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Monday, August 30, 2010

The Value of Air

Don’t Forget the VALUE of Proper Air Pressure!

You’ve heard me constantly yammer on about the difference that the proper (radial!) tires make on an ATV. There are very few machines come with tires that actually help the ATV handle properly, and in fact most stock tires usually make ATVs handle more like a watercraft than a machine planted on the ground! The thin, rounded, bias-ply tires roll over too easy when cornering and provide less than precise steering. Of course, the problem is that you’d never know that the ATV could handle better until you actually change the tires.

Once you change the stock tires to anything else, you become a believer that those new tires you put on are the best in the world! The trouble with that is that it is based only on the difference they made on your machine. It’s something I see over and over again. People talk about the virtues of the tires they have put on their ATV based entirely on how they compare to the stock tires they replaced. Little do they know that almost any tire they could have bought is better than the stock tires!

So that’s something to keep in mind when your friend replaces his worn stock tires with a set of Goodyear Mud Runners and tells you how much better they are ;-)

So, once again, tires are one of the most important modifications you can make to your ATV. But choose them carefully!

But there’s more, as I was reminded just the other day. Air pressure makes a difference in every tire’s performance! And tire pressure changes with altitude! But we’ll leave that part of the discussion for another time.

Here’s my story. I was riding one of my favorite ATVs equipped with one of my favorite tires. A Suzuki King Quad with Carlisle ACTs on stock wheels. I was riding on some trails I had not been on in a long time. Several times I mentioned to my friend that the trail was really slippery. He agreed but then he was riding a Brute Force with the stock tires on. So what did he know?

As we rode, I kept going over in my mind as to why I was not that happy with the performance of this ATV and these tires. Maybe it’s me? Maybe I’m just off today? Maybe its? Maybe what?

Towards the end of the ride, we stopped near a small stream to enjoy looking over the valley below as a powerful thunderstorm moved its way slowly through. While listening to the thunder, I looked at my tires. They seemed a bit stiff looking so I decided to check the air pressure in them. To my surprise, the front tires were at 4 ½ pounds, but the rears were at almost 7 for some reason!

I lowered the rear to 4 ½ while questioning how I could have been that far off. It took little more than 1 mile for me to realize the incredible difference that adjusting the air pressure made.

So my point is - check your air pressure often, and if you have never changed it, try it? Even a ½ pound one way or another, or from front to rear can make a noticeable difference in how your ATV works. And all tires are a little different. The heavier, stiffer tires can certainly get by with a lot less air pressure than the thinner, more flexible tires.

So do yourself a favor – go ride your ATV with a little different pressure than you’re used to and see what happens……


  1. After riding my ATV all the trails feel slippery when I ride something else. It must be that infamous Honda 3-wd that makes it grip the trail.

    I have found that a 1/2 lb in the front tires can make a big difference in steering.

  2. What do you recommend for tire pressure on ACTs while trail riding???

  3. As I find out each time I ride, it 'really' depends on what you ride, where you ride, and how you ride!

    For me, on the King Quad, Grizzly, or Brute Force, riding at speeds from 5 to 30 on some hardpack, but mostly rocky and loose trails I run about 4 1/2 front and rear. As 'First' says above, maybe try 5 in the front and 4 1/2 in the rear.

    Or maybe the best way is to do your own testing! Put about 6psi in the tires and go riding. Then take 1/2 pound from the rears. Then the fronts, and keep moving down and see what works best for your machine and your riding style.

  4. Had a guy use my compressor the other day to fill his low tire.

    I asked him if he wanted to borrow my tire pressure gage and he said no that he didn't need one.

    He did the old push on the tread of the tire with his foot, I almost started laughing. I'll bet he had 20 psi in those tires judging by my calculated guess on how much tire give there was when he pushed on them with his foot. LOL