Why ATVs Have Thumb Throttles Vs Twist Throttles


While you were cruising through your favorite riding trail, you might have noticed some of the mechanics on your ATV that cause it to be easier or more difficult for you to navigate it. Perhaps the throttle caught your attention as you wondered why the thumb throttle has become the standard.

Thumb throttles have become the standard selection for most ATVs as they provide easier navigability, increased safety components, and require less time for the average rider to learn how to use. Though, if you prefer the twist throttle and can safely use it, various modifications are available for installation.

But, if you are used to using a twist throttle like that on a motorcycle, or if you simply are experiencing “thumb fatigue” from a rough ride, then you might be wondering why it is so necessary (or has at least become standard) that quad ATVs have thumb throttles. Continue reading to learn more on thumb throttles, twist throttles, and how you can optimize your ATV with the safest and most efficient option for you.

Why Do ATVs Have Thumb Throttles?

As mentioned above, there are many reasons that ATV manufacturers are opting for the thumb throttle to be the safest and most standardized throttle option for all-terrain vehicles. Some of these top reasons include easier navigability, increased safety components, and they require less time for the average rider to learn how to use.

However, each of these reasons goes much more in-depth. Though you can still find some models that have twist throttles, most companies are opting for the thumb throttle option.

This has become standardized mainly due to safety and use concerns, but there are plentiful reasons as to why this option tends to provide greater efficiency and overall positive user experience for the average rider.

Easier To Navigate

When riding an ATV- especially a quad- you can expect to go over rocky and uneven surfaces (hence the “all” terrain in the vehicle’s name). With this in mind, you will need to be able to navigate on a variety of heights and at different speeds, respectively.

  • For example, if you are driving on a dirt track or a paved trail, the way you drive the ATV will vary greatly from the way you would on a rocky trail in the woods near your house.
  • On a surface that has more elevation changes, you will, of course, use your body weight to lean into the vehicle while perpetuating it up a steeper surface.

On top of this, you could expect to navigate through varying speed ranges depending on the terrain and conditions. With a higher speed reached on a quad, you will need to be able to hold on tightly to the handles without falling off (and without engaging the throttle accidentally and causing an unexpected spike in your vehicle’s speed).

With both of these situations, you can see how the navigability of the vehicle will determine the efficiency of the ride. In these cases, as well as many others, using a thumb throttle will allow you to more easily navigate the vehicle without having to worry about the pressure you are applying to the handles.

If you were using a twist throttle, you would not be able to simply lean into or away from the front of the vehicle, as you could accidentally twist the throttle and cause an accidental speed change. Your vehicle, and you, could thrust forward and cause serious injury.

Contrarily, with a thumb throttle on your (quad) ATV, you will simply use your thumb to engage the speed and force of your vehicle. Instead of having to worry about or pay attention to the force of your body throwing into the twist throttle, you can simply let go or add additional pressure to the thumb throttle while you use the rest of your body weight dispersed accordingly.

With greater control over the throttle through the use of your thumb, you will be able to hit tighter curves, greater speeds, and higher elevations as you navigate your ATV throughout the various courses.

As you turn the handles, you will direct your vehicle in the way you desire it to go. But, you will not have to worry about accidentally crossing the turning handles with a twisting throttle as your thumb can do that work for you.

Increased Safety Components

One of the top concerns that many people have with riding (or allowing their children to ride) ATVs is the safety aspects. As numerous people are injured or have been killed on ATV rides, it is imperative to look into the safety features that can keep you and your loved ones safe.

Fortunately, ATV manufacturers know this, too, and consistently look for new ways to make their ATV models safer for riders.

Using a thumb throttle instead of a twist throttle has consistently proven to be a safer way to manage to ride an ATV in a safe and mechanically effective way. This is for several reasons including the navigability rationale, as explained above.

  • Further, the use of a thumb throttle allows the driver to focus on the task of driving much more easily than they would be able to if they were concerned with using a twist throttle.
  • When using a twist throttle, the rider has to pay attention to the amount that they are twisting the same location that they are holding onto for navigation purposes.
  • This can cause the rider to accidentally thrust forward and perpetuate an accident.

Likely, you have seen this as the cause of a humorous video that was poking fun at an accident. But, in reality, these accidents are less than fun as they can result in a serious injury- one that has caused enough lawsuits for the manufacturers to begin recognizing the effects of the twist throttle on safety standards.

In addition to this, it is important to note that these safety concerns have found their way into local legislation.

Not only are manufacturers recognizing these concerns for the safety of their riders, but some state and local ordinances have passed laws requiring thumb throttles over twist throttles- something important enough to note the distinguishable difference between the safety features of each.

Easier to Use

While some experienced riders will be able to use the old school versions of the ATV that still have twist throttles, the majority of riders prefer and find thumb throttles easier to use. This is especially the case for new riders.

New ATV riders have many factors to consider when they are riding. Not only are they tempted with the thrill of the speed that can come with these vehicles, but they are also- importantly- needing to consider their own ability to keep themselves safe.

Obviously, an unsafe ride will not be enjoyable in the long run, even if the thrill of the ride might seem tempting.

  • Most new ATV riders find that they are able to handle the vehicle more appropriately when taking on new elevations and surfaces while using the thumb throttle.
  • Compared to using the twist throttle, new riders can simply operate with the push of the thumb throttle- a mechanism that seems more natural and easy to gauge and learn than the use of a twist throttle that is relatively unfamiliar to most riders.

Then, when taking sharper turns or preventing an overturn when driving relatively quickly (or when hitting an unexpected twist in the path, the use of acceleration and deceleration through the push or release of a thumb throttle can seem much easier to use.

Instead of having to lean in one direction with the handlebars while avoiding twisting the throttle, you can use the handlebars to steer the vehicle and release (or press on) the thumb throttle to engage the speed you are attempting to hit. This, among many other reasons, can make the thumb throttle on an ATV an easier-to-use option than the alternative twist throttle.

Here’s some footage of someone riding a Yamaha with a twist throttle on flat open terrain to give you an idea of the difference.

How Does a Thumb Throttle Work?

So far, we have discussed the advantages of the thumb throttle and the reasons that most manufacturers are opting for this- as opposed to twist throttles- on newer ATVs. However, getting back to the basics, it is important to understand how a thumb throttle works.

A thumb throttle is typically located on the right-hand side of the ATV steering wheel (in lieu of the twist throttle). Its small lever will be squeezed and released depending upon the amount of force the ATV rider applies. If the ATV is powered on, the thumb throttle will propel the rider and vehicle forward to the speed at which the driver desires.

While you might find a thumb throttle on the left-hand side of the ATV, this is not as frequently the case. More often than not, the standard will be found on the right-hand side of the ATV as this is where most people (even those who are left-handed) find to be the most natural.

Of course, there is not a right or wrong location for the thumb throttle, so if you are installing it on your own ATV, just choose the one that is the most natural and comfortable for you.

  • If you want to really focus on the basics of using a thumb throttle, the mechanics are pretty simple.
  • The throttle controls the airflow and fuel flow to the gas chamber, so pressing this is what will make your vehicle go.
  • Though, the speed will be determined by the pressure applied to the throttle.
  • The more pressure that is applied, the faster you will travel (and, thus, the less pressure that is applied, the slower you will travel).

In contrast with the twist throttle, the thumb throttle is something that your thumb (or hand/finger if you begin to experience thumb fatigue) will press down. More often, people will complain about wrist fatigue when using a twist throttle than they will about thumb fatigue. Though, the roughness of the ride and the positioning of the rider can absolutely change this.

Some people are more comfortable with one type of throttle than they are the other.

Usually, this is because they are comfortable with what is familiar to them. But, if you are a new rider, then you will likely find that the thumb throttle is more familiar than the twist throttle, as the mechanics of pushing more firmly or with less pressure follow the same concept of a gas pedal that is pushed by your foot.

Can You Put a Twist Throttle on a Quad (ATV)?

What if you are used to using a twist throttle on your motorcycle and you simply find the thumb throttle frustrating and not easy to use? Perhaps you are considering placing a twist throttle on your quad ATV. Fortunately for you, this is possible in a few different ways.

You can put a twist throttle on your quad (ATV) as long as the electronic fuel injection system is not available. Most older ATVs will fit into this category, and you will be able to fix this piece to your vehicle rather simply. Also, you can install a conversion kit or a thumb throttle extension to benefit from a similar concept.

When looking to place a twist throttle on your quad (ATV), just be sure that the electronic fuel injection system is not on your model.

If you have a newer quad ATV, then you will likely find that this is not an option for you as the fuel system will be tied with your thumb throttle and the replacement of this will not be feasible for you. However, when working with an older model, you will simply need to purchase a twist throttle and follow a few guidelines for installation.

One option for the twist throttle (that works with the natural mechanics of your current thumb throttle) is the Kolpin 98020 Handy Throttle (link to Amazon).

This option, more or less, slips over the handle to allow you the twisting motion that really just presses onto the thumb throttle for you. So, you get the twisting motion, but you are leaving your thumb throttle and its functions as they were designed by the manufacturer.

If you opt for a conversion kit, you can fix your current ATV thumb throttle setup and allow it to be turned into a twist throttle. I recommend something like this Motion Pro Twist Throttle Conversion Kit (link to Amazon).

The mechanics behind this will depend on the particular conversion system that you decide to use. However, most are relatively easy to install and generally range from $50-$100 depending on the seller and location.

Here’s a video of someone making this conversion to give you an idea of what your getting yourself into.

Finally, you can opt to use a thumb throttle extension that can help to relieve thumb fatigue while adding a longer handle, in a sense, to grip onto. This can allow the best of both worlds in providing relief while also avoiding having to use the twisting motion that comes with a twist throttle.

Here’s a video showing an alternate ATV thumb throttle that acts as an extension, but allows you to adjust its position.

Top Thumb Throttle Extensions

If you decide to go the route of extending your thumb throttle on your ATV, then you will have a variety of options. When deciding which will be the most appropriate for you and your riding needs, be sure to check with the make and model of your current ATV.

Many thumb throttle extensions are universal and will work with almost any ATV, but it is important to check yours out before you purchase. This can eliminate the headache of returns and the need to still find another throttle option for your vehicle.

A few of the top throttle extensions that you can find pretty easily (and well-rated) include the following:

New Moose Thumb Assist Throttle Extender (link to Amazon). This universal option is pretty standard and should fit almost every ATV. What is great about this option is that it can allow for varying handle sizes depending on the rider who is generally using the vehicle.

Additionally, it is stainless steel but is covered in rubber, so you will have a durable product that will also be comfortable to use. This is important if you want to get a highly effective and cost-efficient product that will serve you well on your rides for years to come.

Kolpin ATV Throttle Master- 98005 (link to Amazon). Yet another great and inexpensive option, the Kolpin ATV Throttle Master thumb throttle extender is a highly rated product that offers the simple mechanics of a thumb throttle while allowing for an enhanced grip option for the rider.

By extending the thumb throttle out further, this device allows the rider to experience less thumb fatigue which allows for longer and more enjoyable rides on the ATV.

All Rite Products Thumbuddy Throttle Extender- Model TB1 (link to Amazon). If you are looking for a very inexpensive option that can still get the job done, this might be the right thumb extender for you (though note that it is not that much more inexpensive than the Kolpin option listed above. However, this is easy to install (as it is zip-tied instead of bolted on like the other two), and it offers a comfortable grip for most ATV riders.

Depending on which option you are looking for, you should be able to either use a thumb throttle extender, use a conversion kit, or completely replace the thumb throttle with a twist throttle.

Keep in mind, though, that the thumb throttle has many safety advantages (as discussed above). So, unless you are confident that you can safely navigate your ATV with a twist throttle, it is best to leave it as is or simply use a thumb throttle extender to maintain the same mechanics while allowing for a further extension of the throttle.

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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