TRAIL TEST ALBA WOLVERINE | Faster, better looking, yet no more expensive!
*Editors Note: A look back at a Team Alba Racing set up on our 1998 Yamaha Wolverine.
The folks at Alba Yamaha near San Diego, California, hit upon a unique marketing concept several years ago. Instead of simply selling ATVs in the pure stock form like everyone else, they began to jazz up brand-new machines with trick aftermarket parts and then put them up for sale at the regular manufacturer’s suggested retail price. The idea proved to be popular, not only with riders in their locale but with other off-road enthusiasts from around the country. In fact, Alba’s motto is, “We’ll ship a new Team Alba quad anywhere in the world!”
They began with Banshee 350s, then moved on to Warrior 350s. This year their Team Alba Wolverine 4×4 makes its debut. Like the Banshee and Warrior, it features motor mods and new tires and wheels, as well as several other bolt-ons. Unlike the other two machines, however, there is not yet a decal kit. For ’98, both the Banshee and the Warrior do feature completely new decal kits (see accompanying sidebar).
The ’98 Alba Yamaha Wolverine package features four 12×7 ITP aluminum wheels, which replace the heavier steel 12×5 front and 12×7 rear stock units. Mounted on the new wheels are four 25×10-12 BearClaw tires, which replace the 23×8-12 fronts and 23×10-12 rears, giving the machine at least a two-inch boost in ground clearance.
In the engine department, a tuneable White Bros. Megalloy pipe was installed along with a change in the carb needle position and main and pilot jets. The airbox gets a drill job (optional, of course, for riders who spend a lot of time in the water) along with a better-breathing K&N fabric air filter with an Outerwears filter wrap. There’s also a torque valve, or stuffer, in the head pipe. This White Bros. component is a sleeve that decreases the diameter in the headpipe to add more back pressure in the pipe which in turn is designed to give quicker throttle response and better low-end power.
For added 4×4 toughness, there’s an AC Racing aluminum skid plate that is designed to help the machine glide over obstacles as well as protecting the underside of the ATV. A pair of sharp-looking enduro handguards come in real handy on brushy trails. They are made by USO Plastic and feature a tough aluminum bar end.
Finally, the Wolverine gets a stylin’ makeover with the all-new Team Alba seat covers, which feature a “Gripper” top that has already received rave reviews in the motocross world. There’s a complete set of Outerwears shock covers to set the machine apart from the rest even more. Aftermarket racks are not part of the package but can easily be added if the customer wishes to perform some hauling chores with his 4×4 as well.
This quad flies! We were expecting only a mild to moderate horsepower increase from the pipe and air intake mods, but what we felt out on the trail is a substantial boost in power overstock. The bottom-end and midrange are especially strong and torquey, and we felt we could accomplish just about any tough 4×4 maneuvers with this extra power. The top-end doesn’t just sign off, either—it keeps pulling strong and revs out nicely. The powerband is not so radical that the engine is hard to handle, even in slow-going technical sections.
The throttle response does feel peppier from the well-matched torque valve and pipe combo. As most engine tuners will tell you, an increase in air intake (from the airbox and filter mods) is one of the most important hop-ups one can do to an engine. Of course, the pipe does make the machine louder, but that is adjustable by adding more discs. However, with more discs in, the horsepower boost is decreased, so riders will have to decide just how much they can get away with in their particular riding situation.
We noticed the taller stance the tire and wheel change made right off the bat. Veteran 4×4 riders know the advantage of more ground clearance, and that, along with the skid plate, helped us skim right through the tough sections. The BearClaw tires also provide considerably more traction than the stock tires, putting this machine on par in the nasty stuff with just about any other 4×4 quad. About the only complaint from our testers is a harder-to-steer front end, due to the bigger and wider tires. At times it felt like the front end had a mind of its own, but all the rider has to do is stay on top of it and not get too lazy about the steering. This is a manly man machine!
Finally, the seat is not only stylish, but the “Gripper” top really does work, helping to keep the rider from slipping around in wet or muddy conditions.
Yamaha’s suggested retail on the ’98 Wolverine 350 is $5599, which is $550 cheaper than the ’97 model. The $5599 price is the amount that Alba Yamaha is charging for the complete Team Alba Wolverine package that we tested. The price breakdown for the modifications are as follows; four tires at $73.99 each, four wheels at $71.99 each, skid plate ($149.95), seat cover ($69), handguards ($59.95), Outerwears shock covers ($39.99) and the entire engine mod package ($219.99). This adds up to $1122.80 for the accessories if they were purchased alone. So, in effect, that’s what you are getting for free.
Of course, customers in other parts of the country will have to deal with the added expense of freight (which usually runs at least a couple of hundred dollars). You will have to budget a few more dollars for setup, documentation, tax, and license (if applicable in their state). Contact Alba Yamaha at (619) 562-0188 for more information.
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