POLARIS ATV ~ Greatest Vehicles

Saturday, 17 September 2011


So when Aamby Valley at Lonavala invited us to experience 19 Degree North, their new adventure park, we knew what was to be done. Abhay was fresh from riding ATVs last month and had even pulled a wheelie which went on to become his profile picture and got hundreds of likes. The first time I rode an ATV was at a friend’s farm and had ended up going the wrong way into a ditch instead of drifting around a corner. Riding an ATV isn’t easy, and one needs to shift body weight to steer, just like riding a motocross bike. 19 Degree North has a developed a special 1.5km long off-road track for the purpose. They claim the track is one of its kind in the country, and is best when riding in the monsoons given its slushy nature. It involves a series of obstacles from start to finish, and these include several bumps, chicanes, tight corners, a high jump ending in a tricky left-handed curve apart from water-logged sections that leave you covered in muck. To experience the track, one can choose from a range of Polaris ATVs ranging from a tiny 90cc ATV to a monstrous 500cc one.  
For the purpose we decided to try the Polaris 300 ATV. The 300 features a butch front end, and looks ready to devour any kind of terrain. As I climbed onto the ATV, the riding position felt comfortable, yet aggressive, and one that would allow me to shift around as and when needed to negotiate corners. It features a 299cc air/oil-cooled engine  with CVT transmission. It also has four wheel drive, which can be engaged on the fly. To keep it fair, we decided to ride two laps each which included a practice lap and a qualifying lap. Abhay went in first and was going flat-out instantly. The stunter eventually clocked a time of 2 minutes, 18 seconds. Next was my turn and I took it easy in the practice lap, making mental notes - being an INRC navigator did help! The obstacles and jumps were well designed; and the Polaris went through everything that came its way effortlessly, allowing me to cross the line in 2 minutes, 17seconds - enough to take pole position. 

But before the race, we decided to go for a ride in a natural off-road trail that is also a part of 19 Degree North. The trail goes through water crossings and includes steep uphill and downhill sections and is about 10km long. This time we decided to try the bigger one, the Polaris 500, it being one of the few ATV’s to feature four wheel drive high and low options. The Polaris Sportsman 500 uses a 499cc liquid-cooled engine with a CVT transmission. Both the 300 and 500 are shaft driven, making for reduced transmission losses. The 500 is higher and wider than the 300, and is a full-size off-roader apt for its purpose. As I thumbed the starter, the thumb activated throttle was convenient to use, and the 500 sure felt a lot more powerful than its smaller 300cc counterpart. In fact, power was enough to allow me to make doughnuts as I pinned the throttle in rear wheel drive mode. Crossing streams more than two feet high wasn’t a problem with the 500. While going uphill over boulders, the four wheel drive low mode came in handy and helped us clamber over them in no time. Apart from just a drive and reverse option as in the Sportsman 300, the Sportsman 500 features parking mode, so one can park it on a downhill or uphill section without worrying about rolling off. The suspension is a MacPherson type up front and an independent setup at the rear, 
making it one of the most capable ATVs available. As we started riding back at the halfway point, it started raining and the surface got even more slippery. 

We rode back uphill with the throttle pinned, and the Polaris 500 didn’t scrape at all thanks to its high departure angle. Thankfully as we reached the track again, the rainfall was down to a drizzle and we were now keen on the race. The ATV track was wet now and had puddles of water. As per the qualifying result, I started first for our three-lap duel. 
The track starts with a tight right handed corner and as we were riding in rear wheel drive mode, the tail was more than happy stepping out. Given the slushy conditions, the 300 Sportsman’s tyres seemed to lose traction rather easily. Throttle response from the carburetted engines was decent, but I am sure the newer fuel-injected Polaris ATVs that will be launched soon will boast of a better throttle response. Acceleration was quick as well, as both of us scurried off the start. As we approached the series of bumps shortly after a longish straight, the suspension felt stiff, and both of us were standing on the wide, accomodating floorboards. 
As we were about to complete a lap we approached a water-logged section, I braked hard to avoid missing a corner. This part of the track was very technical, and took me by surprise. It involved a tight chicane, followed by a heap of wooden logs which we were to jump over. At this point Abhay passed me, and I was chasing him now. I was left fuming as Abhay’s ATV was splashing muck into my face from some of the deep water-logged sections. Somehow, I got back in the lead to claim victory. 

It was an exciting battle and didn’t matter who finished first. At the end it was a fun day and riding ATVs can’t get better than this in India.


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