I don’t typically think of myself as one who should be writing reviews of powersports equipment and two wheeled vehicles, as I really know next to nothing about them, nor do I have any experience with them. When I had a chance to sample both at the recent Canadian Car of the Year awards Testfest, it made sense to check them out. They also looked some fun waiting to happen.
While I have never driven a side by side, I have taken a couple of motorcycle riding courses in the research of stories and I managed to live through a day of riding in London, England during the opening weekend of the recent Olympics. I figured if I could survive that, then I could survive anything. I was almost right.
As a scooter, the Ruckus is pretty simple to ride. If you have ridden a bicycle and aren’t a complete yedi, riding a Ruckus is a piece of cake. Unless of course you are me.
First off, I’ll have you know that I am not a total yahoo. In fact, I wouldn’t even sit upon a Ruckus without my helmet on, lest someone take a photo that might stir up an ongoing conversation about the proper use of a brain bucket. I was wearing riding gloves and had even exchanged my signature flip-flops for shoes. Long pants? Forget it. I also know, from years of mountain biking, that one must take extreme caution when approaching changing surfaces or risk the front wheel washing out and causing a crash.
Bearing this in mind, not three minutes after I perched my rotundness atop a Ruckus, I descended a paved hill, and slowed in preparation to turn onto a gravel road. The problem was that at some point the intersection between tarmac and stone had washed away and somebody had thought that sand was an appropriate medium with which to fill the resulting swale.
I was rather surprised to see the genuine look of concern on the faces of those who were following me, one on another Ruckus and two in Pioneer side-by-sides as I was dusting myself off. They say it looked like a slow roll, as I was moving so slowly and they were impressed with how quickly I got up. Got news for ya folks, I’m fat. I bounce. Neither my pride, nor the Ruckus sustained any damage and the blood loss was minimal. It took a couple of days before anyone admitted that it was actually pretty funny.
Later that same afternoon, while tending to the crew who were building the event’s off road course, I found myself at the crest of a hill with steep drops on either side. The way I had come up looked much scarier than it had on the way up. The opposite side consisted of deep sand dunes and steps intended to test the stability control systems of 4 wheeled vehicles. It did not look overly safe for a fat guy on a scooter. It looked much softer than the alternative however, so down I went. If you have ever seen the iconic movie On Any Sunday and laughed at the riders with their legs outstretched like out-riggers as the bike twitched from side to side, you have an idea of what my ride down looked like. It wasn’t pretty.
I survived and the Ruckus never once complained. There is little wonder why this thing is such a common sight in race track paddocks all over the continent, as the Ruckus is as simple and rugged as it gets, while being a heck of a lot of fun.
A side-by-side is basically a larger version of an ATV or four wheeler, that is designed to carry two or more people and is driven like a car. Hop in, turn the key, select drive and off you go. Honda sent along a variety of Pioneer side-by-sides to the event, including the 2016 700-4 you see above. Another two seat 700 came with the work package, which include an actual dump box on the back. These things are made to work as well as play. Also on hand were a couple of smaller Pioneer 500 models.
Tough and rugged looking, the Pioneer machines offer a wide range of safety features, from roll bars and side netting to actual seatbelts, meaning that those who want to play instead of work can do that too. Our off road course was designed with SUVs and Crossovers in mind, so they posed absolutely no problem for the Pioneers. On one trip back into the woods, I had myself and another big guy, probably totally about 550 lbs, along with a bunch of video camera gear and the smaller 500 had no problem climbing the steep bits. These things work hard.
Pricing on the 500 starts at $10,499 while the range topping Pioneer 1000 is just a tick under 20K. While that might seem like a lot for a machine that isn’t really a car, the versatility of the machines is what makes them such a good value for people who use them for both work and play.