By Jon Crowley, UTVGuide.net
What started as a small group of Teryx4 owners wanting to try out their new vehicles in the rocks, turned into a full-blown Kawasaki convention. We had three Teryx4 that were equipped with long travel suspension and other goodies, one full-tilt Teryx, one Teryx4 with almost every genuine Kawasaki accessory installed and three Teryx4 that were stock.
Our plan was to have fun doing a few days camping and rock crawling on the world famous Rubicon Trail. The Rubicon islocated in Northern California and was established in the late 1800’s as a stage coach route between Georgetown and Lake Tahoe mainly to serve two resort hotels at Wentworth Springs and Rubicon Springs. After the hotels went out of business and the road deteriorated it was picked as home for the first Jeepers Jamboree in 1953. Since then it has gained international recognition and is considered the “Granddaddy” of all four-wheel trails – a 10 on most scales. The Rubicon Trail is actually an unmaintained county right of way – the Rubicon/McKinney Road. Although the trail is most popular with full-sized 4×4’s, it has become more popular for UTVs in the last few years.
The Kawasaki Teryx4 is a new model for 2012, and seemed like a solid pick for this trip. With room for four, power steering, a new centrifugal clutch, new v-twin power and a relatively short wheelbase, it looked good on paper. Most of us opted for less passengers and more cargo space, but the Knoll family showed us all how to get three people and all of their camping gear to the camp spot.
We decided to start at Loon Lake and camp at Buck Island. The Loon Lake trailhead is more popular than the historic route through Wentworth Springs since there is more room to park trailers, but either route is doable in a UTV. We headed into the Rubicon on a Sunday morning and only encountered a few rigs coming out.
Before we hit the trail, a few made last-minute adjustments to their vehicles. Adjusting the pre-load on shocks helps increase ground clearance and also compensate for the extra payload. Lowering air pressure helps increase traction. But taking it too low without beadlocks, will raise your chances of debeading a tire.
I have been wheeling on the Rubicon Trail for many years. First with a Jeep CJ7, and now with UTVs. At first the trip looked like it would be just a few Teryx4s that were all outfitted with big tires, long travel suspension and seasoned rock crawlers. I was pretty excited about the opportunity to get into the rocks to see how we all did. But somewhere along the trip planning, the group expanded and we now had four standard travel Teryx4s with stock-sized tires. I was thinking that our trip had gone from taking all the challenging lines with the modified Terxy4s, to picking easier lines and stacking rocks for the stock rigs to get through.
Well, real early on it was evident that my concerns weren’t based on my experience with the Teryx4 or these drivers. I expected that I would be waiting quite a bit, but we were all moving along without slowing down for anything other than photos!
We continued on down the trail past Ellis Creek, Walker Hill and made a stop above Little Sluice. Early in the season typically means more water on the trail, and we hit our share of it. As with many off-road trails, the Rubicon is continually under attack by extreme environmentalists and water quality is one of the big issues. Lots of work is being performed on the Rubicon Trail by El Dorado County, Forest Service and volunteers like the Friends of the Rubicon to ensure erosion is kept to a minimum.
The only issue we had on the way in was a tire that was pulled off the bead on my 2011 Teryx. Combination of low air pressure, no beadlock and a wheel that was probably a little too wide for the tire pulled it off on a rock. We used the Warn XT40 on my Teryx4 and a VIAIR portable compressor to reset the bead and air the tire up.
After the Little Sluice bypass, we made our way out to another gigantic granite slab and down to our campsite at Buck Island Reservoir.
The next morning, we packed lunch and headed farther towards Lake Tahoe for a day trip. From Buck Island, we descended Big Sluice into Rubicon Springs. It was nice to get some of the extra camping gear out of the vehicles. It was amazing how much gear (and extra weight) everyone had squirreled away.
Rubicon Springs is privately owned land and has some great areas for camping or day use. There is a $10 fee for use, but they do have primitive pit toilets. This area is home to hundreds during the Jeepers Jamboree each year, so there are plenty of nice sites available. And if you are looking for a shorter trail into a nice place to camp, you can park at the trailhead on the Lake Tahoe side and come in from the east.
We ate lunch at Rubicon Springs, then headed up Cadillac Hill to the Observation Point. This is a great spot for a break and photo opportunities.
Observation Point at the top of Cadillac Hill
From the Observation Point, the trail is not as difficult out to Lake Tahoe so we decided to turn around and head back to camp at Buck Island. Cadillac Hill and Big Sluice are much harder heading up hill and there is a difficult section towards the bottom of Big Sluice that we were thinking the stock Teryx4s might need a little help. We were wrong as they all made it up with just a little extra go pedal!
Once back at camp, some of us went for a chilly dip in the lake, and then we all sat around the campfire and told stories about the trip so far. All of us were stoked at how well the Teryx4s had done the last two days. I think the success of the Teryx4 on the Rubicon really tells the story of how this new vehicle is ideally designed as an adventure platform.
Key Features for that make the Teryx4 Rubicon Trail Worthy:
Centrifugal Clutch: The Teryx4’s centrifugal clutch feels like it engages as soon as you apply the gas pedal. This extra degree of precision slow-speed power manipulation is ideal for rock crawling where precise throttle manipulation is key.
Power Steering: The factory EPS is may be an absolute necessity with the 31″ light truck tires I have on my Teryx4, but it also shines with stock tires. The EPS handles kickback and low-speed maneuvering with ease.
Nimble: Although the Teryx4 has room for four, it does so without feeling like a land yacht. Its’ 86″ wheel base is over 20″ shorter than a Polaris RZR XP 4 and turns surprisingly sharp. Although I did not carry four people, the Teryx4 really did not feel like a four-seat vehicle in the rocks. I felt like it turned about the same as my 2011 Teryx.
As far as my 2012 Kawasaki Teryx4 goes, I am thrilled with how it performed on the Rubicon. The combination of HCR long travel suspension and FOX shocks gave the vehicle more ride height, more wheel travel and a more comfortable ride. With big 31″ Pit Bull Tires on 15″ OMF beadlocks, I can crawl over most big rocks with ease. PRP seats and harnesses make the ride comfortable and safe. Rigid Industries LED lights are sleek and super bright for any night rides. Warn winch was used to lift one side of my 2011 Teryx off the ground and VIAIR portable compressor worked great for the tire repair. SDR roll cage looks great. And the Factory UTV UHMW skid plate soaks up all the punishing granite rocks can dish out.
Rubicon Trail – GPS Coordinates (Google Maps):
- Loon Lake Trail Head
- Ellis Creek
- Little Sluice
- Buck Island Lake
- Bridge into Rubicon Springs
- Rubicon Springs
- Observation Point (Top of Cadillac Hill)