Silver Country Adventure - Motorcycle.com
A hundred years ago Wallace, Idaho was the heart of Silver Country, a vast area abundant in silver ore. It was once a great place to get rich. These days, with silver worth pennies and only a thousand-mile trail system to show for years of mining, the people of Northern Idaho had to turn to the unthinkable for income: Tourism. Worse yet, the only people that had any interest in the abundant trails were ATV riders, snowmobilers and other motorized hooligans. The mayor of Wallace has gone so far as to pass an ordinance allowing ATVs to legally ride on the streets. Yes, Wallace has gone to the dogs, and when Yamaha invited us to partake in the chicanery aboard all of their new ATV models, we dropped everything and -- after much staff whining -- sent Billy "I grew up on ATVs so I'm going and you're not, deal with it" Bartels up north to cover the event.
Ostensibly this was Yamaha's new model intro, a serious event that takes place every year to introduce their ATVs to the press. Festivities started off with some serious claims from Yamaha: The ATV industry, they tell us, has grown in the last five years from 100,000 to 500,000 units sold per year (that's more than the approximate 300,000 street bikes sold per year). They also detailed the ground-breaking features of the entire ATV line -- snorkel air intake for you U-boat commanders out there, shaft drive in the utility models, and a large accessory selection to customize the vehicle to any purpose.
After waking the assembled journalists, Yamaha drove us up the mountain and the fun began. We figured with the underwhelming Internet access in rural areas the "farm implement" class ATVs would bore the typical Motorcycle Online reader, so we decided to stick to the sport models.
There was a spot after a tight right-hander where the trail headed up a hill and turned really steep. The Blaster started to bog near the top, just as I smacked the undercarriage on a stump in the trail. This sends me sliding backwards down the trail for about 100 feet, the front tires not grabbing due to the steep angle (and wet ground) and the rear end promising to send me over backwards. Smart guy that I am, I tried the exact same tactic the second and third time, bogging the little two-stroker again and again, and slapping the stump. After three tries I finally got around the stump and up the hill. When I caught up with the group they were standing around smoking cigars and looking bored. A kindly soul then traded me for a Wolverine.
After returning from the first day on the trails, we retired to Wallace's Jamiesons Inn, an old brothel from the mining days. The oldest profession is no longer practiced there, but the food is excellent, and the open bar was appreciated.
The next morning, after overloading a bit at the buffet breakfast, we were off to the staging area for the day's ride. We were to take a 60 mile jaunt over the border to Montana for lunch. Then a 40 mile ride back to a ski resort, where the Yamaha semi would meet us.
After another generous meal, I hopped back on the Warrior and we shot some pics of a few of us pitching it sideways down the dirt road. This annoyed the folks still eating. We thought it best at this point to ride down to the local store to pick up some souvenirs. It may be legal riding an ATV in these towns, but you still get puzzled looks from the populace -- maybe it was the brightly-colored riding gear.
The midday sunshine had completely worn off any moisture from the day before, and by the time we left to meet the pickup crew it was a dust-fest. We rode through the unending clouds down a dirt road parallel to the interstate, and next to a stream. Occasionally through the dust clouds we stole brief glimpses of the pretty countryside. About halfway back the Kodiak (remember the one with the flat tire?) blew its muffler off, and had to be fixed with bolts from the front skid plate. Easy, as it comes equipped with a full tool kit. After it was repaired, I rode it a bit; ATVs are fun, even a really big one with no top end. As such, I could afford to worry less about rear ending someone in all the dust, and just kick back and relax the rest of the way.
ATV Reviews The Blaster
You might be thinking, "that's it, sign me up," but at $6,149 the Wolverine can be a little daunting. It does have all the possible features a modern ATV'er might want: Oil cooler, 34mm Mikuni carb, sport-styled independent suspension; but hey, six grand is six grand.
This shouldn't be legal. That's the first thought that goes through your mind on the Banshee. Then you remember that you shouldn't say things like that about ATVs as the Consumer Products Safety Commission could be reading, and they would love to take your ATVs away. When this model came out years ago, I wanted one. It just looked evil. I think, like many other teenaged fantasies, it would have killed me.
Typical of any high-performance two-stroke, the power on the Banshee comes on like a switch, but on this one it doesn't end for a few thousand rpm. As you shift and put your shoulders back in their sockets, they are immediately popped right back out with a push of the throttle. Obviously this machine is not made for the tight twisties. It can handle them fine, but you'll probably pass out from boredom before too long, or pitch yourself off a cliff. Either way you'll want to get out in the open with this beastie. Sharing the same basic engine as the RZ350 road-going two-stroke of the 1980s, the Banshee has a propensity to break loose the rear tires -- but that's a good thing. This inherent ability to loose traction in the rear makes all that mind numbing power much easier to control. Just a flick of the throttle and shift of weight in the appropriate direction and voila! you're turned. All the aspects of performance are well covered: Killer suspension, disc brakes all around, water cooled engine and a pair of 26mm Mikunis powering the twin cylinder 350cc power plant.
Its limitations are practicality, but when it comes to an ATV like the Banshee, who cares? Just give me the juice. If spending $5,899 on a toy seems a bit much, ride one. It'll change your outlook. The Warrior
Features include: 36mm Mikuni carb, six speed gearbox, multi-adjustable suspension front and rear, and an engine counterbalancer for less vibration. At $4949 it's a good chunk of change, but overall the Warrior is a great bike for a variety of settings.
The New Big Bear 4X4
I hate to admit it, but none of the bikes reviewed here are more worthy of the moniker "All Terrain Vehicle" than the 4X4s. The Wolverine has a great combination of the fun side of life, but still with the day-to-day work thing built right into it. Yamaha informs us that the Wolverine isn't a big seller, and that people who rely on ATVs for their livelihood want something a bit less sporty and more domestic (thus the new Big Bear). Go figure. The sport models are great heaps of fun, but oddly enough are rather limited to what terrain you can effectively use them on. At a motocross course, a two-wheeler would smoke you. If you are lucky enough to have dirt roads you can ride on, most of these ATVs are great fun. If dunes are your thing, well of course there's nothing better than a Banshee. Yamaha seems to have a lock on the sport market right now, with the product liability issue keeping less hardy corporations out. All of the sport models fill pretty big niches, unlike the very competitive utility market. The Warrior is the four-stroke. The Blaster is the cheap two-stroke, and the Banshee is the oh-my-god monster.
Motorcycle Online is interested in your opinions of ATV coverage. The manufacturers would like us to cover the utility ATVs heavily, as those are their best sellers. The problem we have with this is that Internet access in rural areas (presumably where most utility models are purchased and used) is about as prevalent as parkas in Puerto Rico. We would like to cover the sport models, as we feel those are the ones that someone with a computer and a need to skip town on the weekends (that's you guys) are most likely to care about. Post your opinions on this, and other ATV issues as well, below in our BBS.