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The Polaris Sportsman 500 HO Ridden
Text: Avinash Noronha (The Monk)
Photos: Sundeep Gajjar (Motographer)/ Ashish Guliani
“Turn Turn Turn; Turn Darn You”. My first words as I rode the Polaris Sportsman 500 HO for the very first time!
Polaris’ Sportsman series has achieved ‘legendary’ status in the ATV world and it did not get this far by mere luck and good fortune. This ATV has been tried and tested by the sands of time. Originally launched in 1996, the Sportsman range of ATVs was an instant success, with the industry leading technology that Polaris came up with. Even today, many ATVs from other companies are unable to match the quality and capabilities of the Sportsman from yesteryears. There are already more than a million Sportsman on the road, or should I say not on the road!
An ATV is big, much bigger than you expect. Standing menacingly on a pile of loose mud, it sends a shiver down your spine as you anticipate the FUN to be had and the pain in case something goes wrong. This is not a small light motorcycle, which won’t hurt much even if it lands on you, this is big and heavy.
The machine is imposing when stationary, with the off-roading tyres, the big plastic panels housing twin headlights, with the third on the handle, the slightly angled radiator gives the Sportsman a very purposeful look. It inspires confidence as you get ready to tackle the steep slope ahead. The rear proudly showcases the Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) which was a first on any ATV and still keeps this Polaris ahead of the competition. The overall styling is pretty aggressive, which is further accentuated once you hop on. The big road-block doesn’t look so big anymore!
For a biker getting onto an ATV, one must remember to forget. All that you know about motorcycling comes to naught as you try to get comfortable with this beast. Your brakes are in your left hand, there is no clutch, the feet only have to stay balanced on the footboard, there is no throttle control in your right wrist and a big lever to change from different riding modes, all this gives the rider a false feeling of familiarity. To get this beast in motion, first yank the lever into the parking mode and then twist the key as you feel and hear the 498 cc engine come to life with a low rumble. The accelerator is a small lever operated with the thumb, switch the mode into drive with the long lever and accelerate away, but don’t forget that the brakes are in your left hand and your right is redundant when bringing this 300kg plus hulk to an incredibly quick halt. Operating the throttle with the thumb and the brake with the left hand takes a bit of getting used to as muscle memory dictates otherwise.
Once you get into the groove, the Sportsman starting showing its sporty colours. The 11.25” of Ground Clearance lets you ride rough shod over some pretty harsh terrain. Don’t side step the boulder, just ride over it! The torque produced by this Single Cylinder Carb Engine propels you with enough speed to give you a smile. That is till you decide to turn, whence you go back to screaming “turn baby turn”! In simple English this is how one must change direction on an ATV. Transfer weight on foot in whichever direction desired, pull handlebar with all the muscle built in the gym in the last 100 years and give up hope on all that and pray! Well okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, but this machine has a mind of its own when it comes to handling curves.
The real fun begins when you want to do jumps and some more tricks for a few treats. Slot it into reverse, back up onto the slope, and when you feel are perched at a perilously dangerous enough angle, then let go with all ponies and hold on tight for the rush of dust, air and blurred vision. Brake to a screeching halt and smile through all the grime that has collected on your goggles and face and yell out “Yeah, let’s do that again!”
The HO version is powered by roughly 5 horses more than the standard and this is put to good use with the very well tricked out Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT), in fact this was one of the reasons why Polaris shot ahead of the competition in the ATV market. The best part about this is the on demand All Wheel Drive (AWD), this kicks in only when you need extra power to move forward and automatically switches off when you don’t. This feature really can be felt when climbing steep slopes, where the only thing clearly visible is the sky!
After having my fair share of fun on the Polaris Sportsman 500 HO, I realized something, my butt didn’t hurt! The seat is extremely comfortable, you don’t feel a thing even after some hard thrashing on the off-roading terrain it is designed for. The IRS and big tyres, ensure that you enjoy sitting in the lap of luxury, well at least considering the surroundings!
Some other stuff that this Sportsman sports, which we didn’t get a chance to try out, is a 50W Halogen Headlamp as High beam fitted on the handlebar, the company assured us that it will keep you going fast even in the dead of the night. There is a space for storage of a lot of luggage in the front and racks, which can be fitted, front and rear, to ensure that you carry your world with you. One aspect which I sure would have loved to test out, is its reputation of being an able tow machine, with a capability of 1225 lbs., it should be able to get your small trailer with luggage around the place.
At the end of the day, this machine will give you a thorough workout, as every muscle in your body is used to keep this on track at reasonable speed. Even on a winter morning, I had worked up a sweat heaving the HO around the dirt. It is fantastic to ride around a dirt track and gives you an extremely macho and adrenalin pumping feeling of satisfaction, as you get off the saddle, knowing that you dived right in and came out stronger!