Most, if not all, quads and ATVs come stock with a thumb throttle. But could this style of throttle control be converted to a twist throttle?
And what if it’s technically possible to do this switch? Does that mean it’s a good idea? Are there any significant disadvantages to consider?
These are some of the topics we’ll look into in this post.
You can convert most quads that use a standard throttle cable to a twist throttle using a twist throttle conversion kit. However, this is generally not advised for most riders because of safety concerns. Additionally, for ATVs that use an electrical drive-by-wire system, twist-throttle conversion kits are not commonly available.
To know whether your specific ATV can be retrofitted with a twist throttle, you first must determine whether it’s mechanically possible. And before you go ahead and make the swap, it’s a good idea to learn about the downsides. After all, it’s likely not by chance that none of the major ATV manufacturers offer twist throttles as an option.
What is a Thumb Throttle?
A thumb throttle is a type of control mechanism commonly used on ATVs and some other off-road vehicles.
It operates by pressing a lever with the thumb to regulate the engine’s power output, providing precise and comfortable speed control.
This design allows riders to maintain a firm grip on the handlebars while adjusting speed, enhancing stability and control during rides.
Check out this post to learn more about why ATVs use thumb throttles and why they’re the preferred alternative over twist throttles.
What is a Twist Throttle?
In contrast, a twist throttle is similar to those found on most motorcycles. The rider must twist a grip integrated with the handlebar to control the engine’s power.
This setup offers a more intuitive and natural motion for speed adjustment, but it may require a firmer grip and can be tiring on long rides.
How ATV Riding Style Is Different From Motorcycles
Understanding the operational differences between ATVs and motorcycles is essential, as these differences significantly impact throttle control and design. Motorcycles and ATVs both utilize handlebars, but their riding styles are vastly different:
- Weight Shifting: Motorcycle riders lean with the bike, while ATV riders shift their weight to balance the vehicle in rough terrain.
- Steering Mechanics: Motorcycles use minimal handlebar movement and countersteering at high speeds (turning the handlebars in the opposite direction of the turn), whereas ATVs require more extensive use of handlebars and direct steering (turning the handlebars in the direction of the turn).
- Riding Posture: Motorcycle riders are usually seated and use handlebars primarily for steering. In contrast, ATV riding demands a more active style, with riders relying on handlebars for stability and to prevent falling off, especially in challenging terrain.
These fundamental differences in riding mechanics and styles necessitate distinct throttle input designs for ATVs and motorcycles, influencing the preference for thumb throttles over twist throttles on ATVs.
Advantages of Twist Throttle on an ATV
Installing a twist throttle on an ATV primarily aims to reduce thumb fatigue, a concern that becomes more prominent during specific riding conditions and for certain riders:
- Endurance Racing and Long Rides: For riders participating in endurance racing or those who enjoy full-day trail rides, thumb fatigue can be a real issue. Continuously using a thumb throttle over extended periods can be taxing, even for seasoned riders.
- Transition from Motorcycles or Dirt Bikes: Riders accustomed to motorcycles or dirt bikes might find the switch from a twist throttle to a thumb throttle challenging. It can feel awkward initially and requires time to retrain muscle memory to adapt to the new control style.
For most ATV riders, thumb fatigue is rarely a problem, especially on shorter rides. In these cases, the safety benefits of a thumb throttle outweigh the convenience of a twist throttle.
Ultimately, adapting to a thumb throttle, despite initial discomfort, is generally advisable for long-term safety and control rather than switching to a twist throttle out of habit or comfort.
Disadvantages of Twist Throttle on an ATV
When considering installing an aftermarket twist throttle on your ATV, it’s crucial to understand the associated risks. The disadvantages of using a twist throttle on an ATV include:
- Poorer Throttle Control: In rugged terrain, where shifting weight is essential, a twist throttle may offer less precise control than a thumb throttle.
- Risk of Unintended Acceleration: Turning the handlebars can inadvertently change throttle input with a twist throttle, leading to unintended acceleration or deceleration.
- Increased Risk of “Whiskey Throttle”: This phenomenon occurs when a rider is startled or jolted, unintentionally giving more gas with a twist throttle, potentially leading to loss of control.
- Challenges Maintaining a Firm Grip: An active riding style, especially in rough terrain, requires a firm grip on the handlebars. Unlike a twist throttle, a thumb throttle allows maintaining this grip without accidentally altering throttle input.
Installing a Twist Throttle on ATVs With a Throttle Cable
An ATV typically utilizes one of two main methods to translate the rider’s throttle input into acceleration or deceleration:
- Drive-by-Cable: This traditional method connects the throttle control directly to the throttle body or carburetor with a physical cable. When the rider adjusts the throttle, the cable mechanically opens or closes the throttle body, controlling the engine’s speed.
- Drive-by-Wire: This modern approach uses electronic sensors and actuators instead of a physical cable. The rider’s throttle inputs are sent as electronic signals to the engine’s control unit, which then adjusts the throttle electronically, allowing for more precise control and often incorporating additional features like traction control.
Most carbureted ATVs use a mechanical drive-by-cable. The same applies to some fuel-injected models as well. It’s the cheapest alternative and is commonly found on older bikes, youth models, and even new ATVs in the lower end of the price range.
If you’re unsure whether your bike uses drive-by-cable or drive-by-wire, look for a black wire sleeve that runs from the handlebars to the throttle body.
To convert from a thumb throttle to a twist throttle, you’ll need to replace the current thumb throttle assembly with a twist throttle assembly. You will also need to replace the throttle cable with a slightly longer one most of the time.
In any case, you’ll need to ensure the kit fits the diameter of your bike’s handlebars and has a suitable throttle cable length.
Before you begin the installation, you must prepare all the necessary parts and tools.
How to install a twist throttle on an ATV
- Remove the handlebar grip
- Remove the thumb throttle assembly
- Remove the throttle cable
- Install the twist throttle assembly
- Install the throttle cable
- Reinstall the handlebar grips
- Adjust the idle
You’ll need to remove the handlebar grips to install the twist-throttle kit. Here is an excellent way of removing the grips without cutting them.
Why You Can’t Install a Twist Throttle on Ride-by-Wire ATVs
In ATVs equipped with a drive-by-wire system, the handlebars are not physically connected to the throttle housing.
A sensor continuously registers the throttle lever position and sends an electrical signal to a servo motor. The servo controls how far the throttle blade opens up.
In theory, there is no reason why a twist throttle shouldn’t work in a drive-by-wire system similar to how a thumb throttle operates. However, the sensor design makes making a proper conversion kit much harder.
I’m sure if there were a real market for twist throttles on ATVs, various aftermarket manufacturers would try to design a functioning kit. But since that’s not the case, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bolt-on twist-throttle conversion kit for your drive-by-wire ATV.
How Much Does Installing a Twist Throttle Cost?
Twist-throttle kits for quads and ATVs typically range from $50$ to $150 depending on complexity, materials (plastic vs. aluminum), and overall build quality.
Can You Install a Twist Throttle Without Modifying the ATV?
If you’re unsure about choosing a twist throttle but want to try one, consider testing the “Handy Throttle” by Kolpin.
The kit includes a small lever that presses on the bike’s stock thumb throttle as you twist the throttle.
It may not be the most elegant solution, but it may be worth checking out if your ATV is a drive-by-wire or you don’t find a conversion kit that fits.
In summary, converting your ATV from a thumb throttle to a twist throttle is possible but comes with significant safety considerations. Before making such a change, it’s essential to understand the impact on your vehicle’s control and the inherent risks involved.