If there’s one thing that excites any farmer mad about kit, it’s tracks. Put tracks on anything and it instantly becomes more exciting, partly because of the way it looks but equally because of the endless possibilities they begin to represent.
See also: Mitas Pneutrac combines track and tyre
Although available for some time as a retrofit option, it’s only recently that John Deere has officially endorsed the use of Camso (previously known as Camoplast) tracks on their Gator farm buggies
The Camso T4S steel-framed tracks, imported by Supatracks, come in two basic types, one to fit lighter ATVs and one for heavy-duty UTVs.
And, once you’ve bought them once you don’t need to worry about your next UTV, as they are can be changed within a couple of hours.
Camso says these puncture-proof rubber shod tracks are capable of dealing with deep snow, swamps, marshes and mud.
After the deluge
We tested the Gator XUV 855D (adapted, like all Gators, by Howard Marshall Engineering) just when the Midlands had their share of the winter floods, which worked out particularly well for testing.
The morning after the deluge, we had to move sheep and lambs out of a particularly wet field. With gateways 40cm under water, and sheep perched on the highest ground, there was no hope of getting either the quad or the Land Rover through, leaving us to put our faith in the tracked Gator.
And it made light work of everything we faced it with, driving through water and particularly boggy gateways without hesitation. And – amazingly – it left hardly a trace once the floods had subsided.
It did, however, suffer when it came to speed.
Although officially supposed to manage 25mph (compared with 32mph on standard wheels), we struggled to top 19mph.
It’s all to do with the radius of the tracks compared with tyres.
The drive sprocket on the tracks has a 200mm rolling radius, whereas if the Gator had been on 14in rims with tyres of 3in the effective rolling radius would have been 254mm.
This also makes the vehicle 10cm taller, however, because of the longer wheelbase there’s little chance of tipping.
What this does mean, however, is more torque thanks to the lower gearing in the transmission, which translates into better pulling and hill climbing capability. In addition, there’s no spinning, further protecting the field surface.
Ground pressure is reduced by a standard of 75%. For example, a standard UTV on wheels puts down 3.9psi, whereas the T4S system reduces this to just 0.88.
Overall ride quality was also extremely smooth over bumpy ridge and furrow, in fact probably better than if shod on tyres, thanks to robust brackets and mounting kits designed to absorb impact.
On concrete, however, it was pretty loud and bumpy.
One small glitch, although probably easily remedied, was that it wasn’t possible to fully tip the loading bay without coming into contact with the rubber tracks.
The tracks don’t come cheap either: the model tested and fully loaded with extras such as full cab and electric tipper came in at £18,377, which includes tracks. On its own, the track system costs £3,750.