrains. A round top tyre is designed for more versatility and performs better in softer terrains and provides a softer ride so a good rule of thumb is use these tyres for the utility type ATV’s and UTV side by sides.

Tyre Construction – Ply Rating and Radial or Bias Ply

All tyres are constructed with a special combination of polymers with each manufacturer using a secret ratio therefore one must look out for the ply rating and the belt type construction as each aspect has an affect on the tyres stability, pliability and handling characteristics.

   1. Ply Rating – in the old days a tyres construction was rated by the number of plies within the carcass and this system was used when less durable material (traditional rubber) was used to create the tyre carcass because the material was less durable it took more layers of bonded and fused material to increase the tyres strength and longevity. Nowadays with the new technologies available a tyre can be constructed with only a few (2 or 3) plies of material, yet has the same strength and longevity of a 6 or 7 ply tyre. Hence if a dealer is trying to sell you a specific tyre at a certain price based on the ply rating as opposed to any other feature of the tyre then you must know something is up as a new 6 ply rated tyre may only be constructed with only two or three layers as opposed to 6 layers.

   2. Radial versus Bias Ply - the majority of ATV tyres are bias ply which are constructed utilizing plies or belts typically rubber coated plies composed of textile cords usually nylon that run diagonally around 30degrees from one bead to the next. One ply is set on a bias in one direction and successive plies are set alternately in opposing directions crossing each other. Bias tyres are typically less flexible than radial tyres but are tougher in construction. Radial tyres are new to the ATV market and are constructed in two parts first is a single layer of rubber coated steel cables that arch from one bead to the other to form the tyre casing. Second numerous rubber coated steel belts are placed in the crown under the tread to form a strong stabilizing unit which makes the tyre more flexible which in turn reduces rolling resistance and improves fuel economy. Bias versus radial well bias is the proven manufacturing process and until the radials prove themselves we advise sticking with the bias tyres.

Tyre Sizes Explained

We still use the old method of tyre sizing for the ATV market and it is very simple all tyres are still measured in inches therefore a 20*11.00-9 tyre would be 20 inches in overall height (from the ground to the top of the tyre) the second part 11 inches is the overall width of the tyre and the 9 inches is the rim diameter of the tyre.


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