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How to Set Riser Height

Proper height, position for attack riding stance aids performance
Carl Kuster Ski-Doo Freeride snowmobile setting riser height
Carl Kuster has his riser lined up perfectly for attack mode.
Proper sled setup is one of the most important components to creating a snowmobile that handles well. Improper setup will increase mistakes, intensify rider fatigue, and simply put, make riding less fun.

■ Height has changed
One of the most common sled setup mistakes is riser height and position. Many riders use an insanely tall riser, simply because they are following the formula for previous sled designs. Before the current rider-forward design, sleds had the handlebars over the gas tank and the running boards were slick and would fill up with snow in the parking lot. With this handlebar design, and slippery running boards that were only about four inches wide, it felt like you were riding on the rear bumper all day. Risers were a must.

Fast forward to 2019, and snowmobiles are lighter, have better handling, and get faster every year. Manufacturers are centralizing mass and shedding pounds faster than Weight Watchers. Despite these shifts, consumers had already started a revolution of their own by bolting on crazy bar and riser combos, looking like they were riding a Harley with ape hangers down the Pacific Coast Highway.

One of my best friends jumped on the “Easy Rider” bandwagon and had ape hangers on his Ski-Doo XP. I had the “pleasure” of riding it out of a nasty creek bottom. The sled had about a 10-inch riser, oriented vertically. The sled was facing uphill, and the snow was a bottomless pit to the inner depths of the Earth.
Ski-Doo Freeride 165 850 E-TEC snowmobile
We shoveled out the running boards one more time, I grabbed the bars, and pulled the rope. My friend gave the ski one more pull, and I filled his face with 2-stroke exhaust, and probably a noticeable hearing threshold shift, as he had the loudest exhaust off the internet.

A rodeo ensued, as I was sidehilling this monster. The handlebars were exactly head height, which proved a problem. 

The sled quickly built speed, and the skis were in the air, I was looking for an exit so was aggressively sidehilling, but every time the skis hit snow, they would momentarily bite, the riser and bars would swing back to neutral, hitting me in the head with my own left hand. I had spent enough time and energy in the hole, so I never shut off. I rode it out the top, but it wasn’t pretty. I was seeing stars and my heart was beating like I was in a championship fight. But at least we were out.

The first issue with his setup is obvious, the ape hanger riser was about twice as tall as it needed to be. The power and control needed to be smooth, and success on a sled comes from your beltline in the attack position. Attack position entails standing on the running boards with your knees slightly to moderately bent, somewhat hinged at the hips, with your head over the handlebars, and your elbows up.

The best example may be Cooper Webb, the 2019 AMA Supercross 450 champion. He always has perfect form and style that would translate perfectly to aggressive snowmobiling.
Ski-Doo snowmobile how to adjust riser height for attack mode
The best way to determine where to adjust your riser is to get on your sled in the attack position.
Another great example is Carl Kuster, a well-known name in the industry. Once a snocross racer and now a full-time mountain guide and shredder, his form is perfect. Even for a taller guy, he runs a relatively short riser.

The best way to determine where to adjust your riser is to get on your sled in the attack position. Once in that position, assess your handlebars. They should be at your beltline, if they are not, it’s time for a change.

■ Position matters too
The next issue is riser position. With my snowmobile fight club situation, the riser was vertical, as opposed to following the steering post’s plane. This positio introduces poor handling characteristics, but it’s preventable. Simply adjust the riserso it follows the steering post’s plane.

Adjusting for proper height and position will fix some of the biggest complaints riders have when they hop from one manufacturer to another’s sled. If you make the adjustments, within a few hours, the new riser orientation will feel better, and your sled’s handling will improve.

Steve lives in Evanston, Wyo., and is one of the original SledNeck films riders. Follow him at Instagram: @steve_martin12 and Facebook: @12stevemartin
• Knees slightly bent
• Hinged at the hips
• Head over handlebars
• Elbows up


• Handlebars hitting on the belt line
• Riser follows the plane of the steering post
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