Exploring is in our blood. Probably everybody in North America has a little explorer in their blood in one way or another, since almost every one of our ancestors made their way to this continent either out of wanderlust or by being kicked out of every decent country in Europe. Either way, stepping off the boat and onto a new land where the frontier began at the end of the dock, and ended seemingly as far off as the other side of the moon, was a chance to discover unknown territory and to begin a new life. Immense mountains, broad, swift rivers, and deep foreboding forests stood before every new inhabitant, and like it or not, nearly everyone became an explorer as they carved out a life in the woods or on the prairie.
We love every chance to explore new territory, and one of the best ways to do that is on an ATV. In the past, that usually meant crawling along on a utility quad, but when we came to fast trail sections or whoops that would better fit a sport ATV, the limits of a utility quad left us wanting something a little more racy. Not anymore. For the past few months, we’ve been riding a quad that can handle both fast trails, long whoop sections, rock crawling, and just about any type of terrain. We’ve been riding the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 H.O., and it’s quickly becoming one of our favourite trail buddies.
The 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 H.O. is built on the groundbreaking Can Am Renegade 800 platform, released last year. Designed to fill the gap between a true high performance sport quad and a go-anywhere utility ATV, the 800 was aimed at highly experienced riders, and quite frankly, it could easily overpower riders with limited seat time. It should actually; the 800 simply oozed performance, but it was not for everybody, and there are a lot of riders who we would not want to see on one. The trouble was, that left a lot of riders out of the loop. To fill that need, this year Can-Am released a 500cc version of the Renegade, and it’s still an extremely potent package, but the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 H.O. EFI is designed to deliver all the performance of its powerhouse big brother, but be a little more forgiving. It’s the styling that attracts attention first though.
Everywhere we stop with the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500, people notice. Whether it’s in the back of our truck, or on the trail, people come over to take a better look, and quite often, fellow ATV riders on competing brands want to race, seemingly as if we’ve thrown down a challenge simply by showing up. Maybe it’s because the bodywork is a combination of macho, in-your-face bold styling, and yet shows a sexy allure that begs attention, but either way, the team from Montreal really nailed this one, and we have to give the styling team a big tip of the visor for a great job. It’s a world class design from a world class team!
Underneath the bodywork is what really counts however, and the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 chassis is very similar to the Outlander platform, which Can-Am calls the SST (Surrounding Spar Technology) frame. Basically, instead of having the traditional perimeter tube chassis common to almost every other ATV, the Can-Am SST chassis is built upon a single, massive main spar down the centre of the ATV. This helps to centre the weight and it makes for a nice clean design which is completely different than any other ATV chassis system. Suspension on the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 features more travel at each end than the traditional Outlander, and at the front the HPG shocks deliver 216m of wheel travel, and the super simple and beefy looking torsional trailing arm system offers 228mm at the rear. One thing we really like, and once again they look as great as they work, are the trick cast aluminum wheels that look like something from a Baja desert truck. ITP Holeshot tires are found at both ends and they are more than capable of get- ting a solid bite in most terrain. In all but the most slippery conditions, all you need do is simply flip the thumb button into 4WD, and the tires will pull you through. One thing we’ve noticed about the Can-Am team is that they’ve developed their ATVs to be on a slightly larger scale than most of the other ATVs. When we clambered aboard the Renegade for our first ride, it didn’t take us long to get used to the ergonomics. Taller and larger riders don’t seem to be cramped on a Can-Am as they often are on other brands, and with the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500, everything seems to be right where it should be. From the utility side of the family, the Renegade gets full floorboards, but they also feature an excellent and comfortable raised peg that anchors your foot well. Overall weight on the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 is a claimed 280kg, which is lighter than its Outlander cousins, but on the trail it doesn’t feel that heavy.
One thing we’re happy to have is a coded key, which means it will only start with the key that came with the unit. It helps us sleep a little easier! One thing we could do without is the handlebar bend. They’re a very unusual bend, and since the centre of the grip area seems to be centred on the steering column instead of just behind it like most quads, we have the awkward feeling we’re both pulling and pushing the bars at the same time. Just as most sport riders do however, we’re going to change them. From a standing or sitting position, the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 was quite comfortable. Just like its big brother the Renegade 800, the 500 comes without racks as well, although there is a small cargo deck and four tie down points behind the seat where we strapped down our camera bag. Just below the trick-looking taillight is a nifty sealed storage box, and although it’s not huge, it will easily hold tie downs, tools, and a few bottles of water.
Ticket to Ride
It was time for a ride, and there is nothing better than slipping on our helmets, hitting the start button, and heading out on a new model. With the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500, we quickly found a couple of things we really liked when we fired it up. The first thing everybody notices is the sound. Everyone loves the throaty, get out of the way rumble that a few described as “chopper like.” Unlike most choppers however, the engine runs extremely smooth, with almost zero vibration at the bars or in the pegs at any engine speed. It’s excellent! The second thing that only the pilot will notice is a little greeting on the digital display that says “Hi.” The 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 is actually polite, but riders of other models will probably be offended as soon as you throw down on them. While the greeting offers no performance advantage, after a few seconds it is replaced by valuable info such as speed, rpms, an odometer, trip mileage, gear selection, a 4×4 indicator, and even diagnostics.
One of the best features about 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 is the fuel injection system. The Can-Am fuel injection system featured no hesitation, offered excellent throttle response from just off idle all the way to the top end, and it started perfectly every time regardless of weather conditions. Nail the throttle at any time and you will get an instant response. A big factor in great throttle response was the clutching, and this seemed to be perfectly matched to the motor output, both on the upshift points and in backshifting. We expect a sled company to get this part perfect; they’ve got decades of experience in working with CVT drive systems, and it shows! It’s by far the quickest 500cc utility class quad on the market, at least in accelerations, and top speed was found to be approximately 66 mph. We really care little for top speed however, because throttle response, a nice solid hit, and handling are far more important on the trail. The 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 H.O. runs extremely well, but we needed to know how it would handle.
There was very little the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 suspension couldn’t handle. The suspension seemed to be well balanced from front to back, and we never did bottom it. On the fast fire roads it rides very much like a sport quad, and it seemed to track very well through rough sections with no side-to-side swap, or with one end constantly bottoming as sometimes happens on big utility type quads. Only when we pushed hard into long whoop sections would we start to find the limits of the suspension. Winding through most trails is not a problem, but in the extremely tight stuff, the suspension actually feels a little long, which made that task a little trickier. We even took the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 out for a day in the dunes, and although it can climb anything in sight, here is where we would find a limit to the tires. It was nearly impossible to get the Renegade to slide in the sand. The ITP tires are so aggressive they simply don’t want to break loose. We believe part of the tendency to dig in rather than slide is due to the rear wheel and hub design. The rear hubs are placed on the far outside of the wheel, which concentrates all the force from any attempted slide onto the extreme outside edge of the tire, unlike most quads that balance the load across the entire contact patch. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does all but prevent a slide in the sand, and the only time anybody would notice is when trying to slide in terrain that simply had too much traction. Also, if you ever plan on heading to the dunes with the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500, do yourself a favour and buy a whip flag mount immediately. The stock flag mount was clearly an afterthought and folded up before we made it out of the parking area. It’s not a big deal, but we want you to know everything. You won’t be disappointed with the performance of the ATV however, and a couple of our test riders who also ride sleds all winter had this comment. “Riding the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 compared to traditional utility ATVs reminds me of riding a 10-year-old sled compared to a new one. On the 10-year-old sled you look for a line around the whoops. On the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 you point it at the rough stuff and see how fast you can go through.”
One area extremely important to us is ordinary maintenance. It’s frequent oil changes and air filter cleaning that keeps your quad alive, and the easier it is to perform these tasks, the more likely people are to do it. Thankfully, the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 features an easy to reach oil dip stick, the battery was right under the seat where we could get to it, and the air filter was well protected, located high on the chassis, and easy to get to and clean. In fact, because of a careful inlet design, the filter stays quite clean under even the most extreme conditions. Just don’t get lazy and ignore it! We even accidentally tested the system under conditions that most riders never will, and we’re not sure how the Can-Am people will feel about this, but we had the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 in deep water. As it turned out, what we thought was a shallow crossing turned into much more, and as the water crested the seat, we hopped off! Only the centre pod and bars remained out of the water, and when we pulled the quad to shore we expected a soaked filter. To our surprise, the filter was as dry and clean as the day it left the line, and was in perfect condition, thanks to a great air intake design. Great job engineering guys!
The New Explorer
The 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 H.O. isn’t really a utility ATV, or a sport ATV, but it features some of the best traits of both. It can run down the trail and skip across the whoops like a sport quad, yet has the climbing and crawling ability of a utility platform. That makes it just about perfect for a day of exploring new riding areas and trails, where you are likely to find a little bit of everything, and now there is a quad with the features to match the challenges. The 2008 Can-Am Renegade 500 can do a little bit of everything, and since our first outing, it has been our favourite new trail buddy!
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Can-Am Off-Road Website