We recently spoke with Joey DiGiovanni, owner and founder of UTVUnderground.com, a site dedicated to UTV enthusiasts and their machines. Joey lives and breathes UTVs and has turned his passion into a career. Joey took time to share his thoughts on the UTV industry and Can-Am off-road vehicles.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with off-roading and specifically UTVs.
A: Living and growing up in Southern California I was exposed to desert off-road at a very young age. In my teenage years a love for the desert really bloomed and came full circle with the purchase of my first dune buggy. In 2006 after years of off-roading I purchased my first SxS and the rest is all history.
I instantly became hooked on the sport for all the same reasons every day enthusiasts become hooked. It was affordable and fun and a way I could enjoy the dunes and deserts with friends and family without breaking the bank.
Q: What made you decide to start UTVUnderground?
A: In a nut shell, I just thought the sport needed an all-inclusive UTV site that was much more like an interactive online magazine. As the sport of SxS vehicles began to explode I found that the online options for SxS news and information were rather limited. You had a few really good sites like UTVGuide.net, but overall the sites people turned too were forum based and were dedicated to specific machines. I saw a need for a site that incorporated both forum styling for enthusiasts to share ideas and interact, find all the latest and greatest news and information the sport has to offer, yet also join together as SxS enthusiasts and not just lovers of one particular machine. One other driving force behind launching UTVUnderground.com back in 2009 was the need for a site that showed the competitors of SxS racing the love they deserved.
Every sport has a site they can turn to for news and information yet SxS racers had no place to call home. We quickly became that home and because we have always had a love for the sport of SxS racing from day one it was obvious that we were lifestyle driven and not just doing it to make a quick buck.
Our dedication to the sport of SxS racing has single handedly given us the platform for which to launch our site from. Early on were pigeon holed into being the UTV race site, but over time people have come to rely and expect us to have all the latest and greatest news and information for all things SxS! Simply put, if you want to know what is going on in the UTV industry then you need to visit UTVUnderground.com!
Q: The side-by-side market has absolutely exploded. Why do think they have become so popular?
A: The SxS market in my opinion has exploded for many reasons. No. 1 is the fact that they are so versatile in terms of the places and ways people can use them. A SxS that is used around the house or ranch as a work vehicle during the week can double as a hunting or trail rig on the weekend. For us out west we have turned our vehicles into affordable mini buggies that afford us the same amount of fun for a fraction of the cost when comparing to larger full scale pre-runners or sand cars. Factor in the vast dealer network and the ability to finance the machine of your dreams for less than $20,000 and you have a situation where anyone can easily get involved in the sport.
Q: The Mint 400 is considered one of the toughest off-road races in the US. Can-Am took 1st and 2nd in the UTV class with the Commander. What do you think helped them secure the 1-2 finish?
A: Off-Road racing is a strict combination of vehicle prep, logistics, and team preparedness. Often times the drivers get the glory, but as any off-road desert racer will tell you it is a total team effort. Of course you must have a capable machine as well.
The Can-Am X Team of Murray Motorsports is the full package. Brothers Jason and Derek Murray are not only great drivers, but they are also dedicated to their team and their will to win. So much so that they prep and test their Commander®1000 relentlessly in-between races ensuring they bring their “A-Game” to each and every race. The Mint 400 was no exception as Murray Motorsports not only won, but they did it in convincing fashion. Not only outlasting the competition, but flat out dominating it over one of the most brutal courses in off-road racing.
It was obvious as we covered the race that the Commander was really working well this race, not just the Murray’s but also the Commander 1000 of Cory Sappington who took second place in the race. That race isn’t the only race the Commander has done well in, it seems that every desert race is a potential winner for the Commander racers as they always are battling for the top podium position.
Q: What is your favorite kind of driving?
A: This is a question I get all of the time and every time I think a little harder about the answer I am going to give. But after pondering here for a minute I would have to say my absolute favorite style is any kind that my friends and family are along for. Sure I love dunes, I love the rocks, and I love mountain trails, but more than that is the love of sharing those drives with my wife and kids and all of our friends. I know, it sounds cheesy but it’s true.
My favorite kind of is the driving I happen to be doing that day! I am fortunate enough to have been able to go on some pretty amazing off-road adventures and drive in some of the world’s coolest places, but there is no better trail then the one my family and friends are on with me. Sometimes that’s simply in our own backyard exploring the trails surrounding our property. Other times its pedal to the metal in Glamis or Baja, Mexico.
I will tell you the one style I just can’t wrap my head around is MUD! I have been to the High Lifter Mud Nationals two years in a row and while I have a blast watching these guys and girls bury their machines. I just can’t fathom doing that to my own.
Q: What has been your favorite off-road adventure so far?
A: Wow, another hard one for me to pinpoint as we have done some really great trips of the years. Recently I was afforded the opportunity to travel to the UAE and do some duning in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and that was a ton of fun. However, I still think my favorite SxS off-road adventure was the first real one I ever took back in 2006.
A group of about 20 of us did a three-day trip in Baja, Mexico that was just epic. The driving was awesome, the food was amazing and the experience in general was just epic. While I think there has been more majestic trips and trail rides that one will always stick with me because that was the trip that really prompted me to want to be involved in the whole sport of SxS driving.
Q: You get to travel to some cool places like Moab with UTVUnderground. If you could plan a dream trip, where would you go?
A: Oh man, a dream trip? Recently I have been pondering a ride in Alaska that incorporated exploration, fishing, and camping. A real off-road adventure where we must carry what we need to survive for a couple of days in some of the most remote yet beautiful places the world has to offer. I envision a trip where a handful of us would take off into the landscape with only our clothes, food, fishing/hunting & camping equipment, and enough fuel to make it back out. We would spend a few days exploring the wilderness and just plain enjoying the experience of hopefully going where only a handful of off-roaders had ever gone before us. If we could be the first to traverse that part of the wilderness in a SxS that would make it even better!
Q: What is one thing every Can-Am Commander owner should experience or try?
A: I think every Can-Am Commander owner should experience a multi-day trail ride of some sort with friends and family. At UTVUnderground.com we have a ride group called La Familia that is constantly planning family friendly group rides all year long. Recently they did a trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from Mesquite, NV and it looked like a ton of fun. This is a trip I personally went on a couple years back with our friend Wally of Americas Adventure Tours and its one of those bucket list adventures. What’s better than enjoying your SxS while overlooking one of the world’s greatest natural wonders? But any trail adventure would work.
The idea is to just get out on the trail with your friends and family and go someplace that otherwise you would never get to see. Side by side’s give us the chance to explore and enjoy the world in its natural beauty and when doing that with people you enjoy the company of it makes it a perfect combination!
Q: Where do you see the future of UTVs and off-roading headed?
A: This is an interesting question and one that is pondered often on UTVUnderground.com. I think the sky is the limit. As the sport grows in all areas and segments manufacturers have an open book in terms of what they want to create for us. Of course the enthusiasts out west want faster and better suspended units for the desert while guys down south want taller more torque filled machines for the mud.
People all over want more economically comfortable machines for those long days on the trail and the customers on the ranches and farms want tougher longer lasting work horses to help them get the job done.
The one thing that can slow our sport and love of off-roading and SXS driving down is land use battles.
If you love to off-road then you need to do your part to support our right to use our land. Government wants and is taking land away from recreational off-roaders and an alarming rate so we all need to do our part to tread lightly, ride responsibly, and continue to raise our voices to protect the lands we do have and preserve them for future generations.
Q: Do you have any tips for Can-Am owners on getting the most out of their UTV experiences?
A: My tip for Can-Am Commander owners to the get the most out of their machines is do not be afraid to go explore new areas. For many years I kept my driving to a couple of areas, but over the past couple of years I have become hell bent on exploring and experiencing new areas.
My other tip is maintenance. Do not neglect your machine; take care of it just like you would your child. The more you maintain it the more you will get out of it and there is nothing better than having piece of mind while out on a trip. And of course, join UTVUnderground.com! We have a great base of members who are also Commander owners and love to modify their machines and get out and enjoy them!