We joined Yamaha for a memorable trip to the Imperial Sand Dunes
It takes a lot for a ride destination to really surprise me, but on a recent trip to the sunny southern California sand dunes known as Glamis, I was stunned to say the least.
Being from the far southeast United States, I have not had the opportunity to experience much sand – unless it’s at the beach. But I soon discovered there are mountains of sand that could rival some actual mountains near my home in northern Georgia. The Imperial Sand Dunes, or Glamis as we know it, is roughly 40 miles long and averages five miles wide with some sand peaks reaching over 400 feet tall. Talk about getting lost quick.
Getting more acquainted with the 2013 Yamaha Raptor 700SE was a big part of my plan here, but experiencing the sand for the first real time was an even bigger part of this event. If you have not had a chance to ride in the sand it is something everyone has to try at least once in their life. Our chariot for this experience was the 2013 Yamaha Raptor 700SE. Yamaha made some tweaks to the Raptor 700SE for 2013, but perhaps the biggest news is that this torque monster is now made solely in the good old USA – Newnan, Ga. to be precise.
The 2013 Yamaha Raptor 700SE has thunderous low end pulling power and in the sand this was a huge plus. The power is smooth and builds as the revs begin to climb. The front end, as well as the forward seating and fuel tank on the Raptor, have all been redesigned to try to achieve a lower center of gravity and more room for the rider. This also gives the larger rider a little more room to move around on the big bore machine. The SE (Special Edition) model we were riding also had a bold new menacing look to the graphic design and a black and red color scheme to create the feel of dominance that this huge 686cc engine is capable of. Yamaha opted for some new Maxxis tires for 2013 with a slightly different tread pattern for great trail hookup and overall performance. As well, the rear brakes have an awesome new twin piston caliper stopping the rear wheels. We found this new brake system works very well under many conditions.
After a bite of lunch prepared for us by Camp Chef’s culinary masters, we decided to head out for a few hours to get used to the machines as well as the sand. This is where the challenge would develop itself for me. And quite a challenge it was. The sand seems like it would be easy to ride in and for the most part it really is. But you take into consideration the sheer height of the mountains of sand coupled with the fact that you have to carefully negotiate the crossing from one sand bowl to the next and it gets tricky very fast. Add in the fact that at some point during the day we had to drive back to camp facing the sun and the problems became compounded as the contrast or shadows began to go away and every foot of sand looked the same.
The 2013 Yamaha Raptor 700SE was by far the best machine suited to carry this sand virgin around the thousands of acres of property. Driving up a sand mountain all I could remember was a little advice a more experienced rider had given me: Momentum is your friend and use caution every time when crossing over the peak of a sand hill as it could drop straight off the other side. You have to ride the ridge a short distance and get a wheel or two perpendicular to the ridge before committing to cross over in order to keep the machine from dropping out from under you. This also helps you to see what you’re faced with each and every time you go from one ridge to the next. Also, lay off the front brakes. If you need brakes use the rear or the compression of your engine to slow you down on the downhill sides of the sand. The front brakes make the front wheels dig into the softer sand and on some of the hills with really steep descents this could get ugly very fast.
For several hours I followed rider after rider, including Yamaha factory racers Dustin Nelson and Josh Row, across the huge mountains of sand. I think I finally had gotten the hang of it by the end of the first day. Our rides took us to some of the most popular spots along the Glamis tour, including the China Wall, Oldsmobile Hill and Osbourne Overlook. My trusty Yamaha Raptor 700SE pulled me all over the sandy terrain. If I needed a little extra bottom end, I just grabbed the throttle and found myself in third gear a lot.
Needless to say after a full day of riding in the sand I was ready for some very good food. Matt Anderson of Camp Chef had brought out all of the wonderful cooking gear to make our stay even more exciting. Having all of us cook our own food on the second night taught us that being prepared with good equipment as well as a plan on what to cook and how to cook your food is very important.
After filling our bellies, we had the option to sit in front of a wonderful fire, play horse shoes or Corn hole, or simply climb into the bed in your camper and get some rest. This big boy had been beat up pretty good by the sand and after a great meal (and 900mg of Aspirin) it was time to get some rest.
The sand taught me many things during this trip and one brutal truth is that it will give you a workout like you wouldn’t believe. I really enjoyed my first sand experience and hope to return someday for a second round.
Related ReadingHow to Ride the Dunes2013 Yamaha Raptor 700 Project: Giveaway2013 Yamaha Raptor 700 Review – Video2012 Yamaha Raptor 700R & YFZ450R Special Edition Review – Video2011 Yamaha Raptor 700R & YFZ450R Special Edition Review – Video