Getting mud on our boots and back to our roots with Honda ATVs
It has been a long time for me personally to have had any kind of adventure on an ATV, as it seems the Side-by-Side world has taken over for many. After a quick ride recently on a friend’s mid-bore ATV, I knew I needed to get back to my original love for the off-road and Honda must have been thinking the same thing. So off to Tucson, Arizona I would go to spend a few days getting back to my roots while getting another great experience on the 2020 Honda Foreman and Foreman Rubicon DCT EPS Deluxe.
Our lodging as well as riding would take place at the Tanque Verde Ranch, just to the northeast of Tucson under the shadows of the Mica Mountain. This vacation getaway location is home to horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking, as well as some pretty interesting nature walks all around the property. Located right against the Saguaro National Park, the terrain was rocky with plenty of the native Saguaro cactus as well as many other thorny plants. Although we did not venture into the high mountains surrounding the ranch, we did find some good elevation changes and varying terrain during our ride. Honda laid out a very good day mixed with a little working experience in the early morning followed by our ride time.
The first order of the day was to actually experience the towing capability of the “Reactor Blue” 2020 Honda Foreman 4×4 inside one of the horse arenas on the property. This would also give us a good experience in using Honda’s new reversing button mounted on the left-hand control center on the bars. The trailer was approximately 350-400 pounds and had been loaded with hay bales that were anywhere from 85 to 100 pounds each. If we use the lightest estimated weights, it put the load to around 690 pounds. This would at least get us up to 2/3 of the towing capacity of the Foreman which is 848 pounds. The electric shift DCT transmission handled the gear changes smoothly and did not seem to notice the extra weight behind the ATV. Honda’s Foreman engine now boasts 518cc worth of displacement – up from 487cc on prior year models. The extra 43cc means more grunt for towing. Also, even in 4WD the steering never became heavy as Honda’s EPS works well to give you a comfortable steering effort without losing touch with the feel of the trail.
Once we had ridden the course in the arena we had a chance to back the 2020 Honda Foreman into a small simulated slot or stall created with some hay bales. Backing a short trailer attached to a short wheelbase, solid rear axle ATV is indeed a challenge, yet most were capable of the task. What we did notice here was the ability to shift straight from first or even second gear straight into reverse. The new electronic lever takes the place of the original style cable-operated lever that needed its driver to shift from first to neutral and then into reverse while engaging in the small lever. I found the new electronic reversing switch to be very easy to operate and it seemed to help while some made several attempts to get the ATV lined up for the stall. There was a Honda ATV on hand with the original lever actuated reverse and between the two you could notice a much smoother and quicker reverse engagement.
One thing we did not get a chance to do was to load the front and rear racks on the 2020 Honda Foreman. The front rack is rated at 88 pounds while the rear will carry 176 pounds. We did, however, get a chance to experience just how easy it is the mount and dismount a few different Honda rack accessories. The Honda Pro-Connect is a very ingenious idea that takes mere seconds to engage and disengage. The square holes in the racks are built in for the latches and when not in use it allows a flatter as well as larger coverage area for your own gear. This is a welcome change compared to the original tube racks. It also gives you a better option for tying things down properly.
After a short break for lunch it was time to hit the trails on the Foreman as well as the Foreman Rubicon. The addition of the Rubicon name to the 2020 Honda Foreman line lets us know that this machine not only has an independent rear suspension, but it gets a little more in the added features department. The biggest of these features might be the addition of the Auto or EPS (Electric Shift Program) switch on the right hand side of the bars as well as the independent rear suspension. The Auto and ESP switch gives us an option of allowing the machine to shift for us or for us to do our own gear changes via the up and down buttons on the left side of the bars. The independent suspension gives the chassis much more cornering ability and a plusher ride in the really rough sections of trail.
Taking a look at the results of our ride on the Honda Foreman first (TRX520FE2), we found such a fun and easily handling ATV. The steering is smooth while still allowing you to feel the trail thanks to the electric power steering and with the solid rear axle the new 520 motor easily slid around corners like a sport machine. The single swinger brings back a lot of great memories on the trail and allowed us to really get back to why we all love this sport. The fender coverage is plentiful and although we only found a few mud holes and one very small creek to get across, I’m sure none of us went home with any extra earth from that Saguaro desert. The work as well as play capability of this mid-bore is pretty dang balanced.
The 2020 Honda Foreman Rubicon was also on hand for the ride and the Matte Green Metallic color just looks incredible. We did have a Matte Molasses brown color Rubicon on hand as well and it too has a great look that has to be appreciated in person. Honda’s new graphics are also a change of direction for the company, as the custom look gives the newest Rubicon great curb appeal. Our Honda Foreman Rubicon was the Deluxe model and it contained all of the premium features in the line of Foreman ATVs. While riding the trails around Tanque Verde, the electronic shift program worked as we expected with smooth and seemingly effortless gear changes as long as we were gentle on the throttle. There were some sections of trail on the ranch where we could open the throttle up and feel just how well the IRS suspension would handle the rough course. The ATV feels nicely planted in the corners and hitting rough rocks or water ditches was less noticeable on the IRS-equipped Honda Foreman Rubicon.
Once we started using the Auto mode on the bar-mounted switch, it was clear that the Honda Rubicon was watching our every move and adjusting accordingly. The auto mode shifts very smooth itself, but when you decide to start really hammering the throttle the brain of the Rubicon responds with a sporty level of gear changes. The ECU will hold shifts a little longer during your rage riding and gives the driver a more-sporty feel by simply allowing the gear to hold for higher RPMs before shifting. This is all pre-programmed to handle those situations and one more reason I like the Rubicon.
Overall, this trip alone has reignited the reason I like to ride off-road. I started riding ATVs very young and it is so much fun to have a machine that has enough power to give you that working capability as well as the ability to stretch that envelope a little when you just want to squeeze the throttle all the way to the stop. The 2020 Honda Foreman and Foreman Rubicon are great examples of well-built products that should provide years of fun and excitement to many in the process.