WIDE OPEN: What’s new

By Joe Kosch

The lure of new machinery casts a spell that entrances almost all riders, including me. I have a lot of experience in separating marketing hype from real advances in performance, but riding new ATVs and UTVs is a kind of fun I never tire of. I’m not going to fight the feeling. I get it when other riders say no matter how much they enjoy the machines they have, new models they don’t have always seem to have something, or lots of things, that will make riding vastly more fun. You see yourself with a new machine, feeling the rush of acceleration yours lacks, and you can imagine passing your riding buddies and topping hills you can’t climb. The more you bottom or overwork your machine’s suspension, the plusher that new vehicle you don’t have becomes in your mind. 

If you’re like me, you have probably picked out specific bumps, whoop sections, jumps or ruts on your favorite trails or tracks that you’re imagining riding over while you enjoy smoothness and control you’ve never felt before. Maybe it’s more 4WD capability that you’re dreaming of. If you just had more ground clearance, a locking front differential, more power or all three, cheering crowds would line the sides of the mud pit on your favorite trail as you motor through, using the most challenging line in the whole mess. Your new-machine dreams might be less grand. Maybe all you’re looking for is a ride that starts. The truth is, if you choose the machine with the features and performance you really need, it can make most or all your dreams of improved performance and more riding fun come true.

Not everyone can get a new UTV or ATV, or even a better used machine than the one they have, but modifying the one you’ve got can change your ride enough to let you enjoy some of that new-machine feeling. It may not sound super exciting, but just repairing some neglected mechanical issues can give your vehicle a whole new feel. If you’re riding with worn tires, a glazed or worn clutch, or spongy brakes, I guarantee you’ll be blown away by the difference when you get those things sorted out and finally feel your machine getting all its power to the ground or stopping like it should. 

If your ride is already in good shape, a high-performance exhaust with proper fuel-injection tuning or carburetor jetting can really wake up the power. You’ll be shocked at the difference you’ll feel when you freshen up a tired engine. The power will be sharper and stronger, and you’ll get to enjoy easy, dependable starting, maybe for the first time if you bought a used machine with a lot of hours on it. If you’re going to rebuild the engine, on most machines you have the option to build in more power than the engine made when it was new with high-compression pistons, big-bore kits and other modifications. Lots of riders ride with tired suspension, unaware how much better their machines could ride and handle if they had their shocks serviced or changed to a set of high-performance shocks.

The simplest, and often least expensive, means of giving riding a whole new feel is going riding someplace new or somewhere you haven’t been in a while. Even if you don’t change your vehicle a bit, the freshness of new or unfamiliar trails can be as exciting as riding a new machine. New trails provide opportunities to challenge your machine and your riding skills in new ways. I’ve gone back to places I haven’t ridden for a while and found the terrain changed enough to make the riding seem so new, I hardly recognized it. Now that I think about it, if you’re heading into unfamiliar terrain, I think it’s best to do it on a machine you have a lot of experience with. Learning new trails on a new machine can be too much new stuff at once, and major crashes have a way of making new machines look old in a hurry.

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