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Is ATV Riding A Sport? What You Need to Know

Is ATV Riding A Sport? What You Need to Know

As someone who enjoys all types of riding, racing, and adrenaline-pumping activities, it is probably no surprise that I quickly learned to love ATV riding. While it is true- you can use an ATV for working, riding trails, and getting around in snow/mud- there is also an extreme side to ATVs.

Is ATV riding a sport? ATV riding, by itself, is not inherently a sport (ex. driving/hauling objects around the farm). However, there are many competitions and other versions of ATV riding that are definitely considered to be a sport. These versions of ATV (sport) riding can include races (motocross), timed events, and competition riding.

Like many sports, there is a lot more to ATV riding than just racing or timing on a track. There is a lot of skill and practice that comes into play when competing in ATV as a sport. For this reason, you can distinguish various riders in their ridership skills, experience, and type of competition. Continue reading to learn more about ATV riding as a sport.

quad with clutch

What Qualifies ATV Riding as a Sport?

If you look up the Oxford dictionary definition of a sport, you will find this:

“an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment”.

This definition alone is enough to qualify competitive ATV riding as a sport. ATV riding involves both skill and exertion and is done in a competitive nature. Considering these are two of the major components for the activity to be dubbed a sport, the fit for calling ATV a sport is secure.

Additionally, ATV riding is often viewed by a crowd (small or large) and enjoyed as entertainment. So, yes, ATV riding in these settings fits the definition of a sport.

While not everyone may agree with this, the definition deems it true that by nature, any competition or race on an ATV would be considered a sport. I think there is a case to be made that not all ATV riding is a sport – particularly if the ATV is used to do things like farming or police/military needs. The setting and context of ATV riding change drastically in these scenarios.

Here’s a video showing ATVs being ridden in clearly a sport competition setting. (I could watch this stuff all day)

What Types of ATV Sports are There?

ATV competitions come in many different forms – usually, they are in the form of a race that is placed or scored differently. Here is a list of most ATV racing competition types:

  • Trail Racing. In ATV trail racing, beginner and skilled ATV riders will drive through mountainous or wooded trails to their end destination. Here, their physical exertion is tested in the unpredictable turns and twists of the trail. Usually, trail racing competitions will be categorized based on skill levels. 
  • Motocross. Motocross typically uses motorcycles designed for off-road experiences, but it is similar to the ATV competitions. In this sport, riders use high levels of physical exertion as they speedily navigate their way through an enclosed circuit with various hills and flat surfaces.
  • Cross-Country (Woods) Racing. Just like its name sounds, cross-country woods racing is a form of ATV racing in which competitors begin in the same spot and “sprint” with their vehicles to the finish line. Riders will use speed, agility, and physical exertion as they navigate through the rugged wooded terrain.
  • Desert Racing (Hare Scrambles). Similar to cross-country woods racing, desert racing (hare scrambles) will send ATV riders across the desert sands. ATV riders will have to use their entire body to steer their vehicles on the elevated surfaces of this tough terrain.
  • Hill Climbing. Hill climbing is one of the ATV sporting competitions that requires the most skills, experience, and safety precautions. Due to the nature of ATVs overturning on steep surfaces, ATV hill climbers must balance their weight with the vehicles as they race other riders to the finish line. ATV hill climbing is often considered an extreme sport.
  • Ice Racing. ATV ice racing puts the rider’s skills and physical endurance to the test. As they navigate through icy, snow-covered surfaces, ATV riders must be sure to avoid sliding as they race to the finish.
  • Speedway. Speedway racing with ATVs can vary based on the designated surface. Generally, this will be an enclosed circuit, but different organizations classify ATV speedway racing on dirt, pavement, snow, and beyond.
  • Flat Track. A flat track ATV race is exactly what it sounds like: ATV riders racing on a smooth, flat surface. More often than not, this will be a dirt track (as opposed to a paved surface more typical of speedway racing). Again, riders must exert mental and physical strength in the face of their competitors.
  • Drag Racing. The epitome of speed and adrenaline pumping, ATV drag racing is when two (or occasionally more) ATV riders attempt to see who is the fastest on their vehicle. Drag racers dart on dirt surfaces (most frequently) as they speed off to the finish line- balancing both speed and security in their attempt to clinch their victory.

While this seems like a lot of different types of competitions – these help tailor to people’s unique strengths. Different environments require different weight, training, tires, and more. Depending on where you live, you will be able to prepare for specific types of competitions, so it is ideal to have diversity among various competitors and regions.

Here’s a recap video of the Daytona ATV Supercross ATVMX Nationals.

Are there Associations for ATV Racing?

In many people’s opinions, one of the qualifiers for being a sport is having associations that represent the players (or teams) and host events. To, again, justify ATV as a sport from this perspective, note that there are many sponsoring organizations that host ATV events. Here are a couple of the most popular:

American Motorcycle Association

The American Motorcycle Association is about more than just motorcycles – it provides many of the top races for ATV riders throughout the USA. It is the main organization to sponsor and host events for ATV competitions. One of the most popular is the AMA ATV Motocross National Championship Series which spans 10 rounds in multiple locations.

They also host nationals in dirt track racing, cross country racing, hill climbs, ice races, and hare scrambles.

ATV Motocross

ATV Motocross is the most up-to-date resource for finding where ATV races will be happening in the USA. It covers all the races by the AMA, as well as other races by companies like Redbull and Race Leadership Team, as well as smaller competitions held in different local areas.

If you are interested in attending or racing in an ATV motocross event, this will be your best friend to find it.

GNCC Racing

GNCC Racing is similar to ATV Motocross – it has a lot of events lined up on the site all over the United States. Some of the most unique are “iron man” style – known for its similarities to the Triathlon Ironman- as well as the “snow shoe”, which, as you can guess, is an ice race.

One of the nice things about GNCC Racing is that they are often geared towards amateurs – so if you have not competed before, this may be the best way for you to get your feet wet.

International Motorcycle Federation – FIM

I know – the name and acronym do not align. But that is because this is an international association – Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme to be exact. While this sounds like a normal motorcycle association, it is far from it. The FIM offers ATV races throughout the world. If you are looking to travel (or try to find a semi-local competition) the FIM is your spot.

This is where the best athletes in ATV racing are, and year after year they have the largest competitions.


There are many reasons why someone might argue that riding ATVs is or is not a sport. It is my hope that you can review the information provided and see how riding ATVs, in the form of a competition, is most definitely a sport. While your buddy who does hard work on his/her farm with his ATV might only consider the physical aspect, research shows that the competitive sides of ATV riding yield it reasonable to be called a sport.

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