By Brad Goodfellow
The 2015 Rally On The Rocks was my first visit to Moab. Even after hearing many stories I was surprised to find it was much more then I expected! Last years trip was only three days, Wednesday to Friday. Well, that wasnt enough, so this year I was able to make it five days!
I started my drive from Southern California on Monday morning and arrived in Moab late on Monday night. As I drove through town that night past the many motels and RV parks I was surprised to already see that they were already full of trailers and various rigs loaded down with UTVs! Tuesday morning I was up early and headed over to Moab Rim Trail for a Kawasaki Teryx LE photo shoot.
Moab Rim Trail above the Colorado River
The Moab Rim trail head is located in a narrow section of the Colorado River canyon with sharp, nearly vertical rock walls towering straight up from both sides of the river below. The trail head is on the East side of the river and because it was still early the entire river and east side of the canyon was shaded, quiet, and cool. The peaceful atmosphere really accentuated the incredible views. The photo shoot went off smoothly and by 9am it was wrapped up and I was headed south of Moab to the Rally headquarters at Spanish Trails Arena.
I arrived by 9:30 to find several Vendors set up & already doing business. Several UTVs were also lining up in well organized rows for the 10am departure of the days trail rides. I met up with Jon Crowley of UTVGuide.net and we made our way to the rally registration area and were quickly checked in. Then promptly at 10am, with police escorts, row after row of UTVs headed out onto HWY 191 en route to the multiple trailheads of the days planned rides.
Some of the Vendors at 2016 Rally on the Rocks
Because we were planning to do a UTV industry and media ride at 1pm, I decided to take time to check out the many vendor displays set up inside and outside of the Spanish Trails Arena. The Rally On The Rocks event staff lays out row after row of well organized vendor spots. One of he major draws of UTV enthusiasts to the Rally On The Rocks vendors is the often discounted prices and the fact that many of the vendors will install anything you buy right there at the rally, many of them without charge!
Time quickly passed as I walked the rows of vendors, looking over the many products and accessories & stopping to speak with many of them as I went along. Before I knew it, the time to head out on to Hells Revenge Trail had come. The previous year I did Hells several times, driving a Polaris 900 XP4 and a Polaris 1000 XP4, but this was my first time doing the trail in a two seat XP.
UTVGuide.net’sPolaris RZR XP 1000 FOX Edition
For this run my ride was the UTVGuide.net Polaris RZR XP 1000 FOX Edition. Hells Revenge is probably the most popular and well known of all of Moab trails. The Fox Edition XP1000 is an awesome machine and made every minute of the ride a lot of fun! At the far north end of the Hells Revenge loop is a challenging trail known as Hells Gate. It is a steep climb up a narrow V shaped notch. When climbing it, you position your tires on the left and right walls so that you are straddling the center of the deep notch as you go. When you reach three quarters the way up, the right side wall that youve been running on transitions to vertical forcing you to go left onto a short, flat looking section of rock and then quickly turn back right to square up for a short steep climb up to the next level.
I made several runs up Hells Gate and the Polaris XP with its FOX Shocks and 32″ Motoracetires was stable and sure footed each time that I made the climb. As we wound our way up and down along the slick rock formations of the Hells Revenge Trail, we passed the famous Hot Tubs, The Escalator, and Tip Over Challenge all while making our way back out to the trail head and bringing an end to the day.
Kawasaki Teryx onTip Over Challenge
I had brought out a 2016 Kawasaki Teryx that was completely stock except for a set of tires and wheels from STI Tire and Wheel. The 28-inch Chicane tires gave the Teryx just a bit more ground clearance which is a big help in the rocks. Jon and I decided to take the Teryx back over to Hell’s Revenge to see how it would do.
While it is hard to compare it to the more sporty RZR XP1000, the Teryx is no slouch! I really liked the positive clutch engagement and the visibility. The Teryx is very sure footed and climbs like a billy goat.
Wednesday started bright and early and Area BFE was the day’s plan. For day two Id be driving the Polaris RZR XP Turbo. This would be my first time in a Polaris XP Turbo machine and I was anxious to get the day started! Area BFE is privately owned land with lots of challenging trails and obstacles. For this particular day we planned to run two trails, Green Day and Strike Ravine.
UTVGuide.net’s Polaris RZR XP Turbo at Area BFE
Green Day is a great trail! It has several challenging spots as it winds its way up a canyon drainage including lots of big rocks and several rock ledges, some of them 4 feet high or more. Strike Ravine was a bit faster with a couple of challenging sections as well as some high speed running. In the afternoon after finishing the two trails we spent some time in the ravine just below the BFE staging area. The ravine is a large mostly open area with several natural rock obstacles that range from easy to extreme! The Polaris RZR XP Turbo turned out to be a surprisingly to me, a great rock crawler, especially with the 32 ITP Ultracross Tires & beadlock Wheels.
Polaris low range CVT clutching is perfectly matched to the engines surprisingly impressive low end torque. On the fast sections of the ride I was able to use high gear and really had the chance to take advantage of the Polaris RZR XP Turbo’s very impressive top end power. All in all it turned out to be a great time and we burned most of the day there.
Going into Thursday, Behind the Rocks Trail was on the schedule and I was back behind the wheel of the FOX Edition Polaris XP. Behind the Rocks Trail is an incredibly scenic and beautiful route! It also has some challenging & intimidating sections. Obstacles with names like Gate Keeper, High Dive, and Up Chuck definitely raise an eyebrow.
Guardian Hill on Behind the Rocks Trail
The section that I call Gate Keeper is also known as Guardian & is around a 65 climb up rough solid rock. After making our way up, and unlike the Polaris XPs, we watched several machines struggle with the obstacle, including a few that needed the assistance of a tow strap. The tow strap wasnt always necessary, but on a climb like this its good insurance! After watching a good forty or more machines clear Gate Keeper we moved on down the trail towards the next challenge. We passed some incredible scenery and unique rock formations on our way to High Dive, the trails next obstacle. High Dive is a tall steep drop into a narrow canyon. A large uneven combination of jutted rock and deep crevices dominated the steep drop. Crawling down it in the FOX Edition XP was basically stepping from boulder to boulder without more then three or sometimes only two tires on the ground at time! Within just over a car length of reaching the bottom of High Dive you are at the base of the next obstacle, Up Chuck!
Our FOX Edition RZR XP 1000 coming down High Dive
At the bottom of High Dive is Upchuck. Upchuck is a slick, steep hill with a significant crack in the middle that most successful climbs will straddle. Slipping into the crack can spell body damage or worse.
Up Chuck isnt too long but it is a rough steep solid rock climb with a large notched crevice running right up the middle. The crevice is barely straddle able with a UTV and because the climb is so steep and rough it is very difficult to keep the machine from bouncing or slipping into the crevice on one side or the other. Lucky for me, the Polaris XPs low end torque along with smooth steady throttle delivery, supple Fox Shocks, and the grippy 32 Motorace X-Rox Tires, I was able to cruise up it on the first attempt. After watching everyone in the group who wanted to attempt it, and seeing some good old Moab carnage, we headed out toward our lunch spot stop. This next section of Behind the Rocks Trail treated us to some higher speeds! There were big sandy berms mixed in with a few washes and some short sections of rough rock. Arriving at the lunch stop we were greeted by the crew from Camp Chef.
They had set up trail side and prepared for us an incredible lunch!
Following lunch we headed out to the center of the valley and were treated to some some small sand dunes. Once again the cameras came out and a combination of jumps and sand roosting berm shots were the order for the next hour or so. We wrapped up the day with a fun sand wash trail back to the trail’s staging area.
Jon Roosting in the dunes in his RZR XP Turbo
Friday, our last day, started earlier then any of the previous days. We met up early with our ride group with the intention of completing Moab Rim Trail before 10am, then getting over to Cliffhanger Trail before it got busy. I would again be driving the Polaris XP FOX Edition and I was charged and ready to tackle the day!
Climbing the Devil’s Crack on Moab Rim
It all started out as good plan, however the urgency to quickly complete Moab Rim Trail got the best of quite a few of us, including myself. We easily made our way up the first section of trail to Devils Crack, the first major obstacle. While negotiating Devils Crack, a combination of bad line choice and a heavy throttle foot ended my Moab Rim run with a driver caused mechanical failure A few other drivers and machines suffered the same issue at the same spot as I did and they too were out of the ride with mechanicals. The next challenge on the trail, the Moab Rim Z-Turn, was just ahead. It was there that even more carnage was dealt, including a roll over! Luckily there werent any injuries in any of it, except for some to pride and wallet Lucky for me, the fact we were at Rally On The Rocks allowed me to limp the XP back to vendor row at the Spanish Trails Arena for repairs! A big thanks goes to Mike and the crew at SXS Performance for getting me up and running again! Unfortunately because the Cliff Hanger trail head was quite a distance from the arena I wasnt able to catch back up with the group before they were gone and well out of site. The early afternoon passed with me relaxing under the shade of a tree until the group re appeared on the way back out from Cliffhanger. All in all my second trip to Moab was twice as good as the first! I saw a lot of familiar faces and made many new friends all while enjoying the rally and the beautiful Utah landscape. And a special thank you to Jon Crowley for the invitation and the experience of off roading with him and everyone else who joined us. Make your plans now to attend the 2017 Rally On The Rocks! The dates for next years event are May 16th-20th and registration opens January 1st 2017. See you there!
Rally on the Rocks event offers trails for the beginner with incredible scenery and vistas to the most challenging and demanding that will be sure to test driver and machine. Each day they have numerous guided, UTV friendly, trails planned throughout the Moab area. Many including casual scenic routes and demanding technical routes for the most experienced operators.
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