I’ve been into ATVs for some time. And a beginner question that people who just got their first ATV, or are thinking about getting one is whether driving an ATV on the road is bad for the tires.
As a general rule, the road does cause significant wear to stock ATV tires. Top ATV brands such as Polaris and Honda come with off-road tires that wear down much more quickly on hard surfaces such as pavements, rocky terrain, and the road.
Also, ATV manufacturers recommend not driving an ATV at all on the road due to poor handling which can lead to a serious crash. Most of the top ATVs brands are also not equipped with turn signals.
Riding an ATV on the pavement will create more wear and tear on the tires according to the owner’s manual of the most popular ATV brands such as Yamaha, Polaris, and Honda. The tires that come with ATVs are designed for off-road use.
I have seen various videos of people who use special tires for riding on the road and claim they have good grip. But, this is discouraged strongly in the owner’s manual of the popular ATV brands.
The main reason is that they can cause a loss of traction, offer poor handling, and dramatically increase the risk of an accident.
The owner’s manuals go so far as to say things like:
“Avoid operating the vehicle on pavement. If it’s unavoidable, travel slowly, travel short distances, and avoid sudden turns or stops.”– Polaris Sportsman 850 – Owners Manual
Also in the owners manual for the Honda 2021 Foreman, it states:
“Your ATV is designed and manufactured for off-road use only. The tires are not made for pavement, and the ATV does not have turn signals and other features required for use on public roads. If you need to cross a paved or public road, get off and walk your ATV Across.”Honda 2021 – Owners Manual
Most also state that you should use only the tires specified, and you should always ensure that they are at the right pressure and have the right amount of tread.
And using any other tires can affect handling and lead to a crash. All ATV owner’s manuals provide a specifications page that lists the PSI (pounds per square inch), tread depth, width, and height of the tires.
There are different tires for different types of terrain. For example, there are sand tires designed for if you do a lot of riding on sand dunes. And there are tires with thick tread that are suited for more muddy conditions.
Over the years, ATV tires have changed a lot and there are now tires that are considered the industry standard and the best for both soft and hardpack conditions. These are radial tires.
The owners manual for ATVs provides specifications for the tread thickness, height, and width and therefore you should always get the tires that are recommended in your ATV owners manual.
They also state that it’s best to have the tired changed and fitted at a specialist ATV shop. As it is quite involved and the tires can need to be aligned as well.
If you’ve got a good amount of experience in changing tires then it should be pretty easy to replace them yourself, especially following the instructions in your owner’s manual.
Although it can differ by brand I’ve noticed that some ATV owner’s manuals recommend not to replace one tire at a time. And if you need to change the tire they state to at least change both tires on the front or rear. Depending on which tire needs replacing.
The reason is that the difference in tread can cause additional strain on suspension, and cause issues with handling.
Another common question beginners to ATVs have is can you ride them through water, or if you should. I explained this in detail in this article about whether you can ride an ATV in water.
ATV tires are fairly inexpensive to replace. But, how long do stock ATV tires last? I looked into a bunch of people’s experiences, as well as, what is stated in the owner’s manuals for popular ATVs, and here’s what I found.
Generally, stock ATV tires will last 500 to 10,000 miles (800 km to 16,000 km). Stock ATV tires that are ridden on rocky hard terrain will last less than when ridden on soft mud. Also, if you do burnouts or skids it will wear the tread down sooner.
By rocky terrain is mean terrain that is actual rock, though rare. Or, trails that have a very high percentage of boulders and rocks that make up the surface of the trail. Virtually all ATV owner’s manuals strongly discourage riding ATVs on the road. For safety reasons.
Instead, they state that it’s a best practice to walk your ATV across pavement, or road as this will greatly increase the life of your tires. Or, to ride very slowly if on the road or pavement.
Bigger ATV tires can fit on an ATV. And in some cases, they can look better. But, will putting larger tires on an ATV cause any damage to your ATV?
As a general rule, bigger tires will hurt your ATV. Most ATV owner’s manuals recommend not using any tires other than the size specified in the owner’s manual. It’s definitely possible that larger tires will work. But, they require more torque to operate which causes more wear and tear.
I can’t deny that bigger tires look better on some ATVs. But, it does come at a cost and can be very dangerous. An ATV is designed for a very specific tire size.
This affects the handling of the ATV. In extreme cases, it can cause the parts of your ATV involved in turning the wheels to fail, and lead to a serious accident.