The UTV Suspension That Broke Our Back!
Let me tell you a story about my 2017 Polaris XPT 2-Seat Fox Edition
I love this Polaris, and it takes me places and will go farther than I, myself, can make it. I am not an expert rock crawler – in fact, I am scared of heights. So, the first thing I have to overcome is my gut telling me not to go up the rock cliff that is right in front of us!
I will tell you that when we go onto a trail in Moab or Sand Hollow, it is a thrill to me. It takes me right to my limit, with my wife giving me the best support, in order to conquer the next obstacle we come across.
I raced oval track cars for over 20 years so speed and competition are in my blood. I just didn’t have to climb a mountain doing it.
The sand dunes have become an area of some of my most fun rides.
For me, it has a lot to do with wide-open spaces where you can push the throttle down and just go for it! There are no stoplights, other than the next crest that you might not want to fly over without knowing what lurks on the other side.
This type of riding is as close to my racing – that feeling of being as fast and under control, as you dare go. This is good therapy for racers who retire and still crave some of the action that we are used to.
Racers tend to retire and then get right back into the sport because nothing else can fill their craving for what racing will give you. They long for that feeling you get in your gut as you head out onto the race track.
Anyway, Christmas of 2017, my present to myself was purchasing a dual-rate spring and collar set up. This particular vendor sold just the top tender springs and collar kit, keeping in place the original lower springs on both front and rear.
Their explanation was that in all of their testing, they did not see any improvement when they changed out the lower stock mainsprings.
So, I installed the springs and had them powder coated to match the rest of my springs. Then I installed the kit onto my shocks and I was ready to go!
I was excited to head to the sand dunes this last spring and have the first experience of a true dual rate set- up on my Polaris Turbo.
My friend, Pat, and I make it to the dunes around 6-10 times a season, so we get to know the lay of the land pretty well.
It is amazing to me how the sand changes from trip to trip. Riders had always told me about the sand changing, but what I thought they meant was the sand was moving toward Salt Lake City or something,
What really happens is the difference in the sand itself. It can be really soft one week and then after some good rainstorms, it will become hard, and I wonder why I installed my paddle tires?
Then the next week it will have sharp cliffs over every crest of the hill, along with more witch-eyes.
I am not a real big long jumper. The height thing comes into play too quickly on this, but I do like to pop a wheelie now and then. This gives me a shit-eating grin on my face and I start laughing out loud. Whoever is in the passenger seat has to listen to me giggling like a little girl in school.
We wear helmets with Rugged radio communications while playing in the sand. That’s why my passenger will be listening to me laughing all the way, not in a one-horse slay.
After multiple trips to the dunes and plenty of adjusting the compression knobs on the dual-rate shocks and even adjusting the collars, I have to say that the better feeling that I was hoping to experience was just not good.
In fact, I would say the stock shock set- up was just as good, if not better than this new dual-rate spring set- up – what is wrong with this picture?
Then a beautiful fall day, October 13th, we planned another trip to the Little Sahara sand dunes.
I asked some of my customers to come to spend the day with us – Rhett and his father-in-law, my friends, Pat and Dan. Dan is my good friend and riding partner. He was also my crew chief for my racing career.
It had been raining hard for the last 4 days just prior to us going down there. The sand was wet and harder than I had ever felt before.
You could easily see it in the color of the sand.
Our 4 UTV’s headed out, two of the UTV’s had either never been to the dunes or it had been 25 years since being here. We started heading to the backside where there are the biggest bowls for high-speed riding and, what I consider the fun part of Little Sahara.
Getting out to the back I had hit several hard bumps and knew the sand was especially hard that day. But, for some reason, I was still pushing my turbo fast – probably trying to show off to the friends in the other RZR’s.
Then the problem bump came about when we were running the big bowls consistently for a time.
When I was traveling about 60 mph heading downhill, we hit a bump, and my Polaris bottomed out in the rear harder than I had ever felt before. Dan’s back was extremely hurt, and we had to get stopped immediately.
We got him back to the truck and home safely without having to call the ambulance, but he missed the next week of work because of pain from this injury.
Believe me – I do not want to hurt my sand dune riding friend!
I blame this on the fact that I did not slow down for the conditions that the sand was in, and how my Polaris suspension was not responding to make this ride better.
I had already known that my suspension was not feeling good at all, and this was the last straw that broke my friends back (not literally) – pun intended.
It is now my mission to find out why my Polaris XPT Fox edition is not soaking up the hits and bumps with a soft landing, even after the dual-rate kit from a popular vendor.
This is when I started researching and testing my own springs and shocks, just like we used to do on the race car for 20 years.
I have been purchasing specialized equipment for my spring and shock research in the past 6 months. I have spent thousands of dollars for the sole purpose of learning and understanding how my current suspension set- up is and what direction I should go to make it better.
Yes, I could just send my shocks in and have they put their set-up and re-valving installed on them.
But, I have already spent good money with terrible results. I am not against sending my shocks in for a great upgrade, but I need to know what and why we are putting on my shocks.
I want to know the secret sauce that is installed on my Polaris RZR
I do not want to hurt anyone that rides with me. I mean it might be your wife in the passenger seat, and you may be sleeping on the couch after this one.
These UTV’s are so much fun and exciting to ride! Let’s make it the best experience we can. When we learn to adjust all that is there, it will get more comfortable to drive and ride. That will make you want to ride even longer.
In my future blogs (coming soon) I will go into greater detail of the specific spring and shock rates, and what works best for me. Hopefully, you will get some information that will help you on your next ride.
These sports UTV’s are evolving all the time, and there will be more and better features to come. But, if you’re like me, you probably won’t be upgrading your Polaris every year.
They keep coming out with more and better features.
So, I hope we can both learn and enjoy, along with making our machines drive smoother, fly higher, and hit large bumps with ease.
I think you will be completely surprised at what I have found out with the dual-rate spring set- up.
Keep looking for my tech articles on spring and shock testing.
Give me a call or email so we can get your UTV suspension working the best ride it can be.
Thank you, and, until we ride again.
Owner of UTV Service specializing in shocks and suspension.
I have always loved making cars and now UTV’s run and handle there best. I do not believe in taking short cuts and when something comes along that does not fit my values I will not sell or back that product.
Business owner for over 35 years. 3-Time Nascar short track champion at our local race track Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City, Utah
2017 Polaris XPT 2-Seat Turbo-Current
2015 Polaris XP1000 -Sold
2011 Polaris RZR 800- Sold