— UTVs are becoming more sophisticated each year, so much so that some drivers are intimidated. They’re wary of making changes to their machines, fearing they might make them worse, not better. Today’s UTVs are better equipped and tuned than ever, but there is still loads of room for improvement. To inspire you to explore your machine’s potential for improvement, I’d like to share a few stories of UTVers who changed their machines with no planning or expertise whatsoever and came away pleased with the results.
I’m very impressed with Polaris’ Dynamix active suspension. It allows you to choose settings from the vehicle’s touchscreen, and it changes suspension settings as you drive to adapt to conditions and how you drive. Years before Dynamix was unveiled, my friend Eric was using his own version of active suspension on his old Arctic Cat Prowler. It was far less sophisticated than the computer-controlled Dynamix system, but it did change a bit every time Eric drove. The Prowler had seen lots of hard work and play miles, and all four shocks leaked, so they were losing compression and rebound damping gradually with every mile. I pointed this out to Eric, and he let me know he wasn’t at all concerned. Eric was convinced the suspension was more comfortable than ever, and he looked forward to his self-adjusting suspension system becoming even softer and more comfortable on the rough, tight, low-speed trails he rode.
Fifty-inch-wide, trail-width UTVs are some of my favorite machines. The freedom to explore trails that turn away wider machines is a huge plus, and they’re more convenient to transport and store than larger, wider vehicles. The only problem is, most drivers can only own one type of machine. A couple videos I saw recently showed that’s not always true. One video followed a driver’s failed attempt at climbing a tall, steep rock face. The other showed a botched high-speed dune jump landing. The outcome in both cases was the same—no one got hurt, but by tumbling and crashing, both clever drivers appeared to convert their big 64-inch-wide UTVs into trail-ready 50-inch rigs in seconds by smashing the suspension arms in. Now that’s a bold approach to modifying a machine! Unfortunately, both machines weren’t drivable, but at least they fit on 50-inch trails.
Matte-finish bodywork is becoming more popular every day, but long before it was a common option on UTVs, my friend Mike converted his once-glossy Rhino into a machine utterly without shine. His secret? Lots of riding through mud, followed by more riding through trails so tight the brush rubbing on the sides and hood scrubbed the bodywork with the abrasive dirt coating and dulled its original gloss. This method will take longer on machines with painted bodywork, but the results will likely be similar.
My neighbor Chris often leaves his UTV parked in his driveway like it’s the family car, a practice that has always seemed a little too relaxed to me. I expected he’d be telling me about the machine being stolen at some point, but when thieves struck, they were less thorough, at least on their first visit. All they took was his machine’s passenger seat and his cooler. Always casual, Chris is a bit more cautious now, but he hasn’t replaced the passenger seat yet. Chris tells me, “I always liked those single-seaters; I guess I’ve got one now. I was kind of hoping I’d notice a little better acceleration from the reduced weight, but I can’t feel it. I’ll probably replace the cooler before the seat anyway.”