Look, we know you’re probably not going to try to jump the Grand Canyon, and the odds of you needing to outrun an erupting volcano are pretty slim, but you still have to know how fast an ATV can go.
Being extraordinarily fast is a point of pride, and insane speeds are the ultimate adrenaline rush. So whether you’re getting chased by a bear, chasing down bandits, or just enjoying your weekend trail ride, ATV speed matters most.
But not all four wheelers are created equal. The max speed of ATVs varies depending on engine size, configuration, and a number of other factors. Let’s take a look.
Your engine size is your biggest ATV speed limiter. Smaller engines go slower, bigger engines go faster. Simple right?
Not quite. As you’ll see, every vehicle has a speed limiter installed that artificially limits your ATV’s top speed.
Let’s go through some of the most common engines.
The 110cc ATV’s are designed to be youth models. They’re built for kids 10 and up. As such, their speed is limited to 30 MPH. The engine can theoretically reach higher speeds, but the ECU keeps it from going over 30.
Now we get to the group of engines that don’t hit their speed limiters. Most 450cc engines top out around 55 MPH. That’s plenty fast for a modest engine like this. You won’t hit this speed often either—just on the flat-out straightaways.
A 570cc engine gets another 10 MPH over the 450. If you’re looking for some real nail-biting ATV speed, this will get you there.
Now we’re getting into the blisteringly fast range. These engines do tend to hit their on-board ATV speed limiter of 75 MPH. But when you’re going that fast, it doesn’t really matter. With a max speed this high, you’ll be hitting speeds of 40–50 MPH regularly on trails.
For the fastest ATV top speed, you need to go with a quad rocking a 1000cc engine. With a limiter raised to 80 MPH, it stands to reason that if you want to go fast, there’s nothing better than a 1000cc ATV.
They jump off the line and get to high cruising speeds in no time at all. That kind of speed and acceleration makes for some hair raising trail rides and gives you the ultimate adrenaline rush.
There are many factors that can limit the speed of an ATV. Some of them can be easily controlled by you, others cannot. Whether you want to slow down for a calmer ride or not, these are the ATV speed limiters that you need to look out for.
Weight is the single biggest factor that can slow you down inadvertently. The weight of everything on your ATV from your bumper to your backpack will slow you down.
Take a look at what you bring with you on your ride. When we’re out on remote trails, we regularly pack on 30 to 50 pounds of supplies too. We pack a back with tools and small spare parts. We strap on a cooler filled with drinks, lunch, and snacks. We even keep a big water bottle in our backpack.
Combine that with bulky jackets, boots, and pants if it’s cold out (not to mention a few pounds of our own winter weight), and all of a sudden our ATV speed is much lower than it was before.
Just wait until you get caked with mud too.
It’s fun and practical to load up your machine with better bumpers, mirrors, and protection, but that can weigh you down, too.
Aftermarket bumpers tend to be heavy-duty and just plain heavy. They’re great for keeping your ATV in one piece but will slow you down.
If you go further and add a big lift kit or a windshield, that will slow you down as well.
Bigger tires have a strange effect on your top speed. If you make no other changes, a larger diameter tire will act as a high gear kit.
What that means is technically, a larger tire will increase your ATV top speed. However, the increase in rotating mass and decrease in torque will outweigh any theoretical speed increase you get.
Big tires will slow you down and have a negative impact on acceleration without a gear reduction.
A gear reduction is a great way to slow down your machine and turn some of your engine’s power into torque.
Typically, gear reductions install in your transmission (or are part of GDP Portal Gear Lifts) and they boost torque and power. They also bring your top speed down by a small amount. Depending on your gear reduction, you might end up lowering your ATV’s top speed by 10–15%.
It’s a win-win if you want to slow your ride a bit.
Increasing your ATV’s top speed is a bit trickier, but there are a few tried and true methods.
The same way that adding weight slows you down, shedding weight can speed you up.
If you’re craving hitting your ATV’s max speed, leave the cooler at home and pack lightly. And when you’re planning upgrades, pay attention to the weight of your bumpers and tires. If you manage to keep your total weight at or below stock, you’ll be flying.
Plus, losing weight is free.
A high gear kit is the opposite of a gear reduction. Instead of giving you more torque, it reduces torque and boosts speed.
It’s a great way to increase your top ATV speed, but it does make your machine more sensitive to weight. You’ve got to keep it light to burn rubber with a high gear kit.
Larger tires are a no-go with a high gear kit, too. You’d basically have two high gear sets working together and reducing torque so much that you’d only hit your top speed in a salt flat somewhere. Not ideal.
An ECU tune and clutch kit are great ways to eek out extra performance from your ATV’s engine. ECU tunes literally rewrite the code on your quad’s on-board computer to change the way the cylinders fire and throttle feels. It can also get rid of some of those ATV speed limiters so you can get to higher top speeds on a stock machine.
When you pair that with an aftermarket clutch kit, you can unlock even more speed. Clutch kits are designed to optimize your RPM curve so that you’re getting your maximum horsepower for as long as possible as you throttle down. A proper clutch kit can increase your acceleration and top speed.
Put an ECU tune and a clutch kit together, and your ATV’s max speed will be insane. With no limits, extra power, and a carefully tuned acceleration curve, you’ll have the fastest ATV possible.
Whether you need to make big changes or small, your ATV speed is in your control. Get tweaking, get riding, and see how fast your ATV can go.