Doing the business

At only 25kg lighter than it's Kodiak big brother, Yamaha's 2005 Bruin 350 is still strong, heavy and will get the job done.

By Terry Stevenson

The Bruin 350 was released a year ago to fill a gap between the 250 Bear Tracker and the popular Kodiak 450. The Bruin is marketed as an ATV with a full sized chassis that is easy to ride because of Yamaha’s Ultramatic transmission.

After test riding Waikato Yamaha’s 2005 Bruin 350 I tend to agree with Yamaha’s marketing team. I rode the 250 Bear Tracker a year ago and found it one of the most nimble ATVs in its class. The Bruin 350 definitely feels bigger and heavier, but not as big or heavy as a 450 model. The engine power felt much the same way. It could easily out roost any 250 but would be half a paddock behind a 450.

In fact the middle ground of the Bruin 350 is probably its best feature. I found it could climb those steeper hills without stalling and wouldn’t roll as easily because of the wider frame. Both features that farmers want to know about and look for.

The 348cc air and oil cooled four-stroke single produced most power in the low to mid range spectrum. Fitted to this model is a large oil cooler which helps to stabilise the engine temperature. It comes with a hand pull start as a back-up if the battery fails. The engine was responsive and several times moved off from completely stationary to go up steep terrain. This is the electrically operated 4WD model that can be switched over on the fly, definitely handy when the wheels begin to slip unexpectedly while riding in 2WD mode. The diff lock is another great feature, and one I had to use several times when I became stuck during routine testing.

Probably the most useful feature is the Ultramatic transmission, the same as fitted to the Kodiak 450. This means all a rider has to do is get on, start it and turn the throttle. There is no gear changing on the Bruin other than placing it in forward or reverse.

Tipping the scales at 243kg, the Bruin 350 is 25kg lighter, 9mm shorter (with the same wheelbase) and only 8mm narrower than the Kodiak 450. The front and rear carry racks, and towing capacity are rated the same as the 450 at 40kg, 80kg and 500kg respectively.

Up front a double wishbone suspension system is coupled to five way adjustable shocks. A single swingarm and adjustable shock complete the rear package. A pair of disc brakes perform the braking up front and a sealed drum brake on the rear help stop the Bruin. Like the front discs, the drum brake is very tidily fitted inside the wheels to avoid damage. There was tons of engine braking available going down hills to help slow and control the ATV, an unusual feature on a machine with a variable speed transmission system.

The well-padded seat comes off with a single pull-clip exposing a very large waterproof carry space. Next to that is the air filter cover which is also easily accessible. A good sized 13.5 litre fuel tank will ensure the operator can stay on the job for extended periods of time. The Bruin has a basic dash with analogue speedo, trip meter, temperature and 4WD lights plus a separately mounted hour meter.

Waikato Yamaha fit accessory plastic mudguard extensions on request, and I would recommend paying the extra because they help reduce flying cow dung landing on the rider. They weren’t fitted to the Kodiak 450 I rode the same day and I got a fair pasting off that. Another feature I like is the fully enclosed footpeg area, preventing an operator’s foot from slipping off the footpeg and into a hole.

Waikato Yamaha partner Campbell Hicks says it is lighter to ride, relatively simple and its low cost are its best features, “The Bruin is designed to be simple and basic, but strong and tough.”

Most people buy this sized bike for farm use, although there is a growing market for recreational use. With only one gear the $11,995 Bruin 350 4WD is easy to ride and not too heavy. With an air/oil-cooled engine it’s not as sophisticated as some larger machines, but it still does the business.

SPECIFICATIONS: Yamaha Bruin 350
Engine: 4-Stroke single, air/oil cooler w/fan, SOHC
Displacement (cc): 348
Bore Stroke (mm): 83mm x 64.5mm
Compression: 9.2:1
Starter: Electric w/ Auxiliary Pull
Fueltank (l): 13.6
Length (mm): 1984
Width (mm): 1085
Seat Height (mm): 828
Wheelbase (mm): 1232
Dry Weight (kg): 244
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