Differences Between Four Wheelers and Motorcycles


Four-wheeled bikes–more commonly known as quad bikes or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)–share many similarities with their two-wheeled brethren. Both ATVs and motorcycles require their drivers to sit astride them and use the handlebars to steer and control their speed. There are, however, some fundamental differences between the two popular vehicles.


  • The prime difference between ATVs and motorcycles is the number of wheels. The ATVs extra two wheels give it a much greater stability at slower speeds and when crossing rough terrain. Riding a motorcycle requires the rider to be able to balance, a skill which is increasingly called for when speed is limited.


  • The first motorcycle was invented in 1885 by Gottileb Daimler, a German who attached a gas-powered engine to a wooden bike. Four-wheeled ATVs didn’t make an appearance for almost a century. The first ATV–the QuadRunner LT125--was produced by Suzuki in 1982 and marketed as a beginner’s recreational machine.


  • According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, passengers should never be allowed to travel on an ATV. The reasoning is that a passenger will prevent the driver from being able to move his weight about, an essential aspect of safely driving the vehicle. In comparison, it is safe for passengers to ride pillion on a motorcycle.


  • ATVs occupy a far greater space than motorcycles; this impacts their storage and transportation. As it is illegal to ride ATVs on public highways in many countries, the vehicles usually need to be physically transported before they can be ridden. ATVs require larger ramps and trailers than their two-wheel counterparts.


  • An analysis of the National Trauma Data Bank showed that in terms of off-road vehicle crashes, ATVs cause significantly more serious injuries and deaths than dirt bikes. As well as being heavier than motorbikes and therefore more able to crush their drivers, ATVs do not require their drivers to wear a helmet, unlike in off-road motorcycling.


  • Photo Credit Sean Murphy/Photodisc/Getty Images
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