Out of the Box, and into the Rocks

Feb 24, 2010
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. [...]

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.

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.

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.

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.


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