Monday, May 16, 2011

Rock-crawling a bone stock Kawasaki Teryx in Moab, Utah

By Jeff Knoll

While most may not feel the need to tackle trails rated in a manner that scares away the average Jeep owner, when I was invited to join a group of dedicated UTV owners for a weeklong trip in Moab, I nearly jumped at the chance. One catch, I would be the only person in the group piloting a bone stock machine. After over 10 years in the Rocksports Industry as co-founder of the Ultra4 Series and King of the Hammers, I felt it was possible the group wanted the rock crawler to have one hand tied behind his back. I will openly admit, I was a bit concerned about my ability to pilot a stock machine on trails I have driven a fully built buggy on in the past. Names like Steel Bender, Cliff Hanger, Green Day, and Helldorado may seem nearly impassable by name, but the scenic beauty that surrounds the town of Moab is best seen from some of the more ominous sounding trails.

Steel Bender Trail
With the snow capped La Sal Mountains in the background, our first trail of the week would be Steel Bender. This 10.5 mile “difficult trail” located south of Moab and north of Kens Lake is popular with mountain bikers and the local guide book warns of extreme danger when the trail is wet. As luck would have it the weather was threatening rain. 4-5 hours should be budgeted for completion of this one way trail. Because we did not have street legal vehicles, we would be running the trail in both directions coming out the same way we entered. After entering from the Kens Lake side of the trail, we made quick work of the trail arriving at the last obstacle in just about an hour.

I have been to Moab more than a half of a dozen times in the last ten years, and I can tell you our leisurely pace was way faster than I could have imagined. The flat sections of trail with small bumps in rocks will beat you to a near death in a jeep, but in a UTV they became fun obstacles as we sped down the trail. Obstacles that seem impassable were a breeze due to the small size of the UTVs, and the low center of gravity allowed us to choose a route that would have rolled a stock Jeep over. In short, after our first day, my fears of keeping up turned to seeing how far we could push the ability of a stock UTV and, more importantly, how far could I push my own ability.

Cliff Hanger Trail

Our second day in Moab, we joined approximately 30 UTV owners piloting all sorts of machines with the Rally on the Rocks event. Our police escort led us from the Rally headquarters to a most difficult rated trail called Cliff Hanger. It was clear from the first 100 feet of the trail that today would be a bigger challenge. With a wide variety of UTVs on the trail, we had the opportunity to see wildly modified machines compared to nearly stock, and of course my bone stock Teryx which seemed slightly out of place.

The first obstacle claimed the dignity of a Rhino owner as he turned it over and the contents of his lunch spilled onto the sand. The stock Teryx laughed at the obstacle and cleared it with what seemed like an easy bound. The whole trip the mighty stocker continued to surprise me. I would have second guessed taking a stock Jeep on this trail, but the Teryx allowed me the comfort of being able to pick lines that a Jeep could not. The unbelievable views the trail offered outweighed the challenge of the trail itself as we reached the top. The most impressive part of the day was that in my past experience when you get 30 jeepers on a trail ride it seems someone will have a major problem and require a lot of effort to extricate from the trail. While we did have one after market product failure on a RZR, because of the light weight, getting it back home was a breeze.

Green Day Trail at Area BFE

After two days exploring the trails of Moab, I suggested we ramp up our test of the Teryx, and head to a place only the toughest rock crawlers in Moab dare to venture . . . Area BFE. Located south of Moab, Utah, this private park allows the extreme experience of Moab style 4 wheeling. You simply are asked to offer a donation for use of the park and haul out your trash. Most visitors to Moab will never feel the need to conquer the obstacles that the trails of Area BFE have to offer. While the scenery is nice, the trails are one obstacle after the next and keep you focused on the task at hand. Our mission was a trail called Green Day, and we planned to go up it rather than down.

The stock Teryx was able to traverse most of the the trail with little effort, and a number of bypasses allowed us to go around the more difficult of the bunch. When we arrived at the top, I looked over the Teryx and saw little more than a few scratches on the plastic rocker guards. We had done it. Made it past everything we could throw at the small tires and stock track width. The Teryx never let us down.

Most users will never attempt to conquer a 5 rated trail, but there is a lot a merit in looking at the Kawasaki Teryx as a vehicle that will let you explore the back country of our nation in a safe comfortable fashion. The view from the driver’s seat was perfect, allowing me to move around the larger rocks without a hang up. When we did find ourselves stuck, the light weight allowed us to push it forward or back as needed. The small bed afforded the ability to haul my lunch, a cooler, a chair, umbrella, and extrication gear. Entry and exit of the vehicle was easy, and the glove box came in handy keeping my maps dry.

The down side: the stock seats where not really comfortable on a bumpy trail for 8 hours, and the Teryx could really benefit from a set of aftermarket shocks and tires. But they did not prevent me from going everywhere I wanted. The stock roll cage would need an upgrade if I were to continue this type of use of the machine, but with a multitude of aftermarket availability, I have to assume this is a popular upgrade.

The surprising: the small tires and low center of gravity did not prevent me from getting into trail systems that where rated for modified Jeeps. Maybe the biggest surprise was the amazing gas mileage. I used less than one tank of gas for the three days of riding we did, and that amounted to less than $25.00 at the pump in a time when gas prices are at an all time high. With a retail price under $13,000 at my local dealership, the Kawasaki Teryx is the perfect platform to get out into the backcountry and enjoy the beauty this great nation has to offer.

Article courtesy of Carrera Performance Group ©2011

More pictures: 2011 Rally on the Rocks

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