UTV Offroad Glossary

UTV Offroad Glossary

We've all been there. You're talking to an offroad friend and they use a word or phrase you've heard before but never grasped the full meaning. We've got you covered with The Source - UTV Offroad Glossary.


Our UTV Offroad Glossary is your unofficial guide to terminology and phrases commonly used in the offroad industry. Some of the examples below may be regional but why not learn what the folks across the country say for the same issue, obstacle or solution.

General Offroad

This is the maximum angle of clearance a vehicle has when climbing a hill or approaching another obstacle. It’s the angle between the ground and the line drawn between the front tire and the lowest-hanging part of the vehicle (often the bumper). Approach angles can be improved with lift kits or portals which dramatically increase ride height. Approach angle is very important to consider while rock crawling or determining whether your UTV is able to clear an obstacle. If you exceed the approach angle, it almost always causes damage to your vehicle.

Articulation or “flex” is a term that applies to how much vertical movement the axle and wheel have on off-road vehicles. It is often referred to as “wheel travel”. The more articulation your vehicle has, the better at rock crawling it will be because the wheels have more up and down motion. A suspension's capacity to combine compression ("bump") and droop on one axle over uneven terrain is the best definition of articulation. If your vehicle body remains generally level while the axles work at extreme angles to navigate uneven ground, you have incredible articulation.

Body Roll is a tendency of a vehicle's body and chassis to lean toward the outside of a turn as the result of cornering forces. Speed, ride height and weight factor into the amount of body roll a vehicle experiences while in motion.

Breakover Angle is the degree of slope that defines the largest ramp or hill that a vehicle can travel over without scraping its midsection between front and rear wheels against the ground. This is the maximum angle or degree of apex a vehicle can drive over with one forward wheel and one rear wheel touching the ground without getting high-centered (stuck) on an obstacle.

Bump Steer is a situation in which the steering jerks hard to the right or left when a vehicle encounters a bump or hole on trail. Drivers commonly over-correct steering after a bump steer, which can be jarring at high speeds.

The best way to prevent bump steers is to always have two hands on the steering wheel at all times to reduce jerking motion.

Like approach angle, a vehicle's Departure Angle is the maximum angle of clearance on a vehicle when exiting an obstacle or descending a hill. It is defined as the angle between the ground and the line drawn between the rear tire and the lowest-hanging part of a vehicle (often the bumper).

Ground Clearance is often looked at as a simple problem with an easy solution but just "lifting" your vehicle.  Defined as the amount of space between the lowest part of the vehicle and the ground, vehicles with higher ground clearance are less likely to get hung up on obstacles like tree trunks, boulders, and even small to medium sized rocks while on trail. Lifting a vehicle can improve ground clearance, as can fitting larger tires. The off-road vehicles with the best ground clearance are usually the ones with a professionally installed suspension lift kit. 

Picking a line means the path suggested by a spotter or the driver of the vehicle was determined to be the best route to proceed on. Choosing the right line can mean the difference between success and failure and most offroad enthusiasts needs years of experience to pick an appropriate line for each obstacle. Choosing the right line is essential to successful Offroading.

If you have a spotter, consider that they have may have a different or in most cases better line than you originally planned.

Off-Camber refers to a situation while off-roading where the vehicle is sideways on an incline, increasing the likelihood of a rollover. Drivers rarely like to stay off-camber for long periods of time, for obvious reasons 😬

Rock Massaging is vehicle body damage caused by rocks and other obstacles on the trail.

Slickrock is a type of sandstone dominant in the world famous off-road areas of Utah like Moab and Sand Hollow State Park. When dry, slickrock provides excellent traction. Add moisture into the recipe and slickrock can be one of the most difficult terrains to traverse without the right tires and recovery gear.

Sway bars are critical as they assist in helping manage your vehicle’s body roll, particularly while cornering at high speeds. As one side of a vehicle rolls during cornering, one side of the suspension will compress more than the other. The sway bar’s job is to offer more resistance to the inside tire while also compressing the other side so that the vehicle has less body roll. This will even out the weight distribution of the vehicle, which improves handling while cornering.

Most rock crawling vehicles opt to remove the sway bar altogether however If you plan to drive at high speeds, a sway bar is highly recommended for the safety of you and your passengers. Quick disconnect accessories are available which allow you to easily disconnect and reconnect the sway bar when needed.

Trail Boss is the leader of a trail ride. The trail boss is a very experienced driver and typically helps spot lines after completing an obstacle.

Wheel / Tires

Wheel backspacing is the measurement from the hub mounting surface of the wheel to the outermost edge of the wheel "lip". Backspacing is typically measured in inches while Offset is measured in millimeters. More backspacing means the wheel will be pulled in closer to the suspension. Less backspacing means the wheel is pushed out away from the suspension. Generally speaking, when comparing if your new wheels will fit comparable to your OEM wheels (factory), less backspacing means your wheels will stick out more than stock.

The tire bead is the term used for the edge of a tire where the rubber makes direct contact with the wheel. The tire bead is a super stiff loop of coated steel wires that are tightly wound to exert pressure on the outer lining of the tire. The function of a tire’s bead is to firmly adhere the tire to the outer surface of the wheel. It does this by using pressure from the wires to mold the rubber to the wheel’s frame. The bead forms an airtight seal against the wheel and allows for a more efficient transfer of forces as the vehicle moves. 

The rubber compound that surrounds the tire bead reduces the flexibility of the wires and deflects damaging forces, especially in harsh environments like rock crawling or hard turns under speed.

A beadlock or bead lock wheel secures the bead of a tire to the wheel of a vehicle using a specialized wheel, beadlock ring, and hardened bolts/washers. Tires and wheels are designed so that when the tire is inflated, the tire pressure pushes the bead of the tire against the inside of the wheel rim so that the tire stays on the wheel and the two rotate together. A beadlock wheel assembly pinches the tire bead between the wheel and beadlock ring while the bolts hold in place. Routine maintenance is required to ensure beadlock wheels remain safe and functional.

Beadlock wheels are easy to distinguish from traditional one-piece wheels because of the decorative ring with bolts around the circumference of the wheel.

The main benefits from utilizing beadlock wheels is improved reliability / safety, while also allowing users to air down tire to a much lower pressures. Lower air pressure increases the surface area of the tire's contact patch (tread) and maximizes traction especially while Rock Crawling.

Products made from billet aluminum are machined from a single piece of high quality aluminum, not from traditional casting process. Billet aluminum offers many improved characteristics over casting including reduced weight, improved strength, increased reliability and added safety.

Learn why forged products can improve your performance - What is Rotary Forged

Camber refers to the tilt of the tires toward or away from the center of the vehicle, relative to vertical. When the top of the tire leans out the camber is positive; if the tire leans inward, camber is negative. Improper camber can reduce tire life by unevenly wearing tread posing performance and safety issues.

A tire's Contact Patch is the center part of a tire tread that is in contact with the terrain when in motion.

High performance tires have varying contact patches depending on the specific terrain. Rock crawling tires and rear sand/dune tires utilize low tire pressure which allows maximum contact patch surface area. Front sand/dune tires have very small contact patch tread designs, reducing drag and increasing float.

A Directional Tire is any tire with an asymmetrical tread that is designed to produce traction when rotating in one direction only. A classic example of this is seen in the mud tire market as users want water, mud, debris quickly ejected from tire tread. When purchasing directional tires, buyers must ensure wheels are mounted correctly as driver/passenger side of vehicle will require wheels to go opposite directions.

Hook Up doesn't include your Ex, it simply refers to gaining traction, primarily used with tires. Examples of use below.

Rock Crawling: When tires spin on obstacles, they heat up, allowing the rubber compound to hook up better with terrain as it gets softer.

Sand/Dunes: Paddles tires hook up with terrain better than standard tires as Paddles grab and hook into sand to help propel UTV forward.

Mud: Tires with the right balance of lug depth/wash out points will hook up in the mud better than standard A/T tires.

Meats is slang for extra-large off-road tires like the Valor Offroad Alpha. Also referred to in slang as shoes.

The offset of a wheel is calculated by measuring the distance between the centerline and the hub mounting surface (back of the wheel face). It is measured in millimeters.  

Offset plays a big part in how a wheel looks. Wheels that have a low or negative offset often make the surface of the wheel more concave and, depending on how aggressive the wheel is, create a deep lip. Offset doesn't only affect how the wheel will fit on a vehicle but plays a major part in how the wheel is styled as well.

Wheel Travel is the total distance a wheel can move up and down; affected by suspension travel and clearance. More wheel travel means a more flexible suspension and more potential traction.

Sand / Dunes

A witches eye is an illusive sand feature in the dunes characterized by a hole or v-shape in sand with very little flat area on the bottom. Created by strong circular winds, sand is moved up and away from lowest points of a dune, creating voids that if hit at the right angle, can feel similar to hitting a wall. What makes a Witch's Eye dangerous is they can be hidden behind a dune and almost invisible at night.

The best way to avoid a Witch's Eye is to NEVER go straight up and over a dune. You can't see what is on the other side of a dune so going over a ridge blind can lead you right into the center of a Witch's Eye. Always cross dune/sand ridges at an angle. This allows you to quickly react to what is on the other side in the event you don't like what you see.

A Witch's Eye can range in size from about a foot across to much, much bigger and typically comes in two distinct varieties:

  1. V-shaped
  2. Circular

“Adventure begins  at the end of the roads you know.”

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Valor Offroad

Valor Offroad is a leading manufacturer of products developed exclusively for the powersports industry. Our wide collection of utv wheels, utv tires, and accessories are designed to enhance the performance and appearance of your offroad vehicle. Whether you're a seasoned offroader or just starting out, Valor Offroad has everything you need to take your powersports experience to the next level. Our utv wheels are crafted with precision and durability in mind, ensuring that they can handle even the toughest terrains. With a variety of styles and finishes to choose from, you can customize your offroad vehicle to reflect your personal style.

But it's not just about looks - our Valor utv tires are engineered to provide optimal traction and stability, giving you the confidence to conquer any trail. From trails to rock crawling, our tires are designed to withstand the harshest conditions, so you can push the limits of your offroad adventures.

At Valor Offroad, we understand that offroading is more than just a hobby - it's a lifestyle. That's why we are committed to providing top-quality products that not only perform well but also enhance the overall appearance of your offroad vehicle. With our extensive selection and dedication to customer satisfaction, you can trust us to be your go-to source for all your Polaris, Can-AM, Honda, and Kawasaki utv accessories.

So whether you're tackling the trails or hitting the dunes, choose Valor Offroad to equip your offroad vehicle with the best wheels, tires, and accessories on the market. Experience the difference that our products can make and elevate your offroading adventures to new heights.