SuperATV wasn’t the first to put portals on a UTV, and we certainly won’t be the last. However, this relatively new application for portals has already seen a ton of iterations and changes. From the first commercially available set in 2012 to today, the portal gear lift has changed a lot. Let’s take a look.
In the fall of 2012, SXS Gear released their first portal gear lift. The four-inch portal boxes featured a gear driven gear reduction in each hub. They released kits for Polaris and Can-Am UTV models.
They advertised “on-tap power,” reduced stress on “belts, clutches, axles, cv cages, and transmission,” and room for “larger tires and better ground clearance.” Right out of the gate, the advantages for the side-by-side community were obvious.
SXS Gear appealed first and foremost to an ultra-niche market. The people who bought them were generally happy with them, but they required the most dedicated side-by-side enthusiasts to put up with some of the awkward fitment and quality issues. The RZR 800’s of the time also lacked the power to take full advantage of the transformative portal gear technology. As a result, the portal gear lift’s popularity remained minimal early on.
2014 saw portal gear lifts try to break into the mainstream in a big way—and fail spectacularly. SXS Gear teamed up with High Lifter, which was the leading aftermarket side-by-side lift kit company at the time.
They wanted to put portals in the hands of more people and show off the awesome advantages of portals. Things like stock suspension angles, a built-in gear reduction, and reduced drivetrain wear were easy selling points. Unfortunately, SXS Gear’s ultra-niche kits weren’t ready for a broader market. The kits fit poorly and customers weren’t happy. The partnership ended there, but it wasn’t the last time High Lifter and SXS Gear would cross paths.
Out of this debacle came a new company, Rock Crusher. Started by a former SXS Gear engineer, Rock Crusher hoped to make a name for itself without the help of SXS Gear or High Lifter.
Shortly after SXS Gear released their portals, other companies started developing their own.
Rock Crusher released their 4”, 30% gear reduction portals at the very beginning of 2015. Rock Crusher’s portals were rife with quality and manufacturing issues. From months-long waits for orders, to the loud, fragile gear boxes, Rock Crusher made their share of mistakes. Their customer service was slow and, on many models, you were forced to chop the ends off of your axles to make them fit.
Rock Crusher portals broke down frequently and rattled a lot even in their best condition. These issues and more eventually led to a class action lawsuit.
At SuperATV, we launched our first GDP Portal Gear Lifts in August of 2015. They were notable for their precision ground gears and the wider boxes that eliminated the need to chop axles.
We launched with 4” portals using a 30% gear reduction just like what had come before, but we made big changes to the gear production process.
These quality gears made them different from what came before. They ran quiet and they ran cool. The quietness of these gears made them much more pleasant to drive on, and the coolness made them much more capable.
They could be run at full speed for hours straight without overheating and without raising the internal pressure enough to cause leaks. A welcome change from what came before.
Despite their high quality, the original output shafts turned out to be a weak spot in the design at the original launch. We quickly learned that something needed to be changed—more on that later.
Rock Crusher was sold in early 2016. Under new ownership, the quality of customer service improved, but the product and its reputation didn’t. By the end of 2016, Rock Crusher was no longer selling portal lifts.
A year after we launched our 4” portals, we put out 6” portals featuring a 45% gear reduction. This was a huge product not just because of the bigger lift, greater tire clearance, and boosted torque, but because it was SuperATV putting something out there that had never been done before.
Pairing the increased lift with a bigger gear reduction made them incredibly popular, especially among enthusiast mud boggers. People loved the massive tires they could fit, and the fact that the 45% gear reduction was enough to make their machines still feel punchy and powerful.
In October 2017, we released our Gen 2 portals, replacing both our four-inch and six-inch offerings with upgraded parts to make them stronger and more reliable.
These upgrades included a bigger output shaft, updated rotor plate design, thicker housings, and more. It pushed the quality far ahead of everything else available.
The bigger output shafts were an especially big improvement. They solved all the weakness issues in the Gen 1 shafts and withstood wear and fatigue much better.
Over the years, SXS Gear was silently chugging along selling portals under their original design to enthusiast riders. Then, in the summer of 2018, High Lifter Products Inc. purchased SXS Gear with the intention of releasing their own portal gear lift selection. It was time for High Lifter to take another go at the hottest lift technology in the side-by-side industry.
We launched our 8” GDP Portal Gear Lifts in September of 2018. These brought the total ground clearance up even higher while maintaining the 45% gear reduction of the 6” portals. These made advancements to gear strength and the overall seal of each box as well. For big builds, SuperATV’s 8” portals were the new high bar.
Sure enough, at the beginning of 2019, High Lifter released their first 4” billet aluminum portal gear lift with a 30% gear reduction. They started small with just a Polaris Ranger and RZR portal kit, but soon added more models.
At the end of 2019, High Lifter introduced its vision for a 6” portal gear lift. With a forged housing and options for a 45% gear reduction or a 60% gear reduction that took advantage of a dual idler gear, it offered something new and turned a lot of heads.
Our Gen 3 GDP Portal Gear Lifts were released in early 2019. Gen 3 introduced a billet housing option, improved gear material, and different gear reduction options for four and six inch lift options. The stronger gears made them the strongest on the market, and the different gear reduction options made them more appealing to more people.
Their reputation as an upgrade for mud riders only came crashing down with Gen 3. The lower gear reductions make them incredibly versatile for all sorts of riding from desert racing to dunes. With Gen 3, GDP portals became a good choice for any rider.
2020 and Beyond
The future of portals looks bright. Despite their rough start, new improvements and new features have been introduced every year. There’s always something new on the horizon that can change the game again. Portals are the ultimate side-by-side upgrade, and they just keep getting better.