Top 10 Honda ATV and UTV Innovations
When we look to the future of off-road we see not only equipment for sport or recreational use but for machines that will serve a purpose to make our lives easier during those hard work days as well as more enjoyable. The engineers at Honda are consistently thinking out of the box to find ways to make these machines fit our needs.
For model year 2014 the Honda ATV and SxS line has more interesting developments, but it is the preceding years of development that made Honda stand out from the crowd. The innovations on the machines we love as well as select models we ride listed below are just a few developments from Honda that resonate with its loyal customers today.
Developed for colder conditions, the built-in heater on Honda carburetors gives the machine better drivability as well as smoother operation in cold climates. The feature warms the fuel for better atomization and more effective combustion in the cylinder. This feature is found on several Honda utility models including the Rincon, Rancher and Foreman ES/S models.
Getting the power to the ground is paramount and losing as little as possible from the engine to the rear tires is something Honda works on daily to maintain good usable power. Shaft-driven machines have several advantages and the most favorable being lower maintenance requirements. The sealed shaft never needs to be tightened and is not subject to the elements like a traditional chain-driven machine.
Honda’s selection of shifting options has grown over the years and become easy enough for most any level of rider. From the manual foot lever shifter to the ESP or Electronic Shift Program, the Honda line of Utility machines are smooth and the use of an electric motor enables riders to choose between gears from a bar mounted pair of buttons. After processing several key elements, an onboard processor disengages the clutch, shifts the transmission and reengages for a seamless up or downshift.
Get onto gas on the Honda Pioneer and you immediately notice the shift program in this UTV. The selection of High or Low is the only thing to worry about unless you should need 4WD. As you increase speed, the transmission shifts like your car or truck would heading down the trail. This feature eliminates typical belt issues and the system is worry free other than the regular fluid change intervals. Sensors reading several variables put the transmission into the proper gearing to maintain as much power to the rear wheels as possible.
Truly redesigning how an ATV handles the multi-use requirements of the outdoors, Honda developed Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) to allow riders better control and comfort. The Honda Rincon uses IRS to not only make riding comfortable but also to give the rider more ground clearance to get over larger obstacles on the trail. The coil over gas charged shocks allow the eight inches of suspension travel to maintain a smooth ride anywhere on the trail.
Twisting the engine sideways in the frame is something that Honda started years ago. The first ATV for Honda to use this feature in was in the 1995 Honda Foreman 400. Longitudinal mounting not only aligns the transmission with the front and rear drivelines but it makes the best use of space and weight centralization for the machine. This gives the rider better seating position and uses fewer parts (45% to be exact) that traditionally were needed to make the transfer of power possible. You will find this feature on models such as the Foreman 450, Recon, Rancher, Rubicon and Rincon.
In the world of chain-driven power sports, one additional innovation that made maintaining the chain tension on your Honda Sport ATV is the eccentric axle adjuster. This round carrier with an off-center hub for the solid axle allows riders to tighten the chain with simple hand tools in a matter of minutes. The swing arm clamps the carrier in place and pinch bolts provide the tension on the swinger to keep it in place once the chain is perfectly tightened. Simply rolling the carrier forward or backwards gives the owner the desired tension.
Getting into the competitive market of SxS is not something Honda has been afraid of. The Big Red was recently shelved for a seemingly lighter, narrower and well-developed machine we now know as the Pioneer. This bright spot of innovation brings not only two-person riding but very competitive pricing as well. Add in the innovative development of the four-door four-seat version of this machine and innovation is at its finest. The seats pop up from the bed for a multiuse vehicle that takes us all in one swoop.
If you could imagine for a moment the most recognized Sport ATV in our industry we think you would have to consider the late eighties and the Honda TRX250R. This two-stroke race machine not only changed the way Honda riders made it to the front of the pack, but for many years in many disciplines of racing the 250R was the machine to have. Many cross country racers swore by its handling and engine performance and others used the machine to get notoriety in the industry. Hundreds of aftermarket companies searched for the combination of handling and performance to try and out gun the 250R, but it would only be a copy. The TRX250R has been one of the most popular trail and track machines put into the market by Honda’s innovative engineers.
You can’t look at Honda’s ATV history without talking about the ATC. From its debut in 1970, the Honda ATC lineage was one of rapid progression. The 1970 US90 (became ATV90 four years later) may have been missing a few creature comforts (like suspension!), but it could fit in the back of a station wagon and pumped out a whopping seven horsepower. By 1981, the ATC250R came with an engine counterbalance, adjustable front and rear suspension and front disc brake. These three-wheelers still have legions of loyal fans and served as the backbone to the Honda ATVs enjoy today.
Honda Pioneer Forum
More by Rick Sosebee