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Yamaha Grizzly 700 EPS Utility ATV

Yamaha have been setting the pace of technical innovation in the motorcycle industry of late. The tuning fork boys have been bold and brave in bringing plenty of fresh innovations to market and in the last two years alone have brought fly by wire throttles and variable length inlet runners to mainstream motorcycling with their YZF-R1 and YZF-R6 Supersport machines. The recent auto clutch on the FJR1300 is also an area where Yamaha have dared to be different.

Now Yamaha engineers have turned their focus to four wheel innovation to debut the world’s first power steering equipped ATV.

And it’s no crude hydraulic system devoid of intelligence but instead a well thought out and highly sophisticated approach that contributes greatly to the riding experience.

A conventional set of bars are connected to a normal run of the mill steering column but from here down things get much more interesting. A potentiometer then intervenes and signals the steering inputs to the engine management system where the degree of steering assistance is calculated according to vehicle speed and engine revs. The electronic power steering motor then applies a great deal of steering assistance at low speeds while offering little assistance at higher speeds. The latter ensures the rider has plenty of feel at the bars where steering assistance is less needed.

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The power steering motor also intervenes at speed if significant bump steer is encountered by applying a reactive steering force that effectively dampens the bump steer to much more manageable levels. I found the system smart enough to pull double duty as a steering damper.

The end result is an ATV that despite being gargantuan in proportions requires less steering effort than machines half its size. Tight manoeuvring on an ATV is always painful, particularly on four wheel drive models but power steering solves the problem effectively and unobtrusively. Riding this machine all day will not require King Kong forearms. For lighter riders, or perhaps the man on the land starting to struggle with arthritis, or for those that spend long days in the saddle, the power assistance will make a massive difference.


Yamaha Grizzly 550 EPS Utility ATV

It’s hard to explain how much power steering can improve your ride if you’ve never used it before. You simply don’t have work as hard and you don’t feel as much kickback from rocks and ruts. Even after a long ride - and I put more than 50 miles on the Grizzly 550 during the test day - you don’t feel nearly as tired in your shoulders and arms. Even your hands aren’t as sore because you don’t have to grip the handlebars as hard.

Power steering on ATVs is still in its infancy, but it improves the overall quality of the ride so much that you can expect to see it on a lot more vehicles in the very near future. It does cost a fair bit more (EPS adds $700 to the price of the Grizzly 550 FI), but it sure seems like money well spent to me and I don’t easily part with my money – just ask my wife.


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