A planned ride in Northeastern Ontario turned into the ultimate snow day
When I borrowed a YXZ1000R from Yamaha Canada for a trip to northeastern Ontario, I don’t think they imagined it would be covered in ice and snow by the time we were done driving it. Truth be told, I didn’t imagine that either, but you don’t throw away a chance to have an awesome day just because Mother Nature threw a little tantrum.
Just a couple days before driving up north, much of Ontario was unseasonably warm. By the time I loaded up the car, that all changed. It was snowing a little in Toronto and as I worked my way up north on Hwy. 400 to Hwy. 11 it was snowing a little harder.
When my cameraman and I arrived at Cedar Gables Lodge in Bonfield, Ontario (about three and a half hours northeast of Toronto), it looked like winter. Fortunately, the Lodge was able to warm us up with a big dinner before heading to our suite for the night.
A hot breakfast was waiting for us in the morning, which was the perfect start to what would be a fairly chilly day on the Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System (VMUTS) in Bonfield. We were able to load up the bright yellow YXZ1000R and a Yamaha Grizzly 700 and ride directly to the trails from Cedar Gables Lodge. The accessory windshield on the YXZ really came in handy here, as it kept the cold wind off my hands and face. But even on the Grizzly you could stay warm enough if you just dressed for the weather.
For the uninitiated, riding off-road vehicles in the snow takes some getting used to. The snow makes things a little slick, but if you keep the speeds down a little and give yourself plenty of room to stop, it really is a lot of fun. Cornering in the YXZ on snow will make you feel like a drifting champion if you give press down on a go pedal a little when coming out of a corner in first gear. It takes some practice, but eventually you’ll get comfortable with your tail sliding out after a turn. It’s even easier when riding the Grizzly, as just a bit of body English will get an ATV moving in any direction you want.
I had not driven the five-speed manual transmission version of theYXZ1000R before this trip and I was a bit skeptical of how I would like it in the woods. But just like the YXZ with paddle shifters and no clutch, this machine is a blast to drive anywhere. As it likes to run at high rpm, I rarely spent time in third gear; second gear could easily get me going plenty fast in these conditions on the beautifully twisty trails. If hearing that triple-cylinder scream at 9,000+ rpm doesn’t put a smile on your face, we can’t be friends.
When I tested the YXZ1000R SS with paddle shifters at a Yamaha event earlier this year, Yamaha staff encouraged me to rev the engine up to 10,000 rpm before shifting into first gear. It feels counterintuitive, but that tells you how confident Yamaha is in its transmission, so I carried that over to the full manual transmission YXZ I drove in Bonfield. The snow didn’t provide the best traction for dropping the clutch at high rpm, but it was great fun getting the wheels to spin and kicking up a rooster tail of snow whenever I wanted.
The only trouble I had on this snow day adventure was when I underestimated how deep some water was that crossed the trail at one point. The YXZ started out just fine, but the ice was about an inch thick and the water was seat-high. All that ice build up was enough to stop me about two thirds of the way through. Fortunately, the Grizzly was equipped with a winch and was able to pull me out without issue…besides a wet butt.
Toward the end of the day we made our way up to a lookout that provided an absolutely incredible view. We could see a massive forest of trees, two lakes and the city of North Bay, Ontario in the distance. I’d really like to check it out again earlier in the fall when the leaves have changed color. Maybe next year.
Before I knew it, the sun was starting to sink lower in the sky and it was time to call it a day. While it would have been easy to just cancel the ride due to the snow, I’m thrilled I didn’t. The combination of the impressive trails and maybe the most fun machine Sport UTV on the market made this one of my favorite rides of the year.