Why Are ATV Tires Smaller In The Front Than In The Rear?


Maybe you are looking at changing your ATV tires, or perhaps you were recently riding when you noticed the difference in the front and the rear tires. While they generally share the same diameter, and, thus, height, their width can vary.

ATV tires are typically the same height in the front and rear, but the front tires are smaller in width. Narrower front tires on an ATV provide increased maneuverability with decreased tire rub. Meanwhile, the wider rear tires increase traction and stability- enhancing the safety and performance.

So, to be clear, the “smallness” of the ATV front tires refers to the width measurement and how this changes the overall performance of the vehicle. Interestingly, while you can have the same size ATV tires on the front and rear, this is rare because of the many benefits of having the staggered wheel setup. Continue reading to learn more about the advantages of smaller front tires on ATVs as well as why ATV tire size matters.

Why ATV Tires Are Smaller in the Front

As mentioned above, there are several reasons why ATV tires are smaller in the front. By smaller, of course, it is meant that the front ATV tires are generally an inch or two narrower (8-9in) than their rear counterparts (9-10in). This is done intentionally, but unless you know about the reasons behind this, then it might seem a bit confusing and strange.

ATV tires are smaller in the front for several reasons, but the main reasons include increased maneuverability and decreased tire rub and handlebar whip.

There are several factors that go into the maneuverability, and these include steering as well as getting your ATV to come to a quick halt without overturning.

Of course, the smaller front tires on an ATV also contribute an additional safety component to the vehicle creating all the more reason to enjoy this component of your favorite ride. Especially if this is the favorite ride of someone you love- and tend to worry about driving recklessly- like your young adult children or another close family member.

Here’s a quick video explaining how ATV tire size works to give some background.

Increased Maneuverability

When it comes to maneuverability with an ATV, it is important to have a balanced system between speed and balance. Since one of the most dangerous features on an ATV is the vehicle overturning, it is important to be able to navigate well on your vehicle regardless of speed or terrain.

Smaller ATV front tires create an easier platform to steer through a wide variety of terrain.

Whether you are navigating on pavement or through rocky hills, the narrower tire will be able to handle the wide array of surfaces that you may intend on riding through. Additionally, if you are riding through the dirt or mud (common with ATVs), then you will need the traction that a more narrow front tire can assist in.

Steering an ATV can seem difficult (especially without electronic power steering), but having a balance between the two width variations on a staggered setup for your ATV can help with this. You will find that turning the front of your vehicle that is set up with narrow front wheels can be done more easily than with wider wheels.

Consider if you were trying to guide your bike or your car through a bumpy or rocky terrain- or if you were just trying to navigate one or the other through your driveway into your garage.

The bike tires, as they are much more narrow, can help you to more easily position your bike where you would like for it to go. The same principle applies to narrow ATV front tires. They can help to aim the ATV in the direction that you are intending.

Not only does increased maneuverability help you to enjoy your ATV ride more, but it also adds a safety component to the vehicle. Safe ATV drivers know that they need to be able to confidently control their vehicles. With precautions in place to navigate more easily, ATV riders can know that they are more safely able to handle various terrains and situations- something they are likely expecting out of their “all-terrain” vehicles.

Decreased Tire Rub

Another safety and practicality measure for having smaller front tires on an ATV is that this can decrease the occasion of tire rub between the vehicle’s other features and the tire. Tire rub occurs when the tire repeatedly bounces (rubs) onto the panels and other components of the vehicle. This is common with ATVs that are driven over rough terrains causing the tires to shift vertically more frequently than on other vehicles.

As an added bonus for smaller front tires on your ATV, you will find that the tire will not press against these components in the same capacity. Having a decreased surface area in terms of tire space will decrease the amount that is pressing (rubbing) onto the suspension components among others.

With this added measure, you will find that you are far less likely to damage your ATV which consequently results in decreased cost in repairs and increased safety standards. Since tire rub should be occurring less intensely with a narrower front ATV tire, you will not have to pay to replace the tire itself or the other panels/components that are damaged.

Additionally, tire rub is decreased (in comparison with larger front ATV tires), adding an additional safety measure through the prevention of damage to the vehicle. Of course, damage to the vehicle puts the driver more at risk while he or she is driving it. So, by preventing tire rub, you not only protect the vehicle and its moving parts, but you will be protecting yourself as well.

Decreased Handlebar Whip

Yet another reason that ATV tires are smaller in the front than in the rear is that with this staggered setup, handlebar whip is decreased. Handlebar whip occurs when you feel the bumps of the rode in your handlebar- caused by the lack of shock absorption and the size of the tires on an ATV.

Fortunately, with smaller, narrower, and therefore less heavy front tires, you will not feel the blow of the handlebar as frequently. This increases the overall satisfaction of the ride as well as the safety of the vehicle.

If you are driving your ATV and are not getting whipped about by your handlebar, then this would, of course, be more pleasurable than the opposite occasion. In addition to this, you will have much more control of the vehicle if you are not experiencing handlebar whip on a rough (or even smoother) type of terrain.

Why ATV Tires are Wider in the Rear

While we have discussed a few of the reasons why ATV tires are smaller (or more narrow) in the front, there are additional reasons why wider rear tires on an ATV have their advantages. In learning about and understanding the effectiveness of ATV tires, it is important to know about these reasons, too.

Mainly, ATV tires are wider in the rear to increase traction and stability, thus enhancing the safety and overall performance of the vehicle. This complements the narrower front tires that are configured in the staggered setup of the ATV tires. Not only do the wider rear ATV tires help in navigation, but they can help ease your mind on safety concerns, too.

Through their wider dimensions, the rear tires are able to help the vehicle balance on a wide array of terrains. Particularly, the wider tires help to provide the stability needed while the front tires dig into the surface ahead. This helps to propel the vehicle forward and ultimately help the driver to reach his or her destination.

Additionally, the traction that is added through the wider rear ATV tires comes in the increased surface area that the tire provides against the surface it is being driven on. As the driver navigates through wet, dry, paved, or rough terrain, the ATV tire is able to cling to (without getting stuck to) the road.

Not only do these advantages help with navigating the vehicle, but they also help to increase the safety of the ATV experience. While it is important that the driver reaches his or her destination, it is also imperative that this is done safely. Wider rear tires on an ATV are just one simple mechanism that can help to make this experience possible.

Even professional riders need this staggered tire set up to stay competitive. Check out the tires sizes on these ATVs at the Pleasure Valley Nationals.

Why Tire Size Matters on an ATV?

Tire size matters on an ATV for a few reasons. This is true of the height (diameter) as well as the width of the tires. Though, not all see the importance enough to distinguish between the two of these (or speak into why ATV tire size matters in the first place).

Tire size matters on an ATV because they distinctively balance the weight of the entire vehicle. Additionally, the varying sizes on ATV tires help to increase navigability and overall safety of the vehicle. The right tire size for your ATV will help you to navigate through rough terrains safely and efficiently as they provide traction and efficient steering capabilities.

While some say that bigger is better, this is not always the case with ATV tires.

To know what tire size will work for your ATV, be sure to check with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Then, follow these closely without making too many home modifications to your vehicle. The dimensions have been measured and tested accordingly, so it is important that you follow these to ensure a safe and pleasant ATV riding experience.

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Rob

That's me sinking another ATV. I love to ride no matter what it is, snowmobiles, four wheelers, dirt bikes, and anything else off-roading. I've experienced my fair share of machines, and like to share that experience here.

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