ATV diaries: Conquering the mud

Although certain kinds of ATVs are setup for pushing through deep mud, the technique for getting to the other side remains the same. When crossing obstacles like mud, the biggest risk is getting stuck, which means coming to a stop. Because of this, speed is your friend, although you can hit a mud hole too quickly.

However, hitting the mud with speed will usually give you the momentum to slide over the mud hole and out the other side even if your tires won’t grip much. In some cases, you may want to keep at least one tire on solid terrain, if possible, so that your quad has something it can grip.

Man riding fix quad on a muddy path

You can do this by straddling the ruts and staying on the high ground, or by leaving one tire out of the mud. However, if the mud hole is too deep, you may tip your ATV over into the mud. Massive tread depth and extra-wide lug spacing will help your tires cut through even the thickest clay

Follow these simples guidelines when trying to conquer the mud in your ATV or Quad bike:

  1. Preparation, this is the most important part of getting your ATV/ Quad bike ready for off-roading in the mud for your tires. Unfortunately, stock tires just won’t cut it on this occasion.
  2. Stay cautious.
  3. Shift ahead of time.
  4. Keep the ATV/Quad bike steady.
  5. Count on getting stuck. Don’t think you will never get stuck in the mud. It will happen, it’s about how to get out of it.

Some say that you should stand on your pegs when entering a mud pit so that you are more ready to respond to the uneven terrain. However, keep in mind that you may meet a lot of resistance when you hit the mud, causing you to come to a near-stop very abruptly. If you are standing when this happens, you might go for a dive in the mud. Although standing up may work for some people, you need to be comfortable and balanced enough to be prepared to unseen rocks and roots in the mud, as well as the possibility of a nose dive, or suddenly catching traction with the throttle wide open.

What makes a quad bike or ATV good for driving in mud?

As a rule, four wheelers are fast and powerful. That’s what makes them so fun. But some machines are better suited for mud than others.

Here are some factors to consider if you’re looking for an ATV that’s in its element in pits, bogs, and bounty holes:

  • TORQUE – It takes a powerful Quad Bike / ATV to pull itself through it. The best mud machines deliver maximum torque and horsepower.
  • SETUP – Manufacturers are strategic about designing mud-focused ATVs. High-mounted radiators and shielded components are just a few things that can keep you from flooding your quad.
  • TIRES – It is hard to gain traction when you’re in several inches of sludge. Mud tyres have high tread depth and wide lug spacing to maximize pull.

Check out this overview of our top 3 ATV mud tyres.

  • GROUND CLEARANCE – Four wheelers that are designed for mud tend to have more ground clearance than those intended for trail or dune applications. The higher you are, the easier it is to cross mud pits without getting stuck or hitting a hidden rock.

One mistake that many new riders make is giving their ATV too much gas once they start to lose traction. Once the mud starts to fly, more gas is not always the solution, since flying mud means that your tires aren’t gripping anything solid. Sometimes a tire that is spinning a little slower will grab onto something that it would just grind against with more throttle. This is especially true if you come to a complete stop in the mud. When getting your quad moving again, easy does it, since too much gas means nothing but slinging mud.

However, to get out of most spots after coming to a stop, some wheel spin is necessary, but more wheel speed usually doesn’t mean more traction.

When you get into the mud, keep in mind that the tires with the most weight over them will be the most likely to get traction. So, if your quad is two wheel drive, you will want to keep some of your weight over the back axle, which will drive those rear tires through the slippery mud on the surface and down to something it can grab. Shifting your weight side to side can also help one of your tires get the traction it needs to pull you out of the mud.

Four wheel drive makes short work of a lot of mud that gives two wheel drive quads a lot of trouble, but four wheel drive is by no means an end-all solution for deep mud. Some mud pits may be entirely too deep for a stock setup, and a snorkel kit and exhaust extension may be needed just to ensure that your engine doesn’t suck in a bunch of mud and debris.

Equipping an ATV or Quad Bike for mudding

Let’s say the quad sitting in your garage isn’t what people would consider “good for mudding.” That doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy an all-new machine just to hit up the next bounty hole you see.

There are things you can do to make your ATV handle better in bogs and bounty holes. Here are some ideas:


One of the best things about mud machines is that they’re designed to get buried. If your air intake isn’t strategically placed to minimize the risk of getting swamped, you can always add a snorkel.


Your ATV can have the most mud-focused setup imaginable, but without the right tires to pull it through, you won’t get very far. Massive tread depth and extra-wide lug spacing will help your tires cut through even the thickest clay.


Like we mentioned earlier, clearance is a big part of mudding. The higher you can get off the ground, the more fun your ride is going to be. Adding a lift kit or portal gear lift will make any quad more capable in the mud.


It’s an occupational hazard if you like burying your machine and it happens to the best of us.

For mud this extreme, four wheel drive is a necessity, and a set of aftermarket tires with a more aggressive pattern will also help pull you out of the mud.

No matter what kind of ATV you take through the mud, keep in mind that you may only have one shot at getting through without getting a tow. The more you know about the particular mud hole, the better, but an experienced rider can tell a lot about a mud pit by its looks and how soft the rest of the trail is. However, a hole you can get through one day may swallow your quad after a good rain or may change drastically after other people have ridden through.

The key to conquering mud is keeping cool and having several ways to get your tires to grip instead of slip.

Some good ATVs for mudding


  • ProStar 850 cc 4-stroke twin engine, liquid cooled
  • 29.5” High Lifter Outlaw 2 tires
  • 13.5” ground clearance
  • Starting at $10,199

Polaris, one of the best all-round ATVs on the market, they added specs that make it totally geared toward mud with this High Lifter Edition. It has a front-mounted radiator, routed twin fans to keep everything cool, and high bumpers for extra clearance. Also, the clutch and intakes are shielded to keep mud and water from getting in and the CVT transmission has an extra-low gear to maximize torque.


  • Rotax 976 cc V-twin engine, liquid cooled
  • 30” ITP Cryptid tires
  • 12.5” ground clearance
  • Starting at $15,149

Every part of this thing is designed to ride fast and hard through the messy stuff. The newest models have upgraded tires, a snorkeled engine, and bulletproof underbody protection. A unique locked diff gives you unyielding traction to prevent slippage on softer surfaces.


  • Rotax 976 cc V-twin snorkeled engine, liquid cooled
  • 30” ITP Cryptid tires
  • 13” ground clearance
  • Starting at $14,199

Can-Am takes mud more seriously than anyone else. The Outlander differs from the Renegade in that it’s longer, which gives you even more leverage when churning your way through that wet concrete. It has tall dimensions, a durable wheelbase, and aggressive tires to make every mud-riding experience heck of a lot better.

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