Friday, January 31, 2014

ATV Review - 2006 Yamaha Bruin 350

As there is a huge market for used ATV's I plan to start doing reviews on some of the machines I either own or am able to ride. This will be the first. 

2006 Yamaha Bruin 350

We purchased this machine October of 2012. At the time of purchase it had 7000kms on it. We paid $2200 for it and figured that was a good price for a 4x4 ATV. We needed an ATV for our business that we could attach a snow blower to. This was a bit of an experiment because we didn't know how well this concept was going to work so price was one of the main factors for us.

When I first saw the machine, it presented itself reasonably well, the previous owner had just replaced the torn seat with a new cover and it was clean. The red plastics were more a shade of pink from sun fading but this was a work machine and seemed to fit the bill for our needs.

The Bruin engine is a 350cc air cooled unit attached to a CVT (automatic) transmission. It is worth noting that this engine has been made by Yamaha since at least 1987, probably longer which likely accounts for the reliability of it. No EFI here, just a carburetor. Push button four wheel drive, but no “low” gear on the gear box and no locking front differential. It has decent front and rear racks and a comfortable riding position. Front disk brakes and a single rear drum mounted to a solid axle.

There isn't much that really stands out on this machine, and it looks very dull compared to many other machines out there. But….I really like it.

It has performed nearly flawlessly during our time with it, it ran like a charm all throughout the winter, starting in -45 degree weather and doing everything it was asked to do. Once the weather was nice the snowblower came off and it became a recreational machine for the months that the weather was nice. My daughter took her first solo ATV ride on it, my 74 year old Dad rode it a couple times on our adventures to Nisbet Forest. And when we took it to family camp, it was the machine we would ride around the grounds.
It doesn't do anything spectacular, but it does everything well. Shortly after we purchased this machine for our company I personally bought a 2007 Can Am Renegade 800, which was my first 4x4 machine after riding 2wd sport quads for most of my life. The Renegade is spectacular in so many ways; looks, performance and power. But when it broke down, or was too loud to bring where we were going, there was the Bruin.

I had to sell the Renegade last fall, even though it had less Km’s than the Bruin (6000kms) it had a number of pending issues that were going to cost big dollars to fix. While I was looking for a new machine a friend invited me on a ride. I didn't have my big 4x4 machine but I had the Bruin, so I brought it. I cannot believe the amount of fun I had on that ride. I think that sometimes we get locked into thinking we need all the bells and whistles to have fun when riding, but the Bruin breaks that mold. Sometimes simple is still fun. Both my friend and his buddy that accompanied us were surprised at what this little machine was able to do compared to their 700 and 750 machines. It did have a hard time trying to winch the other guys out of the mud but it never got stuck itself, both of which can be attributed to its light weight. And I was easily able to keep up with the other guys on the trails. It's no powerhouse but it does move it's light weight chassis reasonably well and can even hit speed of over 70kph.

All in all I think this is a great machine. It reminds me of my 1984 Big Red ATC, dependable and ready to do what you ask it to, just not flashy. If you are looking to buy one, I would recommend it.

Our first revision of the snowblower, this one was manufactured by Quadivator. Didn't work for our requirements.

This is our second and current revision of the snowblower other than the motorized controls for the chute added this year. It is made by Kimpex and works much better for our application.

My daughters first quad ride with her Dad at the Ottopasso Trails on the Bruin. My 2007 Can Am Renegade 800. 

 My Dad riding the Bruin on a river sandbar near Nisbet Forest 

My wife and daughter at family camp

Bruin beside an Arctic Cat 400, considerable size difference

Update April 23, 2015
It's been over a year since the writing of this article and the Bruin continues to work well. It will no longer be used for snowblowing duty as it has been replaced by a 2008 Rhino 700 and will be used strictly for recreation.
It has been great for recreational riding this last year with only minor issues. It blew a belt while trail riding and had to be towed back to the trucks. We now carry a spare belt with the machine.
The brakes are bad, I never mentioned how poor the brakes were in the original article but they have never been great and continue to suck. The rear drum brake seal has failed so that it now fills with water and does very little to assist with braking. The front brakes don't grab well either and it is almost impossible to lock up any of the tires if you are in a panic situation.
We upgraded the tires to 25" ITP TerraCross tires at all four corners. This has increased the traction dramatically but has also left it feeling less powerful.
My son has mainly rode this machine and only recently is complaining about its lack of power and is wanting an Outlander.

Bruin sporting the new ITP TerraCross tires
The Bruin (far right) dwarfed among the Can Am's
Update August 25, 2015
With the purchase of the Rhino we couldn't justify keeping the Bruin around and we sold it earlier this summer. It was a great machine and I know it will be missed.
I made a YouTube video of this review which can be seen at the top.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Trail Tech - Backroad GPS Map

As I was doing online searching for Saskatchewan ATV trails a product called "Backroad GPS Maps" kept popping up. My brother in-law had mentioned that a friend of his had some kind of different map for his Garmin handheld GPS, and that he was amazed at how it helped them to find some old abandon trails when they were hunting in Northern Saskatchewan. I wasn't sure if this was what he was using but the manufacturer Backroad Mapbooks does mention that they have ATV trails included with their maps. At a cost of $99 it was too expensive to risk purchasing a product if it didn't have what I was looking for.

A while later, as I was browsing at Wholesale Sports I saw the Backroad GPS Maps case on the counter. I asked the sales person if it was returnable if I couldn't find a decent amount of ATV trails on it. Most software is not returnable and I figured this would be the case here too. None of the salesmen knew so I eventually talked to the manager who didn't know either, so he called other stores to ask them if they knew if it was returnable. He couldn't get a straight answer as it seemed like none of the other stores ever had someone try and return it. So as a good manager he gave me his business card and wrote a note on the back saying he would allow me to return it. So with no risk I slapped down the credit card and told them to "Charge it!".
This product allows you to use it two ways, one is on an SD card that fits into your handheld GPS, the other is a downloadable version you can use on your computer. I do not have a handheld GPS that can accept an SD card, and I wanted a nice big screen to be able to see the entire map so the downloadable version was the way for me.
Backroad Mapbooks is somehow partnered with Garmin, and they use their computer software called BaseCamp to display the map.

After installing, I started exploring. I started in areas where I have rode trails and knew they existed. I was disappointed to see that most were not on the map. "Good thing I can return the product" I told myself. But as I spend more time with the product doing more exploring I started finding trails. Not tons, but enough that I started getting excited.
I need to mention that the product support was amazing! I had no problems loading the software onto my home PC, but I also wanted it on my work PC and my Macbook. All of which I could do because they will let you install it on as many computers as you like, PC or Mac.Backroad Mapbooks tech support guy helped me with getting the other two computers and working perfect.
Since they were so helpful with getting the product installed I decided to call tech support again and ask if they could help me find ATV trails, he recommended putting the SD card in the computer while I did a BaseCamp search for "ATV". Apparently when the SD card is in the computer that the computer will access a database that only exists on it. And he was right!
I was delighted to see that my search turned up 50 different trails all across Saskatchewan. Not all of which were actually ATV trails (such as the Meewasin trails along the river bank here in Saskatoon) but many that were. Also, if you put a flag where you are currently located it will sort your search results by the trails nearest to you.

In this picture of the Nisbet forest area, trails are marked in green are considered multi-use trails.

Overall I am pretty happy with the product, but I won't know how good it actually is until riding season when I will be able to see how many of these trails actually exist.
Even though I could take the software back to the store and I would still have access to all of the software I have downloaded (and my $99) I think I am going to keep it as it looks like it will help in the exploration of our Saskatchewan trails.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Trail Tech - Trail Tire Comparison

 I came across great article comparing some of the common tire brands for trail riding. I like this review as he is riding on a set of tires for and entire season and not just doing a one off review.

If you are in the market for new tires check it out.


Comparison: ITP TerraCross R/T, Maxxis Bighorn and Interco Reptile