Quad bikes have become increasingly popular in recent years for road use as people become more adventurous in their transport choices, picking rides originally designed as off-road utility or sports vehicles. If you’re looking for something a little bit different to get you about, then it may be the perfect solution.
With so much interest, we here at Bikesure, the freewheeling insurance broker, decided to round up the best road legal quads you can buy.
For anyone thinking about going quad, there’s a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, you need a full car license to drive one of these bad boys. Secondly, while you don’t technically need to wear safety gear on them you would be an absolute plum not to. Don’t get fooled into thinking that four wheels makes them safer to drive. They can be unstable when turning corners at even moderate speeds, as well as being quite prone to backflipping if you accelerate too fast. It’s absolutely recommended that anyone buying into the quad life goes on a specialised safety course.
It’s also worth pointing out that it’s relatively easy to make any quad bike road legal, and many dealers offer this service. This doesn’t make the more powerful sport models any less powerful, and any less un-optimised for road use, so anyone going this route should be aware what they’re getting themselves into.
Incredibly brief history of all-terrain vehicles
The first “modern” all-terrain vehicle was the Jiger, a six-wheeled amphibious buggy originally released in 1961. The first mass-market product was the Honda ATC90 released in 1968, a trike with distinctive ball-tyres that made memorable cameos in Diamonds Are Forever and Doctor Who but were somewhat dangerous, leading to them being banned outright in 1987. By that time the four-wheel design had taken off, and quad bikes had carved out niches as the ideal farm workhorse, as well as a fantastically fun off-road sport vehicle.
The big move on to roads was helped by the growth of the worldwide Bike Life subculture. This is partly down to how easy they are to wheelie, making them popular stunting machines.
There are 700R and 450R versions, depending on how powerful you want your engine to be and the Raptor is regularly updated, meaning that there should be a steady supply of second hand machines if the £8500 price tag for a new one is a bit too strong for your blood.
Honda estimates that around 50% of all ATVs are made by them. As you can see on their site they’re very much aiming at farmers and other outdoor users. These are unsexy but reliable workhorses, but completely unsuitable for urban transport as they sacrifice acceleration for pulling power.
The letters stand for Taiwan Golden Bee. The lesser-known manufacturers of the Far East have a somewhat uneven reputation, with many of the newer Chinese companies having frankly uneven quality standards. Being Taiwanese TGB have a few more decades accumulated experience to draw from, with their machines garnering decent reviews and, most importantly, a good network of UK dealers guaranteeing a ready availability of spare parts. Their Blade range features designs inspired by the latest Chelsea tractors. One interesting feature is the second seat, which is a fairly uncommon addition.
Arguably the best name for a quad bike company, Quadzilla have a range of both sporting and agricultural ATVs. The sporting ones even have a reverse gear to make manoeuvring it around town slightly easier. This isn’t something that all quads have, so it’s worth looking out for if that’s what rings your bell.
A slightly less good name, seemingly generated by the same team that came up with the fake American names for Fighting Baseball, Adly is another Taiwanese manufacturer that has worked for a variety of highly regarded companies in the past. They’re now branching out making their own products, but are so far sticking to the agricultural segment. The Adly 600 is their most powerful product, and has the best styling of their range. Compare it to their 320 which, leaving aside the smaller engine, has wheels that can only be described as budget.
The design on this one is quite clever because they’ve hooded the mudguards to make it look vaguely like a robot cobra. That’s the kind of conceptual touch you’ve got to appreciate. It’s available either in Supermoto form or the Cobra 400, which was voted Germany’s quad of the year in 2013. What part looking vaguely like a mechanical snake had to play in that is not, currently, known.
Viper 250F1 Supersnake
These bikes look good. But aren’t. Check out this thread from a few years ago with a potential punter asking about them. After a few posts you get a message from a new owner being very enthusiastic about his latest purchase. A month later the same guy updates the thread detailing everything that went wrong with it and exactly how bad it is. Consider this a warning about the kind of thing you could expect from one of these “too good to be true” deals on a brand you’ve never heard of before. Most relevant, take note about what he says about the tyres. The ones nobody in the UK has in stock, of which you can only order replacements from China. Little things like that you’d probably not notice in advance, but can really mellow your buzz if they happen to you. This is why it’s good to buy a brand with an established UK supply chain.
Can Am regularly hovers around the top end of lists of best quads. Its range starts at the £7500 Renegage 570, which has a sturdy look and advanced independent suspension. If you’re looking for something with a bit of poke, the XMR1000R is marketed as the most powerful mudding quad out there, as it should be if you have to throw down 15,000 clams for one.
It’s technically road legal but those tyres are entirely unsuited for road use, so you’ll need replacement tyres before you could get it out on the tarmac. Regardless, they’re well built, highly regarded and expensive machines, which means that you won’t be waving at many people driving the same as you.
Spy racing F1
These quads have sleek, modern designs reminiscent of… heeyyyyy wait a second, this looks like the Viper F1 described earlier, the one that was bad! This is the thing you’ve got to watch out for, vaguely generic Chinese brands being sold under different names. Maybe this one has the secret sauce the Vipers lack but it’s best to be incredibly wary of this kind of tactic. Also its low physical profile means that you won’t be positioned quite so high up in traffic, reducing your overall visibility.
Ahhh, mid-range budget quads. The MXU500 starts at £5400 and has a maximum speed of 50mph, making it just over £1000 per 10mph. Meanwhile the MXU150 has 40mph for £2249. These really, and we cannot stress this enough, are not designed as road vehicles, despite being able to be classed as such.
They’re not ideal urban runabouts, like motorcycles or scooters, as they’re too large to nip around stationary traffic. They’re not ideal beginners’ machines, as you need a full car license to drive one and they’re different enough to mean that you need extra training to make sure you’re safe. But love ain’t rational, so if you’re looking for something that gives you the visceral oomph of a motorcycle with the ability to go offroad should the mood strike you, then a quad bike could well be your perfect vehicle.
Do you like quadbikes? Have we missed out anything from out list? Sound off in the comments.