Published on August 30th, 2023 | by Joe
Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Project Test
Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Upgrade Project Test: Building a Can-Am Outlander 1000 Beater
The overall performance of Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 is impressive to say the least. However, we discovered during our 2020 1000cc 4×4 ATV Shootout between the Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 and Can-Am Outlander 1000R XT-P, the Can-Am edges out the Polaris in most aspects of pure performance. Where the Polaris really excels is in the area of comfort, With its narrow midsection, plush seat, upright seating position, lighter power steering and plusher suspension paying bigger dividends the longer the ride day. Still, we can’t help but feel that if you own a 1000, you want the ultimate in performance. Fortunately, there are upgrades out there that significantly enhance the Sportsman’s 1000 or 850’s performance to help you put some distance between you and the Can-Ams out on the trail.
Since the release of our 2017 Sportsman XP 1000 Test Review that’s been viewed well over a half million times, the machine’s base price has jumped $3,500, from $11,999 to $15,499. We know from the numerous comments boasting of year-end, closeout purchases in the $10,000 range several years ago, that lots of people purchased Sportsman 1000s for far less than they’ll pay today. If you’re thinking of swapping out to a new XP 1000, you’re going to come out of pocket $5,000 to $7,000 after selling yours, for a new version of an ATV that hasn’t changed much since 2017. If we had a Sportsman 1000 that’s still in good running condition, we’d consider dumping that money into upgrading your current machine yielding a Sportsman XP 1000 with greatly improved performance, handling, durability, and style.
For this build, we got our hands on a well-used, but good, running 2018 Sportsman XP 1000 belonging to Chad Westcott who purchased his machine based on our 2017 review. Purchased with one of those wonderful year-end rebates, it made this ATV a steal at the time and a great candidate for a major upgrade build.
To help us with this project, we turned to Mudd Motorsports in Martinsville, Indiana. Owner Josh Lane, his kids, and a number of competitors have raced cross country out of their shop through the years making them experts at building ATVs that perform on the trail. Working with a number of vendors that we’ve both worked with through the years, they put together a race worthy machine, offering an ideal setup for the trail rider looking to maximize their Sportsman’s performance.
Chassis and Suspension Upgrades
The Sportsman came into the project with over a thousand miles on it. After developing some play in the chassis, bushings were replaced throughout at 1000 miles by aftermarket bushings featuring a lifetime guarantee.
Cecco Racing Reinforcements
With fresh bushings throughout making the ride tight and wobble free, attention turned to adding rigidity and strength to the chassis.
Cecco Motorsports is owned by former Factory Polaris and Can-Am GNCC racer, Rick Cecco, with their products built in the U.S. No matter your riding style or intended use, Cecco Racing’s bolt-on frame braces are a small, very worthwhile investment improving the strength of your Sportsman’s chassis and other key components.
The front frame braces add support to the front lower A-Arm mounts front and rear reducing stress on the frame. Cecco Racing also makes braces for the upper A-Arm mounts, a good idea for all Sportsman owners and especially those running larger tires.
Rear frame braces add support to the front of the rear lower A-Arm mounts reducing frame stress.The braces are constructed of 3/16” thick, laser cut steel with the necessary zinc plated mooting hardware included. Cecco’s frame braces fit most 2009 and newer Sportsman 550, 850 and 1000 models.
For aggressive riding or those running big tires, Cecco Racing’s substantial rear differential brace is constructed of .090 wall steel tubing and 1/8” steel plating. It ties the back of the upper and lower frame rails together, reducing Polaris’ use of the rear differential as a stressed member of the chassis, which can lead to cracking the rear differential. It fits most 2010 and newer Polaris Sportsman XP, SP, and Highlifter models.
Cecco Racing’s rear differential brace bolts right up with the stock exhaust, but since it requires some modification in how the HMF exhaust bolts up, we’ll leave that final install up to the owner. If it were our machine, we’d install all of the bolt-on braces Cecco Racing offers before our first ride.
Cecco Racing Billet Front Pinion Cove is another must-have item for the Polaris Sportsman in our opinion. It’s designed to be stronger than stock, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in replacing your front differential if the stock pinion cover fails, which is known to happen with prolonged aggressive riding.
It features machined bearing and seal shoulders offering a true bore for precise bearing and seal alignment. Zinc Coated hardware is included. It fits most Scrambler and Sportsman 850 and 1000 models.
We’d consider Cecco Racing’s bolt-on components to strengthen the sportsman’s chassis and drive system essential prior to adding any performance modifications to the Sportsman.
Ricochet 2-Piece Full Frame Aluminum Skid Plate
Adding protection to the frame, our machine came into this build with a 2-piece full frame aluminum skid plate from Ricochet Off-Road. They’re made in the U.S. of 3/16” H32 aluminum, available with or without a ¼” UHMW second layer for added slickness when sliding over rocks.
HMF Heavy Duty Front Bumper
HMF’s Heavy Duty front bumper adds a level of protection to an otherwise unprotected front end on most Sportsman 1000 and 850 models. It’s also far stronger and more rigid than the factory installed brush guards that come on higher end Sportsman trim packages.
Weighing around 24 lbs, it’s constructed in the U.S. from .095 steel tubing. Available in black or red, it includes a black 1/8” aluminum skid plate available with or without a winch fairlead.
Teixeira Tech XGC A-Arms and Steering Stem
Developed with and used by Polaris’ former factory cross-country race team on the Scrambler 1000, Teixeira Tech’s Xtreme Ground Clearance A-Arms proved to improve strength, high-speed stability and steering feel on Teixeira Tech’s Scrambler XP 1000 project back in 2017. Their reverse gull wing style lower arms also improve ground clearance on models not featuring arched lower A-Arms. Sharing a very similar frame design and geometry, Teixeira Tech’s parts for the original Scrambler XP 1000 and 850 work perfectly with the Sportsman XP 1000 and 850.
Built to be light and strong, they’re constructed in the United States of larger diameter tig welded 4130 chromoly with beefed up shock mounts on the upper arms. Impressive looking cross bracing and gusseting are used on the lower arms. Teixeira Tech’s welds are some of the cleanest and most even we’ve seen.
The A-Arms are designed to reduce Polaris’ overly sensitive steering at high speeds while improving straight line stability by increasing caster. This is accomplished by moving the lower arms forward and the upper arms rearward compared to stock.
You can order the lower Arms by themselves for improved ground clearance and some increase in caster. If you want to maximize the caster change and handling benefits, strength, and overall feeling of the front-end, you’ll want to go with a full set like us. Featuring a stock width, shock length and stock mounting point, you can use your stock shocks without issue.
Teixeira Tech uses long lasting, low maintenance Delrin bushings. Grease fittings come standard for easy maintenance. You can utilize your stock ball joints, although we ordered ours with Teixeira’s optional set of longer lasting Italian made Frap ball joints.
The arms come in black standard, and can be powder coated a number of colors with chroming available. They fit the Sportsman and Scrambler 1000 and 850 models.
Teixeira Tech’s anti-vibe steering stem improves strength and ergonomics. It’s constructed in the U.S. of tig welded, 1 ¼” 4130 chromoly featuring redesigned chromoly splines with over 50% more surface engagement to reduce wear and play at the power steering unit. They’re available in a +2” or +3” configuration for use with shorter handlebars. A black powder coat finish is standard with other colors and chroming available.
Teixeira Tech’s handlebar clamps come complete with the anti-vibe mounting kit needed to work with their steering stem. The clamp is constructed of billet aluminum. They’re designed for use with 1 1/8” handlebars and offer four positions of adjustment allowing the bars to be mounted more forward or rearward,
Elka Stage 4 Shocks
While the Sportsman’s stock shocks are plush and work well for cruising, their ability to hold up to big hits and resist rolling in corners is not on par with the thrust the engine produces. Elka Suspension caters to casual trail riders, workers, and hard core racer types like ourselves. They tell us their shocks are custom built for each rider’s machine, setup, weight, riding ability and intended use. We found their Sage-5 shocks performance impressive on Teixeira Tech’s Scrambler XP 1000 project and the Scrambler 1000 featured far better stock shocks than what comes specked on the Sportsman 850 and 1000.
Their Stage-4 shocks are part of Elka’s latest generation of design and technology. Developed when air shocks were hitting the market in the sport quad world, Elka’s stage series shocks were designed with weight savings in mind. Most components including their aluminum bodies, nitrogen reservoirs, machined billet aluminum components, and even the springs with their larger diameter and reduced number of turns were designed to reduce weight while improving durability over Elka’s first generation shocks.
High flow internals help improve ride quality. Hard anodizing is used on certain initial components for tight tolerances with less friction, wear, and lower operating temperatures. Together they are designed to deliver more consistent damping and reduced maintenance.
Stage-4 shocks have the same features as Elka’s top-of-the-line Stage-5 shocks, minus adjustable high-speed compression damping, leaving spring preload, 25 clicks of low-speed compression, and 30 clicks of rebound damping adjustment. This makes tuning a little more straight-forward for the average rider while still offering a lot of adjustability.
An Internal high-speed blow-off circuit is used to help release peak oil pressure from high-speed impacts. Elka says it helps deliver race-level performance without the added complexity of having an additional adjuster for high speed compression. A dual-rate spring setup at both ends helps provide progression throughout the stroke. Suspension travel numbers remain stock at 9” front and 10.25” out back.
Tires and Wheels
ITP Terracross RT Tires
An overall impressive tire chosen for this project due to their outstanding performance on the Can-Am Outlander 1000R in our 1000cc 4×4 ATV Shootout against the Polaris Sportsman where the ITP Terracross tires played an impactful role in helping Can-Am edge out the Sportsman in performance.
Designed as an all condition tire, featuring a 6 ply radial construction for a smoother ride than typical bias-ply tires. Their interlocking tread pattern is designed to maximize traction and flotation with wrap-around shoulder lugs offering increased sidewall protection and traction in ruts.
We ran a square setup with 26×9-14” tires all the way around for improved handling. Weighing a relatively light 24.6 LBS, they don’t take a major toll on engine and suspension performance like many tires can. Best of all, they’re made in the USA.
Keizer VooDoo Beadlock Wheels
Manufactured in the U.S and one of the trickiest upgrades on this Sportsman, Keizer VooDoo beadlock wheels are derived from 6061 T6 forged billet aluminum. By using only high quality U.S. grade materials in their manufacturing process, Keizer claims to be the champion of the scales, outdoing all others with their strength to weight ratio. Unlike many other beadlock wheels, the Keizer wheel has less impact on the wheel offset and width, maintaining lighter, more precise steering and less bump feedback through the bars.
Keizer VooDoo wheels are available in different sizes, configurations, and bolt patterns. The three piece wheels feature billet centers with a machined black finish providing a striking look. The wheels were finished off with a set of Keizer’s accessory aluminum mud caps featuring machined in logos for a classy finishing touch .
Light, strong, beautiful and proven. You can’t ask for much more from a wheel.
Only down one horsepower compared to the Can-Am Outlander 1000R, Polaris’ parallel twin-cylinder engine is smoother throughout the RPM range, without the in-your-face hit off the bottom possessed by the Can-Am’s V-twin Rotax. For many riders, that’s good, but we wanted our Sportsman’s engine to have a bit more of the Can-Am’s in-your-face, low-end power and snap.
HMF Titan QS Full Exhaust and Fuel Optimizer
Proven to pull harder across the RPM range in previous testing, HMF’s Titan exhausts are constructed in the U.S. of corrosion resistant stainless steel throughout for long lasting good looks. The Titan QS exhaust helps keep sound output within 1db at idle and 5 db at half throttle compared to stock. A spark arrestor comes standard.
Available in a full system only, HMF claims up to a 2hp and 2 .b/ft increase over stock, which should give it a slight horsepower edge over the Outlander. Gains experienced in previous seat-of-the-pants testing felt more substantial.
HMF’s Fuel Optimizer is a piggyback fuel injection controller that comes pre-programmed with a baseline tuning for HMF’s exhausts. An on-board, push button interface allows for easy on-board tuning with no computer needed. It’s a must have with an aftermarket exhaust and a welcomed add-on to lower operating temperatures.
Dalton Industries Adjustable Clutch Kit
With the Can-Am’s more aggressive clutching helping make it quicker on takeoff, an adjustable clutch kit from Dalton Industries was installed and calibrated for more abrupt engagement at a higher RPM. Dalton’s adjustable clutch kit for the Sportsman and Scrambler is designed to improve belt grip for better performance and belt life.
Dalton’s clutch kit includes: new springs for both clutches, Dalton’s quick adjust clutch weights, and complete detailed instructions offering setups for different tire sizes and applications. Once the flyweights are installed, mass can be added or subtracted without removal for easy tuning.
Fasst Company Flexx Handlebars
Many riders consider Fasst Company Flexx Handlebars a must have for cross country racing making them a great upgrade for trail riding as well. Manufactured in the U.S., Fasst Company Flexx handlebars work as added suspension, separating your upper body from impacts that get past your ATV’s shocks.
Working with their hinged design, separate elastomers absorb bumps and eliminate any harsh top out sensation. The bars come with different elastomers offering a softer or firmer feel. This can be fine tuned further by adding more or less preload to the elastomers. The hinges feature a bushing in the pivot reducing metal to metal contact to reduce vibration.
To match the Teixeira Tech +2” stem, our machine was outfitted with Fasst Company’s standard height 15° ATV bars.
ODI Rogue Lock-on Grips
Already installed on our machine prior to starting the project, ODI Rogue ATV grips feature a lock on design preventing slipping. Their large diameter, with extra-large raised pads, help reduce shock and vibration. They’re available in different billet accent colors to match the look of your ATV.
Rox Speed FX Foot Pegs
For increased contact and control in muddy or snowy conditions, a set of Rox Speed FX foot pegs were installed. Rox foot pegs are manufactured in the U.S. Constructed of aluminum, the pegs are 8” long by 3” wide, notably wider than stock. A kick up on the end provides added control. The teeth are notably taller and more widely spaced for added grip in slippery conditions. They bolt right up to the stock floorboards in front of the stock plastic pegs.
Spider Graphics owner, Austin Parks, raced Polaris Scramblers in cross country for years. He knows how to create a graphics kit that looks great and fits the Polaris Sportsman 1000 and 850 precisely.
The Spider Graphics kit did great taking years off the look of our Sportsman. Their vinyl did well at conforming to corners and angles, making it one of the easiest kits we’ve installed with great results. Spider made sure all of the companies’ logos involved in this build were tastefully displayed.
Although we didn’t order them for our machine, Spider can even create custom wheel cover graphics. They would be a great addition to protect the shiny black wheel covers on our Keizer wheels.
Maxima Bio Wash and SC1
Maxima Bio Wash worked well at cleaning up ground-in dirt stain on rough plastic and other speckles that the power washer didn’t quite get off. For the scuffed up and faded areas of our Sportsman that weren’t made new, we used Maxima’s, “new bike in a can” SC1 spray to restore factory color and shine while giving our garage that awesome SC1 scent. We went ahead and coated the entire machine, making clean-up easier for the poor guy who has to wash it next.
To test our project Sportsman, we returned with test rider and cross country racer, Evan Hartzel, to the cross country race course at East Fork MX located near New Vienna, Ohio; the site of our 1000cc 4×4 shootout.
Our project Sportsman fires up and warms up similarly to the stock machine. When you hit the gas, things are a bit different. We’ve beaten stock Outlander 1000Rs in the past with an HMF Titan QS exhaust and fuel optimizer installed, something we weren’t able to do with the stock Sportsman, so the increase in power is undeniable. HMF’s increase in power seems focused in the midrange and up. Polaris’ parallel twin simply lacks the low-end snap of a Can-Am V-Twin, offering very manageable low-end power for a 1000.
Tuned for maximum thrust on take-off, Dalton Industries’ adjustable clutch can add some real snap to the Sportsman’s off idle power delivery helping it get off the line more quickly. This was a good clutch tune for aggressive riding or cross country racing, but the abrupt engagement makes the machine a handful in the confines of a garage or other tight space. Being adjustable, the clutch could easily be tuned for a better balance of increased off idle snap and easy rideability, or you could make it virtually as smooth as stock. That’s the beauty of the Dalton’s adjustable clutch.
The combination of the HMF Titan QS exhaust, Optimizer, and Dalton clutch kit resulted in a sportsman XP 1000 that gets off the line quicker, pulls harder in the midrange and up, and feels a little snappier throughout the RPM range both in throttle response and clutching. It’s the same smooth, parallel-twin, excessive power, but with a racier response and feel than stock.
The combination of the Teixeira Tech XGC A-Arms, Elka Stage 4 shocks, ITP Terracross Tires, and Keizer beadlock wheels had by far the most profound impact in transforming our ability to ride hard on the Sportsman 1000 leaving us extremely grateful for all of the Cecco Racing chassis and driveline reinforcements. Testing on the same trails as two previous Sportsman tests and a 1000 shootout allowed us to truly appreciate this machine’s handling transformation.
We set preload on the Elka Stage 4 shocks to provide 8.5” of ground clearance at both ends with the rider on as prescribed to us by Cecco Racing’s Rick Cecco. The first thing we noticed hitting the trail was a dramatic reduction in body roll. While the stock Sportsman is prone to front and rear end dive under acceleration and braking with notable body roll in the corners compared to a Can-Am, our Elka equipped Sportsman 1000 remains far more level and planted when changing direction. It’s not just better than stock; it feels more composed than the Can-Am XT-P ever did. This improves steering when you’re hard on the gas, and allows both ends to track better in braking bumps. The flat cornering manners really allow you to attack turns with much greater confidence and improved corner exit speeds.
Bump compliance was equally impressive. The combination of the ITP Terracross radial tires and Elka Stage 4 shocks resulted in a ride that seemed nearly stock machine plush over small bumps, which is saying a lot for a 4×4 delivering a race ready ride. Suspension performance on big hits was dramatically improved. Abrupt square edged impacts and g-outs that would have bottomed the stock shocks were soaked up with ease by the Elkas. We went ahead and went in a couple clicks from half way point on compression all the way around for a slightly firmer point and that was it. We found the single compression and rebound circuits on the Stage-4 shocks to offer plenty of adjustment along with excellent performance. We’d recommend the Stage 4 shocks for recreational riders and most racers alike.
With the shocks improving lateral and horizontal stability, we were certainly going faster than we could on a stock Sportsman. This made the benefits of Teixeira Tech’s XGC A-Arms stand out even more. Aside from not plowing the lower arms through the dirt in deep ruts, there was a notable reduction in the front-ends’ nervous feeling at speed thanks to the additional caster the A-Arms provide. Additional caster adds a touch more resistance to the steering, while slightly reducing how quickly the front end reacts to handlebar inputs. Both contribute to a front end that is less nervous with better feedback and sensitivity to what’s going on through the handlebars. Despite our initial concerns, in the tight sections that made up a majority of our test course, the caster increase didn’t come with a notable reduction in agility compared to stock.
With strength and construction that far exceed OEM, the full set of Teixeira Tech A-Arms add a more solid and precise feel to the front end that racer types will appreciate. The ground clearance will benefit any Sportsman or Scrambler owner. The handling improvement is undeniably beneficial for anyone concerned about handling and feel at speed. In the woods or in the desert, Teixeira Tech’s XGC A-Arms make a big difference in strength, ground clearance, and handling. It’s no wonder pretty much every 4×4 racer runs them in the GNCCs.
Tires are the single most cost effective way to improve the handling and ride of your ATV and the ITP Terracross tires certainly demonstrated it on this build. Their front end directional control is far and away better than any OEM tire Polaris has used in years on the 1000. The square tire setup further adds to the tire’s inherent ability to steer accurately up front, while providing more predictably between driving and sliding out of turns with the back end improving overall handling control.
As an all-around trail tire, you can’t ask for much more. They provide great traction in everything from hard-pack to loam, and even wet fall trails. They’re predictable on sidehills, and yet slide on demand. Their radial construction also helps take the edge off any small bumps that might get past the shocks. Whether you’re a casual trail rider or a serious 4×4 racer, ITP’s Terracross RT tires could easily be your number one performance upgrade.
Keizer’s Voodoo beadlock wheels helped maximize the performance of our ITP tires on the heavy and powerful Sportsman 1000. Their beadlock design allowed us to run lower pressures with confidence that the Sportsman wouldn’t be able to unseat a tire. Had we encountered a flat during our testing, at least getting back to the truck is possible thanks to their beadlock design keeping the outside bead seated.
Aside from the standard beadlock benefits, Keizer’s lightweight design further adds to the machine’s excellent acceleration, handling and suspension action; something that’s missing from heavier, less expensive import wheels. If you want one of the best performing wheels money can buy, look no further.
The addition of the shorter, straighter bend Fasst Company Flexx handlebars, taller Teixeira Tech stem, adjustable position Teixeira Tech bar clamp, and Rox Speed FX Pegs put you in a much more effective attack position with better weight distribution on the machine.
We ran our Flexx bars with Softera yellow elastomers on the compression side with the next hardest red elastomers on the rebound stroke. This elastomer combo worked well taking up what little bump feedback made it past the Elka Stage 4 Shocks. The large diameter ODI Rogue grips allowed for a nice, relaxed grip with no irritating pressure points.
We really appreciate the increased grip of the Rox Speed FX foot pegs. While we didn’t dunk this beauty in mud, they would certainly be of benefit when mud or snow start piling up. With plenty of room in the floorboard area, being mounted forward of the stock pegs presented no issues. In fact, it positions the rider’s weight a bit more forward on the machine helping weight the front end for improved coring grip, a benefit we weren’t expecting.
At around $10,500 in upgrades, this is a bit of a dream build that many of us might find beyond our means. However, this upgrade can be done in stages or simply pick the parts that will offer the biggest benefit for your riding based on your budget.
An incredible machine to behold and ride. Everything from its appearance to its performance capitalize on what the Sportsman XP platform has to offer. Polaris should consider building a sportier sportsman similar to this. Thanks to Mud Motorsports, this Sportsman’s performance is ready to race or set a blistering pace on trail rides. Best of all, it’s far more fun to ride than stock!
If you have questions regarding the upgrades used on this project, or what upgrades will best improve your Sportsman XP 1000 or 850, we look forward to them in the comments. Subscribe to ATV on Demand and enable notifications for content like this. Thanks for watching.
Parts List and Prices
|Machine||2018 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000|
|Exhaust System||HMF Titan QS Full System||$779.95|
|Fuel Management||HMF Fuel Optimizer||$229.95|
|Clutch||Dalton Industries Adjustable Clutch Kit||$319.00|
|Chassis and Suspension|
|Frame Gussets||Cecco Racing Front Frame Braces||$59.95|
|Cecco Racing Rear Frame Braces||$59.95|
|Rear Differential Brace||Cecco Racing||$99.95|
|Pinion Cover||Cecco Racing Billet Pinion Cover||$159.95|
|Front A-Arms||Teixeira Tech XGC A-Arms Frap ball joints||$1,499.95|
|Ball Joints||Heavy Duty Frap Ball Joints set of 4||$199.80|
|Shocks Front||Elka Stage 4||$1,400|
|Shocks Rear||Elka Stage 4||$1,400|
|Steering Stem||Teixeira Tech||$319.95|
|Handlebar Clamp||Teixeira Tech Adjustable Anti-Vib||$109.95|
|Wheels||Keiser Voodoo black 14″ set of 4||$1,760|
|Tires||ITP Terra Cross 26×9-14 set of 4||$618.12|
|Handlebars||Fasst Co. Flexx Handlebars||$399.99|
|Display and Trottle Mode Switch Relocation||Mud Motorsports|
|Grips||ODI Rogue Lock-on||$29.95|
|Pegs||Rox Speed FX Utility ATV Foot Pegs||$104.95|
|Bumper||HMF HD Front Bumper||$219.95|
|Skid Plates||Ricochet, 2 Piece Full Frame||$347.23|
|Total in Upgrades|