You see it all the time, the mention of a “cc” but you’re not sure what it means or how it applies in the context of your ATV. it’s got something to do with the engine, you know that much, but why should you care and why should you take a cc into account when looking for your first (or next) ATV? I’ll go over the ATV cc meaning in this post along with how many cc’s you should go with depending on your size and riding experience. Let’s discuss.
What is the meaning of a cc?
A “cc” stands for cubic centimeter (cm³ or liter) and represents engine displacement or the amount of volume found in all the cylinders of an engine as the piston inside a cylinder goes from Top Dead Center (TDC) to Bottom Dead Center (BDC). It sounds like a lot but in other terms, it’s a measurement for the maximum amount of volume (either liquid or gas) that can fit inside the engine while the pistons are doing their thing (technical, I know).
How is an ATV’s cc calculated?
There is a straightforward formula used to derive the cc, or displacement, of an ATV engine. There are three main factors that determine the displacement: the bore (diameter of the cylinder) , stoke (distance the piston travels) and the number of cylinders (usually either one or two).
Here is what the formula looks like: engine displacement = ((π/4)(bore²))(stroke)(# of cylinders)
Watch this extremely thrilling video of engine displacement (really, it’s boring but illustrates the point)
So why is displacement important?
Displacement isn’t the sole determining factor in how powerful of an engine you have, but it plays an extremely large role in it. As the volume in the cylinder increases from BDC (bottom dead center) to TDC (top dead center), your engine is taking in more air/fuel mixture that will then be combusted through the use of the spark plug and turned into energy when the piston explosively transfers that energy to the axles. There’s a lot going on there, i know, but the take-away is that as more air is allowed into the engine, it also allows more fuel, which in turn means more power.
it’s also important to note that more fuel means more fuel consumption so there is definitely a balance that manufacturers have to strike when designing their engines. It is in no ones best interest to make engines too fuel efficient because they would likely have very little horsepower, but it would also be imprudent to design and manufacture such large ATV engines because fuel consumption would be too great and the power would present a real danger to 4 wheel riders. Again, there’s a delicate balance that needs to be met.
How many cc’s should my ATV have?
Again, there isn’t exactly a cookie-cutter response I can give you, there are several variables you’ll want to consider including your age, size, weight, experience level, purpose for riding, maturity level, risk tolerance and if you’re willing to grow into a certain engine size.
That being said, here are some different types of quads and the cc range they usually carry:
Youth ATV – as the name indicates, these are for entry level riders. Most of these riders are 8+ years of age and this is the very first quad that they’ve driven. These are much smaller and lighter versions of the standard quads and their output can be controlled by means of a governor. These vehicles are typically starting as low as 50cc and do not exceed 150cc.
Utility ATV – these types of vehicles are designed to perform heavy work related functions and have the ability to haul heavier objects. Riders of this equipment generally have land that needs tending and attachments are usually added for hauling, carrying, transporting, or farming purposes. Utility ATVs usually have a cc range of 450 on up to 1,000 depending on how powerful you need it. You may find models with lower displacement ratings and not too many people need the power of 1,000 cc either. Most would find a 500-600 cc engine to have more than enough power.
Sport ATV – are those that you’ll see which are suited up for racing more so than utility work. They have different frames that more aerodynamic and they will have different tires which aren’t as heavy duty. The tires on sport ATVs are fatter and the tread is meant to be more gripping to the ground. They are probably going to carry many aftermarket parts such as exhaust, shocks and struts, tires, suspension, etc. Since these appeal to a larger audience, the cc range is also larger and can go anywhere from 85cc to 1000cc as well (though less common).
Side by Side ATV – as you could imagine, this is where two riders sit side by side to each other. They come in different styles depending on what the need is, but you can expect to see them as a sports version, a utility version and also as a standard all purpose/recreation model. Keep in mind that the other 4 wheelers were really designed to carry one person and the side by side is designed for at least two people, for that reason, the minimum cc benchmark will be higher. These can usually be found with at least 700 cc and going all the way up to 1,000 cc.
Now that you’ve got the ATV cc meaning down and you have a starting point for what you can expect to see, depending on the need you have, go out and see what’s available. After you’ve done your homework, you may find that getting a pre-owned ATV is the way in to your first 4 wheeler (which is absolutely fine and probably the most common way people get introduced to riding). As you become a more experienced rider and narrow in on what type of quad is right for you, your next purchase will definitely be a better fit. Remember, nothing is permanent and if you decide that the one you just purchased isn’t for you, you can always trade it out. You won’t be out much money (if anything at all) if you purchased pre-owned. Enjoy the journey!