Dave was clearly inspired.
My longtime friend and riding buddy is generally a rather aggressive rider – certainly not crazy or reckless, but he likes to get after it a bit. But sometimes, “getting after it” has been more work and has caused him more pain than the rest of us.
As a magazine tester, I am spoiled — always with the latest and greatest hardware in the trailer — and many people we ride with have sleds that are within 5-6 years of new. Dave, however, still rode his tried and trusty 1999 MX Z 600 – trailing arms, low seating position and all. He’s kept it in great shape, and it runs and rides very well for its era. But there were many times, on rough trails or in especially tight or technical sections, when we would have to wait for Dave to catch up. And anything that involved off-trail exploration or even standing to protect yourself through bumps was more frustrating and tiring for Dave than it was for others in our group.
Well, that has changed. Starting immediately.
No, Dave didn’t buy new – as a guy with teenage kids at home and college costs on the horizon, he wasn’t able to justify that expense. Instead, his was a $3,600 investment on a used sled – a 2005 MX Z that actually belonged to a mutual friend of ours. It isn’t the latest and greatest – it has the first-generation REV chassis, not an XP or XS; its engine is fed the semi-direct SDI system, not E-TEC. But it’s a hell of step up from where Dave was at.
His enthusiasm for the new sled was readily apparent a week ago today, when Dave and I made a cannonball run up to central Minnesota, unloaded and hit the trails for our first ride of the year – a quick 163-mile trail ride between 9 a.m. and sunset.
Even though his face was hidden behind his black modular helmet, it was readily apparent just from watching him ride that he was having more fun on this sled than he had the last couple of times I had ridden with him. He moved around the sled with greater ease, stood easily and aired the sled out over a couple of field approaches in a ditchline, and charged through the rough swamps with greater confidence. “Thank God for this ‘new’ sled,” Dave said at one trailside stop. “That swamp would have really kicked my [butt] on my old MX.”
Yes, it would have. And he definitely would have felt it even more on Saturday morning.
So many times, the magazines and the sled manufacturers and maybe even some riding buddies try to make it sound like the newest, latest and greatest sleds are the only things worth having. And, as a guy who is always on first-year equipment, it is also very easy for me to fall in love with each year’s improvements. Plus, placing all of my cards on the table, I and all people “in the industry” do have a vested interest in people buying new sleds, gear, trailers, accessories, etc.
But we also have a vested interest in having as many enthusiastic snowmobilers as possible – people who ride whenever they get the chance, fill hotel rooms, go to races, shop for gear, go to swaps and generally spread the gospel of the greatness of snowmobiling.
Dave doesn’t have a new sled – it’s just new to him. But it has made him a better rider, and a more enthusiastic snowmobiler.
Once the hub-bub of the holiday season has passed, consider getting a gift for yourself. And if a new sled isn’t in your budget, consider merely upgrade a bit and opting into the 21st century, if you’re not already there. It’ll make you a more inspired rider. Just like Dave.