As an alternative to a conventional four-wheeler, one Cumbrian sheep farmer is seeing the benefits of a six-wheel ATV.
But how does the quirky concept compare to a quad? James Rickard gets a user’s view of a Can-Am Outlander 6x6.
For sheep farmer James Rebanks, a good ATV is an essential tool to manage his prize-winning flocks of Herdwick and Swaledale sheep.
Located in the picturesque surroundings of the Lake District, few types of vehicles are suited to the terrain and conditions of Racy Ghyll Farm which comprises steep slopes, wet ground and rocky surfaces.
As such, most of the farm’s duties are now carried out by a six-wheeled ATV, sourced from Canadian company Can-Am.
“As the farm’s main workhorse, it has to do everything,” says Mr Rebanks.
“It also needs to comfortably handle long days and mileage, particularly during gatherings which can last for up to 10 days. We can be covering up to 20 miles per day doing this, and rarely is the bike not on a 45 degree slope, so a stable machine is a must.”
For a long time Mr Rebanks, like many farmers, relied on conventional quads to get the job done. So what attracted him to the six wheel concept?
“We first tried a 1,000cc Can-Am prototype six-wheeler about two years ago. That showed us it was a viable option. For the last six months we have run a full production version.
“This one has the smaller 650cc engine, which we find is more suited to our work and situation. Ultimately, it is the load carrying capability of a six-wheeler which really impresses.”
With a large load bed, it can handle fencing materials, several bags of feed, raddle buckets and a decent sized spray tank, says Mr Rebanks. However, one of the most valuable cargos carried is Mr Rebanks’ three sheep dogs.
“These are worth more to me than any ATV, so it is frustrating ATV manufacturers put little thought into the transportation of dogs.
“I need to carry three dogs safely, without fear one of them is going to break its leg in a badly designed rack. I should not have to make any adaptions to the machine.”
Thankfully, this is an area where the 6x6 scores very highly for Mr Rebanks. “It is like an aircraft carrier for dogs,” he says.
For lambing time, the 6x6’s long chassis allows it to be fitted with a sheep carrier at the rear and a lambing kit box at the front.
Mr Rebanks adds: “Because I can carry more on the 6x6, it means I rarely need to tow a trailer, something which can prove hard for a four-wheeled machine to do across difficult terrain, usually resulting in its contents being shaken to bits or the quad getting stuck.”
Other features of the 6x6 include a winch. “This comes in handy for pulling logs up banks and out of ditches. It also offers a bit of peace of mind if we ever get stuck, something we have not managed yet.”
With weight spread over six wheels, and all six wheels capable of driving, less wheelslip and ground compaction is also afforded, he says. “I normally run it in four wheel drive, only really needing six when the conditions get tough.
“It is much more stable than a four-wheeler too, especially when climbing hills. So much so, it is the only ATV I have let other staff use on the hills.”
As you would expect, there is one downside with the six wheel concept.
“Turning circle is compromised, but it is something you get used to, and with the dogs doing the legwork we do not need an ATV which needs to be an agile stock-chaser.”
Although it does have shielded and heated handlebars, some more protection from the elements would be good, says Mr Rebanks.
“But then you would be getting into UTV territory, which means a return back to four wheels. For now, I prefer the capabilities of a six wheeler over the comfort of a cab."
Engine: 62hp, 649.6cc, V-Twin, petrol
Transmission: continuously variable with high and low ranges
Towing capacity: 750kg
Bed capacity: 318kg
Front rack capacity: 45kg
Ground clearance: 279mm
Features: power steering, winch, tipping bed
Retail price: £13,499