The summer of 2011 I wound up trading an older Ford Contour for a 2005 Honda Rancher 350 2×4 ATV I found in a Craigslist ad.
When I got it, it was missing some parts but nothing serious and the tires were bald. After getting it home, and further inspection, it was obvious that the ATV hadn’t been taken care of all that well and had been used by kids or abused quite a bit.
I really didn’t know what I had or how reliable of a machine it was going to be, all I knew what it was a Honda and having owned Honda 3 wheelers and bikes in the past I knew the reputation that goes with the brand.
The first year I really didn’t have the budget to put anything into it and wasn’t sure I should at the time. But I did wind up using it to go grouse hunting with some friends in the northern arrowhead of Minnesota.
My friends were all riding dirt bikes and I had to keep up on my little 350 ATV or be left behind. With that said I was pleasantly surprised at how well a small two-wheel drive 350cc ATV with bald tires performed. I was able to keep up and even when we got into some locations we probably shouldn’t have been (middle of a swamp), the little Rancher motored right through, not once getting stuck. We went through clear cuts with downed logs and stumps everywhere, marshes wet and slippery, flooded out roads, and at times even blazed our own trail through the thick forest. Not once did my little Rancher make me nervous or worried, in fact for the most part, that ATV took care of me, making it a very comfortable ride.
Now to put this into perspective, when I got this ATV, I really didn’t know what to expect from it, especially with me riding it. I’m a bigger guy (Oversized), 6 feet tall and 350lbs, the Rancher was an obviously abused little 350 two-wheel drive with bald tires. I really wasn’t sure how it would handle me, my gear, and the abuse I would put it through trying to keep up with dirt bikes.
At the end of the long weekend, I was extremely happy with this machine. It took me places I didn’t think it could and it did it will little effort on my part. After several days of riding hard trails, the end of the weekend came and I wasn’t sore for a change, I didn’t annoy the guys I was with because I was able to keep up with them and go everywhere they did, and I was comfortable the whole time.
I know what you’re thinking, how does a little ATV keep up with dirt bikes, seriously?
I admit on the forest roads and trails there were times they put distance on me, but because the trails were winding and full of obstacle’s (fallen logs, large rocks, loose rock, etc.), it wasn’t that hard to keep up having 4 wheels instead of 2. I never had to put down my feet, fight to get over a log, or pick up my bike after hitting a big hidden rock while forging through a flooded road.
Anyway, since then I have replaced the parts that were missing or broken, put a new carb kit into it, and upgraded the tires. And to this day I am still amazed at what that little machine can do, the places it can go, the things it can pull, and how comfortable and easy it is to ride.
I’ve had it for 5 years now and I am completely happy with it, so much so, this little machine has adjusted my way of thinking when it comes to looking at ATV’s. It’s only has a 350cc motor, and is only 2-wheel drive, but is hasn’t disappointed me at all. It starts right up every time, it’s been able to pull huge loads (in fact just a few weekends ago, I was trail riding with a friend and his ATV broke down. My little 350 Honda Rancher wound up pulling him, his ATV and all his gear over 40 miles back to our starting location.), and it seems to be able to do it with little effort, all the while keeping me comfortable on a nicely cushy seat.
It’s a 350, easy on gas, but still capable of getting my big butt to speeds over 50 miles per hour, and up steep hills. It’s only 2-wheel drive, but I have yet in the 5 years of owning it been able to get it stuck (and I have tried).
It’s little and light making it easy to drive, and maneuver through narrow passages, over obstacle’s and down rough trails with little effort on my part. And because it’s little and light, it also makes it that much easier to load it onto a trailer or into a truck.
It’s a Honda, and in my experience, it has lived up to the Honda reputation of being reliable and *Bullet Proof.
*Bullet Proof: meaning it can handle the abuse both the rider and the trails put it through.
Engine Type: Single-Cylinder, 4-stroke, OHV (Overhead valves), Carburated
Transmission: Manual 5 speed w/reverse, Automatic Clutch
Primary Drive: 2×4, Rear wheel, shaft drive
Front: Goodyear® 24 X 8-12
Rear: Goodyear® 25 X 11-10
Front: Sedona Mud Rebel 26X10-12
Rear: Sedona Mud Rebel 26×12-12
Dry weight: 498lbs./225.9kg
Fuel Capacity: 3.4gal./12.9L
Seat height: 32in./812.8mm
Racks: Front & Rear, steal
Headlights: Duel halogen, low & high beam
Tail lights: Duel, break & running