Big Buck provides tight quarters for Yamaha’s Sport Shift side-by-side
Scott Newby, who handles ATV and side-by-side public relations for Yamaha Motor Corp. USA, welcomed the media to the press ride of the YXZ1000R SS in Greenville, South Carolina, in August with one plea: Find some time to ride as a passenger alongside Dustin Nelson, the seasoned former motocross and sport quad champion who now dominates the Lucas Oil Regional Off-Road Series in both Arizona and Southern California with the original YXZ 1000R.
“It’s an awesome experience. And the rides are free,” was Newby’s way of telling the assembled guests that they would be in for a treat if they opted to take the open seat next to Nelson.
Yes, the ride was indeed free. But the Big Buck ATV park in nearby Union County took on a new look with Nelson at the helm. I had been getting more confident behind the steering wheel as the muggy day wore on, extending the YXZ1000R SS, Yamaha’s latest — and greatest — pure sport side-by-side, with each trip around the course. Yamaha officials spent the week creating an ideal course. About
60 percent of the course was the same one that riders in the GNCC race had traversed earlier in the spring. The remainder was carved out to provide the SS with even more obstacles and tighter turns.
What about the paddle shifting? It was simply awesome. Shift up with the right paddle and shift down with the left paddle — it’s about as easy as its sounds. Even more, for novice/intermediate drivers like myself, an automatic downshift feature assists by automatically downshifting to first gear when the vehicle comes to a stop, even if a driver like me has not done so manually.
During a couple of straightaway portions of the trail, it made sense to try out the YXZ SS “Launch System.” It’s only available on the SS model, and provides a thrill-a-minute during the high-acceleration feeling from stop. It’s similar to “dropping the clutch” in a manual vehicle with a clutch pedal. Or, follow a few basic steps, pull both shifters toward you, push the gas to an appropriate RPM level (higher please!), hold the foot steady, and release the shifters — and there you go, wheels spinning, dirt flying and you racing down the straightaway like you’re a pro.
But no, you’re not even close to that level (OK, some of the Yamaha employees are pretty darn close!). And you realize where you sit as a technical driver when you accept the aforementioned offer and ride alongside Nelson. It’s fair to say my fingers hurt for days from gripping the grab bar so tightly. Nelson, you see, has the innate ability to become one with the machine. I thought I got some air on the first small berm that greeted us; he sent us flying higher than I’ve ever been in a side-by-side. While I’m wondering exactly how close we can get to the tree that appears headed for the front right (closer than you can imagine!), he’s already looking ahead, hundreds of feet ahead and taking in his next line.
An exceptionally long stretch of ruts had me baffled all day. I’d try to find a line, and wonder if I’d somehow find a way to land a tire into a deep spot, causing all sorts of havoc. I somehow managed to avoid any trouble, but I never even considered approaching it the way Nelson did.
“You think about it, and you’re hesitant, and you slow down, and that’s when you get in trouble,” he told me afterward. “In those cases, you want to create as little opportunity as possible for the tires to even have that opportunity. So you pin it.”
He did that, and then some. That’s when I felt myself taking deep breaths, and slowly exhaling. “You OK?” was his cordial way of telling me the fun was just beginning. And it was.
Never have I gone so fast in a side-by-side, especially in the woods and through the mud and up and down crazy steep hills. Nelson showed exactly how much fun the Yamaha YXZ1000R SS can be. I’m not sure the skills that Nelson possesses can even be taught. But it’s good to have something to aim for the next time I’m fortunate enough to get in driver’s seat.
It’s also more reason for the expert driver at your dealership to invite a prospective customer to come along for a ride. It might be the most memorable thing they’ve done in awhile, and provide them with a story to tell others.