The byline of these articles for over 16 years has been “ATV Adventures.” The first article came out in December 2004. At that time, there was no popular side-by-side with a recreational purpose.
UTVs did exist, but they were distinctly outside of the recreational world. Their popularity was found in use on farms, in parks departments and on construction sites. The “U” definitely stood for utility.
When Kawasaki introduced the “MULE” in 1988, they saw an opportunity in a segment of the market that a utility side-by-side could fill. MULE stands for “Multiple Use Light Equipment.”
Other manufacturers joined in the competition for this market with products of their own — each one with a name oriented toward tough and work. After the Kawasaki MULE, Polaris came out with the Ranger and John Deere produced the Gator. The recreational and utility markets remained distinctly separate until 2004.
The ATV was invented and the letters formed an anachronism which stood for “All-Terrain Vehicle.” On the other hand, the side-by-side evolved. It already existed as a work vehicle.
In 2004, the line between utility and recreation began to blur. Yamaha broke the utility mold when it introduced the Rhino. At first look, it was quickly dropped into the utility category — it had two seats and a dump bed.
All of that changed with the first test rides. Here was a side-by-side that had enough power to be fun and a roll cage for protection, with another seat so the ride could be shared with a friend.
Arctic Cat followed with a similar package they named the “Prowler,” then Polaris came out with a recreational side-by-side that fit on 50-inch trails. Introduced as a subline of the Ranger, it became the Ranger RZR. The name fit the machine, implying that the RZR would fit on any trail an ATV could take.
The blurring line was evolving into a category that needed a name to distinguish it from the other two categories. It was an All-Terrain Vehicle by definition, but it was different and there was a definite push to give it its own category.
The name “UTV” was born, but what did that mean? The confusion began when these names were given to define it:
- Utility Vehicle
- Utility Task Vehicle
- Ultra-Terrain Vehicle
- Unlimited-Terrain Vehicle
- OHV — Off-Highway Vehicle
- ORV — Off-Road Vehicle
Others tried to reinvent the name with:
- ROV — Recreational Off-Road Vehicle
- RUV — Recreational Utility Vehicle
The market has settled on names for the two recreational categories — UTV is a vehicle you sit in and drive, while an ATV is a machine on which you straddle the seat and steer with handlebars.
However, by doing this, the MULEs, Rangers, Gators and other utility work vehicles were brought back into the side-by-side fold. Hence, we are back to two categories — ATVs and UTVs.
If you have been into a dealership lately, you will realize that manufacturers have learned that farmers like to have fun too. These ho-hum work vehicles have had makeovers to improve suspension, boost horsepower and infuse elements to make playtime more enjoyable.
This brings us back full circle. Last week, Max Reid, a member of the Paiute Trail Committee, contacted me about my byline. Of my 43 days on the trail last year, more of those days were in a UTV than on an ATV. “Why,” he asked, “are you lumping UTVs in with ATVs by calling them ATV Adventures?”
He further explained that the committee dropped ATV from the name of their committee (Paiute ATV Trail Committee) because it doesn’t include UTVs. He also told me that the big jamboree held in September is now the Paiute Trail Jamboree because some UTV drivers thought it was a jamboree for ATVs.
I can remember the Tri-State ATV jamboree I attended in Hurricane, when hundreds of ATVs were lined up to start the first day’s ride, when one UTV showed up — what? Now, the ATVs are the exception while ride lists are loaded with UTV drivers.
Some jamborees are changing their names to include both categories by calling them ATV/UTV jamborees. As I come to the close of this article, the thought occurs to me that maybe this isn’t the big issue I thought it was. If both categories are All-Terrain Vehicles, then I am not out of line writing about ATV Adventures.
When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and can you ride on or in a machine and call either one an ATV?