Every spring we are happily surprised by the new developments in snowmobile technology from the Big 4 OEMs as they keep striving toward creating the perfect mountain sled.
Along with such rapidly advancing technology on the OEM front, the snowmobile aftermarket firms are working equally hard to ensure that they still have products to sell that improve and customize these new models. Over the years the popularity of different aftermarket modifications has changed many times, but the constant pursuit of maximizing the power to weight ratio remains constant.
This year we dissected some of the top mountain riders’ sleds to find out secrets to maximizing the performance.
What we all want
Part of the reason for aftermarket trends changing is driven by consumers’ demands. Several years ago everyone wanted big horsepower sleds that would rocket up insane climbs, but demands have shifted toward riders looking to ride in technical sidehill terrain - boondocking.
This shift has been led by professional riders like Chris Burandt, Bret Rasmussen, and Dan Adams preaching this form of riding through their clinics, videos, articles and seminars. With this shift in popular riding styles the aftermarket has changed its focus to products that support boondocking.
Ergonomics: Sled ergonomics is one area that is becoming commonly modified to give riders better control of the sled while tipping it on its side. Riders are installing lower seats so it’s easier to hop over the machine and transition from wrong foot forward position on each side of the machine. Skinz, BOSS and Wasatch Recreational Products (WRP) are some popular brands of lowered seats.
Handlebars also are being lowered so that the bars are closer to the rider in a sidehill position. Much is debated about vertical or more horizontal steering columns, but the popular thought is that vertical steering columns are better for sidehilling.
Some riders are switching to a slightly lower bar on stock Polaris mountain machines. Ski-Doo and Yamaha owners have the option to install a different height riser. Most Arctic Cat owners already have stock adjustable height handlebar risers. We are also seeing riders first decide on a length and then switch to a more solid fixed height riser. FLY and RSI are some of the most popular choices of handlebars and ARS-FX from Z-Broz racing offers several varieties of steering posts and risers.
Boards: Aftermarket running boards have been popular the last few years as the stock running boards hold too much snow and do not offer enough traction. Although that has been changing of late.
Several companies sell running board replacement kits featuring large openings to clear snow with large teeth for traction. Skinz offers a complete tubular replacement running board for maximum snow clearing and traction. With a big jump forward in running board design from both Polaris and Ski-Doo for 2013 models, one wonders about aftermarket running board modifications in the future.
Suspensions: While stock suspensions are as good as they have ever been, mountain riders are concerned about customizing their suspensions to meet their specific riding style, weight and terrain they play in.
Suspensions can be changed in a number of ways. Some riders opt for a completely different set of front or rear suspension arms with different shocks, and others keep the stock suspension arms and use different shocks. The choices are vast for suspension modifications and all the aftermarket companies have different specialties.
Shock manufacturers like FOX and RydeFX offer air shocks that are lighter weight than most, but with different characteristics. Whereas companies such as Walker Evans, Raptor, Exit, and Elka offer multiple-rate spring shocks with external reservoirs.
Many Yamaha Nytro MTX owners have been changing complete front-ends, including A-arms, shocks and spindles to modify the position of the ski in relation to the chassis. Most riders of other brands just concentrate on shocks, or in some cases, complete replacement rear skids. Aftermarket rear skids are popular with riders on high-performance sleds as they require a rear suspension that will help keep the skis down while climbing. EZ-Ryde, Timbersled, K-Mod and Holz all offer different style replacement skids.
Power: Nearly everyone wants more power in the mountains, and turbos are the first choice for significantly boosting power.
Turbos became popular when the first 4-strokes came out and recently turbo technology has been perfected for 2-stroke engines too.
Aerocharger and BoonDocker are leading the way in aftermarket turbo kits for 2-stroke models. These kits fit an aftermarket turbocharger to the machine to boost the amount of air going to the engine with electronic controls or additional fuel systems to match fuel to the increased air flow, which bumps up the power. For its 4-stroke lineup Yamaha offers both turbo and supercharger systems from Mountain Performance. These are Yamaha-approved and dealer installed to keep the warranty in place.
All of these boost options are relatively expensive and time consuming to install, but offer the maximum performance on the snow. It’s a safe bet you’ll gain 8 to 10 horsepower per pound of boost you dial into the system. That’s over stock engine performance at the altitude you’re running. Many systems claim to create 200 to 220 horsepower.
For riders looking to stay naturally aspirated there are a range of exhaust, intake and electronic modifications available from companies like SLP (Starting Line Products), Speedwerx, Carl’s Cycle, Straightline, and Aaen Performance. Most exhaust system gains are in the 10 to 15 horsepower range, but will cost you far less than a turbo or supercharger.
Appearance: Everyone wants a good-looking sled! Vinyl wraps are an affordable solution to completely changing the look of a sled. From mild to wild, you can completely customize to your style.
ArcticFX, SCS, Toyskinz, Sledwraps, Blown Concepts and Racewerx are some of the choices out there for custom wraps. Combined with custom powder coating of bumpers, suspension arms and rails, the mountain machines can be completely transformed relatively easily and quickly.
There is an almost endless number of possible mods that can alter performance.
Before modifying your machine ride it stock for a while and assess what you want to change. There is nothing worse than a perfectly good machine that has been ruined by badly picked and installed mods. So before shelling out big bucks, do some research by talking to riders with on-snow experience of the products you’re considering. Be wary of what you read from “internet mechanics” in regards to modifications.
It is recommended to buy from reputable companies with a proven track record of performance. You almost always get what you pay for, so be careful of really great deals on aftermarket parts.
All four OEMs are adding new aftermarket and OEM parts to their accessories catalogs. These parts are typically well tested and developed so can be a safe choice.
If done right modified mountain sleds offer an incredible level of performance making them a blast to ride. In some cases the sleds are so good it’s like cheating!