No longer is there a need to pack lightly for a so-called “toothbrush run” on a snowmobile — well, not for Polaris Switchback Adventure riders, that is. And there’s a funny sense of pride they might feel while prepping for a saddlebag trip. We did.
While staged at a park-n-ride lot in northern Minnesota one morning last winter, our buddies carefully stuffed their backpacks with supplies for an overnight ride. We smirked and recklessly loaded gear into the boxes that hung on the back of our Switchback Adventure demo. A backpack wasn’t needed.
Their underwear, socks, toothbrushes, bags of jerky and spare gloves would weigh down upon their shoulders once we hit the trail, but our cargo’s payload didn’t matter to us. We loaded up the same gear, but there was also room for a pair of shoes and a few snacks. We thought about tossing in a bowling ball and a few pins just for effect, but why rub it in? With the accessory bag mounted in the center rack, there was a nice place to put trail maps and a baseball cap without crushing it or creasing the brim.
When we reached our destination, luggage was dry, proving that the containers and internal bags sealed up well. And even while pounding down a hard, rough trail with the cargo boxes loaded with luggage, they stayed rigidly mounted without loosening, falling off or breaking. Lock & Ride is a trusty cargo system and the box material is durable.
Compared to the two other Pro Ride-based Polaris snowmobiles that were in our fleet last winter — 600 Rush and 800 Rush Pro-R LE — the Switchback Adventure was more comfortable because of its wider seat that offers more square inches for a butt to rest, and it feels softer, too. A rubber wind deflector on each side panel makes the Adventure warmer by pushing cold air around the rider.
Just by looking at an Adventure, appearing all solo-touring slow with hard bags and mirrors, you might think that the long-track sled isn’t a good choice for covering a long trail in a short period of time, but put those predispositions aside because even though this sled was built to haul cargo, the Switchback Adventure is a touring machine on which riders can haul ass, too.
As always, throttle response from the familiar 600 Cleanfire engine is quick and fun through the full RPM and vehicle-speed range. The Adventure rolls on a 136-inch Cobra track and holds its line through corners pretty well for a long-track, but compared to our short-track Rush machines we had to work harder to keep the inside ski down through corners.
The trustworthy Pro-Ride front suspension felt as good as ever at tracking straight through moguls and gobbling up chatter at low and high speeds, but those small, closely spaced bumps taxed the unique Pro-Ride skidframe and caused a disconnect between overall suspension performance. The front is great and the rear is just OK.
As far as backcountry riding goes, the Adventure is about as capable as your average hybrid sled, but loaded cargo boxes interfere with the rider’s body transitions from one running board to the other and cargo weight affects how well the sled rolls over in deep snow. If extra storage space isn’t needed, the cargo boxes can be easily removed by flipping the tool-less mounting latches.
The Switchback Adventure includes two outlets to power GPS units, phones or other devices. The 12-volt DC outlet on the dash near the gauge looks good, but the RCA plug-in for heated shields is jammed on the handlebar riser’s plastic cover and looks like an afterthought. This half-baked design isn’t surprising from Polaris, though, as the company has long taken shortcuts like this that detract from the overall perception of quality. Considering the price of sleds these days, this low level of execution is no longer acceptable.
Polaris bills the Switchback Adventure as the ultimate do-it-all snowmobile for high-performance trail rides, high-mile journeys and off-trail explorations. The sled definitely nails the first two categories, but even more than other hybrids it gives up some backwoods capability in order to satisfy requirements for long-distance journeys.