An off-road vehicle is considered to be any type of vehicle which is
capable of driving on and off paved or gravel surface. It is
generally characterized by having large tires with deep, open treads,
a flexible suspension, or even caterpillar tracks.
Other vehicles that do not travel public streets or highways are
generally termed off-highway vehicles, including tractors, forklifts,
cranes, backhoes, bulldozers, and golf carts.
Off-road vehicles have an enthusiastic following because of their many
uses and versatility. Several types of motorsports involve racing
off-road vehicles. The three largest "4-wheel vehicle" off-road types
of competitions are rally, desert racing, and rockcrawling.[citation
needed] The three largest types of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) /
motorcycle competitions are Motocross, Enduro, and also desert racing
Dakar Rallye and Baja 1000. The most common use
of these vehicles is for sight seeing in areas distant from pavement.
The use of higher clearance and higher traction vehicles enables
access on trails and forest roads that have rough and low traction
3 Criticism of off-road vehicles
4 Common off-road vehicles
4.1 All-terrain vehicle
4.2 Off-road motorcycle
5 Commercial, military and less common off-road vehicles
6 See also
Nicholas II's Packard Twin-6 with Kégresse track
One of the first modified off-road vehicles was the Kégresse track, a
conversion undertaken first by Adolphe Kégresse, who designed the
original while working for
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II of Russia between 1906 and
1916. The system uses an unusual caterpillar track which has a
flexible belt rather than interlocking metal segments. It can be
fitted to a conventional car or truck to turn it into a half-track
suitable for use over rough or soft ground.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Kégresse returned to his native
France where the system was used on
Citroën cars between 1921 and
1937 for off-road and military vehicles. The
sponsored several overland expeditions with their vehicles crossing
North Africa and Central Asia.
A huge wheeled vehicle designed from 1937 to 1939 under the direction
Thomas Poulter called
Antarctic Snow Cruiser was intended to
facilitate transport in the Antarctica. While having several
innovative features, it generally failed to operate as hoped under the
difficult conditions, and was eventually abandoned in Antarctica.
After World War II, a huge surplus of light off-road vehicles like the
Jeep and heavier lorries were available on the market.[citation
needed] The Jeeps in particular were popular with buyers who used them
as utility vehicles. This was also the start of off-roading as a
hobby. The wartime Jeeps soon wore out, though, and the
started to produce civilian derivatives, closely followed by similar
vehicles from British
Land Rover and Japanese Toyota, Datsun/Nissan,
Suzuki, and Mitsubishi. These were all alike: small, compact,
four-wheel-drive vehicles with at most a small hardtop to protect the
occupants from the elements.
From the 1960s and onward, more comfortable vehicles were
produced. For several years they were popular with
rural buyers due to their off-road and load-lugging
capabilities. The U.S.
Jeep Wagoneer and the Ford
Bronco, the British Range Rover, and the station wagon-bodied Japanese
Toyota Land Cruiser,
Nissan Patrol and
Suzuki Lj's series were all
essentially just station wagon bodies on light truck frames with
four-wheel-drive drivetrains. Later, during the 1990s, manufacturers
started to add even more luxuries to bring those off-road vehicles on
par with regular cars. This eventually evolved into what we call the
SUV today. It also evolved into the newer crossover vehicle, where
utility and off-road capability was sacrificed for better on-road
handling and luxury.
Swedish Hägglunds Bv206 with wide rubber tracks
To be able to drive off the pavement, off-road vehicles need several
characteristics: They need to have a low ground pressure, so as not to
sink into soft ground, they need ground clearance to not get hung up
on obstacles, and they need to keep their wheels or tracks on the
ground so as not to lose traction. Wheeled vehicles accomplish this by
having a suitable balance of large or additional tires combined with
tall and flexible suspension.
Tracked vehicles accomplish this by
having wide tracks and a flexible suspension on the road wheels.
The choice of wheels versus tracks is one of cost and suitability. A
tracked drivetrain is more expensive to produce and maintain. Wheeled
drivetrains are cheaper and give a higher top speed. The tracked
drivetrain has greater off-road capability.
Most off-road vehicles are fitted with especially low gearing. This
allows the operator to make the most of the engine's available power
while moving slowly through challenging terrain. An internal
combustion engine coupled to a normal gearbox often has an output
speed too high. The vehicle often has one of two things, either a very
low ("granny") first gear (like the all wheel drive Volkswagen
Transporter versions) or an additional gearbox in line with the first,
called a reduction drive. Some vehicles, like the Bv206 in the picture
on the right, also have torque converters to further reduce the
Many wheeled off-road vehicles provide power to all wheels to keep
traction on slippery surfaces. For a typical four-wheel vehicle this
is known as four-wheel drive. Vehicles designed for use both on and
off road may be designed to be switched between two-wheel drive and
four-wheel drive so that the vehicle uses fewer driven wheels when
driven on the road.
Criticism of off-road vehicles
Main article: Criticism of sport utility vehicles
SUVs are built with higher ground clearance for off-road use and thus
have a higher center of gravity, therefore increasing the risk of
rollover. When an
SUV turns, the vehicle's mass resists the turn and
carries the weight forward, thus allowing the traction from the tires
to create a lateral centripetal force as the vehicle continues through
the turn. The conflict between the top weight of the SUV's desire to
go straight while the friction of the tires on the road cause the
bottom of the vehicle to move away and out from under the vehicle
during a turn.
SUVs are more likely to be in rollover accidents than passenger cars.
According to a study conducted in the United States, SUVs have twice
the fatality rate of cars and have nearly triple the fatality rate in
rollover accidents. Of vehicles in the United States, light trucks
(including SUVs) represent 36 percent of all registered vehicles. They
are involved in about half of the fatal two-vehicle crashes with
passenger cars, and 80 percent of these fatalities are to occupants of
the passenger cars.
In the United States, the number of ORV users since 1972 has climbed
sevenfold—from five million to 36 million in 2000. Government
policies that protect wilderness but also allow recreational ORV use
have been the subject of some debate within the
United States and
All trail and off-trail activities impact natural vegetation and
wildlife, which can lead to erosion, invasive species, habitat loss,
and ultimately species loss decreasing an ecosystem's ability
to maintain homeostasis. ORV's cause greater stress to the
environment than foot traffic alone, and ORV operators who attempt to
test their vehicles against natural obstacles can do significantly
more damage than those who follow legal trails. Illegal use of
off-road vehicles has been identified as a serious land management
problem ranked with dumping garbage and other forms of vandalism.
Many user organizations, such as
Tread Lightly! and the Sierra Club,
publish and encourage appropriate trail ethics.
ORVs have also been criticized for producing more pollution in areas
that might normally have none. In addition to noise pollution that can
cause hearing impairment and stress in wildlife, according to the
U.S. Forest Service, old-style two-stroke engines (no longer a
component of new off-road vehicles, although some are still in use)
"emit about 20 to 33 percent of the consumed fuel through the exhaust"
and "discharge from two-stroke snowmobile engines can lead to indirect
pollutant deposition into the top layer of snow and subsequently into
the associated surface and ground water." In 2002, the United
States Environmental Protection Agency adopted emissions standards for
all-terrain vehicles that "when fully implemented in 2012... are
expected to prevent the release of more than two million tons of air
pollution each year—the equivalent of removing the pollution from
more than 32 million cars every year."
Off-road vehicle erosion
Negative environmental effects caused by motorcycles to a portion of
the Los Padres National Forest
Negative environmental effects that occurred when off-road vehicle
drivers left the posted trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Common off-road vehicles
Common[where?] commercial off-road vehicles include four-wheel-drive
pickup trucks like the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet C/K, Dodge Ram, and
Toyota Tacoma.[quantify] A number of military vehicles have also seen
civilian use, including the
Jeep CJ and the
AM General Hummer. Some,
like the early Land Rovers, were adapted to military use from civilian
specifications. Specialised commonly available[where?] off-road
vehicles include ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), dirt bikes, dune
buggies, rock crawlers, and sandrails.
Jeep CJ in action
Heavily modified Chevrolet Blazer typical of the United States
hobbyist off-roading scene
Jeep Rubicon rock crawling
Sandrail at Silver Lake Sand Dunes
A 4WD Bus in Fraser Island, Australia
A "Super Jeep", Reykjavik, Iceland
The ATV is commonly called a four-wheeler in Australia, New Zealand,
South Africa, the
United Kingdom and parts of Canada, India and the
United States. They are used extensively in agriculture, because of
their speed and light footprint.
Main article: All-terrain vehicle
An all-terrain vehicle (ATV), also known as a quad, quad bike,
three-wheeler, or four-wheeler, or RZR is defined by the American
National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a vehicle that travels on
low-pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator,
along with handlebars for steering control. As the name implies, it is
designed to handle a wider variety of terrain than most other
vehicles. Although it is a street-legal vehicle in some countries, it
is not street-legal within most states and provinces of Australia, the
United States or Canada.
Main article: Types of motorcycle § Off-road
There are various types of off-road motorcycles, also known as dirt
bikes, specially designed for off-road events. Compared to road-going
motorcycles, off-road machines are simpler and lighter, having long
suspension travel, high ground clearance, and rugged construction with
little bodywork and no fairings for less damage in spills. Wheels
(usually 21" front, 18" rear) have knobby tires, often clamped to the
rim with a rim lock.
Commercial, military and less common off-road vehicles
European militaries and utilities have used
Land Rover Defenders,
Haflingers, Pinzgauers, Volvo L3314, and Mercedes-Benz Unimogs for
all-terrain transportation. The Portuguese
UMM Alter is less
The military market for off-road vehicles used to be large, but, since
the fall of the Iron Curtain in the 1990s, it has dried up to some
extent. The U.S. Jeep, developed during World War II, coined the word
many people use for any type of light off-road vehicle. In the U.S.,
the Jeep's successor from the 1980s on was the
AM General HMMWV. The
Eastern Bloc used the
UAZ-469 in similar roles.
Unimog at IDEF'07 Arms Fair
Two Polish Honkers in Iraq
Mahindra and Mahindra
Mahindra and Mahindra Classic used by the Indian Army
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division test prototype off-road
Experimental marsh buggy, 1928, stuck in mud
Off-road bus in Iceland
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Off-road vehicles.
Ramp travel index
Sport utility vehicle
Game viewer vehicle
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Types of off-roading
Formula Off Road
Short course off road racing
Off road go-kart