How Does ATV Beadlocks Actually Work?

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Learn More

When you’re out playing with your ATV in the mud, a tire de-beading from the rim will put a quick stop to your weekend fun.

Ordinary wheels rely on tire pressure to keep the tire seated on the rim. But when you are in the mud, you need all the traction you can get.

And as you probably know, your traction, as well as flotation, will improve drastically when you drop the pressure in the tires down to almost nothing.

The problem with this as it increases the risk of your tire de-beading as well. The solution to this problem is upgrading to Beadlock wheels.

But how does ATV beadlocks work? ATV beadlocks work by clamping the bead of the tire to the wheel. The tire bead is placed between an inner ring welded to the rim and an outer clamp ring. Both of which span the whole circumstance of the wheel. Many small bolts are used to force the two rings together, sandwiching the tire securely in place.

This will prevent the tire from dismounting or spinning on the wheel when you ride with lower tire pressures for better traction.

So what’s the problem with running low tire pressure on conventional wheels?

For most ATV riding, you will be perfectly fine, even if you drop the tire pressure on your stock wheels.

Most ATV tires’ walls are quite stiff, so that they will hold up quite well even with no air in the tire.

At the same time, an ATV is relatively lightweight compared to, let’s say, a Jeep. So for ordinary, “light” off-road riding, you should have no issues.

But as soon as you go a bit more extreme, where you land big jumps or hit rocks and stumps on the sides of the tires, they may not manage to keep the tire in place.

Because as I mentioned, an ordinary wheel relies on air pressure to hold the tire in place on the wheel. The air forces the tire to the outside lip of the wheel, making an airtight seal.

The friction between the tire and the rim, caused by the air pressure forcing the two together, prevents the tire from spinning on the rim when you apply throttle or brake.

When the pressure drops, there will be less force keeping this seal airtight. Therefore, it will require significantly less of an impact to break the seal and dismount the tire from the wheel.

Benefits and purpose of using a bead lock rim on an ATV

The beadlock wheels come with some extreme benefits, as well as some rather extreme disadvantages. Make sure you consider all of them up against what kind of riding you plan on doing before you run over to the store with your hard-earned cash.

Off-road riding benefits with beadlocks

Most off-road applications like riding in mud, sand, snow, or even rocky terrains can benefit a lot from deflating the tires. It’s in situations like these is where beadlocks come to shine.

These wheels do not rely on air pressure to function as the locking rings mechanically hold the tires. You get the benefits of a deflated tire without the added risk of it dismounting from the wheel.

The lower air pressure will increase the tire’s footprint (the area touching the ground), creating both better traction and flotation in the slippery mud or snow.

And when rock-crawling, you also benefit from the sidewall becoming more pliable. This lessens the chance of a sharp rock puncturing the tire’s sidewall as it will rather flex around the rock.

Additionally, you get the bonus of a more comfortable ride when riding on rough terrain. The tires will act more like balloons or bouncing balls as they soak up most of the small bumps and humps you run over.

This is only at low speeds tho. Running with little air pressure at high speeds can be downright dangerous as the bike is dancing around.

Quad racing with beadlocks

In quad racing, beadlocks are often used to keep the tire in place when landing huge jumps and to keep it from spinning during hard acceleration or deceleration.

beadlock quad racing
Beadlocks have their place in quad racing.

Drag-racing with beadlocks

People in the drag-racing scene are also often seen using beadlocks. However, these riders do not use them because they need to run with low pressure in the tires.

They mainly use them to prevent the tire from spinning on the wheel when the clutch is dropped, and the bike sets into extreme acceleration.

When the engine horsepower gets 2-3 times higher than stock, the air pressure alone is not enough to prevent the tire from spinning on the wheel, even when using higher air pressure levels.

The beadlock will take up some of the hp because of its added weight, but the benefit of getting all of the power down to the ground is what matters in this game.

Beadlocks for the looks

And then, finally, there is the aesthetic aspect of things. Many riders consider getting these wheels simply because they look so friggin’ cool, without actually needing them for any practical purpose.

beadlock racing 2
Aside from functionality, they sure make the wheel pop!

And hey, who am I to judge. Beadlock do lock quite trick, even though looks were probably not what the original inventors had in mind.

That’s why the market of beadlock “look-alike” rims has exploded lately. These wheels have the characteristic outer ring with all the small bolts but do not feature the possibility to clamp the bead in place (locking the bead – hence the name; beadlocks).

And what about the Disadvantages?

So why is not everyone just using beadlock rims then? Well, they do come with some pretty bad downsides, making them not the best option for all riders.

Let’s have a quick look at the most important ones so you can decide if they are something for you after all.

Additional cost

Getting a set will set you back quite a bit more than ordinary rims. The added complexity of manufacturing them combined with a lesser market do put them in the higher price range.

You should expect to pay anything from 1 1/2 to 2 times the price of a conventional set.

Added weight

The added weight is not always a downside, but you should know that these wheels generally weigh quite a bit more than conventional wheels.

The inner and outer ring combined, plus the small pile of bolts, will add up quite a bit.

The added weight will affect acceleration, deceleration, and general handling of your ATV. It will also put additional strain and wear on the different components of the undercarriage of the bike.

Unbalanced wheel

Properly balancing a beadlock wheel is close to impossible, even when the wheels are brand new. You may manage to get them decent, but some vibration is to be expected in any case.

You will also get dirt trapped between and behind the locking rings as you ride, making the ATV pretty much useless on the trails where speeds are higher. The whole bike will vibrate increasingly more violent as you catch speed.

To get the balancing back to an acceptable level, you may need to completely dismount the tire from the wheel for a thorough cleaning before you put it all together again.

Remember to use the specified torque when tightening the bolts on the locking ring. This is crucial to get a good result and a mistake that many new beadlock owners have to learn the hard way.

Related: Do You, Can You, and Should You Balance ATV Tires? Best Way?

Beadlocks maintenance

Beadlocks do require more maintenance than conventional rims.

Except for cleaning when things get stuffed with debris, you need to make sure the locking bolts are properly tightened to the specified torque at all times. Ideally, you should go over each wheel before every other time you go out to ride.

Failing to do so will result in bolts coming loose and falling off, one by one.

If you lose more than a few bolts, the tire may actually come undone, creating a potentially hazardous situation if this happens at higher speeds.

Different types of beadlock wheels

There are many different variations of the beadlock wheel available on the market today. The most common type is where locking rings are fitted to only the outside of the wheel.

how does atv beadlocks work
Typical ATV beadlock wheels.

This is because the outside bead of the tire is much more prone to involuntary de-beading than the bead on the inside.

For the most extreme applications, you can also get beadlocks that feature locking rings on the outside and inside the wheel.

This makes for a practically bulletproof setup, but you do run disadvantages like additional weight, cost, and maintenance. Also, these dual-sided beadlocks are quite a bit harder to mount than the one-sided type.

beadlock racing

For ATV’s the beadlock wheels typically run in the range from 10-16″, where 14″ is most common. For quad racing, the smaller size wheel and tires are typically preferred.

If you’re in the market for new beadlocks, you should look for a set where the bolt heads are lowered into the ring as this greatly reduces the risk of knocking off boltheads when hitting rocks, etc.

The ring thickness is also a good indicator of the quality of the set you’re looking at. A thicker ring will handle more brutal impacts and are less prone to wearing down prematurely.

Related: Are ATV Tires Tubeless? Tubes vs. Tubeless (Pros and Cons)

You Might Also Like

Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok
I'm an ATV and offroad-enthusiast, an engineer, a farmer, and an avid home-mechanic. I'm also the owner and editor of If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, please feel free to contact me.

Welcome to BoostATV

Hi, I’m Haavard, the guy behind Boost ATV.  I made this site to share what I have learned as an avid ATV owner and enthusiast. I hope it will help boost your ATV experience! Learn More