A traditional lift kit is great—but it has its drawbacks. If you’re into getting off the beaten path into some mud or over some rocks, your lift kit needs to be geared for it (pun intended), or you’re going to miss out on peak performance.
For anyone looking to hit the trails hard this season, next season, and every season you can get, a portal gear lift is the ass-kicking, aggressive-looking, chassis-saving torque monster you’ll need to take it to the next level!
What are portals on a side by side?
Portals, AKA portal gear lifts, were designed to lift a side by side or ATV like a standard lift kit, while adding some torque and taking away some of the negatives. They replace the wheel hub assembly, and add a series of gears stacked 4”, 6”, or 8” high in a contained box. This raises the entire vehicle from the axle up.
Why should you add portal gear lifts to your UTV?
Avid riders and pros can tell when there’s a difference in their rig. Even if the clutch is half a second off on a turn, they’ll feel it. With portals, you don’t need to be an expert to feel a difference immediately. Your stance is more aggressive right from the start, and the doors it opens up for different riding styles are a huge hit for riders everywhere.
1. Ability to run larger tires
Some riders just love the look of 20” wheels and tires, and some people need 20” wheels and tires for mudding or extreme trails. It doesn’t matter if it’s for looks or performance—there’s no way a stock Ranger is going to fit oversized Outlaw tires on it.
Aside from the geometry problem of trying to fit the darn things under the fenders, your engine’s OEM clutch isn’t tuned for anything other than stock-sized tires. So, the torque ratio is going to be off.
Before portals, trying to fix that torque ratio was a chore. Without opening up the transmission and clutch, re-tuning the weights and springs, and adjusting the timing, your torque just wasn’t going to get your big wheels turning the way they should.
2. Offers torque gains
More torque means you’re set up for the ability to run bigger tires. It also means being able to accelerate faster and clear more obstacles like mud, honey holes, and climb rocks. If any of that sounds like fun to you, portals are the way to go.
Without getting into a physics lesson, torque is the amount of force applied to rotate an object. In this case, the power is your engine, and the object is rotating your tires. Torque—in buggies and other vehicles—is controlled by gear ratios. These are both inversely connected to RPM, or speed. Here’s some quick crib notes:
- High gear ratio=high torque.
- Low gear ratio=low torque.
- High RPM=low torque
- Low RPM=high torque
They do this through a process called gear reduction. With the axle entering the small gear at the top and winding up turning one big gear at the bottom, your portal gear lift was able to take the high-RPM, low-torque output and convert it into high-torque, low RPM power.
High Lifter’s tallest and most sought-after portal gear lift’s have gear reductions that go up to 60%. This means that the bottom gear has all the same power transmitted to it, but it’s using the power to get over rocks, through mud, or up steep hills.
3. Allows factory steering geometry to stay intact
When you start changing the height and suspension of your UTV or ATV, you’re going to notice some changes in the wheel camber. The camber—or angle of the wheel—is visible when looking at the vehicle head-on or from behind.
The top of the tire will either point straight up, inwards towards the chassis or outwards away from the vehicle. It may only be a couple of degrees, but it makes a huge difference when cornering.
With a portal lift, the factory set (or aftermarket tuned) settings of your suspension stay intact. That’s because the portal gear lift raises EVERYTHING up except the tires and wheels. So the settings for a-arm angles, camber, or whatever else you’ve got dialed in stays the same—just 4”, 6”, or 8” higher.
This all sounds great. More torque and clearance, and it won’t mess with the rig’s suspension? This has got to be the better pick—right? Some Side By Side Stuff fans think otherwise.
Are portals better than a lift kit?
Some people swear by them, and others swear at them. Portal gear lifts have a lot of advantages for certain kinds of riding, but they have drawbacks that a regular lift might not. It’s time we sorted this all out: let the debate begin!
Traditional lift kits can be as slight as a 2” spacer to compress your springs. Our big lift kits can raise you up 10” or more with a set of monster trailing arms, aftermarket springs, Double A-Arms, and more. So, there’s a lot of variation. Considering this, we’re going to say that for comparison’s sake, a traditional lift kit includes the replacement of OEM axles, springs, and various arms and supports rather than the addition of one new part (portal lift).
REGULAR LIFT KIT PROS:
- More customizable. You can mix and match parts (within reason).
- Larger variety in heights. anything from 2”-10”.
- Maintain engine RPM and torque. assuming the clutch is tuned for it, your engine works just how it is set to.
- Style points. (they come in some pretty cool colors).
REGULAR LIFT KIT CONS
- Changes axle angle/wheel camber, etc. With so many changes, standard lifts affect the handling of your vehicle. Axle angle changes cause more heat and friction, reducing longevity. Finding the right settings to avoid this could take a long time to dial it in.
- Doesn’t lift axles or A-arms. You get more clearance, but not everywhere. There are parts that are still just as vulnerable.
- Lifts over 6” are a lengthy, difficult install. If you don’t have a shop you trust, or know your way around a garage, you might make a mistake during the install.
- More parts = more problems. With all of the changes made, a bigger traditional lift kit is a lot of upkeep. A lot more can go wrong when what lifts you isn’t contained in a forged aluminum shell!
PORTAL LIFT CONS
- Drop in top speed. It’s true—portal gear lifts do take away some speed in order to gain torque.
- Less customization. If you buy a 6” portal with 45% gear reduction, you’re not going to be able to take out a part from you 6” portal and turn it into a 4”.
- Increase lower weight. Lower weight is the weight that’s not held up by the suspension and could affect handling.
- Increase ride width. Now we understand—to many, this is a plus. Adding stance and character to the ride is one thing, but the extra width gives you some stability too—all without affecting the axle! However, if you’re just not looking to go wider, it’s not ideal. Some trails are just too narrow to ride with a wider setup.
PORTAL LIFT PROS
- Serious torque gains. With gear reductions as low as 15% all the way up to 60% on 8” lifts, this is a game-changer for anyone who likes to get a little stuck—but not stay stuck.
- Complete Lift. The only thing that doesn’t rise off the ground is the wheels and tires. Everything else on your vehicle gets additional clearance.
- Doesn’t mess with anything. Not only does a portal lift increase your torque—it can enhance their lifespan by taking stress off of all of the parts that are struggling in mud and up hills.
- Easy(er) Install. It’s still a vehicle—so it’s not tinker toys. But installing a portal gear lift is a lot farther away from rocket science than a standard lift.
Big lifts made easy
At Side By Side Stuff, the opinions vary. Some traditionalists love their standard lift setups, while other riders choose to get a portal lift, and it’s changed how they ride for the better. We could take a poll, but with all the rock crawlers, mud-slingers, and downright devilish drivers we have, it’s gotta be portals! Find the best American-made portals from High Lifter today.
If portals aren’t right for you, check out all the great standard and big lift kits available on our site.
But…why stop there? If you’re really, really looking to raise your RZR, why not do both? Get a standard lift, add a portal, and give your friends a reason to always “look up” to you. Get them both here!