Kids have plenty of distractions today, with electronics leading the way.  It takes a little more effort to coax them outdoors than it used to, but one sure bet to get them out in nature is to take them riding. It’s the perfect opportunity for outdoor recreation combined with the thrill of exploration, and an ATV is just the tool to make it happen!  Can-Am has several different high-quality youth sized ATVs, and we wanted to take a closer look.


We really like the Can-Am ATV lineup.  You can’t go wrong with a hard working Outlander, or the sporty 4×4 Renegade models, but those are adult machines.  Youth riders need a machine that matches their size as well as their skills.  That’s exactly what they get with the Can-Am DS 70, DS 90, and DS 90X youth ATVs.  Here’s a quick rundown of the three models:

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DS 70

  • 70cc 4-stroke air cooled engine

  • Fully automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT)

  • Independent A-arm front suspension, swingarm rear suspension

  • Electric start with backup kick start

  • Built-in throttle limiter

DS 90

  • 90cc 4-stroke air cooled engine

  • Fully automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT)

  • Independent A-arm front suspension, swingarm rear suspension

  • Electric start with backup kick start

  • Built-in throttle limiter

DS 90X

  • 90cc, 4-stroke air cooled engine

  • Sporty, race inspired styling

  • Fully automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT)

  • Dual A-arm front suspension, swingarm rear suspension

  • Adjustable HPG Piggyback shocks

  • Race style Aluminum front bumper, nerf bars, and heel guards

  • Wider stance for aggressive handling and added stability

  • Lower profile, Kenda Claw motocross tires

  • Electric start with backup kick start

  • Built-in throttle limiter

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To fit the young pilots, overall chassis design of the Can-Am youth ATVs is obviously much smaller than that of a full sized quad.  All of the Can-Am youth ATVs are designed to be easy to operate and learn proper riding skills on, and they do that extremely well.  Control layout is quite basic and the smaller bars, thumb throttle, and levers are easy for most kids to get their sticky fingers around.  Seating position seems quite good also, and the rider’s legs and feet are well protected by a full set of fenders that provide excellent splash and safety protection, while their feet remain firmly planted on a full set of floor boards.  Electric start gets the engine spinning but each model also includes a backup kick starter.  Our only caution would be to hide the key so junior can’t take an unsupervised ride someday.  An adjustable throttle limiter allows adults to keep speeds down as the new rider builds skills.

All of the Can-Am youth quads are powered by a simple, single cylinder 4-stroke engine mated to a CVT transmission.  This eliminates any shifting, but unlike many youth ATVs, the Can-Am’s also feature a reverse gear.  Final drive is provided by a traditional ATV chain and sprocket to the solid rear axle.   There is a reason every serious sport quad comes with disc brakes – they work!  Even when caked with grit they are easy to wash out and quickly get you back to full stopping power.  The only Can-Am youth model to feature full disc brakes is the DS 90X, while the DS 70 and DS 90 come with old-school drum brakes.  They’re adequate, but lack the feel and precision of discs.

So what is the difference between models?  All three ride on a nearly identical chassis, with the difference between the DS 70 and DS 90 being nothing more than engine displacement.  The racy DS 90X is a much different animal however.  It’s over 8” wider for more stability during aggressive cornering, it’s 1.5 inches taller, and it offers larger front and rear tires.  It also comes with aluminum nerf bars, heel guards, front bumper, and vastly more suspension travel from the precision feel of dual A-Arms.  Everything about the DS 90X was built for performance on the track and trail, and superior disc brakes at both ends bring it to a quick stop.

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Hard as it may be to imagine, it’s unbelievably easy to find a test rider for youth ATVs.  Sam Kelley was ready to pilot the DS for us from the moment it showed up, and given an endless supply of fuel, we’ve no doubt he would have happily worn out not only the yard and woods trails, but half of Iowa.  When asked about his first experience on the DS as compared to a small Yamaha dirt bike, he offered the following:

SK: At first I couldn’t figure out how to take the berm in the woods on the ATV, but after I kept practicing it I made it. I just took different lines and used different speeds and body positions to find a way to do it. It was fun!”

It didn’t take Sam long to realize he could slide through corners, and we asked him about that new skill as well.

SK:I really like the speed, sound and control of the dirt bike, but the Can-Am ATV is fun because it’s stable. I really like how I could drift it in the corners, sort of like Ken Block.”

Jerrod Kelly, proud parent of Sam, offered some interesting insight into what he feels to be the benefit of off-road fun. “We’ve always thought it’s best to let kids ride both bikes and ATVs because it teaches them proper throttle control, handling, and riding skills for a variety of situations. You have a twist throttle vs. thumb throttle, for example. Knowing and learning how to approach and take a corner on both is an important skill to learn. It also keeps them entertained longer, because they are continually challenging themselves on both platforms. And by entertained, we mean keeping them off of screens and truly living and connecting with the outside environment on another level.””

As for any mechanical or safety advantage, Papa Kelley states: “One thing we enjoyed about the Can-Am DS is the back-up kick-start and built-in safety elements. It’s stable! Both the dirt bike and ATV can fire up with a kick, so that connective element is neat to have, but the electric start is easier for the kids. They love riding it!”

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One of the things we like best about ATV riding is the family aspect of the sport.  It’s a great way get out and spend family time together.  Kids love to ride, and once they have a taste of the freedom and exploration off-roading offers, they’ll never forget that feeling.  It’s something they’ll also never get from an X-Box.  The Can-Am youth ATVs are a great way to make their world a little larger and more exciting.

 2020 CAN-AM DS Youth ATVs Specifications:

Engine:  89.5cc air cooled 4-stroke. Keihin Carburetor

Starting:  Electric Start, Kick back-up

Exhaust:  US Forestry approved spark arrestor

Fuel Tank:  1.6 gal fuel tank

Transmission:  CVT Automatic with F / N / R

Brakes: DS 70 and DS 90 – Dual drums front, single drum rear

DS 90 X – Dual Hydraulic Disc, Single Hydraulic Disc

Suspension: DS 70 and DS 90 – Independent A-Arm front, 3.4” of travel, Oil dampened shocks. Swingarm rear, 6.3” travel,  Oil dampened shock

DS 90 X – Dual A-Arms front, 7” of travel, adjustable HPG Piggyback shocks. Swingarm rear, 9” travel, adjustable HPG piggyback shock

Wheels: DS 70 and DS 90 – 8” steel, front and rear

DS 90 X – 8” Aluminum, front and rear

Tires: DS 70 and DS 90 – Duro Thrasher 19 x 7 x 8 in. Front. Duro Power Trail 18 x 9.5 x 8 in. Rear

DS 90 X – Kenda Claws – 20 x 6 x 10in Front, 18 x 10.5 x 8 in. Rear

L x W x H DS 70 and DS 90 – 59.8 x 35.6 x 36.8 in.

DS 90 X – 59.8 x 43.7 x 38.2 in.

Seat Height:DS 70 and DS 90 – 27 in.

DS 90 X – 27 in.

Clearance:8.3 in. under frame / 4.5 in. under rear axle

Dry Weight: 250 lbs.

Features: DS 70 and DS 90 – Neutral and reverse lights, Day lights

DS 90 X – Neutral and reverse lights, Aluminum front bumper with number plate, handlebar riser block (+ 1 in.) with square race style handlebar pad, nerf bars, racing kick-up pegs

Colors:DS 70 and DS 90 – Can-Am RED

MSRP:DS 70 –  $ 2,349 U.S.

DS 90 –  $ 2,849 U.S.

DS 90 X –  $ 3,749 U.S.

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Before junior ever takes their first ride, it is absolutely critical that they learn proper safety gear is part of the picture for off-roading fun.  They love to dress the part anyway, so get them started properly and make sure they’re well protected with the right equipment.  New riders need to understand that no helmet, goggle, gloves and boots means no riding!  Here’s what they need:

HELMET:  There are plenty of good helmets at very reasonable prices for youth riders.  Get them one that fits, and don’t grab one from a garage sale and think it’s good enough.  One of our favorite youth helmets is made by HJC.  They’ve performed very well for us, they’re affordably priced, and they can be found in practically every dealership.  Make sure junior knows how to strap it on securely as well.

GOGGLES:  This is another must have piece of equipment, and there are plenty of goggles available in every size, color, and style.  Be sure to get youth goggles because full frame goggles may not fit in the smaller helmets.

BOOTS:  We generally ride with motocross boots and they provide great protection, but they are not the only option.  What is completely necessary is something better than a set of flip-flops or Nikes.  Hiking boots or work boots will work just fine as long as you have them laced up.  It’s critical to protect the feet and ankles.

GLOVES:  Work gloves are OK, but off-road gloves perform much better.  They’re a little like batting gloves with breathable fabric and padding.

JERSEY AND PANTS:  Plenty of riders wear long sleeve shirts and jeans, but a set of riding pants and jersey offers better protection, is more comfortable, and just looks better.  Riding gear also breathes better and is much more durable than denim thanks to the tough fabrics and heavy duty stitching.

If new gear is out of your budget, eBay is chock full of youth riding gear, and plenty of it hasn’t seen much use.  We wouldn’t buy a used helmet on eBay (you don’t know if it’s been through a crash) but goggles, gloves, pants and jerseys are fine.  It’s a source worth checking.

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December 16, 2019

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