Thursday, December 11, 2014

Foxford Run a Muck Rally 2014 Review

There are a couple of Saskatchewan ATV rallies that have a reputation for not disappointing, and the Run a Muck rally in Foxford SK is one of them. Foxford is a tiny village of only a couple of houses located just 45 minutes east of Prince Albert. I'm not sure how this tiny place can host one of the provinces largest ATV rallies, but they do it and do it well. This year I was told they had 291 ATVs registered.

My video of the ride

Foxford was the first ATV rally I've ever attended, which is weird as I've been ATVing most of my life. Most of my riding has been on 2 wheel drive sport quads which I figured weren't really rally friendly, and in the case of Foxford that is absolutley correct. Being that it was my first rally I had no idea what to expect. I did know that Foxford is not know for being dry, it is known for tons of water and muskeg, and I wanted to see what all the hype was about.


I picked up my 2009 Can Am Renegade 800X in January 2014 and it was bone stock. I knew I needed to get prepared for mud, so I wired up a winch, added some 30" Silverback tires, chest waders and even got it snorkeled.

Picking up my machine from Mad Mechanics in Martinsville
I have never owned a snorkeled ATV, in my mind that was just way too hardcore. Besides I was a trail guy, not a mudder. But when somebody explained to me that snorkels were cheap insurance compared to an engine rebuild I decided to get it done. 

I took my machine to Mike at Mad Mechanics in Martinsville to get the snorkeling done. I almost didn't get it done in time because of my procrastination but Mike managed to get it done the night before leaving to Foxford. Talk about cutting it close.

A panoramic of the parking area when we arrived in the morning, even the parking lot was muddy. By the time we got back this area was plugged full of truck and ATVs.

The Experience

I drove up with my friend Jonathan who was not only a rally newbie, but also an ATV newbie. I let him use my Yamaha Bruin 350 with the intention he would go on the dry trails and I would go on the wet.
I met up with an old friend at the rally that I rode with when we were teenagers, it just so happened that we both had Can Am's and were both heading there so I asked to ride with him and his group as he had been to Foxford a couple of times and knew what to expect.

It had rained for a number of days before the rally on June 1st and without a doubt it was going to affect the conditions. The organizers said that many of the smaller water holes had filled up and joined with other smaller holes creating even bigger holes. At this point I was very thankful I had snorkeled my quad.

We registered and got our tags which are used to monitor who has made it back safely, and if they need to send someone out to search. The organizers mapped out 3 routes and put them into the following categories; Dry, Wet and Extreme. In our opinion, they should have been more like;Wet, Extreme and Completely Retarded.

The group I was going to be joining with my friend was planning to ride the Extreme trail, ugh.

Ostacruiser was one of the guys in our group. That should tell
a lot about the kind of riding we were in for

I cannot express enough the shock I was in once I saw what we were in for. I had been in some deeper water with my Renegade but they were just water. I had never experienced anything like the sticky thick gumbo muskeg (skeg) in the stinky sloughs of Foxford.
I very much felt in over my head, but when your with a group of guys you put on your game face and just do what you need to do.

My new Kolpin jerry can adorned the rear of my machine, by the first
mud hole it was gone.
The first big mud hole our group approached was a gong show, there was a line up of no less than 50 machines waiting as in the mud hole there another 15-20 machines stuck. Most turned off their machines and chatted with the other guys, some stood at the edge of the water and strategized the best route through the hole and some wandered in to assist the guys that were stuck.
Lots of comradery with the groups. Even if you didn't know the other guys you were riding with they were all there to help. You had a rough idea of how many guys are supposed to be with you and when you were through the hole you waited until the other guys made it through before you contining on. If they needed a push or a winch, you did what you could and the other guys did the same. Even though everybody was helpful you still didn't want to be the one holding everybody else back, or worse being the one that was always stuck and needing help getting out of pretty much every hole. On this ride unfortunately, I was that guy.

A sample of the thick gumbo muskeg we encountered

Waiting for the rest of the group, thankful to have made it through

I was not at all prepared for the Foxford experience, it was a hard exhausting day. It was fun, but just a little overwhelming. It was hot that day, my new chest waders made me confident I would stay dry but they sure didn't help to beat the heat. I actually appreciated it when I got sprayed with some nice cool mud when I hit the water a little too fast. When you do get stuck and have to get off to push every step in the sticky muskeg is a struggle, your boots almost get glued into the stuff so you have to point your toes up and pull with your calf muscles....ugh it was exhausting.

By the half way point the crowds had subsided, I think a number of people had turned back. We didn't run into any more traffic jams at the mud holes but we would see the odd smaller group of maybe 3-5 guys making their way through.

Somewhere under this water there is, or was a trail
Stuck and winch pulled off its spool

One of the hardest parts of the rally for me was the fear of swamping my machine. It was mentally exhausting. We were nearing the end of the extreme trail and our group had reduced in size down to only a handful of guys. For the first time I got left at the very back of the pack and got stuck, and there wasn't anybody behind me. I got off and started pulling my winch cable out to the nearest tree, but the nearest tree was pretty far. As I pulled the line out father than I had ever pulled it before I noticed the tension dramatically decrease, and to my dismay I realized I had pulled the cable right off it's spool. I went from being a little stressed, to being right out afraid for my safety. The rest of my group wasn't too far ahead and were waiting for me, but I didn't know that. To make matters worse I was down to the last bit of fuel. Pictures of camping out in the swamp over night flashed through my mind.

The fear got my adrenaline kicked in and I found new energy and strength to get myself unstuck. Finally free, I was now presented with another problem, I didn't have other ATVs ahead of me to help me determine how deep this water hole was. And this was a huge water hole. I slowly creeped my way ahead and half way through my left side wheels slipped off an underwater ledge and the quad tipped over to that side. I jumped off just in time as my snorkels were only inches away from the surface of the water. How much more of this can I take? It was at this point I said I am done! I had my adventure and I was ready to go home. I was taking my first exit back the truck. I met up with the rest of my group who were sitting around, gabbing, and eating their sandwiches with little knowledge of the physcological torture I had just endured. We continued on and I found the exit I was looking for, the rest of the guys continued on and I headed back to the trucks by myself.

Ironically, I wasn't done yet. To get back to the trucks I had to go through the "wet" trails, which I thought would be a cake walk compared to what I had just gone through. Nope, more water, winching and boots getting stuck in the mud.

Eventually I made it back to a gravel road where things finally were dry. I headed to my truck where I met up with Jonathan, he reported that the "dry" trails were not at all dry and that he was pushing through deep water and winching as well with my little Yamaha Bruin. He had quite the adventure as well. 

Me, very weary from a hard days ride, happy to be back in one piece and
that my machine made it through


I wasn't prepared. I was a mud virgin and I didn't know what to expect. Honestly I don't think anybody could have described to me what I was about to get myself into. I think it would be a little bit like trying to explain so someone what war is like if you have never been in one. At the end of the day I was tired, physically exhausted and I kept asking myself "what was the point of that?" If ATVing wasn't fun, why would a person do it? This is medieval torture. But now that I have had some time to reflect and experience more deep mud situations my opinion is changing.
The trails at Foxford were a crazy challenge, but I rose to the occasion and completeld the task before me. Of the 291 registered riders I am one of the few that can say that I completed the extreme trail, and that feels pretty good. I learned a lot about mud riding and have been able to continue to use that knowledge.  Thank you Foxford for challenging me and being great hosts, see you in 2015.

Click here to see the route on EveryTrail

Here are a couple other videos that I came across that I just happen to be in

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Iron Horse Trail Review

Whats up? Isn't this the "Sask" Trail Riders blog? Isn't the Iron Horse Trail an Alberta trail System? Yes it is, and no I haven't become jumped ship. The reason I am writing about the Iron Horse Trail (herein referred to as IHT) is because I wanted to experience what a provincially funded, maintained trail system is like, and we don't have anything like it here in Saskatchewan. It is by far the closest maintained ATV trail system, only 363kms from Saskatoon. The majority of which is on double highway.

Heinsburg was our starting point on the trail

The entire Iron Horse Trail in red

So what is the IHT? It is an old railway line that was abandon and turned into a multi-use trail. You are welcome to use almost anything on the trail other than cars\trucks. The promotional videos show people walking, biking, snowmobiling, riding horse and of course riding ATV's. The trail system receives funding from the government, tourism and from the proceeds of ATV license plates which are mandatory in Alberta.

Rig mats being placed over mud holes so that the trail
will not erode. Photo courtesy @IronHorseTrail via Twitter
With these proceeds the trail system is maintained, meaning that the trails have been graveled and that if washouts occur they will be repaired. The longest leg of the trail runs from Heinsburg to Waskatenau, a total of 177kms. There is another leg of the trail that runs North East from the Abilene junction to Cold Lake which can ad another 98kms to your trip if length is what you are looking for.

One of the first things people ask me about the trail is if it is boring? I likely get this question a lot because many of the ATVers I hang around with are hardcore mudders. I am not so sure how to answer that question. It is a very different experience. The trail is an old rail system, so it is pretty level. The trails are covered with gravel, so that even when it gets wet it isn't too mucky. In many ways it is like driving on a gravel road. And there are some part of the trail that are straight trail for kilometers at a time which can get pretty boring. But that is not really the point of the IHT.

So what is the point then? It is about getting onto a trail, with your ATV, away from cars and other traffic. Getting into the heart of nature and seeing some amazing sights along the way. It is about using your ATV as a mode of transportation to get you to where you are going rather than your car. It's about being where the local culture not only accepts ATV use, but encourages it due to the tourism dollars it brings to the communities. There are many trails off of the IHT, and if you search hard enough you may find a couple mud holes but they will be few and far between. Keep in mind leaving the trail is discouraged because the land adjacent to the trail is privately owned. So, if you are a hardcore mudder and that what you are looking for you will likely be bored. 

Embracing the railway heritage is the theme at the heart of the entire Iron Horse Trail
I chose the IHT because I was looking for a getaway for 3 of my close friends, my son and myself. We wanted to explore and have a bit of an adventure. So we rented a tandem ATV trailer (pictured behind us) loaded all our gear into it and set off from Heisburg to start exploring.

I found that one of the most difficult parts of planning this trip was trying to figure out how much distance you can cover on ATVs when you don't know what speed you will be able to travel and what the terrain will be like. We decided that we would camp in St Paul, so we would need to travel 65kms from Heinsburg. We needed to allow time to get there and set up camp which was easily accomplished.

One of the nearly 100 cattle gates we crossed during our trip

Some of my favorite parts of the trip

Heisnburg to Lindbergh

This area was gorgeous. We had the river to our left and huge green rolling hills on our right. Absolutely one of the most scenic areas of the trail
The river is in the background and I am standing on a hill. The trail runs along the center of the picture.

A fun washout to ride through

The Windsor Salt plant in Lindbergh which is right along the trail

Lindbergh to Elk Point

I didn't get any pictures of this part of the trail because it was just too much fun. The trail was a little but wider in this area, so I cracked open the throttle an let the ponies out. Again this area was very beautiful, the deep forest green to either side of the trail blocked the sun and provided some much needed shade from the heat of the day. There were a couple areas of the trail that had been built up for the rail line and had 20-30ft drop offs on either side. A nice little bonus along this section of the trail was a very large gravel pit just East of Elk Point. I imagine that they get much of the gravel they use on the trails. There were large signs saying "do not leave the trail" and "keep out" but the boys in us got the best of us. If you do explore this area, do it with extreme caution and at your own risk as it is not a safe area.

Testing out my snorkel system, which unfortunately failed and my CVT was filling with water at this very moment

 Elk Point

Elk Point was the first larger town we encountered. We pulled in, got gas. Beside the rest stop was a car wash where I was able to spray out my mud plugged radiator from a previous ride. There was also a Pizza Hut and other fast food restaurants nearby.

Each major town had these beautiful rest stops with nice green grass and picnic tables.

Elk Point to St Paul

This leg in my opinion was the most gorgeous, even though we had already seen some beautiful areas. As soon as you leave Elk Point you are in the middle of the woods again and eventually down into a valley. This valley had the most gorgeous green rolling hills to either side, sloughs with beavers and again some much needed shade from the sun.

This is very typical of the trail terrain on the entire trail system

One of the many rest stops

A nice couple we met along the way.

St Paul

We were surprised at how large a city St Paul was being that we were not familiar with the area. We expected a small sleepy town but were greeted by a metropolis complete with traffic and large stores and even a movie theater. We got ourselves a map and found our campground, which was on the other side of town from where we entered and a fair distance off the trail. Stranger yet, we had to ride on paved residential streets to get there.

St Paul's contribution to the rail theme

We found our campground which was directly beside the RCMP regional detachment.

Our campsite, RCMP depot in background
 This was not the rustic experience we expected.

Supper at Boston Pizza? Sure
A Timmy's coffee in the morning proved too irresistible for my addicted colleagues
For the most part we felt that our ATVs were welcome in the town, but we did get the evil eyes from some. It was a unique experience to be able to ride on the streets in the towns.

The Trails beyond St Paul

The scenic trails seemed to end at this point. With an entire day to explore the area, we left our trailer at our campsite and were able to significantly pick up our pace. Unfortunately we didn't find that much to explore. As we headed West out of town the trail got very straight and rather than being engulfed in trees and forest we had relatively flat farm land to either side.

Typical farmland to either side of the trail after St Paul

The Abilene junction
We took the east leg of the junction and headed towards Mallaig, Glendon and Bonnyville

The Mallaig rest stop

We continued east and made it as far as Bonnyville, and in retrospect I wish we had pushed further up to Cold Lake to see the Beaver Trestle Bridge. But when we saw the terrain wasn't getting any more exciting we decided to head back to the Abilene junction and head west. We stopped for a hotdog roast in Ashmont and shortly after encountered some minor mechanical issues. We may have pushed further but the terrain was still dull and pending mechanical issues didn't give us enough incentive to push further, so we headed back to St Paul.

The very rustic fire pit beside Ashmont's rec center, where we roasted hot dogs


We had a great time. What we wanted to accomplish on the trip, we did. Heinsburg to St Paul was gorgeous and although the trail was flat and not challenging, the surroundings made it well worth it. After St Paul not so much. It was a stark contrast between the beauty of the valley's, forest and the shade of the trees and then out in the middle the rural farm land without a speck of shade anywhere in sight. But it was an adventure and I do not at all doubt we will head back there again in the not too distant future.

It has been brought to my attention that had we pushed further west, around Bellis there is the Bellis North Natural Area. This is a sandy natural forest area that has quite a few trails and a couple lakes. Looks like some good riding here. I would like to visit this area on our next trip.

Had we pushed on North East towards Cold Lake we would have been able to see the burnt remnants of the Beaver River Trestle Bridge. This gorgeous piece of history was burned in 2012 by arsonists. Before the fire you were able to cross the bridge by ATV. Currently the Riverland Recreational Trail Society and the Municipal District of Bonnyville are trying to raise money to rebuild the bridge.

If you would like to see our route, click on the link below to view it on

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ATV Review - Can Am Renegade 800

I have been fortunate enough to have owned two Renegades in recent years. My first Renegade was a 2007 800R, and it was actually my first 4x4 ATV. I grew up riding three wheelers and eventually graduated to sport quads but it took me a long time to get into 4x4's. I just didn't see the point. Riding for me was all about going fast and getting air, that all changed when I was in my mid twenties and injured in an ATV accident. It was as I lay on the ground after the accident, my life flashing before my eyes I realized that I wasn't 10 feet tall and bulletproof anymore. The thought of not being able to provide for my family because of my hobby really knocked the wind out of my sails. So I sold my quad and decided to take a break from ATVing for a while.

Check out my article Renegade vs Outlander

It was still in the back of my mind even though I couldn't ride. I missed the freedom, the nature, the excitement riding gives you. Little did I realize that I didn't have to give up riding, it was how I rode that needed to change.

One day, as I was on YouTube and I came across a video by a guy named Ostacruiser and decided to watch it. Osta was and still is big into Can Ams, which was a new brand that I had heard about but knew nothing of. I sat there and watched him and a couple other guys ride into a swamp with only their handlebars out of the water and this intrigued me. But what really got me was the noise these things were making, I had never heard anything as beautiful as the low rumble of these V-Twin engines.

So I started researching Can Am, reading every review and watching every video I could get my hands on. I was concerned about their build quality, we had just had a bad experience with a Chinese brand ATV I bought for my son and I was skeptical that this was possibly just another Chinese re brand. Besides, I was a dyed in the wool Honda guy, the brand that is all about quality, craftsmanship and reliability. But I couldn't leave those Can Am's alone. They excited me like I had not been excited in a long while. I wanted that engine rumble, I wanted that power. So I discussed it with my wife, convinced her that I needed this bad and the hunt was on.

I decided that the Renegade was the machine for me, I loved the aggressive style which still had the sportiness of the sport quads but with all the capabilities of a 4x4. I also decided that I wanted an 800, a 500 just wasn't powerful enough even though a 500 still would have been more powerful than all the machines I have owned. Problem was a Renegade 800 isn't cheap. I already knew that buying new wasn't an option but even the used were quite a bit out of my price range. $5000 was the limit my wife and I set but most were selling for $7500 and up. I obsessively scanned Kijiji and every other ad source I could find for weeks finding nothing. I schemed how I could come up with another $2500 but I couldn't.

Then a month later, while scanning Alberta's Kijiji ads, I came across a 2007 Renegade 800R, only slightly over my price range. It was at an Alberta Can Am dealer which gave me confidence in making a long distance, sight unseen purchase. It had 6000kms but I had seen many Honda's and Yamaha's with much higher and so I didn't think it would be a problem. Besides, it already had a winch, skid plates and a pipe which were things I wanted and would have to buy later. So this was a good value.

Ugliest homemade bumper ever!

I made arrangements to get the dealer to crate it and get it shipped to Saskatoon (approximately 500kms) and I wired them the money.

I was on pins and needles and the day it arrived I was like a kid at Christmas. It was everything I had hoped it would be, it was cleaned and detailed and looked awesome. I started it up to hear that amazing exhaust note and was not at all disappointed. I even took a video.

It was the middle of winter but that didn't stop me, I had a large parking lot at the place where I was storing it and would frequently go for short late night rips. They had to be short because there was an apartment building very just to the other side and I knew they would be calling the police about the noise that HMF pipe was making.

With the snow on the ground I couldn't get enough traction to really see what kind of power it had but I could tell it was far beyond anything I had rode. Switching on the fourwheel drive gave me amazing acceleration on the snow and make sideways drifts possible.

I stripped the factory decals and bought a wrap off of eBay

And that bumper....well it just had to go.

Eventually the snow melted and on the May long weekend we headed up north so I could give the Renegade its maiden voyage. It didn't disappoint. The other guys I was riding with were amazed at the power, but not more than me. We have a trail that goes along the East side of the lake at camp, this trail follows the telephone poles and is reasonably straight. I opened up the throttle along this straight away and literally scared myself. Every machine that I have rode in the 20+ years I have been riding I could out-ride it, meaning that even when it was giving me all it had I wanted more. The Renegade on the other hand could out-ride me. No matter how I pushed its limits, it always had more. More power, more speed, more acceleration. It was amazing.

Later on in the summer we went to a camp and I was able to try mudding for the first time.

As the video title suggests, I was indeed a mud virgin, I had no idea what this machine was capable of. With my sport quads I avoided swamps and water, it was a huge eye opener to see what a 4x4 ATV was capable of going through.

As you can see in the video it did ok, I was running the factory wheels with factory Holeshot tires. They really are quite horrible in the mud, but they weren't designed for that either. The video also brings up one huge drawback of the Renegade, and that is fender coverage. The Renegade is a sporty looking machine but fender coverage is minimal. I had to get used to getting both muddy and wet pretty much every time we went riding.

After getting completely covered with mud and seeing my friends who ride other ATVs completely dry, I decided I would buy some fender extenders. I was very torn, I liked the functionality of them, they kept some of the mud and water off of me but I felt it took away from the aggressive look.
The next mod was some Maverick wheels\tires, these were a 12" beadlock rim with 26" Bighorn tires and they substantially increased my traction.

The last modification I did was a Rubberdown Customs rack adapter which allowed me to put an Outlander composite rack onto the Renegade. I never did use the rack to hold anything, just liked changing the look.

I sold this machine in the fall of 2012, after owning it for nearly a year. I had it in a shop and discovered that the bearings on both the input and output drive shafts from the transmission were worn and needed to be replaced. This required removing the engine and splitting the engine engine/transmission. A job that would have cost $1500 at a minimum and potentially more than that if other worn parts were found in the engine.


Even though I sold this Renegade, I did purchase another shortly afterwards. That in itself should tell you a lot. The Renegade raised the bar, and made me as a consumer want more.

I still love Honda and always will, but I feel that they and the other Japanese brands have fallen behind their North American counter parts when it comes to raw fun factor. That being said, if I was a farmer, rancher, surveyor or oilfield worker and required a workhorse ATV that would work all day, 365 days a year I wouldn't look at anything other than Yamaha and Honda. 

It was a great machine and a great introduction into the Can Am brand. In the future I would stay away from higher mileage machines.

If you are looking for a sporty, fast ATV that will give you years of enjoyment I highly recommend the Can Am Renegade 800.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tiger Tail Tow System Review


It's about time that I give my report on the Tiger Tail that I received from the boys at Team Tech Engineering back in the early parts of summer. Many of you have heard of these as they have been talked about quite a bit, but for those of you who have not let me fill you in on what it is. To make it very simple, it is a retractable tow rope that attaches to a hitch on your ATV. The retractable part serves two functions, one is that it is easy to pull out and put away, the other is that you don't have to worry about running over the line and getting it twisted up in you axles as there is never any slack on the rope.
There is another version of the Tiger Tail made by KFI, which to my understanding bought the manufacturer of Tiger Tail and retails it under their own brand. The products are identical other than color.

Product comes in a very nice retail package

 First impressions were that the product looks good and rugged spoiled only by plastic cap which presumably covers the spring retractor. This cap does not have the same rugged look as the rest of the product.

Price is a big factor in purchasing the Tiger Tail for most and I will get into that more later but one of the things that causes the price to be as high as it is, is the mount. Pictured here the mount is in two pieces, all three are then bolted together. The mount is heavy, very rugged thick still with big carriage bolts. This assembly, once built to fit your machine stays together in one piece and easily slides in and out of your hitch receiver, held in by a hitch pin.

Even though it may look like you can still use the hitch I can tell you right now that you can't.

 If your machine already has a hitch receiver you are lucky and this will reduce your cost substantially. My Renegade did not come with one and therefore I need to buy and install one before I could use it.
This is just a picky thing that my OCD would like changed, but because of where the rope attaches to the spool it is impossible to get the rope to wind nicely on the spool. Purely cosmetic and picky.

 I had mixed reactions to the final result. As much as I liked the functionality the Tiger Tail would give me I thought it made my machine look funny, rear end looked bulk and the florescent orange made it so your eyes couldn't miss it. I also felt like it somewhat made my Renegade look like a tow truck.
 Once dirty it was nowhere near as noticeable. If that is a factor for you you may want to buy the KFI version as it comes already black.

So what about using it?

I will tell you that this product performs exactly as promised. That being said, I didn't use it as much as I thought I would. Your going to use the Tiger Tail either to pull yourself out, or someone else.For pulling out a buddy it works great, just like the video you back in, hook up, pull out and retract. So fast and simple. For getting unstuck I am less likely to use it when given the option between it an my winch. My winch is slow and controlled and I like that, especially when you see the gumbo I get stuck in. The other factor is that you need a buddy to pull you out (which mean you have to suck up your pride and say "hey, I need help") where as you are still independent with your winch...even though it will take you at least 10 time as long to get unstuck.

When I first introduced the product to my group I was amazed at how critical many were without knowing much about the product. One of the main criticisms was that the recoil mechanism would break. I am happy to report that after many tugs and submerging the until in water repeatedly as well as being covered in mud, it has never had even the slightest issue recoiling. 

When I was at camp I used it along with my tree save to yank deadfall out of the bush and it worked great. Very strong, I never worried for a minute that the rope would pull off the spool.

The cost

This is the biggest reason most people will not buy it. The Tiger Tail and the mount retail for $230 USD when buying directly from their website (, add shipping, duty and conversion you are looking near $350. I believe the shops around my area are retailing the KFI version for $299. There are not many people I know that will pay $300 for a tow rope...even if it looks cool and and is super convenient to use. I had to add a hitch receiver to my quad which jacked the price up another $150.


Quality construction, heavy built, professionally marketed. Works every bit as well as promised. Great product, I will continue to use my Tiger Tail for many years to come. Team Tech Engineering was kind enough to give me special pricing on the unit so my investment is lower than what the average person who buys this will be. I am not sure I would have spent $300 on it.