Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why buy a Side by Side (SXS)?

I knew it would happen one day, even though I would have denied it to your face. That one day I would bite the bullet and buy a side by side (sxs). I've honestly been annoyed in the recent years with all of the attention that sxs's are getting and have had a secret resentment towards them. I have considered myself a hardcore quad guy and sometimes it feels like the sxs's are stealing the show. Although I have directed my anger towards the manufacturers, I knew deep down it was misguided as they need to "follow the money". And the side by side phenomenon is where the money is at.

I enjoy time on my ATV, that's for sure! I enjoy the nature, pushing the limits, exploring new areas and overcoming obstacles. But all of these are much more fun when the experience is shared with other people.

I know only a couple of riders that ride alone, and everyone of them would rather ride with a friend if they had the choice. For most riders, ATVing is really a social activity.

2Up ATV's have really become a huge part of the market

 As such there is a market to make our rides even more social. Here are examples:
  • Passenger seats
  • 2up ATV's
  • Group rides
  • ATV Rallys
Group ride we did back in March

 And then there is the technology and social media element:
  • Facebook groups
  • Blogs
  • Posting pictures online
  • Bluetooth helmet communicators
  • YouTube videos
Side by sides are just one more way to make your ride more social. It really is a different experience when you can talk to the person right beside as everything is happening.

My wife and I got to experience this for the first time in March on a retreat. Traditionally we have taken two ATV's with us but this time we took my Dad's Rhino.

It was a ton of fun, snow was deep and the ruts kept throwing us back and forth. The branches were tight along side of the trails and kept scraping the side posts and the windshield which scared the crap out of my wife. To be able to see the expressions on her face and and hear her little screams was priceless.
A Can Am Commander with a rear seat and roll cage add on

Most sxs's have aftermarket manufacturers that make a rear seat and roll cage that you can add on, although these are generally not recommended by the manufacturers due to liability issues. This add on allows you the ability to bring an adult and also kids along as a part of the experience and make ATVing a family event.

My 75 year old Dad likes his Rhino better than a quad

Sxs's are allowing many people who would otherwise not be able to ride an new opportunity. Sxs's have full seats which provide back support and keep you in an upright seated position, this is a huge advantage for people with back problems or other health issues. Some people simply can't ride an ATV because of having to swing their leg up and over top of a seat which is another issue that the sxs does not have.

A wheelchair converted Kawasaki Mule
It has also opened to door for people in wheelchairs as hand controls can be adapted for the brake and gas pedal similar to how they do this on cars, trucks and vans.

Sxs's are an evolution in the industry and are here to stay and will help keep the entire ATV industry alive and vibrant. There are many more points I could touch on like how sxs's dump box makes them incredibly versatile for both work and play or how sxs's have many creature comforts that cars have like a roof and windshield but those can be saved for another day.

Ride safe my friends!

Restoration Project - 2007 Yamaha Rhino 660

I really didn't like side by sides (sxs). I thought they were a new money grab that the industry was trying to push on us. Why change the traditional quad? But that all changed last fall.

Restoration nearly complete, looking good with beadlock wheels and Bighorn tires

We have a family tradition with some of our extended family that on the Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, that we head up to a place called Elkridge Resort in Northern Saskatchewan and rent a cabin. The cabins are gorgeous and very modern, not roughing it at all. It's also been a tradition that we bring the quads up because we are in the middle of lake country and its a great place to ride. The resort is ATV friendly and you can ride right up to your cabin.

It's a long story but what ended happening is that I only brought one quad and my riding partner, my brother in law Eugene wasn't able to bring his quad. Ride alone? I couldn't not ride while in lake country with a machine at my disposal. So I rode....alone.

I hate riding alone, for me riding is a social activity and I was not willing to take the risk of doubling up on a single person machine. As I rode along the trails by myself,  I kept encountering other families out and about on the trails. I really wished I had someone else to share this experience with.

Back at the resort I noted another cabin with a sxs in the driveway, it was a Can Am Commander. Being a Can Am fan, I absolutely love the Commander. But this one was different. In the cargo box area he had a seat and a roll cage that attached and extended the main roll cage over the rear seat. He loaded up his family and all of them headed out to the trails.

A Can Am Commander with rear seat and roll cage similar to the one I saw

 This was brilliant!! I was very inspired and in that moment the resistance to buying a sxs was gone and I was on our classified site looking to buy one.

The prices were ridiculous. There was no way I could afford a Commander. They came out in 2011 and even the oldest ones were not very old and hadn't dropped in value. I was looking at at least $14,000 and another $2000-$3000 for the roll cage and seat. I did not have that kind of money.
So I started researching other sxs's and began looking for the oldest one, one I might be able to afford. After a bit of research I found out that that sxs would be the one that started it all, the Yamaha Rhino.

I can't say the Rhino was my first choice in this endeavor , really it was just what I could afford but I've owned other Yamaha's and knew they were great for quality and reliability. It was late fall (October) and the rush for hunting ATV's was over and winter prices were settling in. I finally found one in a town around four hours away from where I live. The owner was only asking $4500 which was almost affordable for me. He said it didn't look the greatest, but it had low kms (2600) and ran and drove great. The only caution I had was that it was snorkeled, which is something that would usually turn me but the low kms helped me to over look that.

These are the actual pictures the owner sent me
It was rough, but it was all I could afford and I figured I could fix it up. I did some research and found I could get a rear seat for is as well as a roll cage and that there were a couple used ones available.

I was warned about the damage to the box but told it was just the plastic

You always take a risk when you buy used. And in retrospect I probably should have passed this one up but when I have an idea in my head and a goal I want to accomplish I can be pretty stubborn.

This machine was abused by the previous owner and it looked it. I kept telling myself it only has 2600kms on it, and I have seen these machines with over 16,000.

Here are just some of the issues I had to address:

-The rear box was bent and plastic fender damaged
-It had been crudely snorkeled and interior plastics were cut up to accommodate them
-It had put on an aftermarket pipe which would have been a very expensive accessory but the new pipe had almost no baffles in it and the volume of it was deafening
-The snorkel and aftermarket exhaust caused the jetting to be out of whack and the idle was rough
-It had temperature and air\fuel gauges and hacked up the plastic in the center of the dash to accommodate them.
-The camo color was faded badly
-The roof and hood had holes in them from various lights and light bars
-The frame was caked with mud
-The winch line was fraying, kinked and rusted and had to be thrown out.

Looked like just the plastic was damaged but the box itself had been tweaked badly

The restoration process started with buying replacement fenders, at the time I thought that the box was fine but realized it took heavy damage. Even the pivot for the dump box had been knocked off the frame and had been shoddily re-welded back on.

Luckily I had heated storage over the winter that I could start the restoration process in

A friend helped me straighten the box, I got fenders that didn't match they others and decided to paint everything. I started the search for a factory exhaust system that ended up costing more than the aftermarket one it had. Removed the gauges and extra wire and cleaned it real good.

In this pic you can see it starting to come back together in the background.
In the foreground is my Dad's Rhino that he bought after being inspired by mine.
In the end it turned out pretty good. I was happy with the look, the bedliner on the hood and fenders turned out great although the durability is still in question.

Nearly complete. But this is as complete as it will get.
The final step was to get the rear cage installed which was unfortunately not an easy task as the damage from the the accident on the right rear box and the shoddy repair put everything out of alignment.  

The lesson that I hope I've learned here is that I should have just waited until I could have afforded what I really wanted. At the very least I should have waited until a better Rhino came along, one that I didn't have so much work to undo issues from the previous owner. 

As of the date I am posting this I have abandon the Rhino family hauler project. I never did install the rear seats, will be removing the rear roll cage and the Rhino will be posted for sale in the coming days. I will also be selling my 2012 Outlander and will be replacing the two with this machine...the one that started this whole thing.

My new-to-me 2012 Commander 1000XT

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

ATV Review - 2011 Outlander XMR 800

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to have owned a number of different Can Am's since purchasing my first in 2012. To this point I have owned two Renegades and the XMR I am reviewing here. My swapping machines every season or so has nothing to do with a dislike of any particular machine but more about an appreication for different models and a desire to try them out.

My purchase of my 2011 XMR was more opportunity than it was a desire to change machines, but there were a couple of deficiencies that I felt the Renegade had (see my Outlander vs Renegade write up) that helped me make the switch.

Saskatchewan is mud country, and the XMR is pretty famous around here. I immediately fell in love with the stance of the machine when I first saw it in the showroom. To think that a company would actually build a mud specific machine blew my mind at the time, coming from a Honda background that builds almost exclusively for utility.

2011 Outlander XMR 800

 Here are the features that make the XMR an XMR:

-Factory radiator relocate - This feature keeps the radiator up and out of the mud giving the XMR better protection from overheating due to a clogged rad.

-Factory mud tires - Depending on what year and model it came from the factory with either 30" Gorilla Silverback tires or 28" Maxxis Mudzilla's. Some models also came with 14" SS aluminum wheels.

30" Silverbacks

 -ACS - Air Controlled Suspension was an industry first. The longer chassis allowed space for an air compressor to be fitted onboard, and with the touch of a button you could raise and lower the suspension which dramatically affected the ride height. This feature was dropped on the most recent models due to reliability issues.

-Water wheelie pegs - When your front end is up in the air, these special foot pegs or boards give the rider a more comfortable place to put your feet.

Most Can Am dealers do not know the purpose of these special pegs

 -Longer chassis - Not all models of the XMR used the Max chassis but most did. This increased the wheelbase by 8". The theory being that longer ATV's do better in the mud. As it was built on the Max chassis, XMR owners could purchase a passenger seat and turn their XMR into a 2up machine.

There are likely other features that I have not mentioned but this covers the major ones.

BEFORE: My 2011 XMR, teardown started as soon as I got it home

 My XMR came to me a bit unkempt. The previous owner had not kept it up but thankfully it was all good mechanically. Most of the repairs I did were cosmetic. The first of which was removing the plastics and cleaning out years of caked on mud from various areas in the chassis and suspension. The snorkels had fallen apart and also needed attention.

AFTER: All cleaned up with a decal wrap, looking sharp

I put 200 miles on this machine from mid summer to the writing of this article and I have nothing negative to say about it. It has worked flawlessly for me other than some clutch issues that are more likely the fault of the aftermarket primary clutch than that of the machine. That being said, the longer wheelbase does have it's drawbacks.

As much as I knew my riding style would have to change, I didn't know by how much. I knew that wheelies, power slides and doughnuts would be limited but I was surprised by how much. One of my favorite things to do when riding is to find a nice smooth, wet sandbar near the shores of the South Saskatchewan river. With my Renegade I was able to do the most incredibly exhilarating powerslides on those sandbars, but the XMR would dig it's outside tires in hard and lift the inside front tire right off the sand. The rear would not break loose at all and I nearly rolled it a couple times while trying.

The long chassis is supposedly better for going through much but I don't have any way to confirm that, there didn't appear to be any mud hole that I could get through that my short wheelbase buddies were not. Another bonus of the longer chassis is the ability to add a passenger seat and make it a 2up machine. I did this with the hopes of being able to take my wife and kids on the back but in reality it only happened a couple of times.

In conclusion I would say the XMR is a great ATV and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any mud rider or casual mud rider. I will be selling it this spring as I have recently purchased a 2012 Outlander 800XT which will be my first G2 Can Am and my return to a short wheelbase. Look for a review on it in the coming months. 

ATV Review - 2007 Can Am Outlander 650

Alas the day of the Bruin has come to an end. If your not sure what I am talking about you can look back here on my review of our Yamaha 350 Bruin.

On one of our recent rides my son who is now 15 asked if he could take my 2012 Outlander 800 XT for a rip while we were playing around in the gravel pits in the Nisbet Forrest. Once he experienced a water wheelie in the waters around the pit he was hooked and the call for more power began.
Now I am not a fool, I know a young rider can't handle the power of an 800 which is what got me thinking about a 650.

As always I am working with a limited budget. The upgrade from a 350 Bruin to a 650 Outlander was going to cost at least $2000 over top of what I could get for the Bruin so I needed to look at the older models.
Not exactly the meanest looking face. The older Outlanders sported this "happy face"
before a more aggressive looking redesign in 2009
I still love the G1 Outlander design even though I am not very fond of the grille. But having owned 3 G1 Can Am's they are much more familiar to me even though my main machine is a G2.
So that settled it, I began my search for a G1 Outlander 650.
I was under the impression that it would be easier to find a 650 because more people would be buying the larger 800 but that wasn't the case. I finally found one in my price range around an hour and a half away from where I live, and I pounced on it like a cat on a mouse.

First Impressions

The model I ended up buying was a base model 2007 Outlander 650. There was also an XT package was available in this model year which would have added aluminum wheels and a push bar. The appearance of this machine was very utilitarian, basically looked like a farm quad.

Peeling painted steel wheels and factory tires makes this machine look like a sleeper

It's amazing how accustomed I have come to aluminum wheels on an ATV, and how steel wheels and factory tires makes a machine look docile. The fact that the paint was peeling on those steel wheels didn't help.

The Ride

My test drive was just around the farmstead of the owner on gravel but I was immediately impressed with the power. A little too impressed being that this ATV was going to be used for novice riders. The stock tires showed a lot of wear and are also very light which I thought may have been adding to feeling of power. I am of course comparing it to my 800 and it was scary how similar they felt, so much so that I was contemplating not buying it. But I did and mostly because I realized it had a throttle limiting screw that could be used to slow the machine down for my inexperienced riders.

A couple days after purchasing the machine we took it up to camp and gave it a good test run. The handling is everything I have some to expect from Can Am, it doesn't lean in the corners and stays nice and flat. Doesn't dive on heavy braking or squat on heavy acceleration. Everything was predictable.

The Power

Being able to get it flat out on the trails was where I saw a slight difference between it and the 800. Where as the power of the 800 never really seems to fade out you do notice a slight fade at higher speeds with the 650. Where as I have been quoted as saying that "No matter how I pushed its limits, it always had more. More power, more speed, more acceleration." in regards to the 800, I can't say the same about the 650. There is still ample power to do everything you want and it'll still scare you, just not in the same crazy psycho beast way that an 800 will.

Now sporting Maxxis Bighorn tires and ITP Delta wheels

The 650 HO engine is awesome, it is a V-Twin and has that gorgeous hum. And if your worried that it doesn't have enough power I can assure you it will still beat out any stock 4x4 from Honda, Yamaha or Suzuki. But if you were to ask me if faced with a decision between purchasing a new 650 or 800 I would take the 800 just because of the wow factor of the 800.

My first Outlander 650, a 2010 with power steering and my friends King Quad 700
I should mention that this is not my first Outlander 650, a couple years back I owned a 2010 XT for a very short while before selling it to buy another Renegade. Check out my video of the Outlander owning the King Quad on this hill climb.

More to come...