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!"

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…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yet Another Compelling Reason For A Racing Simulator!

Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson's Commercial for Forza Motorsport 4

Monday, November 7, 2011

Something to Learn About Something to Learn

I’ve been doing some investigating into racing simulators recently and it has given me a whole new perspective on what it feels like to know almost nothing (okay absolutely nothing) about a new interest. I’m finding out that trying to gather enough pertinent information is a struggle. Even any information is a struggle.

Basically, for simulator racing you need to find out about several different components, such as cockpit seats, steering wheel and pedals sets, the different gaming platforms, and finally which games are worth the money. A daunting task for several reasons.

You see, I learned a long time ago that all reviews are not created equal. Here’s a great example of this from my first editor at ATV Television. He had realized that now that he was involved in the ATV industry that he needed to pay more attention to ATVs. After buying a few magazines (there were no other TV shows, and only one internet site back then), he mentioned to me how amazed he was that we attended the same new model introduction as those magazine guys, we rode the same machines, and we sat around having drinks and talking after all the riding was done. But yet, when the reviews came out, their reviews were considerably different than ours. Until that revelation, he said he had treated all the articles and reviews that he read in the video and hunting magazines as gospel – always 100% correct. Now all of a sudden he didn’t know what to believe and what not too.

It’s almost as if there needs to be a review of the reviewers in order to find out which are the good ones!

And now, I find myself in that same position. After being in the off-road review business for almost 20 years I’ve grown accustomed to being able to screen the reviews to know which are valid, which are off base, and which are pure hyperbole.

But now I’m investigating an area where I know nothing – not of the product, nor of the reviewers of the products. So now I’m left with first, trying to find the product reviews I need, and second, trying to figure out how valid they are for me.

So what? Well, I can now better empathize with those of you struggling to find out more about what I take so for granted. So I promise to try to be more helpful in my information for those of you newest to our sport.

And I will try not to get involved in another industry simply because there’s a need ;-)

Saturday, November 5, 2011



per·cep·tion noun
the act or faculty of apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind.

We all have opinions. And yeah, I know the rest of that….

But the part of opinions that I want to discuss lies in how our opinions are formed - what are they based on, and what goes into the opinion that we oftentimes stand behind so vehemently? You know, the whole my better is better than your better thing.

The three attributes formulate our opinions; experience, perception, and bias/justification.

Experience is the easy part of the equation. No matter how you look at it experience is pretty cut and dried – how much do you have, how many did you do, how often did you do it, and how long have you done it. Let’s use one of my favorite subjects as an example, tires. You say that the Denmore All Terrain bias-radials are the best tire there is. And that statement may very well be true if put in this context – it is the best tire you’ve ever used. Of course it’s also one of only three tires you’ve used, and all of them were used on a single ATV. So basically you’ve based your opinion of what is the best tire on your experience with only three tires. That’s kind of like basing your opinion on what is the best food after having only three meals!

Perception is a much harder thing to describe simply because it’s not based on any solid, quantifiable evidence like experience. Perception is based only on, ah, well, perception. Hmmmm. It’s kinda of like asking someone one what they think but ask them to leave out what they know.

Perception is merely what you think is so based on nothing other than your feelings. ‘I think that my Mangusta EG 150 is the best quad made!’ Any facts to support this claim? No. Any comparisons with other machines? Nope. Any studies, tests, evaluations, or anything subjective on which to base this claim? Nada, nothing, no way, sorry!

And yet perception is oftentimes the first thing that forms our opinions – even more so than even limited experience. So our opinion is formed based on our perception and our experience, be they what they may be – limited, subjective, or erroneous.

But wait, there’s more! The other influence on our opinion is our bias. Bias enters the equation on two fronts; first as something we’re used to, something we’ve always had. And secondly as a justification for our ownership. Think about that one for a minute. If you didn’t think that what you purchased was the best there is, then you’d be left with admitting you didn’t get ‘the best’, and why would you do that? In reality there are a lot of reasons. Considering that there really is no single best anything that’s right for everyone is the primary reason. Cost is another as typically the best of something is the most expensive.

So our opinion of a product is made up of our experience with that product and like products, our bias toward that product based on our ownership, and our perception, that somehow magical feeling inside you that says, “I like it!”

Obviously we all have opinions - and we’re all entitled to our opinions, even if they’re based solely on our perceptions, bias, and limited experience. But it’s important that we realize that sometimes other opinions that are based on more extensive experience (and education), and less on personal perception or bias may be more subjective, and therefore more valid than those based simply on personal perception, justification, and a limited personal experience.

That is why some opinions are far more credible – and valuable than others. And that’s why the opinion of people that test products for a living oftentimes have credence over an owner’s opinion.

To quote Dave Barry, “We’re all entitled to our opinions, even if they’re wrong!” So if yours is based only on perception, bias, and limited experience, you run the risk that it just may be ;-)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I Have Such Great Friends!

Got an email the other day;


I took your advice and went with the stock wheels, which was tough because I really like the ITP wheels. I went with 25" terra cross tires. I had an opportunity to weigh each wheel as I was getting the terra cross tires mounted. The stock aluminum brute force wheels weigh 6.7 pounds each for the rear and 6.2 pounds each for the fronts. For comparison the 14" ITP wheels were around 14 pounds.

I must say that the terra cross tires have completely transformed my machine. I saw somewhere on your website that you ran about 5.5 psi in yours and I did the same and wow what a difference. I have regained all my power, my steering is fantastic (almost feels like power steering) and the handling is awesome. The 25" terra cross tires actually measure 24-1/4 inches and thus bringing the brute force closer to the ground like I want. Now I have an awesome machine that feels stable, handles great, and is predictable. Doesn't have all the flash, but definitely is capable!

Wow! Stephen was smart enough to ask for advice. Smart enough to take it. And then smart enough to investigate it further. He took my advice and immensely improved his ATV and his riding experience. In the process of checking this all out, Stephen did something I hadn’t done – measure the weight difference between good, stock aluminum wheels and those ‘nice-looking’ 14” wheels from ITP.

Stephen’s just one example of the type of person that follows ATVTV, and whom I consider a friend. He’s someone I’ve never met but yet I know that if I ever do, that we’d get along just fine – talking about our families, our riding experiences, and those more important things we no doubt share.

That’s what I like most about what I do….. I get to meet so many of you. Sometimes in nothing more than an email. But sometimes it’s the Walmart checkout line where we visit as though we’ve been friends for years. Sometimes it’s in a restaurant where we are surprised to be sharing the same experience. Or sometimes out on the trails where we chat about the riding adventures we share.

And sometimes I’ve found that our lives actually intersect and we become friends for more than just one passing moment. But whether our paths cross in an email, or for 30 seconds in meeting, we have a bond. We like the same things. But maybe more important, we see life through the same set of values. And ‘that’ is what bonds us together and yet sets us apart from the rest.

We care about the same things – tires that work as well as the ads say they should, wheels that don’t weight so much that they control the ATV, zippers on bags that actually zip when packed with dust and dirt, exploring trails rather than destroying them, and other, more important things.

I’m fortunate in that I’m constantly reminded what a great bunch of people I’m able to call friends.

Thanks. It means a lot.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Trouble With Filming Things for A Living

Everyone thinks that doing what I do for a living is the greatest job in the world. But I’m here to tell you while it does have some incredible benefits, it also has some pretty disturbing drawbacks.

Right now I’m getting things ready for the coming cold weather. For those of you that live any place other than the southwest, you know the routine. Put the mowers and weed-eaters away and pull out the snow blower and wood-splitter. Put the convertible in the back corner of the shop and pull out the old ‘beater’ 4wd. And pull the weed sprayer from the back of the ATV and bolt on the snow plow.

That is what brings me to the trouble with filming things for a living. Before I put the plow on I want to change the winch cable to a nice new synthetic rope. You know, one season of using the cable on the plow and I wouldn’t want to touch it with two pair of gloves. Snow plows require a 90-degree movement of the cable – over and over again using only about 4 inches of the cable. So unless you happen to have a Montana Jack’s winch rotator, the only long-term solution is the installation of a synthetic rope.

I try to run rope on all my winches, but the one that needed it the most is the one that doesn’t have it. So, you’d think I’d just go out to the shop and put it on. I mean I have a great shop and all the right tools – including a wrench, drill, and radio that gets Rush Limbaugh – most of the time ;-)

Well, here’s why it’s not done yet. I want to film the installation for a video. That means the lights have to be set up. The background has to be right. I mean you don’t really want to film a winch cable install with a Miata in the background. Or an FJ80 sitting on jack stands either. I have to have the right clothes on. You know, something other than my ‘real’ work pants and sweaty hair that has had a cap on it all day. Of course I also have to have a plan so that when we film it, it doesn’t have to take all day to film and another day to edit it to make it look like we knew what we were doing ;-)

Perhaps that sounds like a lot of whining, but you really can’t make something look good if you just film the installation as you would normally do it in your garage. In the evening. After a few beers. Otherwise it would look just like you doing it in your garage after a few beers. No offense.

But that’s not even the worst part of filming. When we film adventures it takes all of the fun out of riding. We stop too much. We do things too many times. We even back down the trail over and over again so we can film with different something-or-anothers. One person that went with us said he’d never backed up so much in his life. Another, who went with us on one day’s ride, suddenly had septic lines to work on the next day. Now that’s pretty bad when we lose out to septic lines….

And you know, I should have known. I remember many years ago (could it actually have been 1988!) when I was asked to use my recently rebuilt Meyers Tow’d in a movie! Wow! What a great thing. I asked my daughter, who at the time was about 8 (or so I think) if she wanted to go along to watch a movie being filmed. She only thought about it for a second before she answered, “Naw, it’s Friday and they’re having ice cream at school that day.”

She was the only one that knew not to be involved with anything video without having to be a part of it even once!

It took me a little longer…

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Treading Lightly

"We ride to have a great time, not to make great time." (An adaptation of a comment from Sally, in the movie Cars!)

When it comes to the promotion of trail systems there seems to be endless amounts of energy and resources spent getting people to come see it and ride it and far less thought given to who exactly is being invited to experience that particular paradise. It seems more than short-sighted, perhaps even irresponsible to promote a riding area without giving due thought to the impact that promotion has on the environment.

Whoa! Wait a minute! What's this(?), an off roader that's worried about the environment? Yeah, right, sure. Sounds like an oxymoron! Well, it shouldn't be. Us so-called 'off-roaders' should be very concerned about the environment that we enjoy. We need to be increasingly careful in our use of the great back country that we love to explore so that we can continue to enjoy well it into the future - the future where our kids and grandkids will be able to enjoy it as well! The key word to remember here is 'sustainability!' Write it down. Commit it to memory. Tell a friend!

It seems rather obvious that some trail users are considerably more harmful on the trails, to the trails, to the surrounding areas, and therefore most specifically to our desire to keep our wonderful trail systems open! Who you ask are these harmful users? It seems so obvious it shouldn't need to be said.

But I will anyway.

First let me say it's not necessarily always a 'who' that's bad for the trails, but perhaps more often a 'what'. And like in so many cases, these are generalities with which I speak. That means that there are exceptions to each. So if you're reading this and you're the 'exception' don't tell me, tell all the others that you are the exception from!

* Speed is bad. Speed of course is a relative term, but there is a point where too much speed is not only extremely dangerous to other trail users but also to the trail itself, as the spinning and sliding tires dig up the trails causing more dust, more ruts, and more erosion. Speed and dust is also known to be a rather unpleasant greeting to other trail users.

I've seen a couple good takes on speed measurement. One friend said that if his cap wanted to blow off his head he was riding too fast to be wearing a cap. Interesting. My brother used to say that he rode to see things so he rides slow enough that he can see them.

* So if speed is bad that certainly must mean that sport quads are bad. Although it's not impossible to enjoy scenic trails on a sport machine, the typical sport ATV rider is usually more concerned with enjoying the thrill of riding than being thrilled, enjoying the ride.

* And so that 'speed thing' must also apply to most motorcycles. They necessarily require more speed to ride and their single rear tire spins most of the time leaving a smaller and more pronounced rut. Someone once mentioned to me that the fewer driven wheels a vehicle has, the more damage it does to the terrain. It may also be said that the fewer driven wheels a vehicle has, the less the operator is looking around enjoying the scenery.

* Aggressive tires are also destructive to the trails. We've tested plenty of different tires and types of tires over the years and the outcome was always that deep-lugged mud and snow tires were not only unnecessary for regular trail riding but not even necessary for mild mud or snow conditions. Of course non-spinning aggressive tires may well do less damage than the mad spinning of more regular treaded tires.

Something I always think about is how you can ride an ATV slowly, without spinning the tires across even the most fragile terrain and they barely leave a mark.

* Noise is probably one of the most irritating invasions an off-roader can impose on others. Loud machines are irritating to everyone from other campers nearby, home and property owners you pass along the way, and of course the wildlife. And let's not forget to mention the interruption to the serenity of anyone stopped along the trail enjoying the scenery.

* Trash. It never ceases to amaze me how selfish or just plain ignorant many people are concerning leaving their trash along the trails. Do they not see it or do they just not care about seeing it. So I'll assume that those not concerned with the beauty of our trails are not concerned with riding beautiful trails. In which case I say you should stay home.

Did I sound mean here? Selfish? If you're offended it is most likely you that I'm talking about here. 

Let me just say one more time that the key to being able to continue to ride our trails is sustainability. Keep them clean, keep them environmentally friendly, and keep the other trail users happy.

But of course, I imagine if you are reading this I'm preaching to the choir - so-to-speak.

Happy trails -
or should I say "God Bless our 'happy trails'?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wheels & Offset Explained (?)

   It wasn't until I moved from deserts of California to the mountains of Utah (where mud and snow is rather more prevalent in our riding than dry sand ;-) that I realized some of the problems associated with wheels with an increased negative offset (Need help with what 'offset is? See the explanation at the end of this blog). The first thing I noticed was how dirty I was after even a short ride. I compared that to tires that resided properly under the fenders - something I've realized were properly named 'fenders'! 

 The other thing I found out about wheels with more (negative) offset is their effect on the handling of the machine. The greater the offset of the wheel to the outside of the machine, the more effect it has on the suspension and steering. Add to that the fact that this happens because you've most likely added heavier, aftermarket tires and wheels farther out and you have not only increased the amount of unsprung weight, but you've also increased it's leverage. Because of that, the tires have a far greater effect on the ATV (or UTV) whether it's the wheel and tire's movement downward from dropping down into a rut or reacting upward to a rock or other bump. The greater the mass and the greater the leverage, the greater effect it will have. And that's not a 'good' effect.
 An even more noticeable effect of increased negative offset is what it does to the steering. That same leverage we mentioned above, when combined with a tire with more traction will now far more easily overpower the steering leverage you have. First, the steering is far more 'grabby' with increased negative offset than with the same aggressive tread with a more positive offset. Then, the more traction and the added leverage can (and often will) be able to out-wrestle you for control of the handlebars or steering wheel.

 Yet another effect of this added offset and added traction is its ability to also overpower a differential. A 'limited slip' front differential will be far less effective and unable to 'lock in' when the amount of leverage and traction is changed.

 And it goes without saying that the effects of all this weight and leverage will add tremendously to the wear and even breakage of all the suspension, brake, and drive components.

 So, what's my point? Simply this - It's easy to look at a set of very aggressive tires mounted on a set of wheels sticking out past the fenders and go, "Wow, that's cool-looking. It must work awesome" and be overpowered by the appearance of performance. But real performance is not measured by looks, perception, or (imagine this) popularity, but by actual performance. Yes I know, that's a profound statement and you may need some time to let it sink in. What's even more amazing is that this same perception of performance applies to other areas of an ATV as well, but we're not talking about swingaxle's versus IRS systems here ;-)

 I've indeed been very fortunate to be able to try an incredible variety of wheel and tire combinations on a huge assortment of machines and most recently in a great many different trail conditions. And I've learned a lot....

 Negative offset may look good and add some much-needed stability to some ATVs, but is offset (no pun intended;-) by a detriment in steering precision, handling, and even traction.

 Big, giant tread may also look good but may come with the penalty of added weight, lack of steering precision (and control) and even a loss of traction and definitely a loss of power.

 The general rule that seems to 'almost' always work is the use of three basic principles; Use the stock aluminum wheel or an aftermarket aluminum wheel with the exact same offset as the stock wheel. Find a moderately aggressive tire and then always choose the one with less over more. And finally watch the weight - it's easy for tires to be incredibly overweight in the name of traction and reliability.

 And actually when you apply all three of those principles you'll find the choices are narrowed enough that your decision is easier.

 Oh, did I mention that no matter what it needs to be radial construction?

 All of this is knowing that no one modification to your ATV will have a bigger effect - good or bad.


The offset of a vehicle's wheel is the distance between the centerline of the wheel and the plane of the hub-mounting surface of the wheel. It can thus be either positive or negative. Offset has a significant effect on many elements of a vehicle's suspension, including the suspension geometry, clearance between the tire and suspension elements, the scrub radius of the steering system, and the width of the wheel faces relative to the fender coverage.
Zero Offset - The plane of the hub mounting surface is even with the centerline of the wheel.
Positive Offset - The plane of the hub mounting surface is shifted from the centerline toward the outside of the wheel. Positive offset wheels have most of the wheel toward the inside of the wheel.
Negative Offset - The plane of the hub mounting surface is toward the back or brake side of the wheel's centerline.


Monday, September 12, 2011

EV - Slower and Quieter Can Be Plusses

If you haven't read the earlier ATV Television Blog entitled, "I've seen the future" please do. That way you'll understand this one much better.

I have sitting outside my office, one of the new Polaris Ranger EVs (Electric Vehicle). Now before I go on I'll give you a little time to clear your senses because if you're anything like me, the thought of an electric off-road vehicle will send electrical shocks through your brain until you are convulsing - with laughter ;-)

Okay, you better? Now guess what? It's quiet! So quiet in fact that I can here my passenger talking to me. And I can hear them clear enough that I can answer back without ending up hoarse. In fact it's so quiet I can here the stream flowing beside me as I drive along. I can also here those dastardly fossil fuel powered wheelers coming long before I can even see them.

I can also here the wind in the trees, the deer running up the bank, and the sound of thunder off in the distance. I hear the birds singing and the rocks from the tires flipping up into the air.

I can also see more clearly all the smiles on the faces of all (okay most) of those that I pass by. I see wildlife startled at not hearing me coming from far away. And I see the future of back country travel where peace and love abound. Okay, whoa, that went a bit far. Let's take a minute here. Let me go slam a brewski, kill an innocent animal and strap back on my redneckhood.

It didn't work. I still see the advantages of an off-road vehicle that disrupts the forrest and the community around the forrest far less than now.

Of course there's some things that just don't work on the EV. For one, it's slow and heavy. I suppose that really should count as two, huh? For another, it doesn't go very far.

But I do see is the advantages of the quiet operation of a UTV. Or maybe (just maybe) what we need to do is ride more responsibly with what we have.


Slower. Quieter. It's a trail use that's an amazingly wonderful experience - I can assure you. And so is fruit, granola and yogurt. And no animals die. Trust me ;-)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Random Thoughts About TIRES!

Let me say it again – “Tires are the single most important modification that you can make to your ATV or UTV!”

I’ll say this too! “Most ATVs – especially those coming from the Japanese manufacturers come with cheap, round, thin, biased-ply tires that are on the machine to save unsprung weight and save money!”

The proper tires will improve and enhance the performance of your ATV (or UTV) more than most people know simply because most people to not upgrade to the best tires for their machine and their riding. Most people upgrade to a tire they think looks good or their friends and other people say is good.

Have you ever run across a person that said they bought this ATV, or that truck, or in this case, this particular tire and it’s not the best? Let’s just look at tires; If someone upgrades their tires from the stock units, almost anything will mostly work better ;-)

If I may use a good friend as an example – he purchase a brand new Honda Rubicon. When the stock tires wore out at 800 miles, he upgraded to a set of Goodyear Mudrunners. They improved traction incredibly, but they didn’t steer as well or handle as well. He figured that was the trade-off necessary for the better tires. When those wore out he purchased a set of Maxxiss Bighorns. Now these were the best tires made because not only did they have great traction, but they rode better than the Mudrunners. He told all his friends that the Bighorns were the best ATV tire he’d ever ridden.

Then we met. I was incredulous with his choice of tires and perhaps more-so his opinion of them, and made him try a set of Carlisle ACTs. He was amazed at what he didn’t know before. Like so many others he could only make a measurement of a tire’s performance based on the tires that he was familiar with. Once he became more familiar with other tires he became aware of what he didn’t know before.

And that’s a typical case. The only difference is that Kenny was open-minded enough to want to know more, and a talented enough rider to be aware of the differences.

So, what makes a good tire?

Light weight. The lighter the tire, especially in relation to the weight of the machine, the better it will handle. A lighter tire will move up and down with less effect on the rest of the machine than a heavier one. A lighter tire will also start turning, continue turning, and stop with less effort than a heavier tire.

Tire compound. The consistency of the rubber that a tire is made from is called the compound. A harder compound will wear less and last longer. A softer compound will wear faster and therefore wear out faster. But, a softer compound will ‘stick’ or bend around objects like dirt, rocks and sticks and provide better traction whereas a hard compound will simply hit against it and somewhat like a bullet, ricochet off. The perfect combination of compound will make a tire have traction in dirt that is controllable.

Tread design. Here’s what seems to be a no-brainer. More tread is better. Wait, that’s not true. More tread can mean more weight, and more weight is bad. More tread with a soft compound can mean more flex and flex is bad. What then are we left with? The type of tread is important. An angled tread makes the tire clean the mud from it easier, but an angled tread can also make the tire less precise. A lateral tread makes for a smoother ride. Lateral is the tem for the tread being somewhat continuous around the circumference. A cut out tread – or a non solid rubber tread makes for a lighter tread and a tread with a bit more flex for superior traction without too much flex as with a deep tread with a soft compound.

Siping. Siping is the small slits in the tread of a tire. Sipes allow the tread to grip the surface better.

Sidewall structure. While a sidewall needs to flex for added comfort and the ability to give over irregular terrain, it needs to be strong enough to resist punctures. Just as important, the sidewall needs to be firm enough to not roll over while turning. Stock, bias-ply tires roll very easy when under lateral forces and that’s why ATVs and Rhinos can fall over so easy. A radial tire retains a constant contact patch and the sidewall does not flex with the tread so it is much more stable.

And since I said that these were random thoughts, here’s something else to mull over. A good part of traction and performance is based on a tire’s contact patch on the ground. When thinking of contact patch, most people only think wider and not longer. A longer contact patch comes from a taller tire. A longer contact area provides more traction. So you see, a taller tire can have more advantages than just more ground clearance.

So a good tire is as light as possible with as soft of a rubber compound as feasible with the tread designed to ride smooth and be self-cleaning. The tread should be just tall enough to provide forward traction but not so tall as to add too much weight or to bend while cornering. The tread should be somewhat flexible with siping or hollowed edges for better traction. The sidewall should flex slightly but be resistant to punctures.

And there you have it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Betty Ford Center For Vehicle Addiction?

Sometimes it comes to this; you must face up to your problem. For some people it’s drugs of some sort that take over their life. Other’s it’s alcohol that won’t let them go. And for some it’s an unfortunate addiction to things that go – vehicles, cars, boats, ATVs – things with motors, engines, noise and vibration.

The difference is that if you have a problem with drugs or alcohol it’s a much more accepted problem. By that I mean it is seen as a problem and because of that there are means and ways for you to get help. There plenty of clinics available and eager to step in and administer to the poor soul that can’t say no to another drink. Unfortunately there is no one waiting to help you with you problem if you are addicted to vehicles.

So I propose a solution.

Like every other addiction, the first thing we have to do is recognize that there is indeed a problem — a problem that you have no control over. In this case it’s the addiction to vehicles. Here, rather than not being able to say no to another drink, it’s not being able to say no to another thing with wheels and an engine. Or just wheels or just an engine. Or sometime neither – but they once had ;-)

To better identify the problem let’s look at what the government says is normal. To apply for any government aid you are allowed only one vehicle. The normal American family has two vehicles. The more involved and less socially acceptable may actually have a three-car garage filled with yet more items sitting outside in the driveway.

There are the telltale signs of vehicle addiction such as justification of purchase. Not to name names, but my son-in-law recently bought an FJ80 with the ‘justification’ that he needed something to seat 7 people. The new registration hadn’t even shown up in his mailbox before he installed a lift kit and mounted bigger, and (much) more aggressive tires on it and headed out to the mountains to go camping.

There are other signs, like the size of a person’s garage – oftentimes referred to as a ‘shop’ thereby giving it less of a classification as a place to park vehicles as to simply ‘justify’ its size by it’s use as a ‘workplace’.

Or how about the shear number of vehicles a person has owned over the span of their lifetime. I recently read a Peter Egan column where he listed that he had owned something like 97 vehicles in his life! Most likely a disgusting number to most people – even those 60 years of age or more.

Now, like the three main questions you must ask yourself to find out if you’re an alcoholic, I guess we now can ask ourselves three questions to find out is you are addicted to vehicles. (Now I may not be absolutely correct in this but I remember these 3 ‘alcoholic’ questions – Do you crave a drink? Do you drink at the same time every day? Have you repeatedly tried to quit drinking?) Maybe we should add that repeatedly tried to quit to our list of vehicle addition questions as I remember that being the clue that I wasn’t an alcoholic – I never tried to quit ;-)

So, let’s be honest with ourselves and answer those questions (That’s the ones referring to vehicle addition and not the alcohol-related questions as after all, alcoholism is pretty much an accepted decease nowadays;-)

I’ll step up first:

1) Have I ever tried to justify the purpose of a vehicle?

The most recent vehicle purchase was a Mazdaspeed Miata modified by Flyin’ Miata to put out in excess of 240 horsepower.

But, it does get better mileage than any other vehicle I own so that’s not really justification right?

2) Do you have a garage that is referred to as a shop because of its size?

Because I test vehicles and work on building ‘project vehicles’, of course my building where my vehicles sit is referred to as a ‘shop’. And 4000 square feet isn’t that big for a shop anyway. Nor is the fact that there’s another 2000 square foot shop in anther state.

3) Have you owned more vehicles than a normal person could justify?

Do I really need to list them?

Motorcycles: (24)
Suzuki 80
Honda Super 90
Honda Scrambler 160
Honda 160 Street
Honda Trail 90
Honda Trail 110
Yamaha RZ 350
Yamaha 100
Yamaha 125
Rickman Hodaka (incredibly fast)
Bultaco Montero
Bultaco Alpina
Bultaco Pursang
Yamaha DT2 250
Husky 360 8-speed (Malcolm Smith’s)
Husky 250 4-speed
Husky 250 (2)
Husky 400 (2)
Husky 450 (3)
Yamaha TT500

ATVs & UTVs: (16)
Honda 185S
’82 Honda 250R
’83 Honda 250R
Honda 350X
Honda 350X 4-wheeler (first 4-wheeler!)
Honda 250X
Yamaha Tri-Z
Yamaha Warrior (super modified for mag article)
Yamaha Moto 80
Honda Odyssey 350
Kawasaki Prairie 700
Suzuki LTZ 400
Suzuki LT80
1999 Polaris Ranger 6x6
Kawasaki V-Force 700
Suzuki King Quad 700
Suzuki King Quad 750 EPS

Cars and Trucks: (54)
65 Blue Meyers Manx (original from Lion Country Safari)
67 Orange Meyers Manx
Yellow Empi Baja Bug
Digger Single-seat VW sand car
Sand Toy 2 Seater
Sandwinder 2-seat racer (Ex Johnny Rutherford car)
65 VW Convert
62 Green VW
70 Orange VW Convert
72 Porsche 914
79 Honda Accord
74 Ford F250 4x4
43 Ford
Datsun 280ZX 10th Anniversary Edition
GMC S-15 4x4
Isuzu Trooper 4dr 4x4
Isuzu Extended Cab 4x4
70 Chevy 2500 4x4 (Service Bed)
68 Chevy 327 pickup
75 Chevy 1-ton flatbed 350
73 Chevy 1-ton flatbed 454
72 Chevy 4x4 pickup (Dave Gay modified 396)
85 Chevy CrewCab Dually 4x4
85 Toyota flatbed dually dump
92 Toyota pickup automatic
84 Buick LA Olympic Edition
52 VW (restored)
74 VW Thing
72 VW Thing (import with reduction gears)
Orange VW Thing (for parts)
70 VW w/ Porsche 356 engine and tranny (EMPI GTV)
67 Blue Manx (Dave Parsons)
70 Meyers Towd
70 Honda 600 (original bought from owner of Reno Honda)
Suzuki Sidekick Convert
52 Chevy truck
46 Willys Pickup
68 yellow VW
66 Ford LTD 390
Yellow Glass Buggy
VW Rabbit Diesel pickup
Suzuki Samurai – Rockcrawler
61 VW – Fontana Grey
76 Toyota FJ40
85 Toyota FJ60
1989 Jeep Cherokee (Scofield)
1993 Ford F350 4x4
1999 BMW M3 Convert
2003 Range Rover
2004 GMC 2500HD Diesel 4x4
2006 Toyota Tundra CrewCab TRD 4x4
1990 Mercedes 300 SEL
1994 Mazda MPV 4wd
1993 Toyota FJZ80
2004 MazdaSpeed FM Miata

Boats: (8)
18’ Sol Cat
18 Horizon 460 Ford Jet
16’ Trihull
440 Jet Ski
300 Jet Ski
Yamaha Waverunner (2)

Airplanes: (4)
100cc Yamaha Weight-shift Quicksilver
440 Cuyuna Quicksilver
440 Pterodactyl
440 Pterodactyl 2-seater

Tractors: (2)
Cat 247B

We don't have to list tools with engines - mowers, generators, wood-splitters, saws, and weed-wackers do we?

Then that's only 107. A couple more than Pete, but does that really mean anything - really? Keep in mind that I got my first vehicle at age 13 and I’m within months of being 60, so considering that’s 47 years of vehicle ownership - when the total number of vehicles is divided by the number of years of possible ownership is only barely more than the national average of 2 vehicles – per year.

4) Have you repeatedly tried to quit buying and owning vehicles?

Fortunately being an automotive journalist there have been many years where I didn’t need to own a vehicle as I had at my disposal multiple test units. Did that answer that?

I’ve learned a lot in writing this. First, I feel I’m fully qualified to judge whether a person can be classified as a vehicle addict. I’ve come to that conclusion based on my ability to answer the above questions openly and honestly.  Although many people may find my answers show all the signs of addiction, I realize that because of the fact that I have not ‘ever’ tried to give up purchasing vehicles that I can not be classified as an addict.

So, with that knowledge I would like to say that I am here for you if you have a problem and would like to get help. It’s a multi-step program. Take the test. Answer the questions. Clear your conscience and clean out your garage.

I can help you with the clean-up process and point you to the nearest Prius dealer.

Make the step. You’ll feel so much better, and so politically correct.

But be prepared as if too many of you face up to your problem I may have to expand my ‘shop’ to hold the spoils – I mean the clean-up process debris.

We’ll walk through the clean-up process in a future blog.

'Till then don't sell a thing -