Our first real big group ride in SXSBlog.com history happened this weekend, mostly by chance and a bit of planning, and boy was it an awesome day! Here’s what we had in the line up:
Two 2013 Can Am Mavericks (Doug and Jordan)
One 2014 Can Am Maverick (Rick)
One 2015 Can Am Maveirck XDS (Mike)
One 2016 Yamaha YXZ (Scott)
One 2014 Polaris XP900 (the other Nick)
One 2015 Polaris RZRS 900 (Mitch)
One 2014 Arcitc Cat Wildcat X (Blake)
And one 2013.5 Arctic Cat Wildcat (Me)
It was several people’s first time there, and it did not disappoint. 55 degrees, snow melting faster than the polar ice caps, and enough hill climbs to satisfy anyone!
The ride started off as usual with a little run around the perimeter starting from the parking lot and heading counter clockwise. After being sprayed in the face by nearly freezing water for the first quarter mile or so, we arrived at the first big set of hills and immediately Doug flew up in his Maverick and I followed quickly behind with my Wildcat. Unlike our last time here in December, the hills were just snowy enough for you to maintain good wheel speed without having a base of solid ice. So, climbing was doable and fun! As we worked our way down we saw our friend Scott in his 50 mile old 2016 Yamaha YXZ lining up to hit the hill climb, and we were all watching intently.
To our surprise, the YXZ had no trouble with the climb. You see, the internet can make you think certain things are true. You see one guy struggling to climb hills in a YXZ, and you immediately assume they’re all garbage on slow trails. As the day progressed, this proved to not only be untrue, but the YXZ proved to be as if not more formidable of a machine than the other 1000s in the group.
Next we hit up “Pack a lunch”, which is a slow paced longer trail that starts right near the base of the big hill climbs. It has fun and predictable rolling hills with the occasional mud hole or fallen tree to scrape your cage on. I stayed behind Doug and a few hundred feet into the trail we came across a fresh fallen tree. Luckily with 9 side by sides you need 9 drivers, so we all grabbed onto the tree and easily moved it out of the way. We joked that the tree would spring back and total the Wildcat on my way by, but alas that didn’t happen (Progressive, would you cover that?)
Making it through “Pack a lunch” we came across the “Adventure Route” trails, which is one of R&Vs longest and most fun trails they have. If you remember from our previous videos, “Adventure Route” has the infamous “drop of doom” about 1/3 of the way in (famously used as the last scene in the SXSBlog.com Rides intro video). The drop itself is about 4-5 feet on the left side and only about 2-3 feet on the right, so the entire left side of your machine falls hard and hopefully with enough momentum you can ride out cleanly. As usual, Doug was leading and he took no time making his way into the hole.
Last time Doug was there, he nearly rolled the machine forwards into the hole because he laid on the brakes too hard. Determined to not do that this time, Doug slowly slid down the edge and then applied all 101 of his Rotax HP to thoroughly stuff his Maverick into the mud and he blew his left front tire off of the bead in a glorious explosion of mud and snow. What we didn’t see was that the melting snow created quite the water runoff into the bottom of the “drop of doom”, so unfortunately he was stuck in about 2.5feet of mud with a blown off tire.
Using our superior “yanking things out of the mud skills” (or lack there of) it only took us about an hour, 10 attempts, and a total of 180 side by side HP to finally get him out of the mud. As he was slowly yanked out we all quickly gathered and watched in horror as about 3 gallons of mud drained from inside of the blown off tire.
Luckily, we weren’t far from the parking lot and we had a small but effective air compressor available. Doug drove through some water holes on the way back to clean the rim out (which worked incredibly well believe it or not) and putzed it back to the parking lot. We were able to get the tire to seal against the rim and luckily we were building pressure. Around 25psi and after some powerful hits on the tire with a deadblow, the tire loudly exploded back into place and we were ready to ride again!
After that all 9 of us worked our way slowly back through the trails starting clockwise outwards from the parking lot. I was leading and Blake was following me closely in his Wildcat X. In an attempt to make my wimpy base model Wildcat seem cool I hit a hill climb with a bit too much steam and flew off the trail and the left rear schmucked a tree. I looked over my left shoulder to see the damage, and my fender and side panel were busted to hell and they got it even worse as I tried to back out (Again, I wonder if Progressive would cover this). Life goes on and fenders can be fixed, so I didn’t worry about it and continued down the trail.
Eventually we made our way to the play area and had our turns doing donuts on the frozen ice pond that in the summer is a giant mud hole. Hunter in his 900S was able to get some serious spin speed while my Wildcat was happy doing some slow spins.
The valley area is right off of the play area so we headed down there and watched Doug attempt some pretty nasty hill climbs. Blake in his Wildcat X was quick to follow and then everyone was making attempts at climbing some of the more gnarly hills. Shortly before this I noticed the Wildcat had a weird exhaust tick. I figured it was due to our somewhat “haggard” exhaust install (which is a pretty popular video btw, thanks for watching!) and that it was a simple leak. During what seemed like my 100th attempt at a particular hill climb there was an audible pop sound and the exhaust suddenly got louder. I figured it was a clamp or something that popped and the exhaust came apart. I backed down the hill and got out of the Cat to eventually find that the oxygen sensor bung plug popped out! The bung was aimed directly at the gas tank (despite having a heat shield) so my ride was probably over.
But some how, some way, our friend Mike found the bung plug. Located about half way up a couple hundred foot long hill buried in about a foot of snow, he found it. Previous to that we had 5 or 6 guys on the hill looking, but Mike stayed tenacious and found it after a few minutes. I was as grateful as I was shocked. Luckily, Blake carried around a nice socket set and he had the appropriate 10mm hex socket I needed. I cooled the exhaust off with some snow, threaded the bung back in, and was ready to ride some more!
We rode trail after trail after trail so much so that I forgot what ones we even hit. I ended up working my way from the front to the back of the pack a few times for different video angles, but also to see how each machine did on the trails. If you watched the previous Rocks and Valleys Ride 2 episode you’ll know of the “Python 2.0” hill climb saga. This time the ice melted quite a bit on the trail and I had no problem quickly motoring my way up, whereas before it was slick ice and I attempted the hill about 6 times with no avail.
As I mentioned before, the internet gives you a bit of a negative bias on the YXZ and its “slow trails” capability. The machine we rode with was completely stock with the stock clutch, and Scott had NO TROUBLE AT ALL making it through the rocks, mud, and hill climbs. I tried my best to get my head mounted GoPro to capture it in action, so be sure to check out the video below. There was a few spots where Doug’s Maverick and my Wildcat got into issues, namely a giant ice chunky mud hole of death, but the YXZ just shot through with ease. So much ease that I didn’t even bother to try to gain speed before going through the death hole, and I got partially stuck. I ended up backing up as far as I could, locking the front diff, and giving it some stick. This seemed to be the solution and everyone behind me followed suit and hit the hole with authority.
As the day wound down we made our way back to the trailers and immediately started with some impromptu drag racing in the otherwise empty parking lot. We had Hunter in his recently Bikeman tuned 900S racing everyone and holding his own! He was neck and neck with the Wildcat X, really close to the Mavericks, and had a few other close races with the other machines. My Wildcat seemed to be having a second coming because it was running exceptionally well and I had a close race against the Wildcat X and the YXZ.
After tearing it up in the parking lot, about half of the machines left and we decided to head back out for a quick run through. I don’t get out riding as often as I’d like to, so I wanted to extend the day as long as possible. You’d think after 6 hours of riding and being covered in muddy water I’d be done, but I wasn’t ready to leave. So we made our way back to the play area and had some fun doing more ice donuts. Doug and Rick shared a nice set of simultaneous donuts and we tore through one of the more hard trails with large rocks and stumps littered throughout.
It was getting dark and it was time to return back, so we bee lined back towards the parking lot. I got soaked trying to do my best Colin McRae rally Norway impression as I blasted quickly though the deep snow and water. And as quick as the day started, we were loaded up and ready to head back home.
At the end of the day, we all agreed that Rocks and Valleys is quite the hidden gem located only about an hour from our home town. There is an incredibly diverse amount of trails and obstacles, and you can easily have fun in stock or modified machines. Our side by sides do exceptionally well there, and I think we will keep going back throughout the year. As the snow melts and the trails go from snowmobile to ORV, we’ll likely spend most of our time riding those trails. But, I don’t think we’ll find anything as unique as Rocks and Valleys.
Check out the video below from the ride. I previously stated that I wanted to keep the videos under 15 minutes, but there was so much good footage from this ride I didn’t want to cut anything out. So check it out and enjoy: