WIDE OPEN: Less can be more

By Joe Kosch

In the world of UTVs, the fastest, widest machines with the most suspension travel attract the most attention. They don’t just look wild; they are wild, but 64- and 72-inch-wide machines with prices that start around $20,000 and go beyond $30,000 don’t fit everyone’s UTV reality. You may want to look at the other extreme in UTVs, a category you might not have heard of—50-inch-wide machines. Here are just some of the reasons to consider them.

These UTVs seat two, just like many larger vehicles, so you can share the experience of off-roading with a friend or family member, but you get to do it for prices that start around $9000, not $20,000 or $30,000. Honda’s new Pioneer 520 is $9499, and the Pioneer 500’s price has been dropped to $8499. The Polaris RZR 570 is $10,599, and these examples are just a few of many 50-inch-wide machines. At those prices, some families can get two machines so two people get to drive. After all, riding as a passenger is fun, but for most people, driving is more fun. Two inexpensive two-seaters also seat four for less than many four-seaters.

If you’re worried you won’t be able to tackle tough trails with a 50-inch machine, don’t. Trail-width UTVs can handle terrain that will surprise you. As you develop more driving skill and confidence, you’ll be astounded at where these vehicles can go.

Fifty-inch-wide machines can actually go where many of the highest-performance UTVs can’t—ATV trails and width-restricted UTV trails. That doesn’t only increase the places you can ride, it also enlarges the group of people you can ride with. A 50-inch-wide UTV lets you join your ATV riding friends and even some dirt bike riding friends on their trails, which opens up a whole new kind of fun.

Small UTVs are easier and less expensive to get to your favorite trails than larger machines, too. A 50-inch-wide machine can be carried in a pickup truck, which eliminates the expense of a trailer. Without the obstacle of the cost of a trailer, more people can afford to enjoy UTV life.

Small, light 50-inch UTVs handle incredibly well. These machines have suspension that is simpler and has less travel than larger sport UTVs, but because of their small size and light weight, they are agile, easy to handle and fun. Fifty-inch-wide UTVs can’t devour whooped-out terrain like large long-travel machines, but big UTVs can’t match the light, willing feel of 50-inch models.

Fifty-inch UTVs even have advantages when riding isn’t going well. Light, small, 50-inch side-by-sides are easier to get unstuck than bigger vehicles. Everything that makes a small, light vehicle easy to handle on the trail makes it easier to deal with when you fly off the trail or get stuck in the mud. Rider error is part of riding, so it’s nice to have less vehicle to move when you tumble into a ravine, especially if you’re by yourself. As always, having a riding buddy with a big vehicle and a winch is a great addition to any ride.

Fifty-inch UTVs don’t just fit trails, budgets and haulers easily, they’re simpler to store than larger machines. Your car can probably share the garage with a small UTV. With big UTVs, you often have to decide if your road car or dirt car sleeps outside.

Trail-width UTVs don’t have the speed larger machines do, but they’re more than fast enough for the kind of riding many people enjoy. Just getting out, enjoying nature with others, is the most important thing anyway.

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