REVIEW: ATV Lifeguard roll bar

By: Barry Ashenhurst, Photography by: Barry Ashenhurst

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BARRY ASHENHURST examines a crush-protection device invented by the Kiwis that could make quad riding safer for everyone.

Farm fatalities over the past 20 years have been reduced by 65 per cent but quad-related fatalities continue to rise — and that’s a fact.

However, the subject of quad-related injuries and fatalities is a touchy one, not to mention controversial. The topic has been tossed around for years but no progress seems to have been made by the authorities or the industry itself.

At the moment we’re bogged at a junction with signs pointing in various directions, none of which lead to an all-encompassing solution — if there is one, and I don’t believe there is.

A suggestion from the concerned folks at the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety is that, for their own good, quad users should investigate any and all roll-over protection devices.

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That won’t take long; there aren’t many. The best-known CPD is the locally produced Quadbar.

Another major contender in crush prevention, or one that came to our attention recently, is the New Zealand-made Ag-Tech Industries Lifeguard. New Farm Machinery had an opportunity to have a close look at it, thanks to quad training and safety expert David Wilson from Adventure 4WD in South Australia.

David has a Lifeguard mounted on one of his Yamaha ATVs and we spent the morning trying to tip it over to see what would happen.

 

ATV Lifeguard structure

2_ATV Lifeguard Roll Bar

The problem with any and all conventional ‘rollbars’ or CPDs is that they’re rigid and impart a severe force on anything they come in contact with, including the human body.

But the Lifeguard isn’t rigid, it’s a ‘passive rollbar’ comprising a series of injection-moulded nylon segments that fit together to form a flexible arc over the back of the machine.

We noticed the arc is mounted using its own hardware on the rear carry rack (it has to be a steel rack; Lifeguard won’t install on a plastic rack) and is tensioned with 12-strand braided cable. The cable both holds the assembly together and determines the degree of flexibility in the arc.

The arc flexes or yields when force is exerted on it, even when it comes in contact with a soft-tissued human, but always retains rigidity sufficient to prevent an overturned quad from crushing the rider. The sides of the arc can actually support tonnes of vertical force.

As long as the ends of the arc are secured it can’t collapse, and because of that the rider can usually crawl out from under. As you can see in the photograph, the arc deflected enough to keep the bulk of the machine off the ground.

 

ATV Lifeguard: The test

1_ATV Lifeguard Roll Bar

I know it sounds odd, and even slightly mad to say we spent time trying to roll the Yamaha, and Yamaha Australia won’t like it, but that’s what we did. David’s familiarity with his training property enabled him to locate a spot where we believed a slow roll could be safely executed, and where I could capture the event on video.

David rode the Yamaha around the edge of a berm. When angle defeated stability, the quad rolled slowly to the right and came to rest upside-down. The important thing is that the Lifeguard prevented any part of the quad from hitting David, who was now lying under it.

 

The Verdict

One reason we haven’t heard much about the Lifeguard is that although it’s won notable awards in New Zealand and Australia for safety innovation, the local distributor does little or no advertising.

On the face of it, and from what I’ve seen, I believe the Lifeguard could help you survive a rollover. It certainly does everything the manufacturer claims it does and has serious engineering behind it.

If you detect a note of caution in my words, there’s a reason. I’ve ridden every kind of quad there is but I’m unqualified to make bold statements vis-a-vis mechanical engineering and its ramifications on ATV safety. All I can tell you is this: I’d rather ride a quad with a Lifeguard than without one.

You can find more on Lifeguard at atvlifeguard.co.nz. There are two Australian distributors, Topaz Global (1800 742 470) and the Tifco Group, sales@atvlifeguards.com.

For the full test report, pick up a copy of New Farm Machinery magazine issue 20 when it goes on-sale March 30.

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1 ATV lifeguard roll bar The ATV Lifeguard is a Kiwi-made ‘passive rollbar’ comprising a series of injection-moulded nylon segments that fit together to form a flexible arc over the back of the machine. 1 ATV lifeguard roll bar
2 ATV lifeguard roll bar First impression is that the arc is too close to the rider’s head but when you’re riding that isn’t the case. You’re barely aware of it. 2 ATV lifeguard roll bar
3 ATV lifeguard roll bar The Lifeguard and its mounting hardware weigh only 14.5kg, half the weight of a border collie, or mine anyway, so it won’t affect handling. The components seem strong and well-made and the zipped cover on the arc makes it look less industrial. 3 ATV lifeguard roll bar
4 ATV lifeguard roll bar Most serious injuries occur when the quad strikes the rider during a rollover, but as you can see, Lifeguard holds the quad off the ground, giving the rider a much improved chance of survival. It all comes down to passive protection. The Lifeguard flexes and ‘yields’ where conventional rollbars don’t. 4 ATV lifeguard roll bar
5 ATV lifeguard roll bar Inevitably in any rollover, even a slow one, vulnerable parts of the machine are bent or trashed but the Lifeguard goes a long way in protecting vulnerable components such as brake levers and handlebars. 5 ATV lifeguard roll bar

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