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The world's best buggy built in Nampa?

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Once in a great while, an invention comes along that significantly changes the industry in which it is based. Imagine skateboards before urethane wheels, or mountain bikes before suspension: The basics are there, but it takes imagination and know-how to implement improvements that will elevate the sport to a whole new level. New modifications can raise the comfort level of the ride and manifestly increase the options for use of the machine.

This is precisely what is happening in the world of off-road vehicles. The Ridge Runner is the culmination of design and execution, and it takes the driving experience to a whole new level.

That's right, folks; put away those standard ATVs and start selling off those custom Jeep parts. The future of off-roading has arrived, and it's based in Nampa.

"I wanted to build an off-roader that you can sit in instead of on," says Dan Denney, president of Ridge Runner. This simple premise led to the development of a vehicle that combines elements of desert racers and Baja buggies with safety features that allow for a smooth, comfortable ride in a machine that can go just about anywhere you can imagine taking it.

The design of the Ridge Runner shows off the many extra features that differentiate it from other off-highway vehicles. There is 18 inches of ground clearance, and Fox Racing Air Shox on all four wheels allow for 13 inches of suspension travel. It's a two-seater, so your passenger can ride right next to you, and the motor is quiet enough to actually have a conversation that doesn't require screaming at the top of your lungs. The rack-and-pinion steering provides precise handling, which means the wheel doesn't yank around, no matter what the terrain is like.

The mechanics of the Ridge Runner are impressive, and the overall performance of the vehicle is enhanced by the safety features that come standard. Both seats have dual-shoulder seatbelts to secure the driver and passenger. A sturdy roll bar and full roll cage surround you, and the passenger has a grab bar to hold on to. "It's kind of like you can be a race car driver in the backcountry and feel relatively safe," explains Denney.

The Ridge Runner looks cool, with a steel tube chassis that is created right at the factory in Nampa. It's easy to go on and on about the features, but what is really incredible is the ride. A recent test drive at Hemingway Butte demonstrated that this thing is unbelievably smooth and floats over bumps and ditches like they're not even there. It's so comfortable that you find yourself bracing against jerks and bounces that never come. Confidence in the machine may be its biggest attraction: It seems to be able to climb up anything, and the disc brakes can stop you anywhere on a hill, even when you're facing straight down the cliffs of a butte. You feel as if there's nothing it can't do as it roves over all types of land-rocks, sand, and bigger rocks-while you're safe and secure inside. You feel like you're driving your own rollercoaster.

So far, the drivers of other vehicles are impressed, too; Denney has seen Jeep drivers watch in amazement as he rolls right up and over obstacles that has them stumped. "People always think it's a dune buggy, but we like to call it a mountain buggy," says Denney. All this, and it fits in the back of a standard pickup truck.

The sticker on the back of one Ridge Runner says it all: "Don't Follow Me: You Won't Make It."

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