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, 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 ;-)