Our mud-spattered mini-convoy—a trio of aggressive, high-powered sport UTVs—has been tearing by way of these dense backwoods since first mild. Behind the wheel of a machine that boasts extra horsepower than the automotive that introduced me to the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, I’m hustling to maintain sight of our native path sherpa as he blazes throughout slim ridgelines and round an countless succession of gritty switchbacks. So I’m considerably relieved when he eases off the accelerator on a uncommon stage stretch. As he immediately swerves, although, it turns into obvious that he was merely pausing to find the hole of a slim facet path. Not like the mapped, sprawling Hatfield-McCoy Trails system we’ve been navigating, this new path isn’t marked, and zags up an increase at a neck-popping angle—steeper than something we’ve thus far tackled.

 

 

“If you happen to’re not already in low gear, I extremely suggest it,” a voice crackles from the walkie at the moment ricocheting round my floorboard.

Even when my harness would permit me to lean over far sufficient to retrieve the walkie, my reply can be drowned out by engine roar as he weapons up the rutty, rocky incline. Okay then, that is it. Enter the Outlaw Trails.

A quick primer: These ain’t ATVs, the off-road four-wheelers ridden like bikes. UTVs (Utility Terrain Autos) have steering wheels and place a passenger subsequent to the motive force in a rollbar-protected cockpit. (Therefore why they’re additionally referred to as side-by-sides.) And don’t mistake them for his or her boxier, landscaper-toting cousins. Sport UTVs branched off in 2007 when Polaris launched the RZR, a brawny, nimble mannequin with racing-inspired appears. Ever since, rival producers have pushed to outdo one another in energy, suspension, and design. Alongside the best way, gross sales have exploded to a demographic akin to boat homeowners.

If the craze has a flagship, it’s the top-selling Polaris RZR XP 1000, which wraps 110 horsepower in a chassis styled prefer it’s charging ahead even when parked. However in a UTV tradition obsessive about efficiency, there’s all the time any person larger, badder, and sooner than you. So for our multi-vehicle assault on the Hatfield-McCoy Trails (HMT), neither Polaris nor Can-Am (mainly the Ford vs. Chevy of UTVs) dangers delivering the menos macho machine. That’s why we arrive at WV ATV Resort, our base atop Cherokee Mountain in Rock, WV, to search out proprietor Rick Bailey fortunately minding the keys to a Can-Am Maverick X3 DS Turbo R (172 horsepower) and a Polaris RZR Professional XP Final (181 horsepower). Mannequin variations are countless—this alphabet salad mainly spells out that we’ve obtained a pair of king-of-the-hill skullfuckers at our disposal. Since our third man balks at using shotgun, we additionally hire a Maverick Sport and hope its comparatively paltry 79 horses can dangle.