Thumb Vs. Twist Throttle On An ATV: Which Is Better? | Hunt or Shred

The throttle you use can heavily impact your ATV riding experience with varying control attributes. So which is better – thumb or twist throttle?

While the twist throttle had a monopoly on four-wheelers a decade ago, thumb throttles have become increasingly popular over the years. Thumb throttle has become a standard as it allows better overall control over the speed and handling of your ride. 

Most two-wheeler riders are used to twisting throttles, and to their surprise, they find that thumb throttles ease their fatigue if they ride often. Thumb throttles allow you to shift your weight while keeping control over the speed. Inexperienced riders, as a result, find it more convenient to navigate with thumb throttles. This explains why they have become the standard.

As I have ridden ATVs with twist throttle all my life, I was reluctant to move to a thumb throttle initially. However, after using both, I feel I would like to share my experience with you to help you decide which is better.

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Why Is Thumb Throttle Preferred Over Twist Throttle?

As we have mentioned earlier, thumb throttles are the standardized throttle option of the two, and there are several reasons why they are considered better for four-wheelers. These include safety concerns, better navigation, and ease of learning for inexperienced riders.

Makes It Easier to Navigate Your ATV

ATVs are popularly used for sports and racing activities, including riding on uneven and bumpy terrains. Therefore, control and navigation are important factors to consider when maneuvering on dangerous terrains at varying angles.

Sports riders often ride on mud trails or paved tracks, which requires them to shift their body weight. When riding on elevated land or flying across one jump to another, they need to lean in or stretch out to keep control as they move forward. In comparison, riding on rocky terrains during farming or in the woods requires a firm grip.

The thumb throttle helps in both conditions. It helps you shift your body weight as it frees most of your arm, and you can navigate while only stretching out your thumb.

Moreover, you will need to have control over your bike’s speed when you’re riding on relatively dangerous paths. You will most likely lean towards either side when turning at high speed. Hence, you must maintain contact with the throttle without falling over.

With thumb throttles, you minimize the chance of accidentally increasing the throttle spin when losing control. You only need to maintain contact with the throttle to speed up. When making a turn, simply let go of the throttle, and you will still be able to navigate your ride with the handle.

On the other hand, with twist throttles, you risk accidentally increasing the speed when taking sharp turns in an attempt to hold on to the ATV and crash in.

You will experience significantly better control over the navigation and speed of your ATV while hitting sharp turns and steep terrains with the thumb throttle.

Whiskey Throttle

Whiskey throttle refers to a situation when you lose control over the throttle while sliding back. As mentioned earlier, you can lose control of your ATV’s speed by accidentally spinning the throttle too much while making a turn. This is especially true for new riders and they tend to panic and twist the throttle on instinct.

When the rider picks up speed from zero, they can spin too much throttle due to inexperience, making them lean farther away from the handlebar. They grip the handle even tighter and can accidentally pull the throttle even more to keep control. While the visual can be funny in videos, it can cause fatal injuries, depending on the force you crash with and the object you crash into.

In comparison, a rider can remove their thumb from the thumb throttle if pressed too hard. Even while making jumps on the tracks, you can easily let go of the throttle and still keep control over the direction of the ATV, which can save you from unwanted crashes.

Increased Safety

You might be wondering how such a tiny digit, the size of your thumb, can result in increased safety while riding an ATV. We explained above how you can easily navigate and control the speed of your ATV with the thumb throttle. With a twist throttle, you run the risk of twisting too much or at the wrong time, which can lead to a crash.

Luckily, manufacturing companies constantly look for ways to improve safety for riders while they’re riding their ATVs.

In addition to the benefits of thumb throttle mentioned above, it helps the rider maintain focus on the path and their goal. This is contrary to the twist throttle, where riders can get confused and spend more time figuring out the right force to spin the throttle. In most cases, inexperienced riders find it hard to lose the spin and make a turn simultaneously, which results in many accidents every year.

Required by Local Laws and Legislations

Manufacturers are not the only ones realizing the need for safer throttle options in ATVs. Local governing bodies and even some states have taken into account the safety hazards of thumbs and twist throttles.

Laws have been passed in different states for ATVs to be manufactured with or converted to thumb throttles. Therefore, this weighs heavily in favor of thumb throttles regarding safety and preferences.

How Does the Thumb Throttle Work?

We have established the differences between the two throttles and how the thumb throttle is advantageous over the twist throttle. However, knowing how the thumb throttle works is important if you want to make the most out of it.

The thumb throttle is a relatively smaller part as compared to the twist throttle. It is generally mounted on the right side of the ATV handlebar, aligned with the edge of your palm so your thumb can reach it easily. Like the twist throttle, the force with which the throttle is pressed depends entirely on the rider and their desire to maintain a certain speed.

Generally, throttles are mounted on the right side, as the majority of the people are right-handed. Even left-handed people prefer to have it on the right side because they are used to the twist throttles of their older ATVs or two-wheelers. However, there’s no rule that stops you from mounting the throttle on either side, so go with whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

Whether it is the thumb or the twist throttle, their mechanical function remains the same.

The speed of your ATV varies with the force with which you press or spin the throttle. The more the throttle is in action, the more air and fuel will flow into your engine, thus increasing the speed.

Other than speed, the acceleration of the ATV also depends on how you press or spin the throttle. The faster you do it, the faster your ATV will pick up speed. That said, you should try to engage the throttle with the right amount of force to make the most of your acceleration. This will also ensure that you don’t overwork the engine.

What If the Thumb Throttle Doesn’t Suit Your Needs?

First of all, you don’t need to stress about it. It’s totally fine if you are one of those people who find twist throttles better than thumb throttles. Most people who prefer twist throttles – despite all of their shortcomings – are the ones who experience fatigue in their hands, which can occur with thumb throttles.

Although fatigue can be helped with a change in posture while riding or thumb throttle extensions, most riders stay loyal to their preferences. Other people simply prefer the twist throttle because they are comfortable with it and like the thrill.

However, I sincerely advise all riders to consider both options thoroughly before choosing to go with the twist throttle simply because they are comfortable with it. Especially for new riders, you can start your beautiful ATV riding journey with thumb throttles and benefit from it by learning to ride quickly and safely.

How Can I Install a Twist Throttle on My ATV?

It’s all about personal preference in the end, and if you are buying an ATV, you can get one with a twist throttle or convert your ATV’s thumb throttle to the former. However, if you choose to convert to a twist throttle, make sure that your ATV does not have an electronic fuel injection system.

Most new models are factory installed with thumb throttles connected with the electronic fuel injection system. If your ATV is an older model, you will not face this issue and can most likely convert the throttle as you wish.

You can get an aftermarket twist throttle conversion kit to convert your thumb throttle to twist. The Kolpin 98020 Handy Kit is cheap and easy to install. Many similar options are available, and they do not require much effort or investment to mount. They simply slide over your existing thumb throttle, and they do the pressing of the throttle as you spin them.

The thrill of the twist throttle is undoubtedly a missing factor in the thumb variant, and you are more likely to get fatigued from the latter. However, the thumb throttle has a greater advantage of easy navigation, increased safety, and control over speed, which is why it is majorly preferred.




29 years old. I'm from Texas. I've been riding ATV's for the last couple years here in TX. I'm learning a lot about this hobby right along side you.

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