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ATVs: Solid Axle vs Independent Rear Suspension


Guest blogger James Parker talks about the different types of quad suspensions.

Our family upgraded from a Kawasaki Prairie 400 with a solid rear axle to a Polaris Sportsman with an independent rear suspension. When we purchased the Kawasaki, we preferred independent rear suspension, but we found a good deal on the solid rear axle, so we decided that we would make this our "intro to ATVs" vehicle. We’ve since become regular ATV riders, so the upgrade was necessary.

Each axle type has advantages and disadvantages, so let's break it down. 

Solid Rear Axle

Advantage: A solid pipe connects both rear wheels meaning fewer moving parts, which lessens the potential for breakage. The rear end of the Prairie didn't require maintenance beyond regular inspection. 

Disadvantage: Both tires are connected, so when one tire crawls over a large obstacle, its opposite is affected. If the right tire raises to go over an obstacle, the left tips on its outside edge. This doesn't harm the vehicle but does impact rider comfort. 

independent rear axle

Independent Rear Suspension

Advantage: When one tire crawls over a rock, the meat of the other maintains contact on the trail, creating a smoother ride over rough terrain. For those with back problems, this is a bit easier on the bones and joints. 

Disadvantage: More moving parts could potentially lead to mechanical problems, but with regular inspection and maintenance, it shouldn't be a large issue. 

Which to Pick?

Your needs determine which style is best. If you're more of a flat surface rider, solid axle suspension is a good consideration. If you'll be experiencing varied terrain, go with the independent rear suspension. My wife is a big fan; she's been over logs, hills, whoops and other obstacles with far less discomfort. Choose the best fit for your lifestyle, and as always, be safe and enjoy your ride. 

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