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Monday, March 16, 2015

Polaris ATV: Sportsman 500 EFI Tractor and Phoenix 200 - First Rides

Childhood relived... Playing in the dirt, like a grown up!

Wheels off the ground.. equates to FUN!

As kids, we all have cycled our way through streets, parking lots, navigated between parked cars, jumped over footpaths, speedbreakers and skidded to turn and to halt. Especially when the roads were muddy, we loved the mud flying off our tyres. The bicycle used to be our thrill ride. We got hurt and the bruises we got were our trophies and we were proud of them, until we had to go to a doctor for a tetanus shot. And we would make shapes on the grey sand lying on an empty plot for building a 2 bedroom. But those were the care free days when we only had to worry about the homework. Then we grew up a bit, got serious about the homework and the classwork and the thrill rides disappeared one by one. Well, it was all part of growing up right? And then we grew up some more, found work and the way to earn and adopted various worldly responsibilities. Figure that out!

Now when we are in our 30s, the idea of playing in the dirt would be nothing but a nonsensical one at the least. And yet, we all wish to relive our childhood sometime or the other. It's like our secret wish. But how do we do it? As motorcycle lovers, we could try and indulge in some dirt biking which is great fun and a learning experience. But there are complications with it, first we need to find an appropriate arena to do so, we just can't go to any place that doesn't have tarmac but has dirt. Second, there's not much fun doing dirt biking on our regular motorcycles. We have some very good road bikes but hardly any for dirt biking. So the availability is a problem too. Finally, with motorcycles there's a bigger need for having the ability (not expertise initially) for riding in the dirt. And things aren't any better when it comes to cars. Of course we are talking about all this with the Indian perspective.

We have tons of experience of riding on the road but most of us are complete amateurs on the dirt. Riding on the dirt requires different sets of skills and approach and what is correct on the tarmac could be wrong off the road. Even braking is a different concept altogether. So we need something that an amateur can enjoy riding when the tarmac is replaced by the dirt and gravel. Something that has the feel and freedom of a motorcycle but not its vulnerability. Something that has the natural stability and traction of a car. A mix of both.

Weapon of choice

Enter Polaris Industries... and their All Terrain Vehicles (ATV). An ATV is what you see us riding in the pictures spread across the article. For the uninitiated, it is a motorcycle with four wheels arranged like in a car. It's also called a Quad or a Quad bike. And it's FUN. The American company is into manufacturing of ATVs and snowmobiles. But motorcycle enthusiasts have to thank Polaris Industries more than just for making ATVs. They are the parent company of Indian Motorcycles and Victory Motorcycles and have been churning out some fantastic cruisers making it difficult for Harley Davidson for the last few years.

The Eye of the weapon

So when Polaris invited us to review their ATVs at their Pick Up Fun Zone (Polaris Experience Zone) in Dharuhera, Gurgaon, we snapped our fingers and knew this was what we needed to indulge in. The Fun Zone is located about 70 kilometers from Delhi on the Delhi - Jaipur highway. It houses an adventure them park as well for hardcore adventure and motorsport enthusiasts.

Our interest was twofold. For the first time we were going to review something which was not a motorcycle but still promised some intense fun action. At the same time, we had no idea of the kind of riding experience we were going to get, the excitement and curiosity to try something new was immense. On the way, the ThrottleQuest team continuously talked about of how it will be. After arriving at the Fun Zone and looking at the track at least I didn't think much of it initially as the track looked quite small to me. I thought it was going to be too easy. But then what do I know? Whatever apprehensions I had about the track were thrown out of the window by the time I had covered half of the length of the track. It wasn't only long enough for an amateur dirt biker like myself, it had enough number of turns and elevations to keep me busy and the fun non-stop.

That starter like switch located below the bar is the throttle!
We had two ATVs ready for us to ride - Sportsman 500 EFI Tractor and Phoenix 200. Quite understandably, the Sportsman has a 500cc engine and the Phoenix has a 200cc one. The former is fed by fuel injection while the latter has a carburetor to push fuel into its smaller engine. For similarities, both are single cylinder units and have automatic transmissions and like motorcycles they are rear wheel driven. However, the Sportsman has a button to switch to 4 wheel drive mode... fantastic! Both have a gear stick with forward gears, a neutral and a reverse. The Sportsman has two forward gears though (low speed and high speed). Both have throttle levers on the right hand grip (like a starter switch unlike motorcycles where the grip itself acts as a throttle). Well, that's enough chit chat, how about riding then?

Phoenix 200 - Looks Fun. Is Fun

The gear stick positioned for a forward gear, press the throttle lever and off we go, okay then. Any similarities with a motorcycle (other than a handlebar) disappear as soon as the first turn is taken. It doesn't turn like a motorcycle, and like a car it leans the wrong way. Thanks to those four wheels. They provide stability in corners but when you are going through a corner fast, you have to fight some G-forces to not topple over. After all, you aren't sitting inside a caged four wheel. You are instead riding a small tractor, a performance tractor at that! Keep the throttle lever pressed close to the stop in corners and you will experience some fantastic slides as you countersteer to keep the Quad in line and finish the turn. A controlled slide is one of the best experiences a rider can experience anywhere, be it a motorcycle, a car or a Quad. Once you have learnt how to slide or drift then that is all you would want to do. Actually, this is how you ride on dirt tracks, this is how it has to be.

Sportsman 500 EFI Tractor - Eyes on the track!

The dirt track at the Polaris Fun Zone has good combination of corners and elevations and one of them is quite steep. You have to stand up on the downslope otherwise you can experience a jolt on the lower back. The track even has a small waterway, you could see some wet mud stuck on your back, on the helmet and on the shoes. And it looks good! It reminds you that you were in the action!


Riding a Quad is hardwork. Five laps down and my forearms were already feeling like they have been worked out, especially when you start going fast consistently and countersteer on almost all corners.

I personally had the most fun on the smaller Phoenix 200. The smaller engined Quad was also dimensionally smaller than the Sportsman 500 and it meant that the Phoenix was easier to control overall and less intimidating when taking a corner fast. I did my best slides on the Phoenix and so it would be my first choice next time as well. However, I am confident enough that with practice, I would be able to ride the Sportsman 500 the same way. It's size appears to be the only deterrent to me. Also, some part of me felt that the dirt track was more suited for the smaller Phoenix 200. Yet, the engine braking was outstanding on the Sportsman 500 and it was so effective that I didn't have to use the dedicated brakes at all. Even while descending from the steepest elevation, I just let go of the throttle and it was enough for the Sportsman to ride down smoothly. The natural traction was fantastic as well and it felt better than the Phoenix 200 in this regard. On the Phoenix, I occasionally used brakes. But overall, I went faster on the less powerful Phoenix 200. Fantastic, isn't it?!

Oh Yes! Dirt is the new smoke!

Eyes on the turn...

I can't emphasize enough on what a wonderful experience it was by the time we wrapped up at the Fun Zone. Now that I have ridden the couple of ATVs, I am glad I did it and that I did it first before riding a motorcycle on a dirt track. As I mentioned before, it requires some decent skill to ride and enjoy a motorcycle on the dirt. With Polaris ATVs, it was easier to do it, enjoy it and get the feel of riding on the dirt. And even though I understand the difference in riding a Quad and a motorcycle, I am now more confident on taking on a dirt track than I was ever before. And confidence is important.


More dirt?

We wholeheartedly thank Polaris India Pvt. Ltd. (a subsidiary of Polaris Industries, USA) for inviting us to ride their ATVs and giving us a wonderful opportunity to experience their vehicles. We had a lovely time and hope to do it again.

Text By: Sachin Sen
Pictures By: Sajal Chakraborty
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  1. Looks great! Sir, you must have relived some moments which we missed while testing MX vs ATV game!! :)

  2. Useful information shared..I am very happy to read this article..thanks for giving us nice info.Fantastic walk-through. I appreciate this post. Check It Out


Item Reviewed: Polaris ATV: Sportsman 500 EFI Tractor and Phoenix 200 - First Rides Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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