By Jon Crowley
It has been less than two year’s since Yamaha’s entry into the sport UTV market with the introduction of the YXZ1000R during the summer of 2015. With the YXZ1000R’s 3-cylinder 998cc engine mated to a manual 5-speed transmission, the sport UTV segment changed forever. The engine and transmission made the new YXZ1000R unique to the market, but I found that first gear was very tall during the press intro (see YXZ1000R Review). I was able to run at 30MPH and still had room to go with stock 26-inch tires. The gearing was just not conducive to any hard core, super slow speed stuff. The standard YXZ1000R was built to go fast and rev high. This suits many people that want to go fast in the desert and have that complete driver-connected experience with the 5-speed manual transmission.
For my taste, I wanted lower gears from the beginning. Whether starting slightly uphill in the dunes with paddle tires, or climbing a steep hill with lose rocks in Brimstone, I don’t want to stall out. The stalling part was all changed when Yamaha introduced the YXZ1000R SS (Sport Shift) model. Right out of the gate, I preferred the Sport Shift over the manual transmission. I still had the thrill of banging through gears, but I didn’t have to focus on the shifting/clutch quite as much and this suited my particular style of driving (see YXZ1000R SS Review).
This was a great leap forward for my taste, but I still wanted lower gears and the ability to run larger tires. Yamaha then came along with a GYTR Torque Assist Gear Kit for the YXZ1000R and then also for the YXZ1000R SS. Now we were talking my language! Combine the TG kit with the FOX Podium X2 shocks available on the SE model and I was figuring Yamaha finally built a car with me in mind (maybe Yamaha’s version of the #CrowleyEdition?).
Well in February, Yamaha unveiled a new Special Edition with Sport Shift and FOX Podium X2 shocks (see Yamaha Expands YXZ1000R Line with new Special Edition Sport Shift Model) and I figured it was all doable. Fast forward to early May and I was on a plane to Birmingham Alabama to get behind the wheel of a YXZ1000R SE SS with GYTR TAG kit and 30-inch tires!
In addition to the GYTR Torque Assist Gear (TAG) Kit and 30″ x 10″ x 14″ radial EFX® MotoClaw Tire mounted on factory beadlock wheels, our test units had 3000 Lbs. Warn winches, a-arm guards, rearview mirror, front and rear bumpers and a few other goodies.
We rode at Stony Lonesome OHV Park which is about 45 minutes from Birmingham, Alabama. The 1456+ acre park features trails for UTVs, ATVs, rock crawlers and dirt bikes. It also hosts competitions like the Str8 Up SxS Hill Climb Competition and Southern Rock Racing Series. Trails are well marked and have a little bit of everything from fast rally roads to narrow, tight curvy trails, some technical hill climbs and even some rock crawling.
We started off of a super tight trail and even with the upsized tires I could really tell the difference in the first gear torque. The Sport Shift model downshifts automatically when slowing down and sometimes I felt like I didn’t want it all the way down to first. It takes some getting used to, but you can learn to work the RPMs so it does it more when you want it to.
Yamaha works closely with FOX to have the vehicle setup well right from the start, and this was no exception. Stock settings for high-low speed compression and rebound work well for a broad set of circumstances and the ride height was spot on. After our first ride, I changed to the “comfort” settings just to see the difference and was pleasantly surprised at the difference. See YAMAHA YXZ1000R SE FOX PODIUM X2 REVIEW for our review o f the FOX X2 shocks on the YXZ1000R.
The addition of the 30-inch tires is a big deal for me. I want more ground clearance for trails like we experienced at Stony Lonesome, but also for desert and rock crawling. But the downside to a larger tire is that additional rotating mass that can kill performance. Going from a 27-inch Bighorn to a 30-inch MotoClaw is a big jump in weight and circumference but the YXZ with the TAG kit made it feel like the car was made for the bigger tires.
For most of the day at Stony Lonesome, the test cars ate up everything we sent at them and I was thrilled with the changes made to the base YXZ1000R SS via the Special Edition and GYTR accessories. But you also need to take into account that I am an avid rock crawler and even race King of the Hammers so I wanted to see how well it could do in the rocks. This riding location is typical of many on the east coast and it didn’t really have any technical rock crawling sections. We did find some that gave us a taste and the combination of Sport Shift, larger tires and TAG kit made a huge improvement. I believe this setup will satisfy a good percentage of people that are east coast riders. That being said, for my taste I want the ability to go slower and more controlled in technical rock sections. Jason Weller has done it successfully the last two years at King of the Hammers in a manual shift YXZ with lower gears so it can be done.
Could I race it at King of the Hammers? Yes I could. But I wouldn’t want to without a lower first gear or more low speed throttle control for the super technical stuff. One way to change this behavior is a simple change of the flywheel. A heavier flywheel will help low-speed drive-ability and is a fairly cheap and easy change to make.
One thing is for sure. Yamaha has been very nimble with improvements for the YXZ1000R since its release I expect that pace to continue. Overall I am pretty excited about this YXZ1000R and we are hoping that we get a demo unit setup just like this so we can do further testing in the dunes, desert and rocks.