Turning the Key in a New Direction
Sometimes in life you have moments where things just click, whether that be with people, adventures, cars, or in a career. It’s the things that make life worth living. Where time stops, your eyes catch every color and every detail of your surroundings, and all is right with the world. It is an incredible feeling and one that I have spent a lifetime chasing. It has been a few years since I last had one of those moments, yet I remember it like yesterday, down to every detail, and often relive it while chasing new moments. Even as I write, I am painting the scene.
Over the years, I had the good fortune to spend time pre-running the Baja peninsula for races such as the SCORE Baja 1000. In my early twenties, I wasn’t quite aware of the impact those days would have on me. Spending hours and days with close friends in custom-built buggies and trucks, exploring the racecourse, creating notes, pit strategies, and putting the plan together to go out and win the race. We took some time to slow down and look around, but at the end of the day, it was work. Most of these days south of the border, time stood still. We obviously watched the clock to help build our plan, but there was no start time, no lunchtime, we were lost in the moment, and it all just clicked.
Fast forward quite a few years to a half desk/half mechanic job, bills, and real responsibilities. The call came down that I needed to prep three cars, trucks, and trailers for a 3-day adventure ride with Family Adventure Tour Co. (FATCO). We would be starting in Hurricane Utah and going 300ish miles to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and back. With everything prepped and overloaded, Kawasaki called and wanted to deliver us our new unit, a few phone calls back and forth, and I had arranged to pick it up en route to Hurricane for the ride. The yet to be proven KRX would be my ride for this trip. Bone stock with zero miles. Kawasaki wanted us to test it, and I knew the best way to do it.
Day one of the FATCO ride and our first day on the trail, the sun arched over the sky and toward the afternoon came the feeling I hadn’t experienced in a very long time, that click. Time stopped. I saw all the colors and every detail. I was with great friends in what I found was an amazing machine on what turned out to be a trip of a lifetime. Upon returning to the shop, I spoke so highly of the Kawasaki KRX 1000—it was a stout machine that did everything I asked of it, including things it shouldn’t have done. Although it was brand new, I ran it like an old workhorse, and it just kept going. At that point, I knew this unit had some sentimental value to me and so did this style of riding. It was like going back to my days in Baja, but without the work and planning. I truly could leave my watch and phone in the truck, and it didn’t matter.
Since then, the KRX has been my go-to trail machine. It is comfortable, roomy, and built like a brick house. The clutch setup, power delivery, and robust suspension made it an ideal candidate for an adventure rig. But like all UTV’s off the showroom floor, it lacked the creature comforts that I had grown fond of over the years—the items that take a good car and turn it into a great car. Knowing we had a few more adventures with Frank and the FATCO team, I worked up a plan to build my version of the ultimate adventure UTV. While it certainly would be nice, I couldn’t just order every part in the catalog, I had to be selective in what and how upgrades were acquired.
Reflecting on the first ride, the first thing I noticed was a lack of communication, or easy communication I should say. I had two sets of speakers in my helmet. One was attached to a Rugged Radios 5W handheld to talk to the other cars in the group, and the other to a Cardo system to talk to my passenger and listen to music. The duo got the job done but was a bit uncomfortable and annoying at times. Now, I only require one set of speakers in the helmet as the Kawasaki is now outfitted with a full Rugged Radios communication system. Both my passenger and I can hear incoming calls over the radio, as well as call out. This is a huge safety item that any UTV enthusiast should take a serious look at. Putting safety aside, it also blasts awesome quality tunes through the helmet speakers to keep the energy levels up for those long days.
The factory KRX seats were good but after some rough big-mile days, I was a little sore. Yes, it’s mostly because I am out of shape, but this is an easy problem to solve. PRP had just released their new RST seat. It has all the same comforts and support as their standard suspension seat but is very easy to slide in and out of. With stops to look at the incredible views, and many food and beverage stops, nobody wants to crawl in and out of a high bolster seat. The RST is the best of both worlds. I personally have also never felt comfortable in the auto-style seat belts that come equipped in most stock UTVs, so throwing some PRP 3” 5-point harnesses into the mix would ensure we would be safe if I ran out of talent along the trail.
The PRP RST seats were installed with ease thanks to the supplied seat brackets, but the KRX does not offer a factory harness bar, or at least our model didn’t have it. I like the looks of the stock KRX cage, and I am sure it is plenty strong, but my mind was in overdrive. With an aftermarket cage and some fab work, I would utilize the truck bed area where the factory spare tire sits for luggage and tool storage, and move the spare up on a rack. After a few phone calls to Brick City Fabrication in Mesa AZ, I dropped the car off with my bar napkin sketches to let Moses and his team get to work. Walking through Brick City’s shop, I knew it was in the right place. This is a group of talented young go-getters that are producing high-quality yet affordable cages for all UTVs, and they understand engineering and tube placement is just as crucial as the bends and welds laid. A few days later, the ideas became reality. Did we need to do a cage on the KRX just to get a harness bar? No, but am I happy we did it? Hell yes.
With the aggressive new Brick City Fabrication cage installed, and the PRP harness properly secured to the harness bar, the KRX was really starting to come together. With the major items checked off the list, it was time for some creature comforts and style. Years spent in the dirt taught me the value of a good fresh air system. Again, we turned to the guys at Rugged Radios who dialed us in with their M3 Two Person Air Pumper and their new MAC-X expandable hoses with adjustable length and contour to fit our exact needs. If you are still sucking in dust mile after mile, this is another must-have. You will be able to ride farther, faster, and feel better after.
Staying motivated on this project wasn’t overly difficult. I had plenty of memories to pull from that left me wanting to make more. This was a pretty simple car to assemble, all the parts and pieces were specifically designed for the KRX and fit together well. Once on the ground and complete with our signature roof wrap, I could feel the Kawasaki was missing something. It took a couple of days of letting it sit in the shop to figure it out, but I finally put my finger on it. You can’t have fun at night without lighting! Granted, we ran some rock trails from the Grand Canyon to Bar 10 Ranch with the stock headlights at night, but that needed to be improved upon. With the newfound aggressive look of the KRX, I didn’t just want to bolt up some random Amazon light bar that would surely fail on the trail, and with Baja Designs launching the new LP4, it was a match made in heaven. Two lights mounted on the A-Pillar would provide all the candle power I needed. The slick styling also helped the overall aggressive look the KRX had taken on.
On the trail, I am the guy that you probably shouldn’t follow. I like to take the trails less traveled. Knowing this, HMF provided the front and rear bumpers so I can rock bash until my heart’s content. And for the moments when I or the KRX run out of talent, a Warn Winch to extract us.
A few more additions such as 35” EFX Motivator R/T wrapped around Icon Alloys Compression wheels, a rear chase bar by Baja Designs, AGM Electric Jack, and storage bags by PRP would round out this build. Everything that was done to our Kawasaki KRX was done with a budget in mind while using quality parts. That’s why there is no extravagance here. Now I have a car that I am more than happy jumping in to do hundreds of miles, without any outside support. Kawasaki really built a great machine and it’s now a little better suited for what I want to do with it, chasing the moments when it all clicks.