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By: Jason Giacchino

March 2011 - Off The Pegs

Calling In Sick… Of Winter

A native Western New Yorker, it’s rare for me to use such excuses as the weather as an obstacle to ATV testing and yet this winter has managed to do the unimaginable by actually forcing me to postpone some time scheduled with a brand spanking new 2011 Honda TRX400X.  Now I know that probably sounds reasonable enough in and of itself but just ask anyone in my neighborhood about what it was like living next to me when I was young and the answer will likely go something like this: “Always with the ATVs, 3-wheelers in the 80’s, four-wheelers in the 90s.  Rain, sleet, snow, hail, it didn’t matter.  All you heard were engines revving out and when the motors finally went silent in the middle of the night, you heard cussing from his parent’s shed.”

And while that may be a bit generalized, I can recall some seriously nasty weather during high school that may have been enough to keep the uses from leaving the garage, but failed to keep my Suzuki Quadsport 230 and I from blowing donuts out in the snowy fields (side note: Buckshot Mudders were marketed and sold as mud tires but their performance in the snow proved quite exceptional on multiple occasions).

I remember dismounting one time amidst steadily falling flakes to put an extra shoulder into the rear plastic of my buddy’s Quadracer 250 in a semi-frozen creek that refused to offer an ounce of traction.

There are pictures of me buried at the bottom of my old filing cabinet that depict a line of snowmobiles traversing a wooded trail with me bringing up the rear, careful to keep the three bulbous tires of my Yamaha YT125 on the path they carved ahead of me.

Come to think of it, there’s a video on grainy VHS tape somewhere in my folks’ attic of the day I brought my then-new Honda TRX250X home and literally broke it in by carving ever-expanding figure 8’s through several inches of powdery snow in the back yard.

Hey, the way I always figured it was when you live in an area that boasts 8-months of winter each year, you either treat your ATVs like snowmobiles or take up skiing.  Suffice to say I went with the former and, for the most part, haven’t allowed the conditions to play too big a part on kicking it sideways when the urge beckoned.

So you could imagine my reaction when asked to take delivery of a new Honda 400X for a couple weeks of testing back in November when the only condensation falling at the time came in the form of rain:  “Do you even have to ask?”

The caveat of course is that the ATV would be arriving, “sometime after the New Year”.  In this case about three weeks after or precisely when old man winter decided he was tired of playing nice.

With temperatures hovering around –16, and that was actual temp (not wind chill) and close to three feet of accumulation, it wasn’t looking good for testing anything other than perhaps a county snowplow and even then a Thermos of hot coffee would have been a must!

I had actually picked up the TRX just prior to the cold snap’s arrival, which I should note, is now in its third straight week of obnoxiousness.  The snow banks were so deep and ice-layered in front of my garage that there was (and still is) literally no conceivable way to access the doors.  As such the machine has been riding around in the back of my pickup since retrieval: a $6,500 winter sandbag if you will.

All I have to say about the whole situation is that I sincerely hope this brutal weather abates before this demo unit has to be returned from once it came.  If there’s one thing worse than being stuck indoors due to the weather, it’s being stick indoors due to the weather with a brand new ATV on the back of your truck in the driveway.

The weatherman is making promises of temps climbing back to a balmy 35 degrees above early next week and I’m hopeful that the mountains of snow out there will see fit to disappear quickly for my benefit.  If not my testing is going to be limited to laps around the dealership parking lot.  I wonder what they would say to my suggesting they install an indoor course for my exclusive use?  I should have plenty of time to think about how to word that proposal while I’m outside shoveling.


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