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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If It Was Up to Me!

If It Was Up To Me!

For years on ATV Television we would run a year-end special of “The Best of.” There we would name the best ATVs in class and the best products. We would also occasionally include a “Best of” some other items that caught my fancy – so to speak - my favorite place to ride, or my favorite trail, or even my favorite off road vehicle. But probably my favorite “Best of” that we did was to put together a list of the best parts and pieces of ATVs.

In testing so many different ATVs over the years I’m always amazed at how many incredible features on one brand of ATV or UTV are completely ignored by other manufacturers, either by oversight, or maybe by just plain stubbornness. I wonder how one ATV have such a great shifter and yet another one have a horrible, notchy shifter? And that applies to thumb throttles, 4wd systems, engine sounds, and even seats! Don’t they ride the other brand ATVs?

So, I was recently thinking once again about those best individual features and even some of the suggestions that I’ve made over the years that seem to just get shrugged off by the manufacturers. It got me to thinking, “What if the red phone rang and the design of a new model was up to me. What would I make?” Well here’s what I’d do if it were up to me.

I’d start with a layout that is 50” wide overall and has about a 75” to 80” wheelbase. That seems to be a really good size. Sure, wider is more stable, but for me, 50” wide is hugely important as it can fit on the 50” wide ATV trails that are so prevalent (and the most beautiful) on the Paiute Trail system. While wider may have some handling advantages in Moab and the sand dunes, I think the machine can be designed to handle those situations well enough.
Not only would it be about the size of a RZR, but it could also look a lot like the RZR. But my absolute favorite off road design (along with the Ford EX that the RZR is copied from) is the Meyers Manx. It’s one of those designs that I can just sit and look at. It’s also the design that I told Suzuki they should emulate for their SxS. I’m not even sure I’d put a full cage on it, but maybe rather a dual A-frame roll hoop set-up like the original Meyers Tow’d. Obviously I’d only be able to sell the thing to ‘responsible people.’ It would also have to have a folding windshield.

Out back would be the bed (look at the Manx again), but with a lockable aluminum cover over it for all-weather storage as well as a place to lash bigger items for camping.

Now comes the power. My preference would be for a slightly larger version of the Teryx 750 V-twin. Although 950cc would be best, even the 750cc version would work fine. And here’s why. Rather than run the heat-producing, power-robbing, and all-around stupid CVT transmission, my SxS would run a centrifugal clutch 5-speed like used to be on ATVs. And the short shifter would ratchet back and forward to shift through the gears. And if we really wanted to get even more trick, why not put a set of paddle shifters on the steering wheel?

Here’s another item that’s a bit off of the traditional. I think in this case, that the engine and transmission could sit in front of the driver. Behind the front axles, but in front of the driver. This not only would make a tighter and more space efficient package, but may prove to make the machine more stable. Not sure how well that would work but I’d certainly test one that way.

Next up is suspension. There’s nothing better than the trailing arm suspension found on the rear of Can Ams. That would be the perfect set-up. Compact. Long travel. No scrub or caster gain. And since that system is so good, why not put a similar system on the front as well?

Of course it would have to come with a set of tires designed to help the handling and stability, so I’d put a set of  27x8x14 radials on the front and 28x10x14’s on the back.

The drivetrain would be the proven, 2wd, 4wd, with a ratcheting front and rear locker set-up. Each locker would have its own lever. And of course we’d have high and low ranges in the transmission and a nice cable-operated hand brake for emergency and parking. Perhaps we’d even have two separate rear e-brake levers. That way they could also be used as turning brakes when the rear differential was open.

Well, dreaming is fun, but work is calling…
Stay tuned, my friends.


  1. That's an awfully nice looking Manx you have there Doug, nice. More pictures??

    I'm pretty easy to please (some might argue that) when it comes to a mode of transportation to cross the 2200+ miles of Paiute Trails that you have down there, maybe one day we could hook up and go riding.

    My #1 requirement, the vehicle has to be less than 50" wide.

    My current ATV works great for me but if I was "dreaming" a nice long stroke 750 cc single would be a nice replacement for the current 499 cc that's in it now. I would also like a turbo with about 2-4 pounds of boost to compensate for the thin air in the higher elevations. So a nice turbocharged 750 cc single would my choice in the HP department. The tranny? I’ll keep the hydrostatic that’s currently in it; IMO it is without question the greatest transmission that has or ever will be put in any ATV.

    Suspension?? That old SRA works good for me, I like the stability that it provides on while transversing side hills, I also like the low profile and low center-of gravity that I have now for the "rough" country. There's a chance I might get to try some aftermarket shock that might improve the ride but we'll wait and see, that's not a big concern right now.

    I'd also like to increase the gas tank capacity to at least 5 gallons, with my flat pack that would give me an average range of about 150 trail miles or over 200 travel miles. PS would be a nice addition too; do you think Suzuki would make one that fits mine? I really like Suzuki’s PS. I like the “road feel" it provides rather than the steering feeling a spoon in a bowl of mush like others that I have ridden.

    A very aggressive viscous coupler in the front end might be nice to, one that is capable of engaging the tire that’s suspended in air. I like the point and throttle concept and I am allergic to buttons and all of those hell sent ridiculously pathetic override buttons. Can someone explain the reason or purpose of those to me?? We'll save that rant for another day.

    Once again Doug, thanks for the blog.

  2. Well, thanks First!

    I love my Manx. I had always wished though that it was slightly smaller and had a slick 4 wheel drive system. MAybe I'll add a few pics soon. Or a link to the Manx Buggy Club.

    Now are you suggesting ideas for my UTV or are you adding an ATV to my production line?

    I like the turbo idea as it would really be helpful at those high altitudes that I (we?) like to ride. But I also think a bit of added displacement (something more than 500cc!) would also be highly beneficial. I've found 650cc to be the magic number that hauls everything I need at the speeds I ride up to the altitudes I like ;-) Of course that's on an ATV not a UTV.

    I also believe that the Rubi's hydrostatic transmission is absolutely the best transmission ever made! I do wonder if it would be substantial enough to move something twice (or more) the bulk of the lightweight Rubicon. Not that Honda couldn't figure it out but I'm not putting them at the top end of the list of those that might call and offer to build my 'buggy!"

    Oh, and the reason for the override buttons are simple; They are a test to see if you really are responsible enough to actually ride the machine that has them. The problem with this is that you must use the override buttons to prove that you are responsible enough to not need them. Huh?

    Another time. Another evening. Another whatever...

  3. eDoug asked;
    "Now are you suggesting ideas for my UTV or are you adding an ATV to my production line?"

    I'm putting in my order for my next ATV, how soon do you think you can have it ready for delivery??

    A lot of controversy over the years about how much power Honda's hydrostatic trans can take, I'm quite sure that Honda is capable of building one that will handle all the power that "they think" you should have.

    ATS Turbos in Murray Utah builds (or did at one time) turbos for snow sleds so I'm sure that they could build one for your UTV and my ATV.

    I don't know how much I can help you with your new UTV, I've only ever driven two.

    My contribution?? The turbo.

    Sorry if I drifted off topic.