Hitting The Mud With 2013 Yamaha 450 & 550 Grizzlys Hot
We at ATVESCAPE have the privilege of riding and demoing many different ATVs and UTVs, and that is one of the best parts of what we do here. We have now ridden Polaris, Can-Am, Kawasaki, and some others, but we have never had the opportunity to ride any Yamahas, until last month. None of us at ATVESCAPE have had any real “seat time” on a Yamaha, but know Yamaha machines are great machines, which have a loyal following. So this year at the 2013 ATV Mud Nationals, we were invited to take part in a little “testing” of a group of Yamaha Grizzlys, and believe us when we say we jumped at the chance.
Now, knowing you are going to test some ATVs is one thing, but knowing you are going to test some ATVs in real mud is completely another. Mud totally adds another level of excitement to any ride! So, my friend and fellow test rider, Scott, and I loaded up our waders, mud boots, helmets, goggles, and ourselves, and headed off into the sunrise to ride Yamahas in the mud. Showing up to the ATV Mud Nationals in Jacksonville, TX, we quickly turned off the pavement, and hit the dirt road to the Yamaha tractor trailer with our Yamaha rides waiting for us. They were all lined up in a row, from a Grizzly 300 to a Grizzly 700, just waiting to take us into the muddy unknown. Scott and I donned our waders, helmets, and goggles (you have to look good), and crawled aboard a Grizzly 550 with IRS and a Grizzly 450 with a solid rear axle. We would spend the next few hours trading off between these two machines in order to get a feel for both.
Crawling aboard the Grizzly 450, it was obvious this machine was not as big as its Grizzly 550 and 700 brothers, but still offered a confident feel. The frame of the 450 is smaller, and feels “manageable”. The layout of the controls is exactly the same on the 450 as it is on the Grizzly 550 and 700, which makes transitioning between different Grizzlys that much easier. All the controls are well laid out, being placed exactly where you would expect. One thing that jumped out to me was the fact the brake controls are separated out, so you can control just the front or just the rear. This is also the case on Kawasaki, Honda, and Suzuki, but Can-Am, Polaris, and Arctic Cat have a single brake lever to control everything. After getting acclimated to the Yamaha, it was time to turn the key, hit the start button, and hit the muddy unknown.
Many would think Yamaha reps would be sure to stack the deck in their machines’ favor by ensuring perfect riding conditions for us to test these machines. However, the opposite could not be more true, as we blazed new trails through mud, trees, and water crossings with helpless abandon! To say we had no regard for taking it easy would simply be an understatement. My fellow riders and I fearlessly followed our Yamaha tour guides into the muddy unknown and loved every minute of it. Whether or not anyone could see how deep the mud hole was was totally irrelevant. We hit mud hole after mud hole and the Yamahas just kept at it. Now I have been mudding before (remember I am wearing waders), but it has always been on big bore ATVs. The Yamaha Grizzly 450 made me literally grin at how it had little trouble blasting through the mud. I was really quite amazed. To be fair I avoided being the first through a mud hole, but if it wasn’t so deep I was going to swamp the machine, I went through it. Did I get stuck you might ask? Yes I did. All real mud loving riders know, if you are not getting stuck, then you are not riding hard enough. I did get into a couple of mud holes, where I buried the ATV to the frame, digging into the mud. This of course resulted in my fellow riders coming to my aid, and vice-versa when they buried their machines. The most amazing part, was how easily my Grizzly 450 seemed to paddle through the mud, and how few times I got stuck. Even more amazing was most of the time I had it in 4-wheel drive, but without the front diff lock engaged. Yamaha, like a few other manufacturers, uses a 2-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive, and 4-wheel drive with diff lock system. When I got stuck, or in a mud hole where I was having to work to get through it, then I slid the diff lock cover over and pushed the red button (I love getting to hit the red button). My Grizzly 450 was the “little ATV the could” and managed to get through whatever I threw at it, while still offering a comfortable ride. Even with a solid axle in the rear, it was fun to ride.
My friend and fellow test rider Scott, finally agreed to trade ATVs with me, so I could get some time on the Grizzly 550 which offers more power, ground clearance, power steering, and an independent rear suspension (IRS). Climbing aboard the 550 from the 450, the bigger, full size frame was obvious to me being about 5’6”. The higher stance of the 550 lets you know you are sitting at the big boy table. Hitting the throttle made the bigger engine underneath me come to the forefront of my mind, and making a turn on the trail ahead made it quite clear this Grizzly had power steering. The feel on the 550 was just bigger in every way. It was still nimble, but the ride was more firm as we plowed the muddy trails. The instrument cluster was different than the 450 also, offering more digital information. I rode the 550 through the rest of the afternoon, and really wanted more time with the ATV. Knowing the Grizzly 550 is the same platform as the flagship Grizzly 700, makes the difference between the two the engine size and little else. From a power perspective, the 550 had plenty of power to get the job done. None of the mud holes I busted through left me wanting more engine, or left me with the feeling the lack of power was bogging me down. If there is plenty of power in the mud, then there is plenty of power for everything else.
Several hours after leaving the comfort of the Yamaha tractor trailer tent, we returned with smiles on our faces and covered in mud. Even after several runs through the stream to wash the worst of the mud off, the mud was caked everywhere. We had been stuck in the mud on our ATVs and knee deep in the mud trying to get them out. Without a doubt though, fun was had by all. The Grizzly 450 and 550 proved to be everything I had heard they would be, and I can’t wait to get more seat time on the Grizzlys. I am still amazed at the sporty and nimble feel of the 450 as the little ATV that could, and I am equally amazed how it seemed to just power through the mud the way it did. I really liked the 450, and find it a lot of fun to ride. The Grizzly 550 proved to be the refined beast I expected with the full size frame and features found on the Grizzly 700. The Yamaha Grizzlys truly lived up to the expectations I had formed after hearing so much about them all these years.
When thinking back on the afternoon of mud with Yamaha, a smile immediately comes to my face. It was no surprise the Yamaha Grizzlys took to mud like a pig takes to mud. Even more astounding in retrospect, is the fact the Yamaha crew made no attempt to take it easy on their ATVs. They know that Yamaha makes a good product that is designed to take the abuse needed my ATV and UTV riders. Unlike the Grizzlys though, some of us people were sore the next morning from all the work one goes through when riding in the mud for hours. I welcome the pain when it comes to mud riding. Being a test rider and writer is a dirty job (wait for it........), but someone has to do it!