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Warn Portable Winch

You next pinion just might be a winch?

On February 17, 2011, WARN industries officially announced the release of the first and only portable winch designed with dual sport and adventure riders in mind. They now have three lightweight portable winches you can use on your motorcycle. The most affordable winch is the RT15 1500lb winch (12.25 lbs) with 25 feet of steel cable [PN 86380]. There is a slightly more expensive lighter, more powerful XT17 1700lb winch (9.25 lbs) with 40 feet of synthetic rope [PN 85700] and a 3rd version of XT17 (8.5 lbs) that has handlebar-mounted winch controls [PN 86600]. MSRP at the time of the announcement ranged from $479 - $549. The winches come with everything needed to hook them up on your bike and put them to use. All three winches use a unique off-bike mounting process that allows you to winch from any direction.

WARN is serious about off-roading and has been building products for the military, 4x4 enthusiast, automotive OEMs and the power sports industry since 1948. Many people know them for their success with the 4x4 community, but most motorcyclists seem unaware that they have been involved in the power sports side producing high quality lighting, protection and winches for ATVs and snowmobiles for many years. With this extensive knowledge base, entering the dual-sport adventure market was a natural step for them. As an instructor for Puget Sound Safety Off-Road (PSSOR), I spend quite a bit of time learning, sharing and teaching motorcycle recovery techniques. Because of this background, WARN's Global R&D Director Ian Wendler contacted me to work with them as an industry consultant to assist with the design and testing phases of this product.

The first thing that impressed me about this winch was that they really listened to the input I as well as others provided them. At only 8.5 lbs, the XT17 ultra compact 1700 lb winch already exceeded my expectations! RJ (another PSSOR instructor) and I spent four hours training with Ian and his crew winching a BMW F800GS over boulders, through sand and up steep grades. We even did some tipover recovery. It was great to share our expertise with WARN and in turn be able to learn new skills from them.

Last year the publisher of SR!, Tom Mehren, challenged me to ride a trail he had found while scouting routes for the Dual Sport Northwest rally. The trail had been washed out and had steep banks on either side that would be a challenge for a lightweight dual sport and a downright mission impossible for a big adventure tourer. This summer when I attend that rally, I intend to take Tom up on his challenge! You see, what I have learned is that the WARN winch was not just designed for recovery but also as a tool for controlled descents, it has a patented full-rated load disc brake for smooth, controlled payout of the winch cable which will allow me to safely winch down one side of the washout and back up the other. I may even include this road as part of one of the many classes and clinics Puget Sound Safety offers at the rally. Working with me for the better part of a year, Ian has gotten to know how I think about riding and reminded me the new XT17 portable winch is great tool, but not intended for suspended vertical lifts.

While I was at the factory I loaded up several of the optional accessories including a handle bar mini rocker switch with remote control, 50' synthetic rope extension, neoprene winch cover, F800GS carry plate and winching accessory kit. They also have a generic mounting plate for bikes like the KLR650, V-Strom, Super Tenere, KTM Adventure, or any other bikes you want to use it on. If you don't want to give up your back rack it is small enough to store in your side bags or trunk. This product is likely to take adventure touring to whole new levels! In March, we head south to Copper Canyon Mexico to put our new winches to good use� After all you can't teach something you've not put to use (can you say business trip?).

For more information on this product go to www.warn.com  
For information on training for adventure riding including techniques on motorcycle recovery go to www.advcamp.com

Bret Tkacs/Winter 2011


Bret Tkacs is the founder and lead instructor at Puget Sound Safety and PSSOR and provides both road and off-road training.


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