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!"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

2011 Polaris'

We are off to the see the new-for 2011 Polaris line-up. Of course I’m not sure how long we’ll be sworn to secrecy before we can tell you what we saw, so I thought maybe I’d spend a little time telling you what I’d like to see…..

First and foremost in my book would be a revised RZR. I’d like to see the 850 engine put in it Not that it all that much more powerful, but it’s smoother and a cleaner, more compact design. That package would also give us the 4-wheel braking that is MUCH needed. While they are in that department, let’s make sure that we clean up the mounting points so we can add bigger wheels and tires without having to go outward and increase the width beyond the 50” And let’s clean up those a-arms, make them a tubular steel and paint them silver. Then mount some better Fox shocks to them to increase the travel slightly but increase the ride and handling considerably. And go ahead and put some real tires on it. My choice would of course be something like the Carlisle ACT, or Goodyear MT/R. Or even a special set of perfectly (re-sized) Terra Cross.

Moving inside there would be a hand-lever for the emergency-parking brake, and some sealed storage compartments. The bodywork could stay pretty much like it is but let’s take some of the ugly out of that roll cage! Of course if it were up to me I’d go ahead and switch the entire drivetrain over to a system that had 2wd, 4wd, and a locking front differential and therefore also get great engine braking in the process. But I’m sure that’s too much to ask for. As would be a switch from a CVT transmission to a autoclutch system!

Moving on I’d lover to see a mid-size crewcab Ranger. Built on the platform from the 400cc class machine I’d stretch it slightly so there was a back seat. A small one! I’d probably make that model at least a 500cc, and maybe a 650.

In the ATV department things are looking pretty good with the new line of XPs, but I’d fix the power steering so it has less power and more feel. I’d make the design engineers go ride a Suzuki King Quad with EPS. I’d also make another 2-seat model, based on the Touring, but without a raised rear seat. I’d just make the standard seat longer. I talk to a lot of folks that ride two-up on a regular machine because the second rider doesn’t like sitting up so high and feels exposed. And while we’re working on the ATV line, I’d revise that transmission. I’d have it engage sooner and run in a higher ratio. And fix it so it shifts with clunking so much.

That’s pretty much the main changes – in a nutshell. I’d probably also shorten the RZR 4 a bit and clean up that cage as well. I might lift the Ranger Crew a bit too.

But I better stop while I’ve only dug a small hole for myself.

Oh there’s one more thing I’d do. I’d swallow my pride, and make a HUGE commitment to do two VERY important things. I’d keep building all the machines here in the US of A, and I’d commit the entire operation to a design and build quality that matches or exceeds that of the Japanese.

Think I’ll see any of this at the 2011 intro? I doubt it too, but knowing Polaris I know they’ll be some surprises.

I’ll let you know what they are just as soon as I can. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Have we passed the point of ‘common sense’ in the name of profit?

Have we passed the point of ‘common sense’ in the name of profit?

The newest Side by Side has hit the media outlets and will soon be sitting on the local dealership floor near you. The new 1000cc Commander is definitely the “latest and the greatest” SxS we’ve seen yet! But is it an aubaine or a dysastre?

With a 78 mph top speed and more complicated electronics than we’ve ever seen on a UTV or ATV it is an incredible display of technology. But more than it’s cost (initial or maintenance) perhaps most importantly it’s another prime example of a new vehicle brought to the market that will do more harm to our industry - all in the name of profit.

Sport quads are great machines for the race tracks and the sand dunes, but they do more damage to the trails, local communities, and the cause for responsible use of ATVs on the wonderful and scenic trails of our great backcountry than their utility counterparts. So why are they so prevalent? Because the manufacturers know that they can sell them. It matters less that they are harmful to the future of ATVs than to the immediate padding of their profit ledger.

That same holds true for the bigger and faster UTVs that are now hitting the market. While there is nothing wrong with the Commander in and of itself, it is more about the type of rider/driver that it is aimed at, and how (and where) they will use that machine to help accelerate the closure of our ATV trail systems.

Why am I complaining you say? Am I not in the business of profiting from this market as much as anyone else? Well yes, I guess – kinda, in a way. The latest and greatest, newest and most trick machines do draw more viewers, that’s true. But there’s something more that I see. I see the damage these machines (and riders) do to the areas where they are used.

Once again, whether it’s ATVs, guns, or alcohol, it’s not the device itself that causes the harm, but the person that chooses how to use it that causes the problem. So, to cut straight to the quick, I see that certain off-road vehicle ‘choices’ cause more harm than others. I’ve been fortunate(?) to have lived in several different locations (all on the edge of the wilderness) and I have seen the destruction that certain vehicles cause, to the trail system itself, but even more importantly the damage they do to the community around the trail system. While many people put up with mechanized off-road travel out of respect to the very users themselves, they tend to be noticeably less tolerant when the off-roaders are loud, fast, and irresponsible and disrespectful.

This sword has two edges, and both are dangerously sharp – and damaging. Certain off-road vehicles are marketed at the less responsible of off-road users, and those less responsible users then take that vehicle to an area (typically away from where they live), and use it (and their behavior) in ways that accelerate the closure of the trails they came to enjoy(?).

This closure affects not only those irresponsible users, but the responsible ones as well.

Some of you may call me crazy. To that I say, “Why are you even reading this? Shouldn’t you be on some other website?” Other’s of you, those that I do this website for, know the danger in irresponsible trail usage. All I’m pointing out is the relationship of the machine they use to their lack of responsible use of our trails. While there are things we can do to help stop the irresponsible users from closing down our trails, I find it equally irresponsible to be profiting from the manufacture of the tools that help them do it.

So, go riding while you can. And smile, as every day there are more idiots on the trails that you are going to have try to make up for with your respectfulness, politeness, and responsible behavior.

God Bless  

Friday, June 4, 2010

Swingarms Are Better Than IRS!

Yeap, it's true!

I bet that got your attention, eh? Well, now let me jab you one more time! The only reason IRS is so popular is because consumers like you(!) demanded IRS because they(you!) thought Independent Rear Suspension systems were better. Huh? You bought ATVs with IRS rather than swingarms so manufacturer’s all needed to make ATVs with IRS so you would be competitive and you would also buy their’s!

Now let me explain myself. First of all there are no utility ATVs or UTVs than have optimized swingarm suspensions to use as a comparison, whereas IRS systems have undergone several years of improvement.

Now let’s also look at the fact that most IRS systems have huge sway bars that restrict the ‘actual’ independent travel of each of the rear wheels tremendously. Don’t believe me? Go out to your garage and put a jack under one rear wheel and jack it up. (Yeah I know that will require that you first jack up the ATV to get the wheels off of the ground so that you can then put a jack under just one of the tires. And yes I know you may need to sit on the ATV to put some weight on it to ‘try’ to make it move. And yes that might just be another problem here). So, did you do it? Then you know that there was little or no movement. Amazed? I know, it’s an amazing thing. If one rear wheel goes up, the other does too. It’s only independent depending on what you think ‘independant’ means – if you know what I mean….

So why is this so? Because completely independent rear suspension travel does not work on an ATV! If you disconnected the anti-sway bar you’d find that the high center of gravity of an ATV would cause the independent travel of the rear wheels to be a horrific problem, causing the ATV to lean tremendously in the corners, and fall over every time the terrain was uneven.


Let me explain a bit further. If you have one end of a vehicle with the wheels working independently of each other, the other end of the vehicle needs to be an anchor to keep the machine’s wheels below the rest of the machine (in other words it’ll fall over!) Hence a stable rear suspension system that can either be dual a-arms with a swaybar connecting them together, or a swingarm system with a solid rear axle.

Need some examples? How about racing ATVs. Or the ultimate off-road speedster, the ‘Trophy Truck’. Now if you checked out trophy truck suspensions you probably noticed that they are a unique blend of individual trailing arms with a solid rear axle. Arctic Cat had a very similar system many years ago that worked incredibly but was not accepted by consumers so AC switched to what was demanded – an IRS system with tons of ground clearance! And you guessed it, you lost again ;-)

You see, you need the stability of a solid rear axle for the ultimate in stability and handling. But don’t think that just because it’s a swingarm that it can’t have great travel. (refer once again to the comment regarding sport quads and trophy trucks). Why not set up a swingarm rear suspension on a Prairie or Rubicon with 12” of wheel travel? They do it on the sport quads and the trophy trucks…..Oh yeah, I said that already ;-)

So I contend that consumer demand for independent rear suspension systems have made ATVs handle worse than if we would have spent the time to develop better, longer-travel swingarms on our utility ATVs (and UTVs!)

Do I doubt my comment? No, I just got back from riding my tricked-out, Elka-equipped, Kawasaki KFX 700. And if I need more proof I’ll take a spin on the project Raptor…

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tires! Tires! Tires!

The importance of tires!

It seems like all I do is talk about tires! Tires this and tires that. But, they are important! Tires just may be the most important single change you can make to your ATV! No, no, make that the most important change.

So you’d think I’d know that, but I actually had to learn that lesson all over again just yesterday. It was a beautiful day and I thought I’d take a test ride. The ATV of choice was the 2010 Kawasaki Brute Force. Camo edition! This was the first real miles we put on it since the filming. During the filming we also had a new Sportsman along. Every time I got on the Brute Force I was too aware of the stiffness of the thumb throttle. It used to be that the thumb had to push two carburetors open, but now it’s only the twin fuel injection units. It just seemed too stiff to me.

Now there are several reasons that could be. It could be that I’m getting old and tired. Or it could be that I spend too much time in the seat of a UTV. But whatever the case I thought I’d just jump on the BF and take it for a little ride and see how it felt putting a few miles on it.

While there are several lessons to be learned from this let’s just focus on the one that has to do with the tires. The ride consisted of 20 or so miles of fairly easy scenic trails. I wanted to see if my thumb got used to the BF or if it did me in. Towards the end of the ride I opted to try a trail pretty well inundated with spring run-off. I figured it would be fun to splash through a little water. Unfortunately it was quickly apparent that the underside of the flowing water was more than just rocky. It had lots of sticky, gooey mud. The kind that permanently stains everything it touches as I later find out. (Note: I know this trail and often wondered why it appeared so very rutted ;-)

But I’m riding a new Brute Force with a locker! (A long time ago an old man imparted a bit of wisdom - that he no doubt learned the hard way now that look back at it). He said that 4 wheels without any traction are no better than two. Words to live by, or learn from. And better to learn from someone else than by your own adventure.

But I had a locker! Equal traction to all four wheels. And power! 750cc of twin cylinder, explosive power to those four wheels. Equally if I might add that again! The only things I lacked (as I look back on all this with a new-found wisdom) were tires with the proper traction, and the common sense to know that.

In my defense I’m a slow learner at this ‘stuck’ thing, having stuck every single test vehicle (full size and ATV) in the snow over the winter months. Most of my friends were perplexed by my actions but I referred them to the ‘other’ old adage, “you don’t know exactly were the edge is until you fall over it!”

Whatever. This is a whole new adventure. Of course I wish I had pictures but even if I would have had a camera along, I was far too covered in layers of mud (sticky, gooey mud that stains everything it touches mud!) to use it. Although the mud was not bottomless, once I stepped in over the top of my 10” boots, I knew I was in deep, ah, trouble.

A quick check of the circumstances showed me that the mud was too deep to stand in, even flowing slightly over the floorboards of the BF I used as my refuge. I had plenty of power to spins all four tires – equally I might add. The problem was that the tires didn’t do anything but spin. Just a bit more tread might have made all the difference in the world. And might have saved me an hour or more of digging and diverting water. And might have saved a good pair of khaki cargo pants and a 4x4TV shirt from being ruined!

I did get out, but it was an hour or more struggle that gave me plenty of time to think about the dangers of riding without the proper tires.

Gotta go. I think I’ll bolt on a set of Terra Cross and see what happens ;-)