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Extreme Rock Crawling with the Yamaha Wolverine X2

Yamaha Wolverine X2

By Jon Crowley

I made a recent trip down to Johnson Valley California to pre-run for the 2019 King of the Hammers UTV race with a few different teams. Among those I tagged along with were Jason Weller and Kyle Anderson who are teaming up again to race for Weller Racing in a 2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R.

The rec-utility Wolverine X2 thrives in tight, technical trails found back east and I have been pushing the limits a bit on some of our rides just to see if it can hang with more sporty UTVs out west.

Yamaha Wolverine X2 Rock Crawling Review

We broke it in on the Rubicon Trail a few times, used it around the ranch and also took it on a 200 mile desert ride and it hasn’t missed a beat.

200 Mile Mojave Desert Adventure Ride

Since I was going to be riding with a YXZ1000R in Johnson Valley, I decided to make it an all-Yamaha day on the trail and brought along our Yamaha Wolverine X2. Johnson Valley is home to King of the Hammers, and the rock trails are known to be extreme.

As part of their pre-running for the 2019 race, Weller was going to hit up several of the trails from the 2018 King of the Hammers UTV race. First up was Chocolate Thunder.  We spent quite a bit of time with Weller trying several different lines up, and even some winch practice, then it was my turn in the Wolverine X2.

Chocolate Thunder

Running up Chocolate Thunder in our Wolverine X2. This “trail” is always part of King of the Hammers, and is pretty extreme for a rec-utility vehicle. Our Wolverine X2 has two accessories that make rock crawling like this possible: Factory UTV UHMW skid plate and 30-inch GMZ Race Products Inc. Kahuna tires mounted on HiPer Wheels. Watch and see how the Wolverine X2 does.More details:

Posted by UTV Guide on Saturday, December 15, 2018

After we had had enough of Chocolate Thunder, we went over to hit Boulderdash, then Clawhammer. These are both decently tough trails and many competitors had to winch or ended up breaking here.


Claw Hammer

As a reminder, the Wolverine X2 is 59-inches wide, wheelbase is 82.7 inches, it has 11-inches of ground clearance and less than 9-inches of suspension travel and it has a dump bed. It is not a pure sport UTV like the YXZ1000R that is 64-inches wide with a 90-inch wheelbase, 16-17-inches of wheel travel and 13-inches of ground clearance. These trails are not something you would expect a rec-utility vehicle to tackle, but that’s what I like to do!

Now there are a few key upgrades we made to our Wolverine X2 to help it in this environment.  First off, we bumped the tire size up from 26-inch to 30-inch with a set of 30x10R14 GMZ Kahuna tires mounted on HiPer beadlock wheels.  This gains us some much needed ground clearance and the larger tires help keep the tires up on top of the rocks instead of being swallowed in between them. Now Yamaha has a clutch kit available for larger tires like this, but I haven’t spent the time to make that happen.  I think it would help with overall performance, but the key thing I am worried about is can the belt handle the larger tires without a kit, and the answer is a resounding yes!

The other thing I added was a 3/8″ UHMW skid from Factory UTV.  The Wolverine X2 comes with a full steel skid, but for this type of punishment, you need more and I have found the UHMW is the best.

Yamaha Wolverine X2

Climbing the waterfall on Claw Hammer in our Wolverine X2

One last thing I tried for this trip was removing the front sway bar to give the front suspension more articulation.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with what I was able to do with the Wolverine X2. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a UTV with a dump bed.  The Wolverine X2 has a very capable drivetrain – good torque, excellent CVT and a front differential lock that makes the X2 climb like a billy goat. The only complaint I have is it sometimes takes a few seconds to engage or disengage the front locker, and while it is going from one state to another, the throttle is limited to protect the system.

Yamaha Wolverine X2

Squeezing through the rocks on Claw Hammer.

Turning radius is very good and with the smaller overall footprint (59.1-inches wide x 115-inches long) I was able to sneak through rocks that larger vehicles have to go over.

Biggest issue I had was not enough ground clearance.  If you watch the videos above with the sound on, you can hear the beating I was putting the vehicle through. That is just the nature of rock crawling in Johnson Valley. Most racers will run a 32-inch tire and sport UTVs typically have more ground clearance to start with. The dimensions of the Wolverine X2 just don’t give you enough room to gain the extra height. It would be neat to see what a 64-inch wide Wolverine X2 would look like.  Longer arms would give it more travel and more ground clearance, but you’d lose a little bit of that nimbleness that is so awesome for the tight trails it was designed for.

The thing that has impressed me the most about the Wolverine X2 is it is tough.  I feel very confident beating it up knowing that it is a Yamaha. Yamaha has a hashtag they use that I think is very appropriate to the Wolverine X2 and YXZ1000R – #ProvenOffroad. I think this sums up the Wolverine X2 quite well.

Yamaha Wolverine X2 Buildup

  • GMZ 30-inch Tires mounted on HiPer Falcon Beadlock Wheels
  • Yamaha Adventure Pro GPS System powered by Magellan
  • Yamaha Spare Tire Carrier
  • Yamaha Winch
  • SSV Works Audio System
  • >Rugged Radios Intercom and Radio
  • KC HiLiTES Flex LED Lights
  • Factory UTV UHMW Skid Plate

Weller Racing

More Wolverine X2 Resources

Yamaha Wolverine X2 Phase 1 Build and Test

YAMAHA WOLVERINE X2 – First Ride Impression

Yamaha Introduces the All-New Wolverine X2 Side-by-Side


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