PROJECT YAMAHA YXZ1000R

— Making it faster, stronger & more comfortable —

This month we are highlighting a first-year Yamaha YXZ1000R build completed by Brian Carle. He is a classic example of the saying, “With age comes a cage.” The Yamaha YXZ1000R was an easy choice for the former dirt biker, now retired and enjoying a leisurely life in Arizona. Here, he and his wife Ramona can go off-roading together on the trails near his house, including one that can take them on a 100-mile ride all the way into the Grand Canyon.

For the rough, rocky trails in the area, Brian not only wanted to keep the Yamaha durable, he wanted to add as much comfort and ease of use as possible for the all-day rides.

We met up with one particular owner that has put a lot of miles on his YXZ1000R, and he wanted to share with us what he did to it and how it’s holding up.

NECESSITIES

To start the project, he went with a Factory UTV 3/8-inch skid plate that offers full-coverage protection and doesn’t weigh a ton like the 1/2-inch-thick Factory UTV skids that most of the desert racers run. The full-coverage, 3/8-inch skid plate is available as a kit, including A-arm guards, or you can pick up the belly pan alone. To protect the engine, Brian installed a Razor Back water temperature gauge, since early-model YXZs did not come with one as stock equipment. We like to use the temperature gauge just to see when the motor is warmed up. Stock or aftermarket, temperature gauges are very helpful. For power, Brian chose an HMF Titan QS complete system along with a tuner from Dyno Jet to broaden the power so it didn’t have to be revved to be enjoyed. With a heavier flywheel and a Rekluse clutch equipped with Barnett plates, the YXZ can be driven slowly or lugged over rocks and technical terrain without worry of stalling. The power output is now more user-friendly at slow speeds but still flies on the top end.

Brian made great use of his dash area and installed a Rugged Radios VHF radio and intercom system. Then just above it, he fabbed up an aluminum plate to hold the DynoJet tuner, battery voltage, water-temp gauges and a pair of accessory switches.

Smoothing out the power led to smoothing out the suspension. Early YXZs performed best when driven hard. They were built for aggressive drivers, and they could handle anything. This left guys like Brian, who wanted Yamaha quality but still wanted to cruise with his wife and add comfort, out in the cold. While you can adjust the stock shocks to be very plush, Brian chose to send his stock shocks to Z Bros Racing. Now he has them set up to ride smooth in the slow stuff but still soak up the hard hits. Z Bros did this by installing a full spring and seal kit for $1345. Labor was an additional $80 per shock.

More cushion and protection were provided by STI beadlock wheels and Chicane tires. This is a very good-handling tire that works well in the variety of trail conditions where Brian likes to ride.

The NRG suede steering wheel has a great feel at any speed. The D-shape allows for a little more legroom, especially with taller aftermarket seats.

CABIN COMFORT

Inside the cabin, more creature comforts were installed in the form of a suede NRG steering wheel with a quick-disconnect hub. While the stock Yamaha steering wheel is good, the suede touch makes the car a real pleasure to drive.

For communications, Brian went with Rugged Radios’ 60-watt car-to-car radio and RRP660 intercom system. We have used this system before, and it works well. It’s a comfort to know you can call for help if necessary, and the intercom makes it very nice to communicate to your passenger without having to yell. Once the Rugged Radios gear was installed, there was no more room for gauges, so Brian made a gauge pod to sit up on the dash to mount the water temperature gauge and the DynoJet POD 300.

A tune by Dynojet matched to HMF’s excellent exhaust system gives the driver the most out of Yamaha’s reliable mill. It sounds great, too, in the cab or getting passed by it.

NIGHT RIDES

When it came to lighting, Brian needed good equipment so he could keep using his YXZ1000R all summer but mostly at night. He chose Baja Designs factory replacement headlights, which seem to be about four times brighter than the stock headlights. In addition, he used shims and new brackets to raise the front body panels high enough to clear the headlights.

A pair of plush Simpson seats have the same stock laid-back seating position we love in the Yamaha. These have pass-through holes for harnesses and big side bolsters.

For upper lights, he went with the Squadron Racer edition, which is like having a light bar without taking up the room of a roll bar. For rear protection, he chose an RTL taillight with blinkers on the back of the roll cage and a built-in back-up light. It was finished off with a Tusk Street kit, since UTVs in Arizona are street legal and Brian and his wife have a plated UTV.   

Simpson Vortex seats were installed after Brian went to their website and designed his own seats. It is very cool to be able to see the design of the seat as you enter the data. Brian also went with Simpson five-point harnesses.

For Brian and his wife’s ultimate security and peace of mind, he went with Brick City Fabrication in Arizona for the custom roll cage.

Yamaha has had great success building four-wheel off-road vehicles that are not only good for a few years, they have had machines people hold onto and keep alive for decades. Older riders that may have come from dirt bikes know this and are attracted to the Yamaha brand.

ON THE GAS

One thing Brian had trouble with on the YXZ 1000, was that the gas pedal was very small and sat too high for him. His foot kept falling off the pedal over bumps. To resolve the problem, he welded a piece of flat bar steel to the bottom of the gas pedal to make it longer. He has not had trouble with his foot slipping off the pedal since. We like the larger platform, and it also helps smooth out throttle input.

To add a little storage for items such as tools, a first-aid kit and plug kits, they went with the Yamaha hard-plastic bed storage box, which easily connects to the bed and has lots of room for stuff. He installed a Tusk quick-release fire extinguisher on the rear of the roll cage and a Tusk rear-view mirror up front.

This project was built for range, comfort and most of all durability. The set of All Balls Extreme Duty axles take one more worry out of the equation so Brian and his wife can ride with even more confidence.

PROTECTION AND POWER

One important thing you can do to protect your $20,000 investment is to keep your engine clean. Brian uses an oiled-foam Uni air filter that can be cleaned and reused and, so that it would require less frequent cleaning, he installed an S&B Particle Separator.

The Yamaha has a dry-sump oiling system that contains a reservoir that holds the oil. CFM Performance has developed a reservoir that is thicker and stronger and can help eliminate the possibility of the tank leaking according to Brian.

To combat dusty riding conditions, a rear chase light and a pair or Slick Stick lighted whips were installed, as well as a S&B Particle Separator.

To extend the range of the YXZ1000, Brian installed a 3 1/2-gallon gas can from Rotopax and attached it to the back of the Yamaha bed box to ensure he makes it home from those 100-mile rides.

Finally, another safety item are flags to warn others when Brian is cresting a hill. Brian purchased LED whips from Sick Stick Whips that have a very easy-to-remove mounting system, which is necessary for the many tunnels he has to ride through going under Interstate 15.

Yamaha has sold thousands of YXZ1000Rs, and thanks to their great reliability and many customers’ pride in ownership, they still look and work great.

TEST DRIVE

We took a ride under Interstate 15 and ventured on to the local trails with Brian to try out his YXZ1000. It was one of the best-built trail cars we have driven. The products he selected all serve a legitimate purpose. From the lights to the seats and even tire choice, we would be hard pressed to do a better job on our own. For his terrain, the YXZ was fast, fun and most of all comfortable. It’s great to know that former die-hard dirt bike riders are finding fun in UTVs. For Brian, having the ability to shift through the gears and having the performance and reliability he expects from Yamaha is not only making him happy with the brand, it makes him happy with the sport. We expect to hear many more former dirt bikers admitting to themselves, “With age comes a cage.” 

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