ATV Television's Blog

The Latest News and Doug's Ramblings & Ravings.
Including Doug's "Here's what I think!" and "What were they thinking!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Could A Low & Slow Motorcycle Really be the Answer to an Environmentally-Friendly Backcountry Exploration Vehicle?

The Continuing Trail to Low & Slow Adventures

Well, let's see here, where to start? I suppose the best thing to do is just dive right in - so here goes. Racing machines belong in racing environments, i.e. race tracks. Pseudo racers and their race-inspired machines belong in designated open riding areas like the sand dunes or OHV parks. Trails belong to trail machines. And just to be clear about what I believe trail machines are, they are slow moving and moving along without much spinning of the tires.

Fast-moving machines can be quite a hazard to the slower machines on the trail. Simply  put, fast and slow don't mix well together. I also struggle with the abuse that scenic backcountry trails get from spinning tires. A trip through scenic back country should be enjoyed and the trail through it should be as nice to look at as the scenery it goes through. Fast machines and spinning tires tear these trails up and make them look more like a racetrack than a scenic trail. If you enjoy speeding through terrain stick to the racetracks….

So now I'll move on to the primary focus of this article; What makes a good machine to explore the scenic back country?

Of primary importance it needs to be something quiet and something slow. And perhaps something as narrow and as agile as possible. That's why a 50" RZR would work better than an XP simply because the more narrow the trails the better they are. A 4-wheel drive ATV works better than a 2-wheel drive simply because you need traction rather than speed to climb up the difficult sections of trail. But now I am exploring the other options for low and slow exploration - motorcycles!

Not any motorcycle mind you. Most modern motorcycles are tall and designed with speed over rough terrain as their primary focus. They are either built to race or built to go fast on trails! And it is perhaps that, above all that gives trail users a bad rap - fast motorcycles. Speeding motorcycles flying along the trails, fitted with loud exhaust systems, big knobbies, and the rider dressed as some sort of a Star Wars warrior after riding through a car wash filled with multi-colored paint do absolutely nothing to enamor us off-roaders to either the public or the authorities charged with maintaining our trail systems.

But not all motorcycles are like this…..There are a few, but only a few motorcycles that are so perfect as use for exploring the scenic back country trails that they may indeed be the perfect solution to traveling the trails.

The original dual-purpose trail bike, the Honda CT ( or Trail 90 /110 ) is one. Built from the early 60s through the mid 80s, the Honda CT is low enough that you can sit on the seat and still put both feet on the ground. The machine is light, as it weights less than 200 pounds ready to ride. It has a 2-speed sub transmission that allows for slow going over rough terrain. And there's even a small rack over the rear fender to haul a few supplies.

There may be a few other older motorcycles that could also work as well as the little Honda but none are as popular nor as readily available.

There are even fewer new motorcycles that can fill the requirements for a modern-day trail explorer. These requirements being something that's low and slow, and capable….. But there are a few.

One we'll look at in the near future is the Suzuki DR200SE, an often over-looked modern motorcycle perhaps because it is indeed something that could work better for exploring the tight scenic trails than blasting through the whoops. It's relatively light at just under 300 pounds. It's low, with a seat height around 32 inches, which should put it in the category of being able to sit on it and still be able to put both of your feet on the ground. It's quiet, but lacks any rack or ability to carry any supplies without requiring you to wear a pack on your back.

There is also the Yamaha TW200, a low and fat-tired motorcycle that's been around for a while now. Looking like a motorcycle that's been squashed in Photoshop, the TW has a seat height of less than 32" and sites on tires much wider than a typical 2-wheeler. And at under 300 pounds could still be considered a lightweight. The 200cc engine supposedly gets almost 80 miles per gallon! Now that's something I'd like to see you get on an ATV.

And yet another new machine that I am excited to try on the trail is the new Gas Gas Randonne. The Randonne is basically a trials motorcycle with a bit larger fuel capacity and a real seat that you can sit on. If you are unfamiliar with trails bikes, shame on you! Whoops, that just came out…… Trials bikes are designed to traverse the most difficult of terrain possible, and some of the professional trials riders do indeed do the impossible ;-) Unfortunately the newer models take that capability to such extremes that they are horrifyingly light and with only enough fuel to climb a pile of rocks or two. I exaggerate but only slightly.

In the past, trials machines were made to also be ridden on more regular trails so they did indeed have fuel tanks and seats. And like them, the newer Randonne seems to bridge the two periods of time with an extremely capable motorcycle for traversing unbelievably difficult terrain, yet with the capability of traveling for longer distances and in more comfort.

And then there's a very unique 2-wheeler that's been around a long time that just may well be a good alternative for this type of adventure, the two-wheel drive Rokon. It is low, it is slow, and with both its wheels being driven it could provide some really serious go-anywhere capability. The Rokon also has a rack capable of carrying the extras needed for an all-day adventure.

Then there's the issue of cost - most of our Low & Slow machines do cost considerably less to purchase and to operate than other forms of back country exploration vehicles. If the initial cost is an issue of the highest importance, then perhaps a Pitster Pro Sherpa might be a good solution. It is basically a Chinese-made replica of the hugely popular Honda CT70. Although it seems small - or should I say 'extra' Low & Slow, perhaps we need to consider the many happy miles the original CT70 owners had.

So, the plan is to start with a test of the old Honda CT 110. We'll look at the specifics and then see how it compares to an ATV for exploring the back country. Then we'll try to test a couple of the newer machines, the Suzuki DR200SE and the Yamaha TW200 to see how they measure up to both an ATV as well as to the older, tried and true Honda Trail bike. And we'll also hopefully test two of the more extreme alternatives in 2 wheel explorers. First, the Gas Gas Randonne to see if perhaps a modern day trials bike with a bit larger fuel tank and 'an almost real' seat can take us to places we never imagined we can go on a wheeled machine. And then there's the 2wd Rokon. Although the Rokon lacks suspension, it provides what must be incredible capability with its 2 wheel drive. 

The things I'm most curious about is how these machines compare to an ATV in these day-long adventures. Are they more agile? Can they go more places? Are they more fun? Can they carry enough? And can they go comfortably as far as we want, as we are used to spending all day on an ATV exploring the trails. Oh, and one final, and perhaps very important thing - how will they work if carried on the back of our 4x4s (our project Land Cruisers we use on 4x4TV) for use in exploring the trails once we pitch camp.

And that is a whole 'nuther way that I see huge advantages in low and slow motorcycles over ATVs and UTVs. A small and lightweight motorcycle could be easily hauled on the back of a 4-wheeler and then used to extend you exploration into even more interesting country once you stop and park the full-size rig.

I know one thing they can all do better than an ATV already - go a lot further on a gallon of fuel. If the price of fuel continues to rise to levels never before seen, these forms of travel may be the only way we have left to get out and explore the trails we love.

So I anxiously await the discovery of whether they will really work as I think. If so, then I question if an avid ATVer really can find happiness on a motorcycle?

Stay tuned as I head out on the trail to find out. 


Monday, January 14, 2013

Where it All Began

While I'm not sure just how that word really applies to these sort of things, it is one well used for such and so it shall be by me as well…Or perhaps I should just say, "and in the beginning!"
One of the machines that helped to start the off-road craze was a tiny little Honda motorcycle called the Trail… I won't really go into its full history here but it all started back in 1961 with the introduction of the Trail 50. This lawn mower-sized little 4-stroke engine was mated to a 3-speed automatic clutch transmission. The engine and trans were hung in a unique step-through frame design much like that typically found on girl's bicycles. With the small 17" diameter wheels and minimal suspension travel this little motorcycle proved to be incredibly easy to ride and remarkably adept at tackling dirt roads and trails - albeit slowly, and perhaps, just perhaps that was a big part of the charm;-)

The Honda Trail was a hit and soon spawned improved models in the Trail 90 and eventually the Trail 110 that was available in the U.S. until the end of 1986. The Honda Trail received some upgrades through the years in addition to the larger engine displacement. It received better suspension, a 4-speed transmission, and even a spare fuel tank. One of the most notable trademarks for the Honda Trail 90s and 110s is their unique 2-speed transfer case, so-to-speak. The little trail bikes had a small sub-transmission rather than a single primary sprocket that gave the rider the ability to switch from the normal set of gears to a low set of gears. Combine the ability to quickly engage low range with a flip of a lever with the low seat height, low overall weight (less than 200 pounds!) and the convenient step-trough frame and you have a little motorcycle with an uncanny ability to tackle dirt roads and backcountry trails. 

In addition to being capable of traversing difficult trails at comfortable speeds, the small size and step-through frame design made it a friendly machine to new users. Suddenly ranchers and farmers were using them to check their fields and livestock, and hunters and fishermen were using them to access the best back country spots. It wasn't long before people found the simple joy in just exploring the dirt roads and trails on this little machine. And in this it helped to bring about the huge off-road motorcycle craze in the 60s and 70s that turned into the ATC craze of the 80s and the ATV craze we are in now.

So with all that said I will digress to my own Honda Trail story. Being fortunate enough to grow up out in the sparsely populated deserts of California during this time, I got to be one of those early off-road enthusiasts. Because we were surrounded by a lot of vast spaces linked by nothing but a lot of old dirt roads, many left from the long-gone mining days, it was only natural to need something to explore all these trails!

Here's where I'd like to say that my first motorcycle was a Honda Trail, but it wasn't. It was a Suzuki Trail 80 in 1964, which became a Honda Super 90 and that became a Honda Scrambler, and that - well you get the picture. Besides, by 1965 we had gotten our first Meyers Manx as that phenomenon was also beginning to change the way people explored the back country. The first Trail 90 to enter my life was when my family purchased a 67 for my Mom and Dad to do a little exploring on. Well, like so many things in life, you really can't have just one Trail 90, so in 68 we brought another one home.

Sure, they were my Mom and Dads machines, and during this time I was doing more and more racing, but there was just something about the Trail 90s. As I mentioned before, they were easy and they were friendly. So, while other motorcycles were meant to go fast, and ridden with that as the end, those two simple ingredients that made the Trail 90 unique resulted in me putting several thousand miles on those little motorcycles. It was those Trail 90s that helped to develop in me a love in simply exploring the backcountry rather than racing through it. Because of that, the Honda Trail 90 will always be one of the two vehicles that had the most influence on my life. 

And so that brings me (full circle?) to something I haven't owned in something like 25 years, and something I haven't swung a leg over in at least 10, a motorcycle…And to be more specific, a Honda Trail 110.

Next up I'll explain where this Trail is leading…..  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Aren’t There More 50” SxSs

I recently was a bit overwhelmed by the misunderstanding on my take on wanting more 50” trails on the Paiute Trail system. Most people took that to mean I was some kind of an anti UTV nazi – or in this day an age, maybe a worse name to be called than nazi is a Christian! But I’m getting away from the point here. How some folks got from me wanting more 50’ trails to that I’m anti UTV is still perplexing.

Equally amazing to me was the way many 'haters' referred to the great number of UTV tests we’ve done as ‘simply pandering to the market for money.’ Wow! The extent some people go to try to justify their hate is incredible…

Of course, being anti UTV is anything but the case. All you have to look at are the machines I’ve had around me for that last couple of years - almost all UTVs! In fact, if the secret would be known, if I could only have one machine sitting in my shop it would be, wait for it now, a RZR!

The RZR is fun! It hauls, it works (some), and it’s fun! Oh, I already said that. And it's the best way I have to haul my special daughter Katy out into the great backcountry. Oh, and did I mention that it also fits on those 50” trails that I think we should have more of? It’s like the best of all worlds, the safety of a UTV, and the ability to ride on those incredible 50” scenic trails!

The real point here is why are there no competitors to the RZR from the other manufacturers? The RZR, by the way, is the best selling of all (any, anywhere by anybody) UTVs (Or side by side, or RUV, whatever you want to call them). I personally don’t even have a problem calling them ATVs – after all that does stand for All Terrain Vehicle – which I believe they are!

Trust me I’ve asked all the manufacturers the ‘question.’ Several times even. Oddly enough, most of the manufacturer’s are all-to-quick to give me an answer, “Never. They’re dangerous. We don’t believe in them! They’re not what the market wants.” And this is where I say ‘again’ that the 50” RZR is the number one selling UTV. Period.

So why? Here’s my take. We live in a litigious society where the fear of liability in this day and age is a big issue, after all nowadays who wants to be responsible for their own behavior ;-) And to be honest, a 50” machine will roll over easier than a 60” machine. But then again a 60” machine will roll over easier than a 100” machine. It all comes back to us. Imagine that.

Take a look at the hit Yamaha took with all the lawsuits against them. People were amazed when they discovered that a Rhino could actually turn over and possibly harm the occupants when operated by an inexperienced person while driving too fast on the blacktop and then turned sharply. Can you believe it ;-)

To quote Pogo, “I have met the enemy and he is us!” Remember that as I will use it again!

Here’s the sad and amazing part, Yamaha had plans to be the first out with an incredible, short, nice, 4-seat, higher-powered UTV, but when they realized we, as a group were idiots they decide otherwise. The bigger lose was that they also had plans for a killer, Grizzly-based 50” Rhino – or so I was told by a whisper in my ear.

And Suzuki – and you know how much I love the King Quad, also ‘supposedly’ had a super 50” machine in the works only to put it on hold after the Rhino lawsuits and the downturn in the economy.

So, there you have it. We could have but we don’t have. And what we do have is what we now have.

Why? “I have met the enemy and he is us!”

But, we do have Polaris, a company that somehow seems to continue to prosper in spite of everything that shouldn’t be. They build high-powered UTVs capable of shooting the dunes and winning Dakar, and they build electric powered UTVs for stealthly silent farm work. But more importantly (to me) is that they build the only UTV that is capable of going on my absolute favorite trails – those 50” two tracks!

And what was the point of all this?

I love UTVs. Especially 50” UTVs that can I can take my daughter on to explore those incredible 50” trails.

I just wonder why no other manufacturer has had the courage to stand up, tell us we’re idiots, and then build the UTV we want.

Oh yeah, we’re lawsuit happy idiots.

I even had plans for building 50” UTV kits to convert Suzuki King Quads and Yamaha Grizzlies into cool 50” buggies, but guess what, I was afraid of the liability.

When will we ever grow up and accept responsibility for our own actions? It sure would make life a lot better for those of us that do!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Oh No! I’ve Been Outted - I’m An Environmentalist!

I’ve been outted it seems. In a recent blog, one anonymous response called me an ‘environmentalist!’ Finally someone notices. I’ve been outted! So here I must confess - it’s true, I am an environmentalist.

And just so we’re on the same page as to what I consider an environmentalist is I’ve included the definition I use below:

World English Dictionary
environmentalist  (ɪnˌvaɪrənˈmɛntəlɪst)

an adherent of environmentalism
a person who is concerned with the maintenance of the ecological balance and the conservation of the environment
a person concerned with issues that affect the environment, such as pollution

Years ago I got to know Paul Slavik. Paul worked for Honda and for a time as the Public Relations manager. During that period I got to spend a great deal of time with him. He was (And still is) an incredible advocate for keeping our back country open for motorized use. If I tried to name all the things he’s done for the motorsports industry I’d be writing this column for several days! I don’t think I would be exaggerating at all to say he was the single most influential activist our industry has ever had.

One of the things I remember is that at the Rincon Introduction, held on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we were instructed on how to stop and park along the trails and how to turn around – among other ways to ride with as little impact on this area as possible. Even (or especially!) it seemed to fall on a lot of deaf ears. Several weeks later Paul and I were having a nice Italian dinner at a local restaurant when I mentioned the Grand Canyon adventure and commented that being environmentally friendly on the trails was a real shock to a lot of the guys attending.

I mentioned half joking, that since I thought that all that stuff was good that I must be an environmentalist. He looked me in the eye and said, “We all need to be environmentalists.” He went on to say that being an environmentalist just meant that you cared about the environment in which we have the ability and the privilege to ride. And if we didn’t care about the area that we’d lose it to the extreme environmentalists. He explained that there is a great difference between them and us, but there should also be some similarities. Similarities like a concern for the back country we use – how we use it and how we leave it.

That conversation left a mark on me. And I glad it still shows through! Kind of like that saying, “If you were accused of being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?” We can say anything we want, but as in so many things, our actions speak the clearest!

So I see a lot of us back country explorers (notice how I really don’t like the term off-roaders? That too came from Paul!). So I see a lot of us talk about how we have a right to the back country. I see a lot of talk that if we don’t do ‘this or that’ that we will lose that right to ride our wonderful trails. But I also see a great unwillingness to make any sacrifices for that cause – to draw a line, or make a differentiation in how areas are used. As in so many other areas in our life, sometimes the few get trampled with the many, but sometimes the few are doing all the trampling.

My idea that the Paiute Trail (one single trail system in the US by the way that currently consists of around 600 miles of trail) be expanded in its number of 50”- only trails and be promoted for that use, may very well be unrealistic, but there are indeed other 'single-purpose' trails, hiking-only trails, and even single-track, motorcycle-only trails. I thought the idea of expanding the number and specifically promoting more 50" - only trails was a good thing. But considering how the very ‘idea’ was met with such vicious personal attacks, leaves me to wonder.

Wonder if there are others with concern for the future of all our trails or just a concern for their own self use.

Wonder if an increase in environmentalists within our industry would help us stand stronger against the extreme environmentalists outside it.

Wonder if the more extreme off-roaders can overwhelm the rest of the trail users and force them to open their small trails to them in the name of fairness and goodwill.

I wonder if any of this really matters at all.

And I wonder how Paul did it for so many years – so successfully.

Oh, and I wonder why I didn't pay more attention to Paul when I had the opportunities ;-)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mor on The Paiute Tail (sic)

First let me say I’m glad I woke some of you up! Ahhhh, some of you anyway ;-)

Second, let me commend many of you on providing your honest and heart-felt opinions and thoughts on this matter in a civil manner with words you wouldn’t be embarrassed to use in front of your wife and kids.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion – even me ;-)

And to all of you who’s comments were foul-mouthed and angry threats, I wonder if your words show your true character. I’m not sure if it’s your anger that saddens me more, or your personal attacks against me. Am I not entitled to have an opinion that’s different than yours?

I love the passion that people have for our sport. It is important for us to be so passionate about these things. I just love it more when it comes across as a passion from responsible adults rather than like angry children.

Next, let me answer all the comments about me being anti UTV. Have those of you with those accusations ever watched our show? I absolutely love UTVs! If I had to have only one machine it would no doubt be a 50” RZR! I’ve had one since they came out! (And to the handicapped person’s rather disgusting comments, you may not realize that I have a ‘special needs’ daughter that the only way she can explore the great back country that I love so much, is along with me in a UTV. I have stated many times that if the extreme environmentalists manage to close our back country access she’ll never be able to see the beautiful country that so many of us take for granted). But if I explore 50” trails we’ll use a 50” machine.

I have had an assortment of UTVs around my places for many years – many, many years! I love the Ranger EV that we had for a year, the Mule Diesels we had for several years, the Ranger Crew, and the RZR XP900. Yes, that’s right, the XP 900. We had one here for almost a year. I even built a race track on my property just so I could  enjoy wringing it out! And while I think it’s a great machine for the deserts and the tracks and the sand dunes, it was not designed or intended to explore the Paiute Trail.

And if I didn’t make myself clear, I apologize. It was not my intention to lump all UTV users in the same group. Hey (!) as I said, I love UTVs so I would have obviously been accusing myself as well.

Most misunderstood was my point that (I think!) more than any other segment, I see a great many highly modified UTVs with wider arms, long-travel suspension, and exhaust modifications that while perfectly at home cruising the dunes or exploring areas like the open Johnson Valley OHV area, they are not the vehicle to explore the back country of the Paiute Trail. And my point was too, that these machines are ‘more often than not’ owned by younger riders/owners from the city that show up to the trails merely to blast around, using the trails as you would desert sand washes, not for scenic riding, but for entertainment. Broad generalizations I agree, but again, I thought I had the right to state ‘my opinion’ on these things. If not when did things change that only you could have an opinion?

And furthermore, if you look at some of the comments that ‘First’ made, you’ll see that while there are around 570 miles of 50” trails, there is over 2100 miles of trails open to all vehicles! And that is just on one portion of what can be loosely described as the Paiute Trail country. If you counted the areas surrounding the ‘actual’ Paiute Trail, you’ll find the number closer to 10,000 miles of trails open to ALL vehicles! My comments regarding ‘the Paiute Trail’ were addressed directly to the fact that we need to have more 50” trails open only for 50” OHVs and under, and promoted the area’s 50” trails more to that market rather than the promotion of the trail to the UTV users from other types of riding. There is plenty of other riding trails for the wider vehicles, but few 50” trails!

I see many of you reading between the lines to things that were not at all my intent. An example is the reference to high-powered buggies at Glamis and rock buggies in Moab and assuming I was categorizing UTVs in those groups. All I can say is just read the words I wrote.

To those of you referencing my comments to fit the area where you ride, all I can only say I was referring to the Paiute Trail only.

Maybe that clears up my initial Blog a bit. If so, thanks for sticking with me. I thought I’ve been in this industry too long to be so misunderstood. If not then maybe I am left with nothing more than to say (very loosely paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson), that I fear for my sport when I realize who’s a part of it.

And to the person that made the disparaging comments about my faith – you left me speechless in my bewilderment about the way people express their feelings anonymously on the internet.

And to Shannon, the fact that you hate my opinion is one thing, but giving out the private email addresses to industry PR managers was certainly more harmful to their privacy than it was to me. You should be ashamed. Your vengeful behavior based on my personal opinion is disgraceful.

Hopefully I can end with “My apologies for the misunderstanding, and thanks for understanding!”


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Future of the Paiute Trail System

The Future of the Paiute Trail Should Be A Return To The Trail System’s Original Intent

The Paiute Trail system is at a point where it’s future will be decided. That decision may have already been made, thus making it’s long-term survival doubtful. That decision is whether to continue to over-market the trail system to all comers for the short-term financial benefit of the few businesses that profit from the tourism it generates, or a renewal back to the original intent of the trail system for the continued enjoyment of another generation of users.

That decision is all based entirely on who, or what, the users of the trails will be. The Paiute Trail system was formed for the scenic exploration of the area by riders on ATVs. At the time the Paiute Trail came into existance, there were only ATVs. The other users of the back country trails were only the full-sized 4-wheel-drive vehicles like Jeeps and pickup trucks.

With the advent of UTVs (also referred to as Side by Sides and Recreational Utility Vehicles - RUVs) the difference between the ATVs and the full-sized vehicles became blurred. This was mostly due to the fact that the same manufacturers that produced ATVs also produced UTVs. And hence, they were marketed to the same end-users.

Unfortunately, like the full-sized off-road users, the UTVs were not and are not the same as ATVs. First, they require larger trails, oftentimes equally as large as the full-sized off-road vehicles. And second, they typically weight considerably more than ATVs and thereby can (and do) create more damage to the trails. And thirdly they are faster than all other 4-wheeled trail users, which of course causes it’s own set of new problems both to the environment and more importantly to the other users of the trail system.

Other areas have failed to curtail the expansion of off-road activities and are now facing an ever-increasing battle against negative exposure and area closures. Moab, Utah, for over 50 years was a destination for family-oriented back-country exploration. With the inclusion of the newest trend of extreme rock buggies, the Moab area is now seeing an incredible overuse of both the designated trails as well as an increase in off trail use. The Imperial Sand Dunes in Southern California is facing the same troubles with the expansion of the sand market which now has grown to include incredibly high-speed vehicles that have in turn increased both personal injuries and ecological damage multifold.

Faced with the onslaught of expensive battles over the justification of the damage caused by overuse, many OHV areas simply give in to the demands of the ecological group’s lawsuits and close down large areas to OHV usage.

Unlike many other back country use areas, the Paiute ATV Trail system is unique in its ability to differentiate the types of users that can be allowed to use the trails. This can easily be done with the expansion of the original concept of ATV trails rather than the all-user trails it is moving towards. In the past, due to the vast percentage of trail users being ATVs, there was little need for methods to keep other users off of the ATV-only trails. But now, with the increasing expansion of the UTV market, the gating of the ATV trails to limit their use to 50” wide or less vehicles has become a necessity if the original intent of the trail system is to continue.

There are two sides to the argument for increasing the number of 50”-only trails;

Some will say that the increase in 50” only trails will cause a decrease in total traffic on the trail system and therefore a loss of business revenue for the area. This argument is short-sighted in the fact that while this may be true to a certain extent, it does not take into account the complete loss of revenue should the trail system be systematically disassembled and closed to motorized vehicles.

The positive argument for increasing the number of controlled 50” use trails is the lessened ecological impact to the areas as well as the lessened negative effect on the community that does not profit from the trail system’s use.

So while the trail traffic may (and this point in itself may be arguable) decrease, this very decrease may be what secures the use (and profitability) of the trail system for well into the future.

It can be argued that increasing the number of 50” only trails may not decrease the total trail system traffic as much as thought. And it may be that there are many potential trail users that are no longer traveling to enjoy the trail due to the change in the machines and people now using the trail system.

Without looking into specific statistics, there has been a change in the trail users over the last several years. There has been a move from the older, more experienced riders that come to the area for a greater number of days, and ride many hundreds of miles of the trails during their stay, to a younger group that travel much shorter distances to the area for much shorter periods of time. This change alone has had a negative impact on the trail’s negative visibility to the extreme ecological community.

The decision to maintain the original intent of the Paiute Trail system and promote it as a 50” only riding area is a decision that should have been made several years ago, before the extensive promotion of the area to the UTV market. While the system can still be restored to its original intent, every year that the area continues to promote itself to the non-ATV market, the harder it will be to reverse that decision.

This is after all, the Paiute ATV trail. There are more areas across the country open to every type of OHV than there are to the limited, 50” only vehicles. It is what made the trail famous, and continuing the trail system as its original intent is what can insure its future.

All this is said not because of my preference for ATVs over UTVs, but rather my preference for scenic trails for exploration over trails used for high-speed entertainment.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What do you mean it's not 50 inches wide ?

Here's an interesting (and saddening) picture.

Even on stock Polaris wheels, even the least wide tires of our test group, the Carlisle Black Rocks make the Touring over 50" wide - thereby making it  technically illegal for the 50" ATV-only trails.

Oh my.

What happens now?

What will we do?

Monday, February 6, 2012

50 Inch ATVs ? ! ?

Been sitting here writing some thoughts on why I think the Paiute ATV Trail system should be a system of 50” trails rather than open trails for all sorts of UTVs and Side by Sides.

I’ll save those thoughts for another time. What I want to mention is something oftentimes overlooked – the fact that an ATV can quickly become too wide to be legal on 50” trails with the simple addition of a set of aftermarket wheels and tires.

Yeap, you read that correctly. In the midst of our big, all-season tire test, we’ve become even less enthused about the prospect of riding with after market wheels than we usually are.

After market wheels ‘ALL’ have more offset than the stock wheels! Our complaint has been that sticking the tires farther out sticks them past the fenders. And fenders have a purpose – to fend off the mud and snow that the tires sling up. I don’t know about you, but I’m not that fond of going for a short half-hour or hour ride and having to change clothes upon return before I can sit at my desk.

But that complaint sits shallow compared to this one. What if the new wheels and tires you just put on made your ATV measure 52 inches wide and it therefore is no longer legal to ride on the 50” only ATV trails like we love?

In fact, not only is a 52” wide ATV not legal to ride on those ATV-only trails, but it won’t even squeeze through many of the gates set to keep those machines wider than 50” off!

Something to think about before you go out and buy some new wheels.

Of course while you’re thinking you might also want to include how the added offset affects the steering. And how dirty you’ll get while your friend with his stock wheels is sitting there all nice and clean.

And we won’t even talk about the added weight. . . .  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Some “Why’s?” for Polaris

This is a subject that comes up every so often. No, actually it comes up way too often – that’s why I’m writing this!

In fact one of the more telling “why’s?” is that I have enough “why’s?” that I’m not sure where to start.

Yes I do. Let me start with the most recent “why?” This one came while filming the details on the new RZR 570 we are testing. One of our past complaints was that the grab bar rattled. While it bothered me to have to wrap a bit of electrical tape around the grab bar (that slid into the mount), it was an easy fix. But Polaris fixed that. They put a square plastic sleeve inside the round tube to accept a square inner tube of the ‘new’ grab bar. As my friend calls it, ‘Kindergarten 101 stuff.’ (BTW: I have several old ‘dune buggies’ that I built that use the same grab bar technology and none of them ‘rattle’). The problem is it still rattles every bit as much as it did before. The second problem is that it’s now way harder to tape to get it to stop rattling because you have to tape the square tube that goes through the sleeve and then re-enters the ‘big round tube.’ Polaris’ answer? Don’t push it in so far…

And that brings me to another ‘Polaris answer.’ At a recent new model intro, we complained that while crossing the creeks and streams that the floorboard to body on one side of the Sportsman worked well at keeping the water from coming up and soaking your boot, yet the other side seemed to work almost perfectly at funneling the water up and on your boot. The ‘Polaris answer?’ “Wear taller boots.” (Remember that answer as you may find it in the future).

Then there’s the Polaris work-arounds. One of the most amazing to me is the heel pocket in the floorboard of the RZR. The very first RZR’s had a smooth plastic floorboard that proved to be very slick. In addition, the throttle pedal had a very quick ratio. Between the quick throttle action and your foot unable to stay in place, maintaining throttle accuracy was difficult. While I would have thought about putting in a ‘less slick’ floor covering and maybe redesigning the throttle linkage for a better ratio, Polaris ‘solved’ the problem by putting a ‘pocket’ in the floorboard to keep your foot in place. While that proved an interesting solution, it didn’t entirely fix the problem. They then changed the ratio on the throttle to have a much longer throw in the first part of throttle application, and a much quicker increase in the remainder. It still proved to be less than desired.

Now, even on the new RZR XP900 and 570 with a revised throttle system, the pocket remains. When I mentioned to Polaris that it seemed awkward to use as ‘my’ foot doesn’t sit in it they looked at me bewildered. They even wanted to see my foot’s placement in the RZR. It went completely unnoticed when I mentioned that I have driven a great many vehicles in my life and not one had a ‘pocket’ in the floorboard. Now I simply fill the pocket in with rubber and put a BedRug floor covering in the RZR to fix the problem.

But incredibly (to me at least!) there are even bigger “Why’s?” to ponder. Like why should you have to push a button on a Sportsman to make the 4WD system work in reverse? Or why do you have to flip a switch to make the engine braking go to all four wheels when in 4WD? And when you do, why do you have to be going less than 15MPH and under 3100RPM, and with no throttle application for all this to work? And when you do all this, and it is all working, then why does it not work under these conditions if you apply the brakes?

Am I the only one here, or does all this seem way harder than it needs to be?

All of those “why’s?” can be explained away as being a result of Polaris-specific AWD system. This means that I’m left to ask why they use the type of all-wheel-drive system that requires so many work-arounds rather than the tried-and-true system that everyone else uses – with the option of having 2WD, 4WD with a limited slip differential, and/or 4WD with a lockable front differential?

The Polaris answer? “Our system is the easiest to use! You just ride the ATV and when the ATV senses any slip in the rear wheels (even one lug?) it applies ‘True 4 Wheel Drive!” I see - easy as in push this button for that and that one for this but make sure you are doing this and that but be sure you aren’t doing this here or that there.

I’ve decided that it’s only ‘easy’ if you don’t care. Like the old bumper sticker says, “Sit down, shut up and hang on.” And in the fine print: ‘and don’t worry about any of this and everything will be easier.’

Now for the disclaimer (ie. THE SMALL PRINT):
I really don’t hate Polaris. Really! Actually far from it. I really respect Polaris for so many things they’ve done. For one; Even though the 50” RZR is the best selling UTV (or SxS if you’d rather call it that) no other company has had the guts to make such a machine. And specking of the RZR, no one has made a machine as light. Or that handles so well. And no one has made as many variations! And I could go on. Crew Ranger 500s, EV’s, not to mention little details like adjustable seats and nice wheels.
So for me, Polaris is like the redhead in my youth. She is (and does) so many incredibly wonderful things that you can’t help but love her, but every once in a while she leaves you standing alone at the drive-in as she leaves with another guy. And to make it worse, he doesn’t even drive a 4-wheel-drive?
Disclaimer part 2:
There never was a redhead or even a drive-in. What the heck is a drive-in anyway?
Disclaimer part 3:
If there was a drive-in I was so cool in my youth that no redhead would even think of leaving me standing alone at the drive-in.
Disclaimer part 4:
I didn’t wear those ridiculous plaid polyester pants back then either…