Northern Maine has some beautiful trails. Our Nate Humphrey talks to Brian Wilson about their favorite makes, models & features for ATV Riding in our neck of the woods. Here is a short podcast: ATV Riding: Our Favorite Makes & Models
Thinking about planning a hunting trip? Here’s a free guide on what to expect and what to pack:
Brian Wilson: It’s Brian Wilson again, in for another chat with Nate Humphrey, the exalted omnipotent stopper at Camp Katahdin, the world-class corporate retreat and home to the incomparable Denney Lodge, a hunting lodge in Patten, Maine.
Nate, thanks for the time today. Since the last time we spoke, we touched on the ATV season, which had not yet opened, and now, it’s in full swing on all those endless ATV trails throughout Northern Maine.
I thought maybe we’d take a few minutes to talk about the makes and models, maybe the best makes and models, to get the most out of the season and beyond. Considering all the great choices that are out there, is it possible to have a best all-around All-Terrain-Vehicle for ATV Vacations and off-trail adventuring like that?
Nate Humphrey: Well, I think if we could answer that question, we’d also be able to answer the lifelong debate of which is better, Ford or Chevy, right?
Brian Wilson: Good point.
Nate Humphrey: I don’t think we can answer that question today in our brief time. There are so many great makes and models out there of ATVs. Currently, I’m riding both a Polaris and a Can-Am. I have an older Polaris 500 2-up. It’s the trail version. It’s got a little longer wheel base than the normal Polaris, and it has a factory built 2-up seat.
Great machine. I take my son, my daughter out on it, my wife. We just have a great time on the machine. It’s been a very reliable machine. It’s actually a 2007. It’s just in beautiful condition, and it never quits. I will never sell that machine. It’s been so reliable.
We also have a couple of Polaris 800s. Beautiful machine. Little more modern technology built upon the platform that I currently ride. Very fast. With power steering. Very sensitive to the touch.
We also have two Polaris Ranger Cruise. Great machine. It’s like taking a Cadillac Sedan de Ville down the trail, or maybe even you could say the Mercedes S550 down the trail.
We also have a two-place Polaris Ranger 900 that is a beautiful machine. Our lead chef bought last year – and I actually just took him up on his offer this past weekend – he has a Can-Am 1000. It’s a 2016 Can-Am 1000 XT Mag. That also is the trail version with a factory built 2-up seat. It’s a beautiful machine. It is so smooth on the trail.
My experience was with Polaris and Can-Ams. I don’t have a lot of experience with the other makes. One of the boys that works for us – I shouldn’t call him a boy. He’s definitely a man. He’s just about ready to graduate college, but he’s younger than I. He has a Kawasaki 750. It’s a beautiful machine. It’s an old one, but it’s independent suspension, a lot of power, very fast, very comfortable, that has an aftermarket 2-up seat on it. Probably take a friend along.
There’s a lot out there. A lot of stories.
Brian Wilson: We’ve got something in common with Polaris. I have an ancient Sportsman 500. All of the machines I bought over the years – Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda, Polaris – but all the rest were bought specifically because they had features that I needed at the time.
Polaris, for example, this thing I’ve got right now is – I don’t want to tell you how old it is. It’s got a decal of a brontosaurus on the side. I bought the unit because of the transmission and not having to shift and because of the road clearance. Of all the ones that were available at the time, Polaris had the greatest road clearance, and had a farm with about 185 acres – 184 which were all pretty much woods and hills and fallen-down logs. I wanted to be able to handle those early problems.
Could we at least say that for those individuals who are going to get into this, they should be looking at machines from a road clearance standpoint with a four-wheel drive? Things along that order?
Nate Humphrey: Yeah. I think you do want the four-wheel drive. Most of them are selectable where you can operate in two-wheel drive and even unlock the rear differential for the most amount of comfort and performance when you’re just cruising the well-groomed trails of Northern Maine. Then you can select four-wheel drive and lock the differentials. That’ll give you a true four-wheel drive.
The Polaris has a feature called four-wheel drive ADC – automatic downhill control. All four wheels are locked in, but the engine really stays revved, if you will, and the clutch engaged so that you don’t have to use braking going down the hill. It’s engine breaking, similar to a truck. Really gives you good control for doing steep descents.
Brian Wilson: About those 2-up seats, I’m curious when you’re talking about getting off-road and maybe doing a little off-trail exploring. If you’ve got a passenger back there, what is that effect on the center of gravity? Is that something to be concerned about?
Nate Humphrey: Well, the factory 2-ups have a little longer wheel base. The seat is a factory seat. Usually, the seats also have a shock absorber in them, too. It is designed for the extra weight. That 2-up seat will have its own – not foot peg, but more of a platform. A secondary platform for the rear passenger’s feet to be on. And handles. But of course, you get more weight on there, and it will change the center of gravity a bit and your maneuverability. You’ve got to take it a little easier.
Also, we’d caution any people that are going to ATV in Maine. You really need to stay on the marked trails. If you get off the trails and get on to somebody’s land and get in the mud, get stuck and whatnot, tear up the land, you can be subject to fines and penalties. We do have to be careful about that.
The fact with 2-up machines, they’re beautiful. They’re comfortable. They ride very smooth. Plenty of ground clearance. All the skid plates under them. Most of them come with a winch as well, so if you’re out there by yourself and you do get stuck in a muddy spot on a trail, you can get yourself out.
If you’re just by yourself and you stop along the trail and just want to take in the sights and relax a little bit, it is very comfortable just to hop up on that 2-up seat and lean back and put your feet up on the front seat. I’ve sat that way many times and perhaps enjoyed a nice cigar.
Brian Wilson: My latest purchase about a year ago was a UTV, because I got chores to do around here, and having that little dump body in the back – it’s a Honda Big Red. It suits the purpose, but I’m questioning whether or not that’d be something to throw on the back of the trailer and bring up to Camp Katahdin.
Nate Humphrey: It would be. The Honda Big Red I think will cross many different mission profiles. It is a very good work machine for your farm. But you can also get out there and ride the trails.
The Polaris Rangers and the Can-Am Commanders and whatnot and the Kawasaki, also the Yamaha – they all make UTVs, and all of them will have several different makes and models that will either be a work machine or be a trail cruising machine. My experience with them with the machines are they’re built for the trail and built for riding, and they are so incredibly comfortable.
That independent suspension just really makes the ride very, very comfortable. They have windshields and roofs that can keep you away from the elements. You can even get all the heaters, if you want. They have seatbelts, of course. There’s a great level of safety. With a big, long wheelbase, it gives a very comfortable ride and helps you traverse the terrain. They don’t get stuck very easily.
Brian Wilson: I don’t have to worry about the cage. I don’t have to worry, because I think we need to clarify, at least for my benefit, the difference between ATV trail riding season in Maine, where you’ve got thousands of thousands of miles of endless trails versus what I encounter here. I’ve got very few trails around the property and around the area, but a lot of opportunities to go off on tangents with the MUV. I’ve got to watch overhead clearance, which I don’t have to worry about on the Polaris.
Nate Humphrey: Yeah. No. The trails up north, they’re marked. They’re made for the UTVs. They’re plenty big enough. Depending on the season and the wetness, you can get into some mud if you want to. Just ask us. Ask the locals. They’ll tell you what part of the trails are muddy if you want to do a little bit of that.
You do have to be very careful. You can’t venture off the marked trails without land owner’s permission. You can get in a little bit of hot water. All the trails are designed for both the ATVs, the four-wheelers, as I call them, and the UTVs. The UTVs are just – they’re very, very comfortable.
Weekend before last, my wife and I and my two beautiful children and another couple and their two beautiful children, one of which is a two-year-old – we loaded up, went up to Camp Katahdin, stayed at the Denney Lodge, and loaded up the kids, and we went riding. We put a child seat right on the UTV, secured it right in the middle with a third middle seatbelt, and all the kids were buckled in, and they had their helmets, and we were buckled in. It was just a great family adventure. That’s something that the UTVs can offer a family with young children is the safety and security of seatbelts and roll cages and windshields.
Brian Wilson: All in all, when you get down to the bottom line, you’ve got a great selection from a lot of great manufacturers with tons of different models that come with what used to be optional equipment or equipment that wasn’t even available back when I bought that ancient Sportsman 500. But the main thing is, if it doesn’t have it, make sure you get the winch, right?
Nate Humphrey: Yeah. I think the winch I very helpful, particularly if you ride alone. The winch is very helpful. Yes. That’s gotten me out of a few predicaments. I’ve been out there by myself. It gets boring, and learning the trails – where the start is, I had a motorcycle. I quickly determined I was going to get myself in trouble with a motorcycle, so I sold it, and I bought a four-wheeler. I don’t get in quite so much trouble with the four-wheeler.
I went up to Camp Katahdin, and I just started exploring and running the trails. I did it myself. I was out there alone a lot. In the springtime, as I said, you can get in the mud. There was a couple of times where I couldn’t see my tires, so I had to winch myself up. Thank goodness I did have that winch.
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Thinking about planning a hunting trip? Here’s a free guide on what to expect and what to pack: