Bring your older Grizzly up to 2016 standards and beyond
For 2016, Yamaha did a virtual redesign of its Grizzly ATV. A two-inch increase in width in the past few years, in combination with new suspension settings, updated ergonomics, and a new, more powerful engine, yield a somewhat familiar, yet totally improved machine.
If you have an older Grizzly 700, there are many things that can be done to bring its performance up to 2016 standards and beyond. With so many of these machines out there, we decided to overhaul our 2010 Yamaha Grizzly 700 so that it can play harder out on the trail while providing a higher level of comfort and control. If you own a Grizzly 550, nearly all of these upgrades will work for you as well.
Of course, if you’re the owner of a well-worn, older Grizzly, trading up to a new machine will definitely be the most cost-effective way to go, and the improvements to the 2016 model provide a good amount of incentive to do so. This project is best suited for older Grizzly ATVs in very good shape that may already have a few add-ons and could benefit from a few more.
Wheels and Tires
To add some width and stability to our Grizzly, we ditched the stock 5+1 and 5 ½+2-inch offset 12-inch steel wheels for a set of 4+3-inch offset 12-inch DWT Stealth wheels, adding around two inches of width to the machine. The Stealth wheels are made of cast aluminum and are heat- treated for enhanced strength. They feature a machined black finish and molded- in center cap, providing a clean, refined appearance. A machined center provides the same striking look as the billet center on DWT’s three-piece Sector beadlock wheels, at a much more affordable price.
Like Yamaha, we also switched to a 26-inch tire for a smoother ride over bumps. Our DWT Stealth wheels were wrapped in a set of 26×9-12 front and 26×11-12 rear DWT Moapa tires. The Moapas feature a wide contact patch and aggressive tread pattern designed to work in a variety of conditions. The tread wraps around the sidewalls to enhance puncture resistance, and improve traction in deep ruts. As premium tires go, they are most comparable to the Maxxis Bighorn, but with a slightly different and more open tread pattern that appears a bit more focused on delivering side bite.
The Moapa’s six-ply construction offer enhanced durability over most OE tires. While tires with radial construction often offer a superior ride, they are also typically heavier and more expensive. The Moapa’s bias-ply design makes them around two to four pounds lighter per tire than other comparable tires featuring radial construction. Saving 10 or 12 pounds of unsprung, rotating mass makes a big deal in handling and acceleration on an ATV. We also found them to be considerably less expensive than similar use, premium brand, radial tires.
Adding taller, heavier tires to a CVT-equipped ATV demands a change in clutching to ensure maximum performance and durability. EPI Performance is a leader in CVT clutch setup and calibration. It offers many different kits to suit different tire sizes, horsepower, and intended uses. As a machine we wanted to occasionally use for hauling and plowing, EPI recommended that we use its Sport Utility Kit, calibrated for 0-3000 feet of elevation and 27-28” tires. The Sport Utility kits are calibrated to improve performance without sacrificing ride-ability.
This kit includes stiffer, wet clutch springs, allowing the engine to rev an additional 300-400 RPM before engaging. This allows the engine to build a little more initial horsepower for faster takeoffs and better low- speed responsiveness with bigger tires. A stiffer main spring is used for faster downshifting and it increases belt pressure, reducing slippage. Lighter roller weights are used to allow the engine to gain back the RPM it loses from turning taller tires, letting the engine once again work at peak power.
We ordered our Sport Utility Clutch Kit with EPI’s top- of- the- line Severe Duty Belt. It’s designed to handle higher horsepower and workloads, with a double-cogged design to improve cooling.
To boost horsepower, we installed a HMF Titan Series Exhaust. Formerly known as the Swamp Series, the Titan is constructed of stainless steel with a CNC machined aluminum end cap. Stainless steel makes the Titran corrosion resistant and gives it the ability to stand up to extreme temperatures. It features a larger shell with more internal volume to increase horse power, and torque, while suppressing sound output. With the quiet version producing a claimed 94db, it’s virtually as quiet as stock. Making more power without significantly more noise makes both us and those around us happy.
Adding a piggyback fuel injection module like HMF’s Optimizer is mandatory with the addition of a freer flowing exhaust. The system plugs in easily and provides easy- to- use, push button, on-board tuning with no laptop computer needed. This makes fine tuning out on the trail a quick, easy, and somewhat fun process.
Yamaha’s new 2016 engine is said to produce 6% more horsepower and 9% more torque than the 2015 model. According to HMF’s dyno, with the addition of its exhaust and Fuel Optimizer, our machine should gain an average of around 9% more horsepower, and 10% more torque.
Whether you realize it or not, on an older machine your stock, non-rebuildable shocks are likely beginning to suffer. With more leverage being placed on our stock shocks by the wider DWT Stealth wheels, we felt a shock upgrade was in order, so we contacted Works Performance Suspension.
Works Performance builds each set of shocks for your machine with your weight and intended riding style in mind. We opted for the extra cost of piggyback nitrogen reservoirs, as we planned on using this machine for long excursions of aggressive riding, where their enhanced cooling abilities will be of benefit. Using piggyback shocks as opposed to remote reservoir shocks also simplifies the installation process with no remote reservoirs to clamp to the machine.
For enhanced progression throughout the stroke, Works builds a dual rate spring stack for the front shocks, with a triple rate setup for the rear. All of its shocks feature threaded preload adjustment, allowing you to firm or soften the shocks for different uses. Works’ exclusive spring- loaded check ball valve system provides a progressive damping curve with three circuits for low, mid, and high-speed impacts. Smaller hits only activate the low- speed circuit, while mid-size, and larger hits can open two- or all three circuits if needed. Rebound is handled by a low- speed rebound circuit, while a shim stack controls access to three additional rebound circuits available for recovery from larger, higher-speed hits.
Replacing your stock shocks with new stock shocks would set you back around $900.00. The shocks we are testing are around $1,900, and adding external compression and rebound damping adjustments drive their cost up from there. On the flipside, Works can build you a set of custom shocks without reservoirs for around $1,200, providing enhanced performance and unlike your disposable stock shocks, when the oil starts breaking down or if a part should wear out or fail, Works’ shocks are 100% serviceable. Custom spring colors are included, so we opted for black.
In addition to improving handling and performance, we wanted to enhance our Grizzly’s durability. If you ride in rocky terrain, a good set of skid plates is one of the smartest investments you can make in your ATV to help prevent expensive repair bills, while enhancing the look of your machine. Ricochet’s skid plates are constructed of 3/16-inch 5052 H-32 aluminum. Its 10-piece skid plate kit covers the entire underside, lower front, and lower rear of the machine. It includes full frame skid plates with floorboard protection that wraps around the lower edges of the floorboards. The kit also includes front and rear A-Arm/CV Boot Guards, and a separate plate covering the area around the hitch. The front chassis skid plate wraps up, protecting the lower front of the frame, while a rear plate protects the chassis above the trailer hitch.
Ricochet attaches its skid plates with rounded, low-profile, T-40 Torx head bolts to help reduce the chances of sheering off a bolt head. Its clamps are constructed of chromoly, heat- treated for strength, and zinc- plated to prevent corroding.
The skid plates bolt up beautifully with all of the Grizzly’s stock hardware and offer a ton of protection. With the wider base of the Works Performance shocks, we had to do a little spacing with washers on the rear skid plates and bend the front CV guards forward a couple of degrees to create the needed clearance. Bending the front CV guards forward resulted in their ends impacting the front brakes on sharp corners, so we had to trim the CV guards down.
Front and rear bumpers from Kimpex add additional protection, grab points, and more area to tie-down to. Bumpers are constructed of steel with a textured black, powder coat finish. The front bumper features a polyethylene center, helping to absorb shock from impacts and reducing the chances of scratching up the bumpers’ finish while using a winch. To install the front bumper, we needed a separate mounting kit. It took us around an hour to get them mounted up.
Finally, we added a set of Maier Fender Flares to help protect us from debris flung from our wider DWT wheels and tires. They also covered the scratches on the sides of our fenders from close encounters with trees, providing a fresh new look. With one person lining them up and another drilling the necessary holes, you can attach Maier’s fender flares in around 30 minutes.
The Grizzly’s stock ape hanger- style handlebars were replaced with a Rox Speed FX Combo Kit. The kit includes 5-inch Rox pivoting handlebar riser, Fly Racing CR high-bend Fat Bars, handlebar pad, and a Rox Dash Panel to clean up the look of the controls.
The combination of the Fly, Fat Bars, and 5” Rox Risers raise the bars just under an inch. The sweep of the bars is reduced 10 degrees from 29 to 19 degrees, and the Fat bars are 3 inches wider than stock at 32 inches. Rox’s pivoting risers are made of CNC machined 6061 T-6 aluminum and allow you to move the bars more forward or rearward to best suit you. The straighter, wider bars help bring your elbows up for aggressive, sport- style riding.
For protection against flying mud, debris, and cold wind, we added a set of Rox’s Flex-Tec handguards. They mount to the handlebars with CNC machined aluminum clamps. The handguards feature a flexible plastic inner structure with a larger, stain resistant, vinyl covering that is available in many different color options. They are a bit larger than most plastic handguards for added protection against the elements, and feature a lifetime warranty against breaking.
We also upgraded to Rox Utility Foot Pegs, which are eight inches long, three inches wide and taller than stock. They feature widely spaced, aggressive teeth for traction, and kick-ups on the end for added control. We bolted them up to our Grizzly’s floorboard with no modification in a matter of minutes.
To keep our trail speeds up at night, we felt we could benefit from extra lighting. Available at your local dealer through Western Power Sports, Open Trail’s 13.5-inch LED lightbar features 24 LEDs pumping out 6480 lumen of light, for a small 72w power draw. The bar uses combo flood and spot reflectors.
Open Trail’s 13.5-inch bar comes with a leg for each end, allowing you to angle the bar up or down. Rubber spacers are included to help dampen vibration. While it didn’t come with instructions, we were able to drill and attach the light bar to the front rack, run the wiring to the battery, mount the fuse panel under the front cowling, and drill out and attach the on/off switch to the Rox Dash Panel in around an hour.
To put our Project Grizzly to the test, we took it to Haspin Acres Off-Road Park, located in Laurel, Ind., offering a wide variety of terrain including hard pack, mud, sand, and rocky sections, with trails ranging from relatively flat and wide open, to tight, technical, and very hilly.
Firing up the Grizzly, we were welcomed by the quiet, yet much sweeter sounding, HMF Titan Series exhaust. Its sound output is close to stock, but with a deeper, throatier tone. Hot starts were a bit slow with the base setting on HMF’s fuel optimizer until we changed the throttle setting from the number 4 to the number 2 position. This also eliminated a minor stutter we sometimes noticed around 1/4 throttle under acceleration during our initial testing.
With our Optimizer fine tuned, the combination of the HMF Titan Exhaust and Fuel Optimizer seemed to increase horsepower across the board, with the most notable gains in the midrange. You could really feel the increase in power accelerating out of corners and up steep hills. The larger tires and increased top-end power should raise the machine’s top-speed. However, we lacked adequate space to get it fully tapped out. Turning larger, heavier tires made it a little more difficult to fully appreciate the gain in low-end power, but with no detectable loss in low-speed acceleration , we’re pretty sure our Grizzly picked up a bit.
When we first tried out the taller DWT Moapa tires with the stock clutch, we noticed a dramatic loss in low-end responsiveness. Adding the EPI Sport Utility clutch kit for 27-28” tires helped our machine get rolling more quickly with less throttle, while remaining smooth and controllable. If you want a really hard- hitting, low-end snap, look into EPI’s Competition Kit.
The benefit of the EPI kit was apparent any time we chopped the throttle and then got back hard on the gas. EPI’s faster backshifts combined with HMF’s improvements in power, resulted in a snappier, more fun- to- ride engine with no loss in rideability or versatility for work or play.
Our machine’s wider stance and taller tires translated to an overall improvement in handling and traction. In spite of the tires’ taller size, the wider offset DWT Stealth wheels and broader footprint of the DWT Moapa tires make the Grizzly feel more stable on sidehill trails and while cornering aggressively. The only trade-off is an apparent, yet manageable, increase in steering effort and bump feedback. Power steering would make a big difference here.
DWT recommended running 12 pounds of pressure in the Moapa’s, which is probably fine for UTVs. But we ran seven pounds of pressure on our ATV, providing a better ride over bumps while keeping the sidewalls stiff enough to help resist pinch flats and punctures.
The Moapa tires delivered everything we were looking for in a tire and then some. First, they worked well in every condition we threw at them. They ride smoothly and provide predictable traction on hard- packed dirt. Their performance was very good negotiating steep rock ledges with no detectable wheel spin sapping forward momentum. Instead of burying themselves, the Moapa’s broad footprint helps with floatation in sandy sections. In mud, they seemed to do a good job of cleaning themselves out with a little throttle and the lugs are tall enough that four-wheel drive was an afterthought traversing smaller mud holes in low-lying areas. Forward and braking traction was good in all conditions, as is directional control, only pushing a bit in slick, muddy conditions when we were riding hard in two-wheel- drive. Lateral traction was well balanced.
With a 700cc single cylinder engine, we were grateful for the weight savings the Moapa tires’ bias-ply design provided compared to similar design tires with radial construction. We rode them hard in the rocks with no flat tires and no dents or dings in the Stealth wheels. You might find a tire that will perform better in a particular environment, but for all-terrain performance, DWT’s Moapa tires work great.
Suspension performance was flat-out brilliant. The Works Performance shocks delivered a ride so plush over small bumps that it would make Can-Am, Polaris, and 2016 Grizzly owners jealous. Works shocks sag down in the travel, unlike the stock shocks, which offer very little sag. The added sag allows the wheels to extend down into holes and ripples in the trail while traveling to absorb bumps that protrude upward, all the while keeping the machine riding flat and level. Their small bump absorption is so vastly improved that we worried that the shocks would bottom excessively, but they didn’t. We hit G-outs at speed and repeatedly got several feet of air. Not only could we hardly feel the tires impact the ground, we never felt the suspension bottom out. We added five or six threads of preload from zero to slightly reduce body roll in corners and that was it.
The Rox Speed FX Combo Kit not only put our bars exactly where we wanted them, the Fly Racing, CR high- bend bars provide a far superior bend for aggressive riding. With the added effort needed to turn the bars and resist bump feedback, the extra leverage provided by the longer handlebar came in handy. We fell in love with Rox foot pegs. They offer traction and feel that are vastly superior to stock and their kicked-up ends really come in handy on sketchy sidehills and while cornering hard.
We were also pleased with the Ricochet skid plates. It’s easy to appreciate how much more at ease you feel hammering through rocks, knowing you’re not destroying the bottom of your chassis or engine. The only drawback we have found in adding them is that their increased protection for your axles and CV joints result in them collecting more mud and debris. However, the extra few minutes you’ll spend cleaning will pale in comparison to replacing an axle, control arm, or even worse, a chassis or lower engine case.
The Kimpex bumpers did a good job of protecting our machine’s easily scratched, plastic body parts. They also come in handy if you or your friends need a place to strap to for towing out of a bottomless mud hole. For times we traversed a soggy trail section, the addition of the Maier fender flares really helped protect against flying mud. They do, however, show abrasions a little easier than we’d like.
Open Trail’s 13.5”-inch lightbar pays huge dividends in visibility when the sun goes down. Its bright white light really defines the shape of the terrain, right down to the little ripples in the trail. Along with the stock headlights, it adds a ton of illumination directly around the front of the machine in addition to reaching way farther down the trail.
While the Generation 1 Grizzly 700 was getting long in the tooth, it is still a competitive machine by today’s standards. Whether you want more power, stability, better traction, suspension, durability, improved comfort and control, better visibility at night, or all of the above, all of the products we used delivered as advertised. In the beginning, we wanted to make our 2010 Grizzly better for long days of aggressive trail riding. In the end, we got exactly what we wanted.