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How Fast Do ATVs Go? (& How to Increase Speed)

While many off-road vehicles are often associated with being rugged, sporty, and fast, not all subsegments excel at tearing through the trails in a jiffy. This is particularly true for ATVs. Although they are designed with off-road capabilities, their emphasis on durability and styling doesn’t necessarily guarantee daredevil speeds.

How fast do ATVs go? Generally, ATVs have a maximum speed ranging between 10 and 90 mph (16—145 km/h), depending on their make, subsegment, engine design, and displacement. But given appropriate tuning and modifications, they can increase their stock top speed by at least 20%.

In this guide, we’ll go over the standard ratings per engine displacement and the various aspects affecting an ATV’s top speed. So whether you need a quick refresher or are researching speed restrictions for the first time, I encourage you to stick around — I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

ATV Sports Quad Riding Fast

Are ATVs Designed for Fast Riding?

The answer to this question may seem obvious to a lot of consumers. But the truth is, it’s pretty variable. While ‘high-speed riding’ and ATVs may seem synonymous, this notion only proves true for sport quads and racing-oriented builds.

The standard youth ATV, for instance, is restricted to 23 mph (37 km/h) — maybe even lower in European markets. Even high-performance liter-class machines that could easily hit above 75 mph, like the Can-Am Renegade 1000R X XC, come standard with driveline modes and a performance key that limits top speed to 43 mph (69 km/h) — to better accommodate less experienced off-roaders.

That said, determining how fast ATVs go is more a test of skill and knowledge than merely asking a question. Because even when told about a machine’s limitations, ATV owners would always find ways to unleash the beast within their behemoths — from tinkering with stock components to professionally outfitting their brutes and transforming them into WORX replicas.

Engine Capacities & Top Speed Ratings

DisplacementAverage Top Speed
50—110cc10—20 mph (16—32 km/h)
125—200cc25—45 mph (40—72 km/h)
250—350cc40—60 mph (64—96 km/h)
400—600cc45—75 mph (72—120 km/h)
700—1,000cc60—80+ mph (96—128+ km/h)
Above 1,000cc70—90+ mph (113—145+ km/h)

Whether you’re determined to tweak the factory parts or maximize the potential of your weekend warrior, it’s essential to understand its current configuration and limitations before considering any modifications. As for how fast an ATV can go varies based on engine design (as shown above) and the region where it was sold.

ATVs generally don’t go over the average top speeds relative to their engine displacement. These restrictions are mandated by the CSPC (and equivalent regulating bodies in other regions) to ensure that ATVs meet safety requirements and reduce their propensity for on-road accidents and injuries when operated. But that’s as far as stock, mass-produced machines go.

In the powersports arena, things are pretty different. Owners can do as they please with the stock configuration of their wheelers and customize it for racing applications and the like. A perfect example is Terry Wilmeth’s modified Yamaha 700 Raptor, which holds the Guinness World Record for fastest speed on a quad bike (ATV) at 196.19 mph (315.74 km/h). The same is true for a modified Suzuki Quadzilla LT500, with a top speed rating of over 100 mph (161 km/h).

Carbureted vs. EFI-Equipped

Another contributing factor to top speed rating is an ATV’s energy source. In stock form and with the same engine displacement, an EFI-equipped machine would generally have the potential to be faster than a carbureted ATV. Here are some reasons for its inherent advantage:

  • Precision Fuel Delivery. EFI systems precisely control the air-fuel mixture going into the engine, optimizing combustion efficiency. This precise control results in better throttle response and more consistent power delivery over an ATV with a carburetor.
  • No Manual Tuning. Unlike carburetors, which require manual adjustments to optimize fuel delivery in response to changing conditions, EFI systems can automatically adapt to factors like altitude and temperature. This adaptability ensures the engine consistently operates at its most efficient and powerful settings.
  • Consistent Performance. EFI systems provide consistent fueling regardless of the engine’s state — cold start, warm-up, or full throttle. This consistency contributes to smoother acceleration and potentially higher top speeds.
  • Improved Start-ups. Starting difficulties themselves do not directly impede the top speed of an ATV once the vehicle is in motion. However, they can indirectly affect top speed when they result in fuel system issues, electrical problems, or delayed riding and warm-up.

Fuel-Fed vs. Electric-Powered

Conversely, a fuel-fed ATV (powered by gasoline or diesel) is generally faster than an electric-powered ATV, given similar engine displacements and a stock layout. Gas/diesel-fed machines typically have higher power outputs, better energy density, and faster refueling and recharging capabilities than e-ATVs.

The main drawback of these machines is that they’re powered by electricity — meaning their motor power is finite. Plus, they carry battery packs that add to their weight and take away from their power-to-weight efficiency.

Manual vs. Automatic

Unlike the first two contributors to an ATV’s top speed rating, there’s a bit of contestation among riders regarding transmission builds. On the one hand, some say that ATVs with automatic transmissions are faster than those with manual gearboxes since the former lends to no-shift delays and smoother acceleration. On the other, enthusiasts stand by manual transmissions being superior, especially in challenging off-roading conditions.

What puts these builds on even ground has more to do with rider skill than the design of the transmission itself. Yes, automatic transmissions offer variability in gear ratios and ease of use. But if challenged by a manual-transmission ATV with a competent rider unafraid to shift gears quickly and efficiently, chances are the latter will best the former in top speed. Or it could be the other way around.

From Brute to Speedster

Person Riding Fast ATV

Even when you buy a top-of-the-line ATV for the season, you’re not always guaranteed a hellish top speed with the four-wheeled beast. However, you can certainly increase its rating, significantly benefiting you when weaving through narrow, tight trails or competing against your friends on the racetrack.

To do this, let’s explore some of the most frequently performed mods on these machines while incorporating top-speed variables — starting with the low-hanging fruits:

Weight Reduction

This is probably one of the easiest changes to apply on an ATV and one with the most dynamic outcomes. By reducing the overall mass that the engine needs to propel, you dramatically improve an ATV’s power-to-weight ratio. This, in turn, translates to numerous positive effects in the following areas of the machine’s performance:

  • Acceleration
  • Top speed
  • Hill climbing
  • Handling and agility
  • Fuel efficiency

Lighter Wheels

Part of weight reduction and another topical aid to increasing top speed is replacing the stock wheels with lighter ones. Doing so reduces rotational mass, enhances overall handling, and decreases unsprung weight, leading to better suspension performance and improved top speed in rough or uneven riding conditions.

However, it’s one of the less impactful mods a rider can do regarding top-end performance. It’s not as significant as engine upgrades or aerodynamic enhancements. Moreover, it can be detrimentally affected by factors like aerodynamics (or the lack of it), the engine’s power output, and the terrain type (this doesn’t change no matter how pimped your four-wheeler may be).

Tire Upgrade

Going for lighter rims wouldn’t be complete without appropriate tires designed for higher speeds and reduced rolling resistance. There is no cookie-cutter approach to choosing your knobbies as several variables can impact their performance.

Of all the tires available, hybrid/specialized and radial variants like Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 Radial Tire 30×10-14 (view on Amazon) are probably best since their treads, construction, and heat dissipation properties are designed for higher-speed applications.

Drag Reduction Measures

Off-roaders know all too well how wind resistance significantly affects top speed. But by incorporating features like a windshield, fairings, or any exterior element designed to lower air resistance, you can streamline the ATV’s shape and effectively decrease drag.

This streamlined form allows the machine to glide through the air more smoothly, resulting in increased speeds and requiring less effort for upkeep. Moreover, adjusting your riding position by crouching down to reduce your profile can help reduce wind resistance and increase top speed.

High-Flow Air Filter

One of the most straightforward and (sometimes) undervalued changes to an ATV, this mod optimizes airflow to the engine, ensuring a richer air-fuel mixture and effectively enhancing combustion efficiency and power output.

It entails a simple installation process, with no major adjustments to stock components and many performance benefits. This aftermarket component is generally affordable but can also have a hefty price tag, depending on your preferences.

Performance Exhaust

Switching to an aftermarket exhaust system reduces backpressure, boosts engine efficiency, and enhances exhaust flow. Combined with a high-performance exhaust header (view on Amazon), these enhancements increase power output, leading to higher top speeds.

Electronic Speed Limiter Removal

In some machines with built-in electronic speed limiters or restrictors that comply with safety regulations, removing or bypassing these limiters can unlock the engine’s full potential. However, since these safety features are most common in youth and entry-level ATVs, approach this modification cautiously. Consider it only if you have intermediate or advanced riding skills.

Performance CDI

Fast ATV Riding

A performance CDI enhances throttle response, smoothens acceleration, and increases power output throughout the RPM range. While these improvements translate to efficient power utilization, they can also improve top-speed ratings. EFI-equipped ATVs, however, tend to benefit more from this upgrade than carbureted machines due to the inherently precise nature of their fuel and ignition systems.

Meanwhile, the subsequent changes require more tools, experience, and a solid working knowledge of basic ATV maintenance, at the very least:

Sprocket Change

Altering the sprocket sizes by either increasing the rear sprocket size or decreasing the front sprocket size can modify the gear ratio for better top speed. This alteration effectively changes the ratio between engine revolutions and wheel rotations, lending to higher speeds at a given engine RPM and optimizing power delivery to the wheels.

But while it’s considered a relatively straightforward upgrade, its ease of implementation can change significantly depending on the sprocket location. Some ATV designs necessitate removing the rear wheel to access the sprocket (which less experienced ATV owners may find daunting or uncomfortable). Additionally, sprocket changes are subject to compatibility and predominantly followed by the need for chain adjustment and tuning (among other things).

Clutch Upgrade

Aftermarket or performance-oriented clutch parts enhance the transmission’s ability to handle increased power and deliver it more efficiently to the wheels. Their installation can improve overall performance — including acceleration and top speed — by ensuring smooth power transfer from the engine to the drivetrain.

Your decision to do this on its own or alongside other modifications should hinge on your four-wheeler’s current setup, intended use, and your desired balance between acceleration and top speed. If you’re also considering returning the ATV to its stock configuration later on (even at the slightest), ensuring the reversibility of the clutch upgrade you’re about to do would be crucial.

Variator Kit

Similar to mopeds, adding a variator kit to a belt-driven ATV can boost its top speed. This kit lets riders tweak the machine’s CVT system for better high-speed performance. It comes with adjustable roller weights and sliders, allowing the transmission to change gear ratios more efficiently. Finding the right mix of these parts helps the variator kit keep the engine running in its best power zone.

Fuel System Upgrade

Replacing the stock carburetor with a larger one, fine-tuning an existing carb, or switching from carb to EFI can enhance fuel delivery and optimize air-fuel mixture. Any of these changes offer increased fuel flow and improved power generation (to name a few). But among the three, a well-tuned fuel injection system can provide better top-speed results and overall performance than merely upsizing your stock carburetor.

Of course, the ability to go for a larger carb versus a fuel-injected system depends on an ATV’s existing setup, a rider’s performance goals, and budget. Both options have their advantages. And yes — their impact on top speed would also hinge on other mods made to the ATV at the time.

Cylinder Kit

When you install a cylinder kit, you replace the original cylinder and piston with a bigger one. This modification lets more air and fuel into the engine, boosting its power. With this extra power, the ATV can reach higher speeds, significantly enhancing its performance compared to its stock setup.

As to how big of a jump you can do when installing cylinder kits on your four-wheeler, there’s no singular answer. Ultimately, the size of the cylinder kit you can install on your quad depends on various factors, including certain limitations and considerations (as follows):

Engine Compatibility

Not all power mills can safely accommodate a significant increase in displacement, as this would likely put excessive stress on engine components, reducing their reliability.

Bore and Stroke Kit

A favorite ‘task’ among seasoned off-roaders, increasing the engine displacement by installing a bore and stroke kit works wonders in augmenting top-end performance. Expectedly, this modification is more complex and often requires rebuilding the power mill (especially if you’re after significant gains in horsepower, torque, and top speed).

That said, the specific bore size you can use will depend on your ATV’s engine design and the availability of compatible cylinder kits for that specific model.

Piston and Connecting Rod

When enhancing the cylinder, you’ll usually require a piston and connecting rod that align with the larger bore size. These parts must be carefully matched to ensure the engine’s reliability and performance.

Tuning and Fueling

Increasing displacement affects the engine’s air and fuel requirements. Hence, you’ll likely need to adjust the carburetion or fuel injection system and upgrade other engine components to achieve the best performance and reliability.

Fine-tuning the engine’s performance parameters, such as ignition timing and fuel mixture, can optimize power output and improve top-end speed. This may require expertise or aftermarket tuning devices like an air-fuel ratio gauge or a laptop tuning device (for EFI-equipped quads).

Camshaft Upgrade

Enhancing the camshaft (view on Amazon) provides better control of when the intake and exhaust valves open and close. This essential step optimizes valve timing and high-end performance, regardless of the fuel delivery system.

Camshaft design and specifications can differ based on the quad’s engine model and intended use. As such, always consult the owner’s manual when considering this option.

High-Performance Suspension

Upgrading your ATV’s suspension to a high-performance one is arguably more complex than a camshaft upgrade — I say ‘arguably’ because it depends on which system you’re more familiar or comfortable with. Nonetheless, it’s proven to improve stability at higher speeds, allowing riders to push the limits of their machines more confidently.

Generally, suspension mods require a deep understanding of ATV suspension systems, including components like shocks, springs, dampers, and linkage systems (to name a few).

To replace these components correctly, a sound knowledge of suspension geometry and dynamics is key. Furthermore, the process may entail the installation of a suspension lift kit, depending on your other performance goals (including but not limited to):

  • Clearance for larger tires
  • Customization
  • Enhanced articulation
  • Improved ground clearance
  • Optimal suspension geometry
  • Requirements for race or competition

Advanced ECU/Engine Management

Considered moderately difficult, upgrading your ATV’s ECU or using advanced engine management systems can optimize performance for higher speeds. It requires a good understanding of ATV electronics, component compatibility, and the use of specialized tools and software for diagnostics and tuning.

But more than your desire to increase your ATV’s top-end speed, you should consider potential consequences for warranty coverage before doing this alteration.

Legal Considerations

In some regions, increasing the engine’s displacement may affect the vehicle’s classification, subjecting it to different regulations or licensing requirements. Ensure you comply with regulations and local laws — especially if you live in these US states: New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, and California.

Exercise caution when approaching any of these upgrades. Remember — significant modifications to your machine can affect its safety, reliability, and legal compliance.

As you make more adjustments and move up your list of mods, your ATV becomes more vulnerable to potential compromises in its other features. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult experts and account for local regulations when making these changes.

Conclusion — How Fast Does an ATV Go?

I cannot overemphasize enough that this question has no singular answer. Restrictions aside, the speed of your machine depends on its fuel system, power source, transmission, and other factors. Hence, consider your preferences, intended use, and the terrain you’ll be riding on when choosing your ATV. And if you already own one, temper any planned modifications with restraint and sensibility — and your ATV will surely meet your speed and performance expectations.