Snowmobile Evolution is Rapid

Managing editor Andy Swanson and I were testing with Speedwerx this week. We had a lot of casual conversation during the day of radar testing speed parts on our Crossfire R, but one of things we talked about with Speedwerx guru Jeremy Houle was snowmobile evolution.

We all agreed that it’s almost unbelievable how quickly things change. Houle talked about how the F7 Firecats were the sh … er, the bomb in 2003 when they were new, but mentioned climbing on one now seems foreign.

Those of us in who work in the industry are spoiled. We don’t deny, or take for granted, the enviable privilege it is to get to ride new stuff. We magazine guys have an annual fleet of eight to 10 demo machines. Performance shop owners have new machines they use to design parts, so they are usually riding the latest models as well.

Swanson has a ’92 Polaris Indy XCR and I’ve got a vintage ’74 Arctic Cat Panther VIP, but for the most part it’s not very often we climb aboard a machine much older than a few model years. When we do, we often remark about snowmobile evolution and how the machines of today are so much better than what they were just a few years ago. One of my favorite flat, groomed, twisty trail machines ever is a 2001 or 2002 Yamaha SRX – but by today’s standards, the ergonomics of that sled are so cramped I wonder if I could stand to ride it anymore.

The majority of people are riding stuff that isn’t showroom fresh. And hey, I know what it’s like. I am a sport bike enthusiast. The only machine in my garage right now is a 2001 Kawasaki ZX-6R, an absolute dinosaur compared to the latest offerings in the 600 supersport class. So I know what it’s like for SnowGoer readers who can’t afford, can’t justify or can’t in another way have the latest and greatest.

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I know that people do things to keep them fresh. Shock rebuilds. Engine mods. Clutch kits, a suspension overhaul – all kinds of things to restore or maintain ride quality and pride of ownership. I do the same thing with my bike. I put a full Race Tech front end in it, I experiment with different tire options and I do what I can to enjoy it without coveting the guy next to me on his current year mount. Until I ride one.

If you’re like me, that’s the pitfall. When I experience the newest stuff, I recognize instantly that progress is beautiful, and expensive. Often it’s a demo ride that forces me to find a way to buy a new machine. If you see me slingin’ $5 coffees at Starbucks, that means I got a second job because I rode a new bike.

Tim Erickson