It’s fun to modify sleds, especially when those changes bring more power, provide a better “feel” from the engine and improve its running quality. Not that the 800R engine is short on snort or that it runs rough, but The Crank Shop has a few hop-ups that make the throttle on Ski-Doo’s 799cc Rotax engine even more of a pleasure to pull.
We installed the Vermont-based company’s billet head kit and ceramic-coated exhaust parts in our 2009 MX Z Renegade 800R X, which made our thumb as giddy as teenage girls at a Jonas Brothers concert.
Our first test with The Crank Shop’s hardware was in the Big Horn Mountains. We installed the parts one day, threw the sled in a trailer the next day and headed west from Minnesota. From the moment we first pulled the rope in northern Wyoming, the sled started easily, ran perfectly and didn’t miss a beat over three days of riding from 8,300 feet above sea level.
The head cover with high-compression domes ($399), pipe ($499) and Y-pipe ($250) cleaned up the running quality and sharpened throttle response from engagement to the peak 8050 rpm we saw on the sled’s tach. We felt the most improvement in the mid-range along with a good boost on the top-end. The head inserts’ squish band – the area over the piston dome – is wider than the stock head, which is the main reason we felt the engine run better, according to The Crank Shop owner Larry Audette.
Performance was better when we returned to the flatlands, too. We know this because we put about 500 miles on the sled before we installed the aftermarket goods in order to establish good baseline performance impressions of the 800R in stock form. The modified sled pulled hard and friends and other staffers who threw a leg over the machine said it ran strong, and that it was “especially responsive when on the pipe coming out of the corners,” they said.
The Crank Shop said to stick with stock jetting and burn only premium gasoline (this information was not included in the instructions). We ran nothing less than 91 octane fuel and enjoyed consistent performance through the course of more than 600 testing miles.
Fit and finish of the parts is excellent. Once we figured out the right orientation to feed the pipe into the sled, installation was easy. The bends were in the right place to avoid interference from the chassis and the spring hooks were welded in the right spots for a secure fit.
Installation of the Y-pipe, theoretically, is easy. The problem is that Y-pipes in some Ski-Doo sleds can be a real pain to remove and install. The tight fit in the REV-XP chassis combined with the forward lean of the 800R engine makes it difficult to twist the screws in or out of the cylinders with a traditional Allen wrench. So, if you buy this Y-pipe, pick up a 5mm ball-end Allen wrench, too, which can be inserted at a less-precise angle and still get a good bite on the fastener.
The head cover has a shiny, milled finish that looks so cool that it’s a shame you can’t see it when installed. In addition to its nice appearance and overall good quality, the exhaust had a near-stock note that could be detected only by well-educated ears. There’s a hint more rasp around clutch engagement, otherwise the pipe sounds like the factory piece. Quiet is good no matter where you ride.
Some test riders balked at the package price of this The Crank Shop package. Combined, a person would spend $1,148 on the setup. That’s a lot of bread, but if you truly appreciate top-quality components and a well-tuned, fun-running sled, these mods are for you. They’re available separately, and you will get a lot of bang for your buck if you start with the head and then add other The Crank Shop hard parts later.