September 15 2004.

As Far Eastern imports take advantage of an unusual road-registration category, the world's largest Quad manufacturer warns against the use of off-road machines on our roads.

Honda UK release:
"Honda invented All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) in 1970 and we account for over 50% of all ATVs in the world. We have a duty to inform the public about the suitability [or not] of riding ATVs on the road," says Jeff Dodds, Head of Marketing Honda (UK) Power Equipment. "Recently in the UK, importers have been taking advantage of an unusual road-registration category to offer an alternative form of road transport and we strongly believe that this is a bad idea for all ATV manufacturers out there.

"We have worked long and hard with the AEA and the HSE to ensure that ATVs are operated in a responsible manner, by qualified operators wearing the correct protective clothing. Seeing leisure machines being marketed as an alternative to a car, is worrying to say the least."

In the UK, ATVs - or quad bikes as they are often referred to - have become indispensable workhorses for agriculture and the land-based industries offering go-anywhere - do-anything capability to a variety of professions from farming, forestry, land management and veterinary work to the armed forces, emergency services and even remote post deliveries for Royal Mail.

"Some of our ATV dealers around the country have told us about an increase in questions from the public about road registration and 'road-legal ATVs'. To avoid confusion in the marketplace we have informed our dealers about our position so that any future enquiries about Honda ATVs can be handled in a consistent and effective manner," added Dodds.

"Honda does not recommend or sell ATVs as a primary means of transport on public highways. Some of Honda's specialist ATV dealer network will register and fit road-legal lighting kits to working ATVs that need to cross or travel along short stretches of public roads to facilitate their work [legally defined as 'limited use']. For instance farm vehicles that need to traverse a public road to get to another field, or local authority machines that are used for roadside maintenance and weed control.

"In the interests of the safety of anyone enquiring about road-legal applications Honda (UK) can only recommend that ATVs are used where they were designed to operate: off road. Our ATVs are the 'Best on Earth' and that's exactly where we'd like to keep them" concluded Dodds.

Honda (UK) does not support the activities of some quad bike importers that register modified machines in the 'Quadricycle' category that allows unlimited access to paved public roads. These importers often market ATVs as a great alternative to cars or motorcycles but quad bikes, in reality, offer the worst of both worlds for travel on Tarmac. For anyone considering buying an ATV for road use, Honda offers the following views:

Misconception: Four wheels make them more stable than a motorcycle
Reality: When stationary maybe. But long suspension travel, low-pressure tyres, knobbly tread and different riding technique all mean that they are not well suited for a smooth hard surface where even normal in-town running speeds are approaching the machine's terminal velocity (Honda has some experience of building motorcycles so you'll have to take our word for this one).

Misconception: A great traffic-busting machine
Reality: Four wheels make ATVs considerably wider than motorcycles so filtering between and past stationary vehicles will be much more difficult. Additionally, a Quad registered as a Car cannot legally use parking spaces designated for Motorcycles.

Misconception: A cheap alternative to a car.
Reality: As they have four wheels, road-registered ATVs have to pay the same amount of Road Fund Licence as a car and in case you were wondering, yes they have to pay the Congestion Charge too. All this without the luxury of a roof, heating, airbags, side and impact protection.

These are the views of Honda UK, which do not necessarily concur with those of the publishers. Motorcycle Trader and QUAD - Trader's soon-to-be-launched sister publication - are taking a keen interest in the debate concerning road-legal quads.
A full report will feature in the first edition of QUAD, in November. In the meantime, Motorcycle Trader continues to function as an industry forum, welcoming opinions from both sides of the argument.
Please send your comments to:

Pictured: Honda's TRX350 - strictly for off-road use only.