— By Ron Lawson —



It’s fun to watch worlds collide. Right now we’re at ground zero as planet ATV, planet motorcycle and planet off-road car smash into one another. UTVs have become common ground for three completely different groups. They all have dirt in common, but they come from different places, speak different languages and can’t really make polite conversation about anything except UTVs. So, if you meet someone who has your exact same RZR, YXZ, Maverick or Wildcat and can’t understand a word he says, don’t worry; it’s not you. Here’s how you can tell who’s who.

SOCIAL CLASS: If someone has been driving an off-road  race car of any kind, you need to understand that he’s probably the CEO of Wells Fargo. He probably just wrapped up a deal to build a resort hotel on an Indian burial ground, and now he’s squeezing in a half day of off-road recreation before a helicopter picks him up for a business trip to Belize. Off-road car guys are the only people who think that UTVs are cheap. Many of them spent $40,000 on the motor in their last truck, and now they can’t believe they can buy a whole Turbo RZR for less.

Contrary to popular belief, quad guys are only one or two rungs lower on the social ladder than that. I know, the popular notion is that ATV riders live in tar-paper shacks and eat whatever they can kill with a stick of dynamite. Maybe that’s true in some zip codes, but if you go to an ATV race, you’ll see spectacular motorhomes pulling trailers that are virtual machine shops on wheels. The pits at a big quad race can put an RV show to shame. These guys might not be Fortune 500 CEOs, but they might own a few auto-repair centers. They probably still hunt with dynamite, though.

Motorcycles riders often find themselves saving up for years for a down payment on a side-by-side. Maybe their knees are shot, maybe they’re searching for a way to include the family, but they aren’t drawn to UTVs because they can’t figure out how to spend their extra money. You can spot the motorcycle guy because he’s pulling his $30,000 Wildcat on a converted single-axle boat trailer that he built himself. Whatever you do, don’t say “with age comes a cage” to these guys. They don’t like that.

DRIVING ABILITY: You would think the car guy would clean up in this category, but that’s not always how it works. ATV riders make excellent UTV drivers. Maybe it’s because they learn there are consequences to bad line choices. Maybe it’s because they start so young. Maybe racing on four wheels is racing on four wheels. Whatever the reason, guys like Beau Baron made an instant and natural transition from ATVs to UTVs. Before Jimmie Johnson was a seven-time NASCAR champion, he was an ATV racer.

It takes motorcycle guys a little longer to make the transition, but eventually they get used to the fact that they’re much wider than they used to be. There might be a few broken A-arms, bent axles and torn-off wheels along the way.

SETUP: It takes car drivers and ATV riders a long time to learn that less is more in the UTV world. They’re so used to fixing, fabricating and reinventing their race vehicles that they automatically start overbuilding. Any broken part gets beefed up. Pretty soon, they’re driving a car that’s 200 pounds overweight and still breaks. Motorcycle guys are used to riding stock equipment that’s race-ready. They assume that if something breaks, they were driving poorly. Eventually, ATV and car guys come to the same conclusion.

LANGUAGE: Motorcycle and ATV guys are clearly confused here. They don’t know what to call their UTV. For years, the typical ATV rider was already confusing himself by calling his quad a “bike.” He never realized how silly that was until the first time he called his RZR 1000 a bike and everyone in the room looked at him like he was out of his mind. Now he just calls it his RZR 1000. Motorcycle guys are completely intimidated and don’t know what to say. Most will just point and say, “Wanna go for a ride in…that?” They learn quickly that they aren’t called riders anymore. Now, they are drivers, and their passengers are riders. Car guys never had any such problem. They’ve always been drivers, and whether it’s a truck, a buggy or a UTV, it’s still called a car. It’s a rare person that will call his UTV a “side-by-side.”

This is just a start. There are many ways to tell ATV, motorcycle and car guys apart—how they get into the driver’s compartment, whether they put on a helmet or a harness first, or if they have their chiropractor on speed dial. If you look long enough, you’ll develop your own list. I’m just here to give you a head start.

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