January 21, 2011
Greetings from frigid Minnesota! Temperature readings in parts of the North Star State were minus 40 degrees overnight Thursday, probably causing many Minnesotans to throw an extra blanket on their beds last night.
Despite the cold weather, I’m getting ready for a cross-country snowmobile trip of sorts this weekend with two test riders, Keith and Kurt Gutzwiller, who are the groomer operators for our snowmobile club. We’re going to head out from the Snow Goer shop in the suburbs of Minneapolis, ride up to central Minnesota and spend the night at my mom and dad’s home. My parents live in an area that’s densely populated with lakes and is a vacationland for the “city folks” like me who live in the metro area.
I’ve had a few “longer” rides so far this season, but I’m especially excited for this one because no trucks or trailers will be involved, making logistics much simpler. We’ll suit up at the shop, pack a light bag and ride out. After many years with marginal snow conditions, we’ve been blessed with rideable snow since well before Christmas and cold air that’s helped us hold the snow, so I’m excited to take advantage of the opportunity to visit my ’rents and their dog via snowmobile.
We’re going to ride our Polaris 600 IQ Shift, Ski-Doo MX Z 600 H.O. E-TEC and Renegade E-TEC 800R X. I chose those three machines for several reasons. I recently made a trip to Team Industries to install a TEAM Tied secondary clutch and jackshaft kit, so I want to log some miles to see how it performs. I also received yesterday a set of Custom Axis shocks that I ordered last month from Hygear Suspension (Lansing, New York) for this machine, so I want to get more baseline ride impressions before I install those aftermarket dampers for a product testing story you’ll see in Snow Goer next fall.
I haven’t spent much time behind the bars of our MX Z this season, so I want to get to know it a little better, and like the Renegade, we’ll be able to fill the oil reservoir before we depart and not have to worry about refilling during our 300 plus-mile ride (it’s a pain in the neck to carry injection oil on the trail, and who wants to pay ridiculous gas station prices for a quart of oil?).
Why take the Shift? Because it handles superbly, its suspension performance is still tops in the industry, and ask anyone on staff who’s ridden it this year and they’ll say that the engine feels especially strong. Simply put, this demo sled is really fun to ride.
And speaking of cross-country sledding, the USCC Red Lake I-500 cross-country snowmobile race is underway this weekend. Keep track of the race on the circuit’s website where you can listen to the live streaming audio broadcast from fuel stops and the finish line in Arctic Cat’s hometown of Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The race runs through Sunday afternoon.
— Andy Swanson, Snow Goer managing editor
January 21, 2011