What are ATV Tires?

R. Kayne

All terrain vehicle (ATV) tires are made for ATVs, four-wheeled motorcycles also called “four-wheelers” or “quads.” Fewer ATVs are three-wheeled trikes, a model that was discontinued for several years in the 80s and 90s due to safety concerns and is now mostly popularity among enthusiasts who prefer it for its greater maneuverability. ATV tires are large, chunky, wide-profile tires designed to perform well in a variety of commonly encountered off-road conditions.

There are ATV tires for every type of terrain.
There are ATV tires for every type of terrain.

There are ATV tires for every type of terrain, and general-purpose ATV tires. ATV tires that are designed for specific conditions, such as mud or sand, will perform better in those conditions than general-purpose tires.

Paddle tires are best suited for sand dunes.
Paddle tires are best suited for sand dunes.

ATV mud tires for example, have wide-spaced irregular-treads for maximum grip in muddy conditions. The wide flat spaces between treads allow the tire to sink into the top layer of mud giving the treads purchase. While mud tires are excellent for the mud, they don’t grip as well in dry trail conditions.

If sand dunes are more your style, you’ll want paddle tires. These ATV tires are probably the most recognizable type of tire because of their strange appearance. The tires are smooth and balloon-like with only a few raised treads running horizontally across the tire face. The horizontal treads act like paddles, giving these tires their name. Paddle tires are specifically designed for excellent performance in sand but are not suited to other terrains and can be damaged by trail riding. Bikes with paddle tires are typically trailered directly to sand.

ATV snow tires are smooth tires that also have horizontal treads, but in this case the tread pattern resembles snow-chains. This pattern makes the tires grip even in reverse, and the tire compound is soft to stay pliable in ice, allowing for better grip. Snow tires are only designed to use in snow and ice.

Trail riding is probably one of the most popular types of ATV riding. Typically trail tires must be able to accommodate some rock and mud as well, essentially making these ATV tires general-purpose tires. However, not all trails are alike. In wetter regions trail conditions will be very different than in dryer, desert regions, so there are many types of ATV tires to chose from in this category.

Trail tires roughly resemble mud tires but the treads are packed tighter and are typically regular in pattern. If the conditions in your area are snowy in parts of the year or muddy, choosing ATV tires with treads that are a little wider spaced will be more accommodating. If your trail riding is done in sun-baked, hard-packed dirt, a tighter pattern will generally perform better. If conditions are mixed, something between the two extremes will likely suit your purpose.

ATV racing is a popular sport with specially designed ATV tires for this purpose. ATV racing tires are wide-profile tires with small, square treads evenly spaced. These knobby tires typically have tread along the shoulder for more cornering bite.

Before investing in a good set of ATV tires, discuss your riding style and conditions with a professional sales representative to get the best fit for your purposes. Tires designed for the terrain in which you’ll be riding will not only be safer and perform better, but will also last longer.

Mud tires have widely spaced, irregular treads.
Mud tires have widely spaced, irregular treads.

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Is there a tire that works for sand and ice?

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