Guide To ATV Tire Tread Patterns: Why Are They Important? | Hunt or Shred

When choosing ATV tires, the tread pattern plays a huge role in your final decision. So, what are tread patterns, and why are they important?

Tire treads are responsible for providing traction on surfaces, which gives you better control of your ride. Whether you are riding on mud, snow, or concrete roads, the most suitable tread patterns provide maximum traction. These treads are symmetrical, asymmetrical, directional, and so on. 

If your tire's tread is too soft or too hard, you probably won't get much traction on any given terrain. Whatever the tire tread type, the combination of its physical attributes determines the duration and quality of the performance.

I have ridden my ATV on numerous terrains over the last decade and lost control a number of times until I understood tread patterns and how each of them helps me keep my tires on the ground. In this article, I will tell you all about the importance of tread patterns and the different tread types.

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Importance of Tread Patterns

An average rider mostly has a general idea about tire treads, what they are, and what tread length is ideal for a given terrain. However, developing a complete understanding of the tread pattern is important if you plan to wander off on different terrains, which can surprise you with multiple surfaces.

The treads are designed in grooves that dig into the pattern of the terrain, so your ATV moves forward while holding its grip on the ground. For example, you can lose control if you are riding on wet terrain and your tire doesn't have a tread design (similar to a formula one car tire), or the treads are not suited for enhanced traction. The water will make room between your tire and the surface, and you will practically be floating, with no control over your bike.

Why Tire Tread Matters

In wet conditions, a well-suited tread pattern will allow the tires to disperse the water in the grooves, and the treads will be able to keep contact with the surface. Tires with minimum tread depth or smooth surfaces are workable on flat grounds like paved or cemented roads. However, since most of the country receives plenty of rain and snow, it's better to have the tires with the required lugs for better control.

Tires losing control over water is called Hydroplaning. There are tires specially designed to minimize the dangers of driving on wet terrains. Generally, these tires have treads and grooves designed in a similar dynamic direction, so the water has channels to pass through when the wheel moves.

For mud trailing or other sports activities that usually consist of riding in mud or sand, tires with a wide tread pattern give you the best kind of performance. The wide lugs spanning across the width of the tires allow them to create a paddle effect that climbs onto the terrain without sinking in. This ensures that you're able to ride at a decent-enough speed without putting too much strain on your ATV's engine.

Those images you see on the internet of ATVs creating rooster trails on the sand behind them surely look like a fun and action-packed moment. However, they usually result from unsuitable tread patterns and do not contribute to better achievements in competitions (unless the competition is about making the longest rooster trails you can with your ATV).

A new tire design is always tested for durability and performance. As the tread pattern plays a vital role in making a satisfactory overall performance, these factors are what make a successful tread test:

  • The balance between forward and side bite
  • Progression of the vehicle
  • Spreading of the lugs

The success of these factors combined balances the traction of your tire's treads. The traction should be balanced as too much traction can affect the ease of driving and can become a factor that negatively impacts your driving experience.

The manufacturing of treads is divided into ratios between the lugs and the spaces between them. These designs are intended to serve different purposes. The extremely wide lugs are designed for the most demanding terrains. Farming in deep and soft mud requires extremely wide lugs. These lugs dramatically decrease your overall speed, but the treads help the tires escape the mud. In the end, you compromise on speed but you ensure that your ATV doesn't sink in the mud.

However, treads start to lose patterns and wear off as you ride your ATV. There is no specific age for the treads to wear off, as it depends on how much you ride your bike, what you use it for, and the duration of your usual rides. If your usual rides range for hours over hours, your treads will most likely wear off a lot earlier as the tires are affected more due to the increased heat.

Continuing to ride your ATV after the treads have worn off below the minimum required levels can be dangerous for you. Once the tread depth is worn below the minimum level, you will start to experience decreased control and ineffective braking. Since ATVs are widely ridden on dangerous trails and rough and wet terrains, losing control is almost inevitable, and this can spell disaster for you when you're out and about.

You will also notice cracks on your tires when they're worn out beyond the manufacturer-specified limit. All ATV experts recommend installing new tires as soon as the treads of your tires wear off.

Types of Tire Tread Pattern

There are four different types of tread patterns and each is intended for different uses and varying terrains.

Directional or Unidirectional

This kind of tread has all lugs heading in the same direction in a typical arrow-shaped display. These are mostly suitable for wet terrains as the tires push back the water when they roll, which flows out through the directional channels. Each tire in the set with directional treads is made specifically for a particular side. The directional tread flows outwards so the water can flow out instead of underneath the vehicle. The treads are designed in V-shape patterns that channel out all the water they can.


The symmetrical pattern has a tread pattern that has treads heading in horizontally opposite directions. These tires have repetitive yet independent treads; however, the length of the tread is not too deep. These treads are rather smooth and intended for easy use, such as riding on paved roads. The symmetrical tread tires are generally cheaper, and since they are not meant for rough use, they last longer and keep your ride silent. You can benefit from the versatility of these tires by rotating them in whichever direction you like, keeping the ride smooth and easy.


The asymmetrical treads have a symmetrical pattern at the base with a twist of a dynamic pattern overlaying on one side, which provides enhanced traction on both wet and dry terrains alike. The middle part of these tires has treads in a directional flow with lower depth.

However, these tread-bearing tires are mostly used for sports purposes. To give riders the best possible performance, the edges of these tires have longer and broader treads to cover maximum ground when turning at high speed. To aid the riders or the person who installed your ATV's tires, the sides come marked with "outside only" and "inside only," so you can benefit from maximum handling. Courtesy of the versatility of the asymmetrical tread patterns, you are not bound to rotate the tires in a certain direction.


These tread patterns offer an all-rounder performance with having the qualities of both directional and asymmetrical tread patterns. The center of the tire is designed with the V-shaped pattern of the directional tread to create outflowing channels when riding on wet terrains. In comparison, the sidewalls of the tires offer a more dynamic pattern to aid in cornering and high-speed handling on dry terrains.

The tires with this tread pattern offer the most balanced traction, which is highly useful on a wide range of terrains. However, you cannot rotate the tires freely in all directions due to the directional tread pattern. If done so, they will wear off quickly and leave you with affected performance on tougher terrains.

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Keeping a check on your tire's condition and its treads is crucial to maintaining performance and riding safely. Moreover, the weather plays a vital part in the durability and performance of your tire treads. Direct and harsh sunlight hardens the rubber of your tire, which can cause the treads not to expand or shrink when required.




23 years old. I work at a motocross store where we specialize in gear, parts, and apparel for ATV and UTV riders.

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