If you’ve never seriously tried hill climbing in your UTV, you should. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of climbing up a fifty-foot hill, navigating through trees and over tricky rocks and roots, feeling your tires start to slip just before you reach the top, and finally cresting it and stopping on flat ground. That 45 seconds of driving is one of the purest adrenaline rushes you’ll ever experience—on a side-by-side or otherwise.
It’s no wonder that so many amateurs and enthusiasts alike chase that high every weekend. They head to places like Adventure Off-Road Park in Tennessee, Moonlight Racing Off Road Park in Missouri, and Rush Off-Road in Kentucky to test their mettle against the toughest hills in the country.
But what do you need to get yourself ready for hill climbing? For small hills, it’s as simple as finding a hill and climbing it. The bigger the hills get, though, the more precautions you’ll have to take to ensure that you and your side-by-side make it down in one piece.
Obviously, climbing up a huge hill puts you at a big risk of rolling down that hill. And the higher you go, the harder you can fall. That’s why it’s important to stack the odds in your favor when it comes to safety.
First of all, you should always wear a helmet. Makes sure it’s a good one that protects your whole face. This step is easy enough to check off the list.
Secondly, get yourself a 4- or 5-point harness. Your standard 3-point harness doesn’t always do enough to keep you secure during a rough roll down a hill. Trust me, you’ll want to stay firmly in your seat when you start rolling.
And finally, you’ll want to invest in a reinforced aftermarket roll cage if you get into anything bigger than beginner hills. If anything is going to squash your cage, it’s going to be a long, violent roll from the top of a big hill. And if you squash your cage, well, it’s not looking great for you. So before you go big, upgrade that roll cage!
This video is a perfect example of why a good helmet, roll cage, and harness are all necessary in a bad rollover. What saved this guy when his 5-point harness and his reinforced cage both broke? Even broken, his 5-point harness was able to keep him in his seat. That’s not something a stock seat belt could do. The other thing that saved him? He was smart and wore a good helmet. If he had skimped on either his helmet or his seatbelt, this rollover would have been his last.
Now you’ve got all your safety requirements met, so let’s figure out how to make it up a hill without floundering constantly.
Engage your four-wheel drive when you’re sitting still on flat ground. This might sound simple, but if you forget or
If you’re driving a CVT-driven machine (like a RZR or a Maverick), you’ll want to make sure you keep the machine in low range. If you don’t, you’ll end up wearing out your drive belt fast.
A longer wheelbase gives you better stability on hills, but there are only two ways to change your wheelbase: buy a new machine or get some offset A-arms. I’m guessing you’re not going to buy a new side-by-side just for hill climbing. Instead, you should install offset A-arms.
They increase your wheelbase by up to two inches, which makes a big difference when you’re trying to stay level on high ground. They also give you room for larger tires as an added bonus.
When it comes to actually driving up the hill, there’s not a lot of advice that will help. Of course, you want to keep your machine pointed to the top of the hill to the best of your ability, and if you feel your machine starting to lean back, you probably shouldn’t hit the gas and send yourself flipping all the way to the bottom of the hill. Other than that, there’s not really any advice to give. Your success on the hillside depends on your ability and your experience. No two hills are alike. Even the same hill will change drastically from your first time up to your fourth time up.
Soil composition and consistency changes from state to state and season to season. With enough rides on the same hill, the top soil will erode away and you’ll be left with dense dirt or clay on top of rocks and roots.
It’s insanely variable.
So try out lots of different hills, know your machine, and gain experience. Eventually every hill will start to feel familiar. Soon you’ll be conquering massive hills that you didn’t think you’d ever see the top of. And your favorite hobby will just get better.
Just remember—step one is to make your machine is as safe as possible. Step two is to hit the gas.