2008 Kawasaki Teryx 750 Mobility Specialist Review 0
Imagine floating peacefully in a pool of crystal clear blue water. Your body gently rocks back and forth by the waves created by other swimmers on a hot summer afternoon. You reach outward towards the surface but your arm doesn’t respond. You try and stand, but your legs remain flaccid. Fear begins to creep in as your body convulses for a breath of air. Then in a flash someone pulls you to the surface… You’re breathing again. You’re alive.
It may sound like a bad dream, but for Dan Kleen it’s a memory that’s as vivid as his first time riding a motorcycle. Twenty-one years ago, Dan suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident at a local swimming pool. At only 19 years of age, Dan was now a C6 incomplete quadriplegic.
“I knew that my injury was never going to hold me back,” said Kleen, president of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). “Being outside and enjoying the outdoors was something that’s always been important to me.”
Raised on a small farm, Kleen had access to all kinds of powersports equipment, enough to make any city boy green with envy. Go-karts, dirt bikes, three-wheelers – You name it, he had one. His active childhood made Kleen acutely aware of the joys not only the outdoor world, but of it aboard a recreational vehicle.
In fact, it didn’t take long for Kleen to get back to the realm of motorsports. After nine months inside the hospital and another three months of rehabilitation, he was already back riding a 1985 Honda Odyssey (nope, not the minivan but a limited run ATV-type buggy.)
Fast forward to the present and MotorcycleUSA is at one of Dan’s favorite childhood riding spots – the sprawling 2500-acre Timber Ridge Ranch in Castana, Iowa. But unlike our last visit when he rode here on a dirt bike, we’d be trading in two wheels for four aboard Kawasaki’s all-new Teryx.
So you might be wondering why we’re having another go on Kawasaki’s 4-wheel mini-tank? We already put it through its paces earlier this spring during our First Ride which took place in Southern California’s off-road Mecca. And although desert bombing and rock crawling are important aspects of Teryx use, the lush, heavily wooded surroundings of western Iowa present different challenges for the machine.
Our day began with a romp through narrow quad track that’s been cut through heavily wooded hillsides. It literally took less than a minute of driving for arguably the best attribute of the Teryx to become apparent. It’s ridiculously easy to drive. Despite not being behind the driver’s seat in months, we were quickly up to speed. The steering wheel itself is small, like you would find on a race car, and complements its light and responsive handling manners. Overall chassis balance is also exceptional, which allows the driver to get away with erratic rally car-inspired maneuvers that on other vehicles might put you into a tree.
No doubt the accute chassis is aided by the fully independent long-travel front and rear suspension. Whether it’s a gnarly rock-laden hill climb or huge potholes dug up by ATVs, the Teryx’s suspension has plenty of travel to absorb the gnarliest of hits, all while delivering a plush ride.
Traction provided by the versatile 26-inch Maxxis tires is utterly amazing. In most of the trails we treaded on, 4WD wasn’t even necessary. But when we did traverse really steep stuff, its use was as easy as a push of the dashboard-mounted switch (below 15 mph). There’s also the Variable Front Differential Control (VFDC) which incrementally locks the front wheels together and, when fully engaged, offers true 100% 4WD.
Propelling the 1200-lb machine forward is a powerful 749cc V-Twin. The liquid-cooled mill provides proper combustion regardless of the riding location. For us able-bodied fellows propulsion is provided via the floor mounted gas pedal, but for Kleen it’s his hands that do all of the driving. Mobility Specialists out of Brea, California manufactures a hand control that can easily be retrofitted to the Teryx.
This modification allows a person to manipulate both the accelerator and brake via a left-hand operated lever. To accelerate, simply twist the throttle the same way you would on a motorcycle. To stop, all you do is push inwards on the lever and the metal arm activates the brakes. There’s also a smaller lever on the far left side which allows you to activate the floor-mounted parking brake.
You might presume that actuation of the gas or brakes via the hand control might be jerky or abrupt, but that can’t be further from the truth. Sure, it does take a bit of getting use to, but after your hand acclimates to its sensitivity, it’s easy to use. The best thing is that it doesn’t even get in the way of the standard controls. So in essence, a disabled person or an able-bodied person can operate the vehicle without the need for switching out controls or making any other changes.
Controlling the Teryx’s other drive functions, like its two-speed (high/low) automatic CVT transmission and VFDC, doesn’t require any special retrofits as they are both operated via two independent floor-mounted levers that sit in between the driver and passenger seat.
For many persons living with spinal cord injuries, just getting in and out of a vehicle can pose a problem as high seats and awkward body contortions can prevent accessibility. Fortunately, the Teryx was engineered with a lower bucket seat and a door-less open cab with grab handles liberally placed at various points. This makes it easy for Kleen to park his wheelchair alongside the seat and lift himself up and onto the seat. With a little bit of practice it is even possible for the driver to raise the wheelchair and place it in the 44-inch wide rear cargo bed, which has a 500-lb capacity.
Retractable three-point seat belts secure the driver (in the majority of the conditions we encountered) and once underway there is plenty of head and shoulder room to oblige riders of different body sizes. The plastic floorboards also feature cut-outs on the outer sides which help keep riders’ legs inside the vehicle.
Towards the end of the day we drove to Mark McDonald’s nearby Sporting Clay range. We uncovered Dan’s arsenal of assorted 12- and 20-gauge shotguns and after a quick tutoring session by Mark, we made our way through the wonderfully prepped stations.
“Pull!” I yelled out, and two orange pigeons came whizzing across the horizon.
Bam! Bam! I fired off two shots in rapid succession, yet both pigeons were still hovering in the air, invincible to my hapless shooting skills.
Kleen, an avid hunter himself, knows or thing or two about proper shooting technique. He gave me a few helpful tips such as “staying out in front of the pigeon,” and before you know it I was killing orange pigeons like a pro. It was quite a day. The wilderness, driving Teryxs and shotgun shooting – Man, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Without a doubt Kawasaki’s Teryx continues to impress us. Whether it be rock crawling or sand dune jumping like in our Part 1 encounters or speeding through muddy ATV track our second time around, the Teryx can truly do it all – comfortably and safely. It has been engineered to accommodate a wide range of drivers and has proven that it is a perfect platform for people with disabilities who still have a burning desire to get outside and explore the natural wonders of our planet.