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Lead Head Bullets
Rifle Magazine
October - November 2001
Volume 2001, Number 0
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 5
On the cover...
Cover photo John R. Ford-Whitetail Deer, Mike Barlow-Elk, Gary Kramer-Black Bear and Cape Buffalo.
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Rifle Magazine
Product Tests
Last year we began a successful trend, using these pages to illustrate an exceptional All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). The criteria was very simple: to be here the machinery must be outstanding. Because I get to write this, I also get to be the judge of that quality. Rest assured my seal of approval is not applied lightly, nor without serious consideration. I look at an ATV as I would a fine rifle or revolver, as if I were viewing with your eyes. My basis is that of a rancher, hunter and guide who pushes these vehicles to their limits. My overriding criteria is, “Will it work for you?”

The machine this year comes from Bombardier Corporation. While you may not be familiar with its ATVs, you probably know some of its other products: Ski Doo snow machines, Sea Doo watercraft and, are you ready for this, Learjets! My initial interest came from the thought process that if they can make a Learjet, they are very apt to make an excellent, probably outstanding, ATV. We were not disappointed.

When we look at the Bombardier line of ATVs, the most striking “difference” is they have a step-through deck. That is, where the front of the seat and the gas tank appear on most machines, there is a cut-away on the Bombardier. The immediate purpose of this is an easier way to get on and off. You can simply step through the machine, instead of swinging your leg over as you would on a horse. There is another secret purpose for this “gap” we will deal with in a moment.

Other features found on Traxters: five-speed constant mesh (gear) transmissions, high and low range, start in any gear, reverse in any gear, shift lever (park, reverse, neutral, high, low), water-cooled 498cc engine and a fine limited-slip front differential. Another interesting facet of the Traxters is that you have a choice of three different kinds of shifters. They make a foot shift, a thumb shift and an automatic. These are on different machines, not all three on one. As you can see, the Bombardier Traxters are different, and the one I used is the most different of all.

The Traxter XL stands for Extra Long, among other things. This is a super heavy-duty ATV. It is essentially a beefed-up standard Traxter with the wheel base extended 10 inches. Instead of fitting a standard rear rack, they added a dump box. What really begins to set this machine apart is its load capacity. While most ATVs are limited to less than 200 pounds on the back, this one is rated at 600 pounds! Here we have a machine designed to carry something as heavy as an elk, or a few deer. It has spring and suspension capacity to match and the obvious strength built into its 850-pound dry weight.

With all this “big” my first concern was the XL would feel “big,” that the ride and handling qualities would begin to feel like a dump truck. Not true! While the suspension is admittedly heavier than a normal machine, the spring preload is adjustable, as is the tire pressure. By lowering the spring cams to the “softest” position and reducing the tire pressure to 4 pounds, the ride begins to feel much like other ATVs. (If you are carrying a heavy load, the spring and tire pressure should be increased.)

What I found really amazing is the silky feel and steering ease. Some ATVs are just plain brutal to steer, and this is especially true of some full-time 4x4 machines. The XL is easy, one of the softest steering machines I have ever worked. It is so agreeable that on a sidehill where I am often tempted to quit with others, I can hold the XL on parallel with one hand.

The longer wheel base and heavy weight also translate into increased traction. I tried the Bombardier on some steep uphill grades, and I can tell you it was still climbing in granny-low when I was very happy to quit. There is enough power in that big engine to handle maximum climb with very little throttle. The fully engaged mesh transmission and hydraulically controlled clutch apply full engine braking on equally steep downhill grades. When I put it on flat ground, in high range and fourth or fifth gear and mashed the throttle, there was enough acceleration and speed to hold my full attention; well, truthfully, enough speed to make me back off the gas.

While on one hand riding the XL for transportation is much like any other ATV, that is, one with excellent power, traction and handling, we can go a big step farther and really put a load on this one. Before we start there is an important point related to the unbreakable laws of physics. When you put weight in the box, or on top of any ATV, you raise the center of gravity. If you try to ride on hills or rough ground with a big, high load, the machine is very likely to tip over. So when we talk about a heavy load, generally we will be on gentle terrain or logging roads.

I filled the box with salt blocks, destined to make the elk happy in remote corners of the ranch. Usually I need a trailer to haul enough to be useful, but with the XL I had enough to make most of the “circle” in one bite. It was hard to imagine I was hauling most of the summer’s supply in one load - on an ATV - but there it was. The impression was that the load simply was not there. Later we hauled a huge load of basalt rock out of the back yard. I cannot say how much it weighed, but plenty, and again the XL not only did not mind but also did not seem to notice. When we begin to haul out big game, my “secret” use for the step-through design comes into its own.

Let’s begin by reiterating that the XL will easily carry an elk, or two or three deer. But, if you put that load in the box and try tough ground you are going to lose. If the terrain is really tough, you will be miles and bruises ahead if you drag the critter to the nearest road. And believe me, this machine will skid almost anything you care to tie on behind. The clutch is the most powerful and positive I have used. There is a computer in “front” of a hydraulic piston that operates extremely powerful clutch springs. It will pull a tremendous load at very low rpm without any sign of clutch related slippage.

If you add near maximum weight to the box, it will skid a log that might make a pickup wonder. When you get to flat ground, if the beast is in pieces, if you have help, or if you are as stout as my son, you can fill up the dump box. On the other hand, if the trail is still rough, or you respect your back, then you can slide the deer or elk right into the cut-away in front of the seat. I would load them with their back down and tie their feet to the front rack.

The XL comes only in the thumb-shift version, which is perfect, because the “floor full” of elk will not interfere with shifting. Now the load is low, the center of gravity is kept as low as possible, and you are really in business. I cannot wait until fall when the first really tough retrieve is at hand!

In the end I am very impressed with this “oversized” machine. It is a rare combination of big capacity and the handling ease of a normal machine. Of course, it is only one option. If you do not need the heavy-load capability, a standard Traxter will be even more nimble with all the conveniences and rider-friendly design features, not to mention eye-watering horsepower.

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