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Cold Riding To Cover The USXC Heartland 200

By Nick Longworth

The Snow Goer demo sleds alongside the Heartland Trail with USXC Heartland 200 racers passing by in the background. Click to enlarge.

Especially during winter, Mother Nature doesn’t always give you perfect, warm weather. However, here at Snow Goer we love to ride anyways, regardless of what thermometers might say.

On a weekend forecasted to never reach temperatures above zero in northwestern Minnesota, we loaded a 2019 Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX SE and a Ski-Doo 2019 Renegade X-RS 850 E-TEC, then headed to Park Rapids with the intention of enjoying a brisk weekend ride and catching some of the USXC Heartland 200 races (which had a delayed start of 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. due to the cold).

In an effort to thwart the cold as best as humanly possible, we installed the PowerMadd X2 Gautlet around the handlebar of the Renegade, and also installed a PowerMadd windshield on the Sidewinder to increase wind coverage better than its stock option. Both were clearly upgrades of the set-up we would have previously used – specifically, the gauntlets provided ample hand and forearm coverage without being overly obtrusive or posing any safety issues (namely a lack of brake lever visibility). Despite the extreme cold and speeds presented, there were times I found myself turning down the hand-warmers, if you can believe it.

On Saturday morning we departed Osage under sunny skies – despite the -18 degree temperatures, a lack of window and ample sun were welcome discoveries. We headed east in legal ditches until we intersected with Trail 11, which took us to downtown Park Rapids. On a route provided through town we connected with the Heartland Trail corridor and continued east for a few more miles, until we arrived in Nevis. We spent the next hour or so essentially wasting time playing in ditches and cruising around the Nevis area until racers came down the Heartland Trail where we were stationed.

The PowerMadd X2 Gauntlet installed on the Ski-Doo 2019 Renegade X-RS 850 E-TEC.

We watched the racers for a while and then proceeded to take the ditch trail back west on Highway 34 back towards Park Rapids. We followed the ditch for approximately 15 miles until we arrived in Park Rapids for some Rocky’s Pizza for a pit stop. Readers may recognize the name, because we also stopped here when we previously rode the area in an article featured in the December 2018 issue of Snow Goer.

After lunch we headed out on Trail 11 again and eventually turned north into the Two Inlets State Forest area where we found very clean and smooth trails, so we spent the following few hours cruising around the trail network north of Osage. At this time there was no rhyme or reason to our riding or destination in mind. We zigzagged back and forth amongst the several trails for roughly 40 miles before we worked our way out of the forest to Straight Lake for some final tests.

As cold as our faces became, I couldn’t imagine running a race throughout the day.

However, according to the official results from the final merge of the Pro Open class, No. 312 Zach Herfindahl came in first place (on an Arctic Cat), No. 15 Wes Selby came in second (Arctic Cat) and No. 28 Justin Tate placed third (Polaris).

In all we racked up 98 of some of the coldest miles of my life, beating last season’s record by more than 10 (very negative) degrees. By the end, the Sidewinder required 7.5 gallons of gas, giving it an average of 13.06 miles per gallon, while the Renegade required only 6 gallons (16.3 mpg).

Throughout the course of the trip we became very impressed with the new Abom goggles that feature a heated lens to clear any fogging issues during a ride (of which there were many given the cold temps). Despite the extreme cold, the battery life not only lasted all day, but also remained working for a full hour once done riding before the red “low battery” warning light displayed. Whether set to the blue (temporary heat) or orange (permanent heat) modes, the goggles presented a clear upgrade over others tried on various rides.

Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door 6 times per year for a low cost.

One comment

  1. Was doing the same stationed on Long Lake on east side of PR Nick…the run from Brainerd to PR was pretty good but we did lose one rookie sled in Backus due to too cold for rider… camped at lakeside cabin, plowed down a straight run and scraped off an oval for dinkin on…you could have got in your lake runs and we would have kept you warm and well fed!… next time eh…hows that new forum coming along?

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