It’s not everyday that you can go driving off-road with a legend. We heard that Larry Roeseler was doing a UTV ride, and we wanted to go. Basically, we invited ourselves along, and Larry was gracious enough to let us. Once we were in, we then realized that we needed something to drive. And more importantly, we needed something that would be able to get us there and back.
We have a long-term loaner Yamaha YXZ SS, so we figured we’d drive it. One thing though: it was stone stock. Not that a stock YXZ isn’t capable, but we figured it could use at least some things to enhance the ride and experience. We figured we’d break things down to performance/reliability, safety and improved comfort.
For the performance aspect, we had already swapped out the stock springs for a set of Eibach Pro-UTV Stage 3 springs and anti-sway bars. The Stage 3 springs are for UTV’s that have seen additional items hung on it such as spare tires and other heavy objects. We also had Curtis Zamora at Rite Performance tune up the Fox shocks too. The resulting ride is much better than stock and helps keep the rearend down over the rough stuff.
Another performance item added was a Gibson Performance Dual Exhaust system to get the engine to breath easier. To that end, an S&B Particle Separator was installed to clean the air before it even got to the filter, thus giving the high-revving engine more clean air to work with.
This is what the Yamaha became. All it took was a few days of hanging parts and the YXZ SS is ready to roll on its first big trial ride.
The stock Maxxis Bighorn tires are OK for most surfaces, but we are going desert riding so a set of BFGoodrich KR2 tires were the natural choice. They were mounted on race-proven 15-inch TR Beadlock wheels (and by the crew at SoCal Supertrucks. Thanks again, guys!), so the combination was all we could ask for when it came to rugged reliability. We opted for five of them, just to be sure, so that meant a spare tire carrier was needed. We got one from PRP, who make a YXZ Package that includes the mount and tailgate.
For safety we needed harnesses to replace the stock 3-pointers. PRP again had what was needed with their “4.3” harnesses. They are 3-inches wide with 4 points of security. They are made for UTV’s and bolt in easily. Another must have safety item was fire extinguishers. Safecraft makes both automatic and handheld systems, so we went for both, because you can never have too many when things get hot.
Lighting may not seem like a safety item, but it really is. Lazer Stars rear facing Prerunner LED light bar has ambers, brake lights and even white lights so anyone coming up quickly from behind will know we’re there before they ram into us. A pair of Vision X’s new 4.7-inch Gen 2 Multi-LED Light Cannon’s, which put out 5250 raw lumens were used to ensure that if we get caught out in the dark that we’ll be able to find our way back to camp.
A radio system like Rugged Radios offers may seem like an extravagance, but it is a safety item as well as just a convenience. When you have helmets on and are trying to talk to one another, it really makes things a lot nicer than yelling at one another, let alone being able to contact others when something goes sideways.
We needed someone to put all this stuff on while we took pictures, so we headed over to Rite Performance where ex-pro downhill bike racer and race truck-builder Curtis Zamora did the work. He is also the guy who tuned our suspension as he has years of experience with that sort of thing too.
UTV’s are very capable as they come from the factories, but anything can be improved on. We have a lot of experience out in the desert, and thought about what we’d needed in the past but didn’t have. That’s not to say we didn’t miss some things here, but feel that this should get us through the ride.
Now if Larry would just call us back …
Knowing that we may have need for a spare out on the trail, we went with PRP’s
Spare Tire Mount. It comes with a new crossbar, a lifting tire mount and a sturdy rear gate. That was the plan anyway. We ended up using only the gate as the lifting mechanism didn’t fit with other parts.
The PRP gate is attached to multiple points, and two of them are with the bed bolts. These bolts are pulled.
There are also two mounting points near where the rear fenders are attached.
The rear mounts of the PRP gate slip between the stock bed and the frame. The hardware is installed both at the rear and sides. With that, the gate is on.
Here’s the reason for not using all the parts of the spare tire mount. S&B’s Particle Separator uses centrifugal force to remove most of the dirt before it even gets to the air filter. It also fits right where the spare tire mount would have gone.
Air is introduced to the stock filter by a snout beneath the rear section of the center console.
The stock intake is removed and the foam seal from it is removed and put onto the new S&B unit. The unit is then placed back in the air box and an elbow joint is attached.
The separator unit is installed onto the stock crossbar using aluminum brackets. This is exactly where the PRP spare tire mount would have gone.
The air hose is cut to size. It attaches the separator unit to the intake.
S&B supplies plenty of wiring to connect the separator unit to a power source, that’s for sure. It’s connected to a “key-on” source, and this install is done.
It’s safety first around here, so two Safecraft fire extinguishers will be installed. One is their automatic suppressor and the other is a good old handheld unit.
The Safecraft PB3 & 5 models portable units have a billet aluminum quick-release mechanism and simply bolt to the cage. They are filled with 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid, which Safecraft says is a non-compacting liquid extinguishing agent.
The second Safecraft unit is their trick Model UTV “Automatically Activated” unit. Just like in your home, this unit is activated by flame hitting the thermal sensor, which melts and lets the extinguishing agent spew forth putting out the fire. The sensor is mounted above the engine on a frame rail.
Available in 5 and 7lb. measures, the bottle is mounted along the rear cross member.
The steel-braided line is attached to the sensor and bottle.
With a few twists, the activation cap is on. This cap pushes a pin, which arms the unit. It can be removed too, rendering the system inert if you ever wanted to remove the system.
Once all connections are tight, a few spritzes of fluid ensures there are not any leaks in the system.
Rugged Radios 2 or 4-person RRP660 Plus combo units are perfect for any UTV. They provide the users with person to person and car to car/base communications, and with their RM60 car specific mounting plates, putting one in is an easy plug and play deal.
The first step is to remove the front panel and center console panel.
There is a center storage area on the Yamaha and that’s where the units will go. It is a little shallow though, so the back of it needs to be removed and a pneumatic reciprocating saw is perfect for the job. Note that a piece of sheet steel is put behind as there are some things back there you don’t want to cut in half.
The two Rugged Radios units are installed into the mount.
All connections are made behind the units. Note that everything is labeled making connecting the units together and which leads go where a breeze.
A piece of tape is used to determine which is the driver lead and which is the passenger lead though.
With the wire leads fed through the hole, the panel is held in place with the supplied screws.
The power leads are run beneath the console cover to the battery.
The activation button leads are run to the steering wheel and to the passenger grab bar.
The headset/helmet leads are run and zip-tied to the rear cross member with enough play in them to easily reach the backs of the seats and therefore the helmets.
While Curtis was in a wiring frame of mind, he decided to install the Vision X’s new 4.7-inch Gen 2 Multi-LED Light Cannon’s. Equipped with Cree LED’s, the new light puts out 5250 raw lumens with only a 4.8 amp draw.
Assault Industries makes great UTV parts, including some very nice clamps, so a set of them were used to mount up the Cannons.
The Vision X units have a new U-mount that fit perfectly with the Assault clamps. The two make the lights rock steady.
Vision X supplies a wiring harness that includes a nice low-profile switch. It was decided to mount it to the top of the center console. A piece of tape was used to protect the paint and a step drill used to poke the hole.
The switch snaps into place and looks good. It will also be easy to reach even when buckled in.
With the wiring run from the lights to the switch and power source, the console is installed.
Letting those behind know we’re there is done with a Lazer Star Prerunner LED single row light bar. There are ambers, brake lights and even white lights all in a tight package.
Lazer Star supplies nice billet aluminum mounts, and there’s actually two ways to mount the Lazer Star light bar. One way is with these slide-on mounts and the other is with brackets that bolt to the ends. We sent with the end method.
Since Yamaha wasn’t up for us putting on a new upper cage and theirs doesn’t actually have a rear bar, we had to improvise by attaching the light bar to the roof. Care was taken to get the unit centered.
With the Lazer Star light bar in place, all the wiring for the it and the S&B unit was finished and zip-tied neatly into place.
With the wiring handled, the S&B rear console cover was snapped into place.
Replacing the stock 3-point auto style seatbelts with harnesses was a must and we went with a set of PRP 4.3 (4 point/3-inch wide) harnesses. They are perfect for the type of driving we envision.
The upper and lower outer mounts for the stock belts are unbolted.
The seat must be removed to get to the inner lower mount.
The lower harness mounts are bolted in.
The upper straps simply wrap around the rear cross member. Note that the stock latch has an electrical connection that knows when the latch is clicked or it will activate the annoying alarm. The lead needs to be cut and “jumped” together to keep it from alarming. We need to give the YXZ back to Yamaha one day, so we simply latched the parts together and zip tied them together behind the seat.
Available in either black ceramic or stainless, Gibson Performance’s Dual Exhaust allows the Yamaha to breath better, has a USFS approved spark arrestor and comes with polished T-304 stainless steel tips.
Getting to the exhaust system requires ultimately pulling the shock, so the Trail Ready wheels and BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR2 tires are removed.
The stock muffler and header system are removed as is the shock.
The Gibson Dual Exhaust system is slid into place.
The Gibson system mounts securely to a number of points and all mounts are loosely bolted up at this time.
Zamora removed this crush gasket from the stock muffler and installed it onto the new Gibson unit. It took a little prying to get it out but it’s a good idea to use it.
With the gasket in place, the header is re-installed and all hardware tightened up. Note that anti-seize compound was used on the header bolts.
All that was left to do was to install the cool polished tips.
Gibson supplies this nice back panel cover with their system. It’s powder-coated black and gives a finished look to the exhaust. With that, the YXZ SS upgrades were done.
The Vision X Light Cannons shine in the early morning darkness.
Eibach Stage 3 springs give the Fox shocks the ability to handle the increased weight of all the additions we made.
Baja proven TR Beadlock Wheels and BFGoodrich T/A KR2 tires are more than up to the task of long desert rides.
The PRP tailgate has tie down points that made it perfect for holding down the spare.
PRP 4.3 harnesses will keep the occupants safely in the car no matter what may come. There is also a PRP zippered center console bag to keep items like gloves, goggles and other items from safely flying about.
S&B’s Particle Separator makes the desert air clean before it even gets to the filter.
Rugged Radios RRP660 Plus 60-watt combo communications units are mounted with the RM60 mount to allows for crystal clear person-to-person and car-to-car/base communications.
Safecraft’s Model UTV “Automatically Activated” fire suppression system will put out a problem even if you don’t even know you have one.
Safecraft PB3 & 5 model handheld extinguishers use 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid so that fire can be knocked down quickly.
Gibson Performance’s Dual Exhaust allows the Yamaha to utilize every pony it can muster.
Lazer Star’s Prerunner LED single row light bar notifies anyone coming up fast from behind that the YXZ is there.
With all of the upgrades to this Yamaha YXZ SS, we can’t wait to get out on the trails.