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Honda TRX500FM2 ATV

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents - See more of Tom’s re­views at TradeFar­mMachin­ery.com.au

The TRX500FM2, the lat­est all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle (ATV) in Honda’s TRX line-up, in­cludes all the best fea­tures of the pre­vi­ous model – the TRX500FPM – and adds a few new ones to im­prove the over­all rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The new model quad bike in­cludes new ECU map­ping of the elec­tric power steer­ing sys­tem for re­duced driver effort dur­ing low-speed turn­ing, and gen­er­ally im­proves ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity.

A com­pletely new dou­ble cra­dle steel frame gives longer sus­pen­sion travel, in­creased strength and a re­duc­tion in over­all weight. An elec­tron­i­cally en­gag­ing front diff lock has been added to the se­lectable 4WD drive sys­tem, and the max­i­mum weight ca­pac­ity of the new FM2 model has been in­creased by 30kg to 250kg. The sin­gle-cylin­der, four-stroke en­gine is mounted into the frame in a lon­gi­tu­di­nal di­rec­tion, al­low­ing di­rect drive shaft align­ment to the front and rear wheels. This min­imises drive-line fric­tion and max­imises power trans­fer to the wheels.

Honda’s new line-up in the hugely com­pet­i­tive ATV mar­ket has a much more stream­lined ap­pear­ance. Each of the body mould­ings – which in­clude a clip-on one-piece fuel tank and side cover – have longer, straighter lines with sharper cor­ners to cre­ate a more ag­gres­sive look.

Apart from the styling and the me­chan­i­cal up­grades, not a lot has changed – and why would it? The su­per­seded model was a fan­tas­tic all-round farm bike that helped main­tain Honda’s po­si­tion as the high­est-sell­ing ATV brand in Aus­tralia since 2004, when of­fi­cial sales fig­ures started be­ing recorded.

It has ev­ery­thing that I look for when buy­ing a good all­round farm bike: a good-sized en­gine; man­ual trans­mis­sion; di­rect shaft drive; power steer­ing; both two- and four-wheel drive; and, while per­for­mance is the top pri­or­ity, as a bonus it looks great as well.

It fits per­fectly in the back of a 6X4 trailer for trans­porta­tion, which is a real bonus be­cause you can then at­tach the trailer to the ATV when you get to where you’re go­ing.

EN­GINE

The Honda TRX500FM2 ATV’s 475cc liq­uid-cooled en­gine is a real per­former. It has fuel in­jec­tion, which would ac­count for the in­cred­i­ble amount of power it gen­er­ates from ei­ther a stand­ing start or on the go. I im­me­di­ately no­ticed there is no lag be­tween push­ing on the throt­tle and the mo­tor re­spond­ing.

That’s the sort of ac­cel­er­a­tion I’m look­ing for when a cow breaks from the mob and a quick re­spond­ing en­gine is cru­cial to head­ing her off and re­turn­ing her to the herd.

Take a firm grip on the han­dle bars when you give it a full dose of throt­tle, or you may risk get­ting left be­hind. The ac­cel­er­a­tion re­ally is that im­pres­sive.

A 12V elec­tric starter mo­tor also has the backup of a man­ual pull start. There is no de­com­pres­sion switch, so it can give the oc­ca­sional kick back when pulling on the cord.

MAN­UAL TRANS­MIS­SION

The whole driv­e­line de­sign is ex­actly how I like my bikes set up. I pre­fer the five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion be­cause, un­like au­to­matic types, it al­lows the rider to main­tain a con­stant speed with­out hav­ing to con­tin­u­ally change the revs.

In fact, in first gear I only have to slightly rev the en­gine to crawl along at a very slow speed. The di­rect shaft drive elim­i­nates any lag in re­sponse that can some­times be ex­pe­ri­enced with belt-drive ma­chines.

The five for­ward and one re­verse gear are op­er­ated by a lever on the left-foot peg. This means the rider can keep both hands on the han­dle­bars at all times, as op­posed to auto trans­mis­sion types where hand levers have to be moved to se­lect for­ward and re­verse di­rec­tion, as well as high and low range.

Find­ing re­verse on the Honda re­quires a trig­ger to be pulled on the left-hand brake lever. Ini­ti­at­ing 4WD and diff lock comes from two but­tons on the right-hand grip. The diff lock thumb switch will only en­gage when the 4WD but­ton is de­pressed, and should only be en­gaged when the bike is sta­tion­ary to avoid dam­age to the mech­a­nism.

NICE REAR

What is in­ter­est­ing is that my first com­ment to Wayne Grayson, sales man­ager at Roe Mo­tor­cy­cle and Mower in War­rnam­bool, is that from be­hind it looks al­most iden­ti­cal to the TRX 350 that I had owned 10 years ear­lier. He agrees, say­ing “the de­sign has been re­tained be­cause it has per­formed so well over the years”.

The TRX500FM2 has a sin­gle rigid rear axle con­nect­ing to the frame on a swing arm with sin­gle shocker. It may not pro­vide a ride as com­fort­able as ATVs with in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion, but I think it makes it eas­ier to throw the bike around when the need arises for hard rid­ing, es­pe­cially when deal­ing with un­co­op­er­a­tive cat­tle.

Sharp turns re­quire a trans­fer of the rider’s body weight to get the in­side wheel to break trac­tion. Once this oc­curs, the tail end of the bike can be thrown around very ef­fec­tively, es­pe­cially when you’re hot on the heels of an an­i­mal that would rather go in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the one you want it to.

To be hon­est, if I were buy­ing an ATV for the pur­pose of stock work, this is the one I would get. Scep­tics will say the ATVs that don’t have a rear axle dif­fer­en­tial are much heav­ier in the steer­ing, es­pe­cially at low speeds. I com­pletely agree, hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the bull­doz­ing ef­fect and mus­cle fa­tigue

in my arms and chest af­ter a long day on my older Hon­das – but power steer­ing on this new line-up com­pletely negates this is­sue and, in fact, I found I could eas­ily steer at low speeds with just my fin­ger­tips.

I will con­cede, though, that if the ma­jor­ity of your work is spent on hard paved sur­faces, then an ATV with a rear dif­fer­en­tial would be a bet­ter way to go. Steer­ing will be much eas­ier and there will be a huge re­duc­tion in tyre wear.

COM­FORT

Not pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the seat­ing po­si­tion and over­all com­fort of the ATV can come back and, lit­er­ally, bite you in the bum. I didn’t bash my knee on any over­sized rear carry racks, so we were off to a good start on this test.

The han­dle­bars sit at a nice height, and the full en­gine cover will de­flect en­gine heat away from the rider dur­ing sum­mer. It’s just a thought, but why not have vents in the en­gine cover that could be opened in colder weather to ac­tu­ally di­rect en­gine heat onto the rider?

The two front head­lights are com­ple­mented by a third that is mounted on the han­dle­bars. The lat­ter tends to il­lu­mi­nate your path dur­ing a turn ahead of the front-mounted lights.

As for the seat, it is the most com­fort­able that I have ex­pe­ri­enced on an ATV. It is well-con­toured to pre­vent pres­sure points, and the cush­ion­ing feels fan­tas­tic. The com­fort­able seat and po­si­tion­ing will negate the ef­fects of a min­i­mal­is­tic rear axle sus­pen­sion setup.

I have ex­pe­ri­enced the pain caused from long hours spent mus­ter­ing sheep and cat­tle, even re­sort­ing to sit­ting or kneel­ing on the seat, or stand­ing on the foot pegs for a while to re­lieve the pain in my rump. An un­com­fort­able ride can quickly turn a pleas­ant trip into an ab­so­lute night­mare.

PER­FOR­MANCE

With the 6X4 trailer at­tached I put the Honda TRX500FM2 ATV to the test on some ex­tremely steep hills, gul­lies and creek banks on Neil and Dell Ham­mond’s pic­turesque prop­erty over­look­ing the Merri River, just out­side of War­rnam­bool.

While hitch­ing up the trailer, I no­ticed that the tow ball is mounted well un­der the bike, close to the rear axle. It means you have to reach fur­ther un­der to at­tach things, but on a pos­i­tive note it keeps the draw­bar weight closer to the rear axle, which helps pre­vent the bike from rear­ing up.

The Honda has heaps of power to pull a trailer on the flat, but on the day of the test we had a bit of rain and the ground was a bit greasy, so I wasn’t sure how it would go con­trol­ling the ex­tra weight on the hills.

The man­ual trans­mis­sion proved a valu­able as­set go­ing down hills. I put it in first gear and en­gaged 4WD for the de­scent. I crawled slowly down with­out even touching the brakes, just re­ly­ing on en­gine brak­ing. Us­ing the en­gine rather than the brakes greatly re­duces the risk of the wheels lock­ing up and los­ing con­trol.

Turn­ing around and head­ing back up caused a bit of anx­i­ety be­cause I didn’t want to get half­way up the steep climb with a trailer on the back and sud­denly find my­self run­ning out of grip and rolling out of con­trol back­wards. I needn’t have wor­ried.

With the added grip that the four-wheel drive pro­vided, the ATV eas­ily scaled the hill in sec­ond gear us­ing medium revs with­out any sign of los­ing trac­tion.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

The TRX500FM2’s power, ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and speed are great fea­tures for oper­a­tion on larger sheep, cat­tle, dairy and crop­ping op­er­a­tions. It’s also proven to be a valu­able piece of ma­chin­ery on smaller life­style and hobby farms as well.

The ATV and trailer com­bi­na­tion is more than up to col­lect­ing wood, feed­ing hay to horses, and pulling small spray equip­ment at a frac­tion of the cost of a ute or small trac­tor – and a lot more fun.

It’s pow­er­ful, com­fort­able, easy to con­trol and vir­tu­ally main­te­nance-free due to its sim­ple but proven de­sign. And it’s well pro­tected by a bash plate that runs the length of the un­der­car­riage and guards un­der the front steer­ing and sus­pen­sion as­sem­bly.

The price of a new TRX500FM2 is around $12,699 in­clud­ing GST, and a three-year war­ranty. It’s fair to say that the price is at the dearer end com­pared to other ATVs on the mar­ket, but I be­lieve you get what you pay for.

I know from first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence that with a bit of com­mon­sense main­te­nance and ser­vic­ing, a Honda will re­turn years of trou­ble-free rid­ing. Both of mine each did about 60,000km be­fore be­ing traded in.

Put sim­ply, I can’t rate the Honda TRX500FM2 ATV highly enough. My gut feel­ing is that it’s fan­tas­tic value for money, and I would not hes­i­tate in rec­om­mend­ing it to any­one look­ing to buy ATV in this size range.

The new, ag­gres­sively styled body­work pro­vides the rider with im­proved mud and wa­ter pro­tec­tion

4 4: The 475cc liq­uid-cooled en­gine is a

real per­former

3: A seat wor­thy of a king 3

5 5: The in­de­pen­dent dou­ble wish­bone front sus­pen­sion de­liv­ers 185mm of travel

1: The in­de­pen­dent dou­ble wish­bone front sus­pen­sion de­liv­ers 185mm of travel 1

2 a & b: Fin­ger­tip con­trol for quick en­gage­ment of 4WD and front diff lock 2a

2b

6

6: The Honda TRX500FM2 ATV has plenty of power and trac­tion to han­dle the weight of a 6x4 trailer

7: The TRX500FM2 has full-length un­der-body pro­tec­tion

8: From the rear, the Honda TRX500FM2 looks al­most iden­ti­cal to the TRX350 that Tom owned 10 years ago 9: An all-new, one-piece fuel tank/side cover panel al­lows im­proved ac­cess for main­te­nance 7

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