UTV PROJECT: CAN-AM SICKS-BY-SICKS DEFENDER
System 3 build to show off tires By the staff of Dirt Wheels Photos by Pat Carrigan
We have seen companies in the UTV industry build some projects that are astounding. Most start with the latest and greatest high-performance sport UTV, then proceed to go big with the power, suspension and detailing. Cars become rolling-equipment catalog showpieces, and often with price tags that would make some folks turn just a little green.
Tire and wheel company System 3 has a reputation for going in unique directions and embracing unconventional thinking. That reputation has overflowed into the company’s newest project machine. It will be seen as part of the System 3 display at trade shows and events, but it will also test tires and wheels. We were about to note that this project is not based on a high-performance sport UTV, but how do you measure “high performance and sport”? System 3 chose to base the project on the unique Can-Am Defender 6×6. If carrying stuff is “performance,” then this is high performance. If your idea of “sport” is superb capability on all sorts of terrain, it is pretty sporty.
We have a small admission to make: when Can-Am introduced the all-new Defender HD10 6×6 for 2020, they had a huge new-model introduction event on the Y.O. Ranch—an exotic animal preserve and cattle ranch in the Texas hill country. The Defender Pro with the 6-foot bed stole the show, and everyone wanted to test it. The Defender 6×6 had a 6-foot bed as well, but we dismissed it. In our minds it was a farm implement. At one point we needed a second vehicle to go shoot photos. Only a Defender 6×6 was available. Within minutes we knew we had messed up. It was too late to test the 6×6 and shoot photos, but we were instant fans of the traction and secure feeling while driving. Plus, the 6×6 had the best ride compliance of all the Defenders we drove. We suspect it has something to do with dividing the rear suspension duties between four rear wheels.
For 2020 all Defender HD10 models got upgrades, including cylinder-head enhancements that upped power from 72 horsepower to 82 horsepower, along with 69 pound-feet of torque and reduced vibration. Additionally, the HD10s got improved CVT tuning, a new drive mode and a new muffler combined with a new rear firewall to reduce engine noise in the cabin. While designing the new HD10 6×6, Can-Am made sure it could handle 30-inch mud tires, but it comes stock with 27-inch Bighorn 2.0s. Both the new 6×6 and Pro have a Visco-Lok QE front diff for extra traction when needed. It tows 2500 pounds and stows another 1000 pounds in the convertible bed. It’s sporty!
We got 61 mph in High and 25 mph in Low out of the 6×6 in Normal drive mode. It’s faster than most pure utility machines and quick enough to be fun when the work is done. The iTC EFI map and CVT calibration are tuned for smooth low-speed work, and Low range is very low. The Pro-Torque transmission has quick response, electronic belt protection and high air-flow ventilation. The CVT was re-tuned for 2020 for 500-rpm-lower shifting. Add Electronic Hill Descent Control and a three-mode drive map (Eco, Normal and Work), and the HD10 6×6 is tunable and user-friendly in any situation. Are you starting to see why System 3 chose the 6×6?
ABOUT THE BUILD
If you think about it, what better UTV is there to showcase wheels and tires than one with six wheels? System 3 envisioned “Sicks-by-Sicks” as a West Coast adventure build. In addition to showing off its wheels and tires, the company was committed to demonstrating how versatile and capable the Can-Am Defender off-road platform is. With some minor mods it would become something like a Swiss Army knife of utility prowess.
They saw trail riding, rock crawling and even dune running in Sicks-by-Sicks’ future. They haven’t even discounted entering a race or two. They believe that Sicks-by-Sicks can do it all.
MORE THAN TIRES
It takes more than tires and wheels to build a serious project, even a simple one. Colt Brinkerhoff bolted on half doors and a sport roof from Can-Am Off-Road to start. Can-Am sells a front bumper and winch mount combo from S3 Powersports. The bumper comes with a winch. The “Hoff “went directly to S3 for a +2-inch forward high-clearance front A-arm kit and heavy duty shock springs. Tire guys want to use big tires, and the Defender needs forward A-arms to effectively run 30-inch front tires. Sicks-by-Sicks can’t run any larger tires. The rears would begin to make contact.
The search for some personalization and convenience ended at Assault Industries. Assault’s M2HB billet shift knob for the Can-Am Maverick X3 works on the Defender, as does a steering-wheel hub intended for an X3. A 350R suede steering wheel mounts to the hub. B2 Bomber V2 side mirrors are always welcome. Sicks-by-Sicks also earned a push-to-talk communications plate and M10 Pro-Fit cage clamps.
Former Dirt Wheels editor and National Hare and Hound ATV champ Colt Brinkerhoff has been heavily involved in seeing how large the Can-Am’s performance envelope is. The first Instagram photos we saw from our former compadre was of the Can-Am shod with System 3’s unique SS360 30-inch sand (and snow) tires on SB-4 14×7 matte black beadlock wheels.
Unlike paddle tires, the SS360’s surface has a series of interconnected compartments. The pattern almost looks like fish scales. Paddle tires have notoriously poor side traction, and the terrain must be uniformly soft for them to live. You should still avoid rocks at all costs, but the SS360 reacts and handles much more like a normal tire. It also works great in the snow.
We saw the Hoff’s photos posted from Glamis and read his claims about the fun. We had to see that. His wife gave him permission to use her truck, so he met us at Dumont Dunes. We’ve ridden on the passenger side with him before, so we wanted to drive the Can-Am, but he insisted on showing us what Sicks-by-Sicks could do.
We suppose he was right. We never would have run across the dune faces the way he did. The Defender is 64 inches, but it isn’t the widest machine, but he proceeded to drive directly across the steep slip faces of dunes for what felt like miles! The combination of the SS360s and having six of them makes the car drive in sand like it’s Velcro. Crazy.
While at Dumont, Brinkerhoff swapped all six wheels to System 3 XTR370 30-inch tires with SB-4 15×7 Cement Grey beadlock wheels. There are some rock trails, and he wanted to show off the all-terrain tire combo as well.
Next thing we knew, Brinkerhoff was flooding the web with photos and videos of Sicks-by-Sicks getting crazy on Moab slick-rock trails. The same crazy traction that Sicks-by-Sicks commands in the sand is even more impressive on tech trails and slick rock. The A-arms and taller tires give it better clearance. The necessarily long wheelbase keeps things calm for steep climbs and abrupt descents, and Moab is famous for those!
The hardest part about Moab trail routes are rock steps that trap the wheels, so they simply spin rather than climbing up. With six wheels it is pretty tough to get a wheel stranded on a step. It just keeps rolling and pulling. Brinkerhoff said it was so smooth, it felt like it “oozed” up the obstacles. He was in a group of experienced drivers in turbocharged cars, but they were spinning and having problems where the Sicks-by-Sicks had no problem at all.
It is refreshing to see a company embrace a machine that most would consider something of an ugly duckling in the sport UTV world. The new look and bigger tires banish the ugly duckling. Colt claims that people try to buy the machine everywhere he takes it! It is even better to see a Defender escape life on the farm and live its best life laying tracks on some of the most iconic UTV riding areas around. The closest it comes to utility is handling a pontoon boat at the boat ramp in Parker on the Colorado River. Again, best life. Don’t judge a book by its cover or a UTV by the number of its wheels. We certainly won’t.
2020 CAN-AM DEFENDER XT 6X6 PARTS LIST
ASSAULT INDUSTRIES: (714) 799-6711, www.assaultind.com
M2HB billet shift knob (fits Can-Am Maverick X3): $64.99
B2 Bomber V2 side mirrors: $299.99
350R suede steering wheel (universal): $189.99
Steering wheel hub (fits: Can-Am Maverick X3): $69.99
Push-to-talk communications plate (PTT plate // black): $29.99
M10 pro-fit cage clamps: $34.99
CAN-AM OFF-ROAD ACCESSORIES: https://can-am-shop.brp.com/
Half doors: $834.99
S3 Powersports/Can-Am Off-Road front winch bumper: $614.99
Sport roof: $449.99
SYSTEM 3 OFF-ROAD: www.system3offroad.com
SS360 30x10x14 tire: $185 per tire
SS360 30x12x14 tire: $223.81 per tire
SB-4 14×7 matte black beadlock wheels: $167.10 per wheel
XTR370 30x10x15 tire: $219.19
SB-4 15×7 Cement Grey beadlock wheels: $182.48
S3 POWERSPORTS: (855) 221-7097, www.s3powersports.com
+2” forward high clearance front A-arm kit: $749
HD shock springs: $575 (full set on 6×6 model)