From time to time I am blessed to be the co-driver in a fully built race Polaris XP Turbo. There are a lot of responsibilities that go along with riding in the "dummy seat" during a race. Navigating, watching all the gauges, checking the rear view mirror, and most important... changing the inevitable flat tire or broken belt. Stopping for just one unfortunate event can loose a race so down time has to be kept to a minimum. Now imagine the confusion when the car suddenly looses drive in the middle of a race and in a frantic rush the belt cover is pulled only to find a perfectly good belt. Did we blow up the transmission? Nope. With everything going on during the bumpy aggressive driving the shift lever was bumped just enough to shift into a false neutral. Time was wasted and positions lost. Luckily the shift lever was not bumped hard enough to attempt to shift the transmission into Low while under power!
Not like that never happens anyway! I'm sure almost ever UTV driver has at one time or another grabbed that shifter at the wrong time or before coming to a complete stop. Or maybe you scared the crap out of a passenger and they grabbed the shifter in a panic! No matter the cause, we want to prevent those accidental shifts at all costs. Hence the purpose of a gated shifter.
What is a gated shifter? Well instead of just relying on the internal shift detents in the transmission to stop in gear and hold it there, a gated shifter has a series of paths, stops or "gates" to control the free shifting from one gear to another. Gated shifters have been used for a long time to prevent the missed shifts or over-shifts in everything from drag cars to Trophy Trucks. The gates allow gears to be shifted sequentially without accidentally shifting past one. Another important benefit is the the gates can be configured to prevent an unwanted shift into Reverse.
Well a belt driven UTV isn't shifted sequentially you say. Correct but they can still benefit from controlling the shift pattern. In fact Can-Am has been using a form of a gated shifter for years in their UTVs. Their shifter has horizontal or lateral gates that require the shifter to be rowed side to side from one gear to another. While effective it prevents fast shifting through all the gears. Polaris has High gear at the very far end from Park and we want to get there fast without the added back and forth movements. That is why the Motive Engineering Gated Shifter was designed as a straight line shifter. Directional gates allow the shift lever to be pulled all the way to High then locks it there until the trigger is pulled. Once the trigger is pulled the lever can again be moved allowing shifting into Low without over-shifting. From Low the shifter can be bumped into Neutral without any trigger pulling or sideways movement. This can be critical to save a backwards rollover during a steep climb. Unfortunately the reverse chain is fragile so we want to make sure the transmission can quickly be shifted into Neutral without the possibility of shifting into Reverse in those panic moments.
You will never see a steering column mounted shifter in an 8 second drag car for a reason. So why would you want to shift your UTV is such a sloppy manner.