A celebration of all things Sport UTV
UTV Invasion at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes is one of those events the true sport UTV enthusiasts should attend. The other must-attend events given space here were Rally on the Rocks, Moab, Utah, May 2016, and Rally in the Pines, MacKay, Idaho, July 2016.
UTV Invasion is an event that began in 2013 and is fast maturing to be a premier western-based multi-day happening that brings many vendors and several hundred, or close to 1,000 or more participants to dunes and to nearby potato, wheat, barley and alfalfa fields in St. Anthony, Idaho.
This year’s UTV Invasion was September 1 through 5, all of Labor Day weekend.
St. Anthony and close-by Rexburg are agricultural towns where John Deere and Case-International tractors are on the many country roads, as much as pickups, ATVs and UTVs, the two later used mostly by farm laborers to check on cattle and farm irrigation systems. For every pickup, there is a dog in the back and for every ATV or UTV, there is a shovel strapped to a fender or to the rear storage rack.
The secluded and off-the-beaten path St. Anthony sand dunes, transforms into a paddle tire feed-fest during this event.
This year, as the event grew, the toy-showcase expanded to the campground/parking area where custom motor coaches, RVs, camp trailers, pickups and custom-embossed pop-up canopies, clearly testified who had: 1) the most money (or debt), 2) the most passion, or 3) both.
Unique to UTV Invasion, as compared to Rally on the Rock and Rally in the Pines, is the amount of turbocharged and supercharged (boosted) Polaris RZRs, the predominate brand and model present; with Can-Am Mavericks being the second most popular; with Yamaha YXZs being the third most popular; and Arctic Cat’s Wildcats coming in as the fourth most popular. We did not run around and count each brand and model; this is purely a visual observation.
Regardless, Polaris RZRs dotted each dune in force, be they amped, boosted, tricked, lifted, stretched, lightened, widened, wrapped, lit, modified and colorized. If a vehicle appeared stock – was stock – there was a glance or two from passersby with question marks floating above their head as to, “Who are these fellas?”
We drove our 2016 Can-Am Maverick Max 1000 X RS Turbo with stock Maxxis Bighorn tires set at 8 pounds per square inch (PSI) and we never weakened on the dunes. Can-Am turbo power is magic power. We were stock and we were happy.
On day one, Thursday, we plodded through vendor row becoming acquainted with those whom we did not see at Rally on the Rocks or Rally in the Pines; new friendships were carved out. Those we know from our other rally visits offered up friendly trash-talking and jabbing, as well as product reviews. That’s our job.
The UTV industry is ever changing, evolving into a maniacal big girl’s and boy’s toy haven – money is spent, money is made and a custom SxS vehicle comes to life.
The St. Anthony Sand Dunes are some of the tallest dunes in the Rocky Mountains region. Set at 5,000 feet in elevation, the dunes occupy a territory of 10,000 acres. During the spring, summer and fall, dirt bike riders, ATV and UTV drivers, and sand rail pilots fill the dunes with their machines and attitude. The Idaho locals often call the area “Little Utah” as many from the neighboring state fill the vast expanse.
An air ambulance helicopter is stationed at the dunes on busy holiday weekends and unique events such as this; just a little bit of tidbit information for you folk looking to book your next vacation at UTV Invasion.
Several exhibitors along “Vendor Row” displayed their high-end trickery – sport UTVs that serve as moving brochures. There were many UTVs we wanted to hijack for a dune burn or to take home. One such UTV was the “Long Car” from Boondocker’s, Idaho Falls, Idaho. This two-seater UTV RZR XP 1000 was stretched to 102 inches, giving it more nose-to-tail stability when climbing steep dunes under boost, and too, with upwards to 280 horsepower, the longer chassis managed and controlled weight transfer better than stock.
Many vendors such as Z Broz Racing (Logan, Utah), and Starting Line Products (Idaho Falls) were swamped fixing or updating vehicles with clutch kits, shocks, A-arms, axles and trailing arms. Down vendor row as well were companies showing off the latest in vacation haulers. If you want to travel with your SxS while having a motel on wheels which doubles and the Side-by-Side hauler, then UTV Invasion had many samples.
Rugged Radios and PCI Race Radios were on hand to demonstrate the power and versatility of on-board two-way communication headsets. Rugged Radios was a major event sponsor.
While there, Bombardier Recreation Products (BRP) was present to show off and let media guys and gals, and the general public, learn about its new 2017 Can-Am Maverick X3; we were on hand to wonk a few dunes and dance on a few sand moguls. Tell you what, Can-Am has this SxS game figured. We will have more long term and shootout reports to write, but for now, know this – the X3 is done right and the other OEMs have a foe that is strong and marching forward, fast.
Rugged Radio set up an obstacle course where drivers, with vision-cutting goggles, were guided via two-way communication to navigate the course under slow speeds; the driver wore a headset, whereas a coach standing on the course spoke to the driver. It was impressive to watch.
Near the Rugged Radio obstacle course was a 1,000-foot sand drag-strip where challengers and same class SxS vehicles set to test their best against each other. Horsepower, paddle tires, high RPM and quick throttle response made the competitor either a hero or zero. Several Yamaha YXZ1000s, running either a supercharger or a turbocharger, slammed through their manual transmissions and delivered some oh-my-*$#@ times. Wow!
ProLine Wraps (Los Angeles, Calif.) sponsored an activity “UTV Teeter Totter” where drivers drove up a ramp to balance their SxS. Throttle response, very little throttle that is, and slow tire rotation were needed to find that sweet-balance spot.
We also took to the dunes with Starting Line Products to test its high-altitude clutch configuration, pipe, and clean air intake, for a Turbo RZR XP. With paddle tires and sand tires up front, we played dune hockey, taking in some jumps, rollers and bottom side seat pinching.
Saturday, the crowds were starting to thin as the long holiday weekend began to shrink time and wallets. This was, after all, Labor Day weekend and there was some yard work, lawn mowing and laundry to finish before the kids went back to school.
But…we wandered the dunes in our 2016 Can-Am Maverick Max X RS Turbo and settled on “drag hill” where “race what you brung” was carried out, “Gone in 60 Seconds” style. In perfect organized chaos, with no timing lights, no finish line, UTVers, ATVers, dirt bikers, a few sand rails, a Ford F-350 Power Stroke and lone Chevy K-10 with turbocharger punished the steep upswept dune. The testosterone and estrogen was at industrial length levels as throttle lovers reeled in the hapless dune.
This event provided a show of flashing lights, whips, undercarriage glow lights, exhaust, American flags and Confederate Battle flags, spun up motors and fat sand tires; we shot some night scenes as the sun set over the dunes, foretelling our exit for one year.
UTV Invasion, organized and Powered by Boondocker, and hosted by Idaho Dunes RV Resort as the locale for all the big rig haulers, was impressive. Event organizer, Dave Kuskie, dealt the UTV public a smorgasbord of good stuff – vendors and activities that delighted the masses. Rugged Radios covered individual entry fees, which made the attendee the event’s number one priority.
Book it for next year, Labor Day weekend, set your eyes to St. Anthony, Idaho where more than wheat and potatoes make this area larger-than-life.
If we have convinced you to make the trip next year to UTV Invasion, here in short, is what you should consider doing to make your Side-by-Side dune ready.
Blasting some dunes is different than rock hopping at Moab, Utah or riding the trails near Alpine, Wyo. The number one modification an owner should do is purchase sand paddle tires for the rear drivers and adding buff or Mohawk-style front tires to the front end. Wrapping these around some lightweight beadlock wheels, if money will allow, is essential. Sand robs power as tires try to grip it, and with the St. Anthony Sand Dunes at 5,000 feet, horsepower is down to spin the wheels. However, turbochargers and superchargers correct this.
If one’s budget does not allow for four new tires and wheels, then drop the UTV’s tire pressure down to 8 psi and let the spongy tires float the vehicle.
Next are proper clutch weights, helix and spring. The motor needs to squeeze the belt tightly and rapidly upshift and downshift. Slow and low RPM and engagement will make for a miserable and unsafe day.
Buy high visibility flags and be seen. Dunes have a way of hiding folks; being seen is a good thing. Speaking of being seen, install a rearview mirror and side mirrors, the dunes and its many angles have blind spots. Watch out for your mobile neighbor.
The UTV you drive at the dunes will appreciate a good air intake system that does not easily clog, and also protects the motor. Consider some air intake snorkel equipment that mudders use. Those who understand the essence at keeping water out give hint at what’s needed to keep sand out from the motor.
Front and rear suspension need not be wild; managing weight transfer – power to the wheels, to transfer back to the front end to keep the front down – is crucial. Adjust shock preload and coil over spring tension to manage this.
Dune riding is not highly technical, from a mechanical perspective, but is a UTV activity, that, with few adjustments and minimal cost, can become a favorite UTV pastime.