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It starts with “Oh, you ride?” which then turns into “What do you ride?” and my answer is usually in the form of a photo since it’s much easier to explain my ‘Kodiak’ with a visual aid. You see, it’s not just any Kodiak. This particular Kodiak belongs to someone who is married to a mechanic with an addiction to upgrades.

It all started when a friend of ours was coming to meet us at our place for a ride, and his wife happened to be 9 months pregnant and unable to ride so they offered me a bit of freedom for an afternoon rather than trying to hold on for my dear life on the back of Kyle’s Outlander XMR 1000R. Well, I’m sure glad that was the case because we hit some serious mud holes that day (see video here). They warned me it wouldn’t be much, and that it was “only” a 350 Honda, but boy did she get through some thick stuff (see other video here). Without any technique whatsoever and with me being a very weak statured individual, the day was not without its struggles. Add 40 degree (Celsius) heat to that while wearing neoprene chest waders, and it could have been a recipe for disaster.  But what d’ya know? I LOVED it! Needless to say, I was NOT going to be a passenger much longer.

It was time to go shopping, and to my pleasant surprise I even got to test drive a few. One of the perks of living in a small town I suppose. I felt like Goldilocks sitting on bikes that were “too big” and “too small” but finally I came across the one that would be my “just right”. I guess that ties in quite nicely with the name it’s been given: Mama Bear and as you now know, it wasn’t long before I found myself driving home with a matte black 2018 Kodiak 700 EPS SE.

Before (July 2018)
Next to my new ATV
Photo Credit: Mainville Media
After (October 2019)
Riding at The Full Canadian Ride
Photo Credit: Mainville Media

Once I had my own ATV, I started off slow and stock of course but within a few days we were already drilling holes and voiding warranties; anxiety was high, but it was well worth it in order to be able to keep up on the trails. One of my biggest concerns as a female rider at the time was that I’d be the one holding people up.

I can now say, with almost 2 years under my belt, that I was putting undue pressure on myself to keep up. I’ve been absolutely blessed with great people to ride with who have been nothing but patient with me over the years. From those we just happened to come across on the trails, to club members, to long time friends, for the most part my experience has been quite a pleasant one.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned in my short time riding were to trust myself more, to trust my ATV, and to know its limits. As a fairly new rider on the ATV side of things, I typically stayed back to watch someone else go through a mud hole or obstacle first so I could familiarize myself with it and plan out my line. I’ve also learned to accept when something was beyond my skill or comfort level. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t accepted defeat once or twice in the form of a daunting hill climb or a scary bridge and there’s no shame in having someone help you out.

Cassandra riding her ATV on the Voyageur Multi-Use Trail
System on Canada Day in Mattawa, Ontario (2019)
Photo Credit: Glassglowz Media

That being said, a special mention goes to my husband for being patient with me when I was hitting those learning curves at full speed. He always reminded me that it wasn’t a race and that no one would be judging me if I took things at my own pace.

In the moments where I’d be facing a new or daunting obstacle, I’d sometimes get frustrated and want to give up, or get Kyle to just do it for me; but then my sense of pride would come in to play and memories of Kyle coaching me in the backyard (yes, I’d practice in our backyard) would come flooding back in: “Breathe”, “Take it slow”, “Easy on the throttle”, and “Choose your line and stick with it” to name a few.

Look at me know! (points proudly to the photos below ¯¯¯)

 

Another thing ATVing has been able to do is remind me how much I love being outdoors. It has really allowed me to reconnect with nature and to be around likeminded people. It’s been truly amazing to see how many friends you can make exploring new trails and attending new events.

On top of it all, and I’ve eluded to this a couple of times above, it’s been incredible being able to share all of these experiences with my husband and achieving the goals we’ve set out to accomplish.

Now, to learn how to ride a snowmobile….

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Adding a Fuel Controller to Your ATV or UTV

When you’re adding performance pieces such as new air filters, exhausts (see our post on exhausts to read about how an exhaust can cause you to run lean without a controller), or changing the factory build with new clutching or larger tires, fuel controllers are the key piece in getting the all the benefits you’re expecting.  Choosing the right fuel controller can be a challenge and knowing what you’re buying is important.  A fuel controller setup for your ATV will unleash great performance.  Use a program that doesn’t meet the needs of the bike and it doesn’t matter what brand of controller you use, and you’ll have nothing but poor performance, frustration and these likely will lead to engine problems down the road.

Manufacturers and Brands of Fuel Controllers

There are many, many brands of fuel controllers on the market for your ATV or UTV.  The brands on the market today include EJK, PowerCommander, Bully Dog, RJWC, TheBom, HMF, and FMF, however there are many, many others.

What you might not know is that there are really just 3 different manufacturers: Dobeck, DynoJet, and Bully Dog (with Bully Dog being a relative newcomer to the off-road market through Bikeman Performance).  Dobeck manufactures just about every brand of fuel controller in use today with the exception of the PowerCommander Series and the Bully Dog GT.

According to Dobeck, the only difference in the brands they manufacture are the way the controllers are configured.  Electrically the controllers have the same functionality, but depending on the brand, trjwc fuel controller and harnesshe company may have asked Dobeck to give them access to specific parameters they feel will give them the flexibility they want for their specific style of engine tuning.  Granting access to one parameter will generally restrict access to another.  Each person that develops a program for the controller believes their setup has certain advantages over others.  The example given by Dobeck is that a Green/Blue zone light on their controller may represent any number of parameters including “Accel Pump Fuel”, “Decel Fuel”, or “Green Lower Switch”.

DynoJet’s PowerCommander provides access to a lot of the same parameters and functions in your machine as the Dobeck controllers but gives a great deal more flexibility via their proprietary software that is installed on your PC or laptop.  Using this software you can essentially “dial-in” your machine while you’re connected directly to the controller.  This generally requires you to have your machine on a dyno to be able to take full advantage of what the controller and software offer.  One option to avoid this is to add an Auto Tuner to your controller which essentially provides on-the-fly tuning.

What Does the Fuel Controller Do?

Engines have torque and power curves that can be adjusted by changing the air-fuel ratio (AFR) that is being introduced to the cylinder prior to ignition.  Air to your engine is pre-determined based on the air filter, add snorkels, or any physical change you make to how air flows from the atmosphere into the engine.  How fuel is delivered to the engine is a different story and the amount fuel to the engine is controlled by your thumb moving the throttle position and sending a signal to your ATV’s computer.  The computer interprets your throttle position and introduces the amount of fuel that it’s programming tells it to.  The program in your stock controller is setup for how the manufacturer wants the engine to perform considering emissions, fuel economy, and the power they’d like to advertise.  (Often from year to year, the increase in power from say a 2017 to a 2018 machine is just a change to the ECU’s programming, it’s rarely anything more than that.)bully dog fuel controller

In the case of both the Dobeck and PowerCommander tuners, the controller is connected after the stock ECU and the fuel injector, however, they operate in different ways.  With the Dobeck, the controller intercepts the signal going to the fuel injection system and sends its own signal instead, but the PowerCommander actually turns your ECU into a dummy and replaces its functionality with its own.  The end result is the same, but the way they work if fundamentally different.  In both cases, your fuel controller reads any number of parameters about the conditions of the bike (speed, rpm, throttle position, etc.) and then based on the program that’s loaded delivers the amount of fuel for that situation.

For example, while you’re running casually down a trail at 30-40 km/h, your thumb is at 1/4 throttle, cruising along.  The fuel controller will know based on engine rpm’s, speed, and throttle position what amount of fuel to provide to the engine.

Should I Add a Fuel Controller?

Quite simply, yes.  There is an argument that can be made that says the very first upgrade you make should be a fuel controller because it is the central upgrade that will tie in everything else you add to your machine.  The addition of a fuel controller can completely change the way your machine performs.  For example, in the 2015+ Polaris 900 RZR the throttle body is only programmed to open up to 80% at max throttle, but adding a fuel controller opens this up to 100% and boosts horsepower from 78 to 92 hp with this one upgrade.  This is an exception and rarely will you see this kind of improvement but it illustrates how a fuel controller can spoil a manufacturer’s intentional detuning of the capabilities of your engine.  Most controllers expect something like a premium quality RJWC exhaust and an aftermarket air filter to be installed and with the 3 components added you should expect, ready to add 4-8 hp depending on the make, engine size, etc.

 

 

 

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First, let me start by saying that I love my buddys’ Can Am Renegade XMR’s.  They are stunning bikes, with tons of power and (in my opinion) the best sounding engines going.  They sound like they’re ready to bite the head off the nearest Polaris they can find!  Two good friends recently bought 2017 Renegade 1000 XMR’s.  One of them is (or was for a long time) the featured bike on the homepage of Dirty Life.

Wherever we go, the XMR’s grab a lot of attention – and I do mean a lot.  They constantly have people coming by when we ride asking questions or simply commenting on how good the bikes look.  It’s almost annoying how much attention they get as we roll through trails and stop along the way for drinks and eats.  We’re regularly held up by the folks that have a thousand questions about the bikes.  How good do they work in the mud?  Do they wander much on hard pack?  How do you like those Silverbacks?  The list of questions goes on and on.

Unfortunately, this post isn’t all about the greatness of these bikes, because it turns out that Can Am has been having rear differential issues since the 2012 Gen 2’s were released and they haven’t cured the problem.  Now, anyone that’s been around bikes, or the automotive industry for any amount of time knows these things can and do happen, but what we as consumers are always watching for is the way the manufacturer reacts to the problem.  Do they deny it and run screaming away from complaints or do they step up and take ownership of the problem and make sure their problems have as little impact on their customers as possible.  No matter what the reason for a rash of problems, it’s maddening when you’ve bought a brand new anything and it fails prematurely, but it helps a lot when the company steps up and says “Yes, we’re aware of the problem.  We’re very sorry it’s affected you, but here’s what we’re going to do to make it right.”

can am renegade 1000 xmrBut here’s the rest of the story…

On the afternoon of June 3, 2017 at a major mudding event in Brockville, Ontario called Wheels a Churning (reviewed here), one friend who has rightfully been over-the-moon proud of his new Renegade, pulled his bike down the ramps and off the trailer, rode a few laps around the big open dirt field in front of our campsite and parked his ride.  He was with a group that was late arriving so we all got tents and stuff set up, then prepared to take off for a ride around the grounds.  About 400 feet from the campsite is a little mud hole where one of the stock bikes got stuck.  My friend with the Renegade, always the first guy to step up to help out, pulled up, put the winch on, went to back up and that’s when all hell broke loose (literally!!!)

There was a god-awful noise, you know the one I mean…it’s that one only a bad mechanical failure like an axle or differential can make.  The mood from our group went from smiles, jokes, and everyone eager to enjoy the festivities, to one of collective concern, knowing that 5 minutes into the weekend, one of our group’s ride organizers and the hub for our communication just lost his ride and we hadn’t even gone anywhere yet.  These things happen and no matter how well you know it, no matter how proud you are of your equipment, when they fail, there’s nothing more painful and nothing that will piss you off more than knowing your $22,000 ATV just had a premature failure.  We muddled through the weekend, but there was no denying the failure on Saturday afternoon put a damper on the weekend for all of us.  As we inspected it, we found out that the rear differential had failed, and when it let go, the torque suddenly shifted straight to the front wheels and broke the front drive shaft.  Shitty luck to be sure…or was it?!?

After the weekend, my friend, only 4 months into his regular warranty, and sure that after purchasing the extended warranty, there would be no problems getting this fixed up, took the bike to his dealer and explained what had happened.  Expecting them to say “That’s terrible!  That shouldn’t have happened.  We’ll get it fixed as soon as we can, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience,” he was blown away to have them look at the bike a week later and finally call to tell him they wouldn’t do anything for him.  The damage was caused because the differential was under “extreme load.”  I can tell you for 100%, because I was there when it happened, the bike was most definitely not under “extreme load” and to be perfectly honest, it’s a Can Am 1000 XMR – shouldn’t the differential be able to handle “extreme load?”  Aren’t these the bikes we see Ostacruiser and NOS ATV guys ripping through mud and skeg??

Fast forward a month…after several conversations with Can Am (BRP) and the dealer, my friend still doesn’t have his bike back and is no closer to resolution.  I’ve started to dive into this only to find out that this problem is a huge issue for all the Gen 2 bikes – going all the way back to 2012.  Jarret at Mud n Wheels (www.mudnwheels.com) speaks candidly about why he started tackling a problem that BRP won’t admit is a problem – if you have a Can Am ATV or UTV/side-by-side, I strongly recommend you read this http://ca.mudnwheels.com/Can-Am-Parts/About and consider upgrading through Jarret.  I’ve watched his videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChSN2XWb-AY10i7exXTHlJg) and he knows what he’s talking about.  If you’ve ever seen the abuse that Ostacruiser throws at machines, know that they only survive that because of the work done by Jarret at Mud n Wheels.  Pretty much any of the serious (read that as “aggressive”) riders out there have already switched to Mud’N Wheels diffs.  And in terms of full disclosure, yes, you can get them in our shop, but they were added after we had these problems and I found out that it’s a common issue so we decided to help raise awareness to the problem.

And I wish this was the end of the story… that my friend is left having to purchase an upgraded diff from Jarret and saying to hell with BRP/Can Am.  But it’s not.  This past weekend, with just 19 hours on his 2017 Can Am Renegade 1000 XMR, and before he’s even made the second payment on his bike, another friend blew the diff out of his bike as we rode down a trail after a day of mild riding with a couple of mud holes.  Two brand new 2017 Can Am Renegades, and two blown diffs.  Jarret at Mud n Wheels is onto something that Can Am is clearly unwilling to look at.

If anyone at Can Am/BRP happens to stumble across this post, please, read it and take it to heart.  People are upset and frustrated with the lack of support.  Broken parts covered under warranty may ruin a weekend, but avoiding covering the repairs is only going to drive them away.  The loss of revenue you’ll suffer from future purchases, is going to hurt your dealers (Can Am dealers have potentially lost 6 sales from our group of riders, and all future maintenance work on the broken XMR’s), and your company.  You have the most expensive bikes on the market and when your flagship bikes start failing and you won’t back them up, what do you expect consumers to do?  I for one had considered Can Am for my son who is getting into riding and even though I drive the Polaris RZR, he fell in love with the Can Am’s in our group.  Unfortunately, he and I are pretty confident that we won’t be pursuing a Can Am purchase because of the lack of support you’ve shown for your flagship bikes.  Stuff breaks…Polaris, Can Am, Suzuki, Kawasaki, etc. – they all break eventually.  But not honoring your warranty on major failures on your self-proclaimed mud-bike, when there is an obvious manufacturing or engineering defect, is the stuff that pisses consumers off and moves us to another brand for our next purchase.

And in case you’re wondering, we captured the moment the rear diff blew in the first bike – the moment that Can Am is calling “extreme”, the moment of violence that pushed an XMR past it’s limit, which as you can see wasn’t so extreme.  You’d think a belt would burn up before a differential would break!

can am renegade broken differential

So, if you’re thinking about Can Am, I suggest to you that they’re an amazing piece of machinery.  Truly one of the best looking, best sounding, most fun bikes out there.  But be aware that just because you have a warranty, even the extended one, it doesn’t mean that Can Am will support mechanical failures.  It’s just another sad case of “buyer beware”.