The sun starts rising earlier in the morning in mid-February, but not as early as us when snowmobiling is on our minds. Last Saturday we got up earlier and trailered to Alexandria, Minnesota, for two different rides with two different people on the trails of Douglas and Todd, with our 2022 Lynx Rave RE and Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX GT demo snowmobiles.
“Different” ended up being the word of the day.
Though both machines are single-passenger, trail-length sleds with 137-inch tracks, high-end features and 160+ horsepower engines, the two sleds couldn’t have been much different from one another in the way they handled and went down the trail.
The Lynx Rave RE was ridiculously fun – if you’re the kind of person who likes to lift the skis and let out a “High-ho silver, away!!” nearly every time you stab the throttle. But it was a lot of work to ride on tighter, twisting trails. Its unique PPI skid frame transfers a ton of weight quickly, and the pre-studded 1.5-inch Ice Ripper XT track hooked up hard on the hard-packed, frozen-in trails, dangling the skis above the ground. On this sled when riding aggressively, you definitely had to “rear-steer” the machine – getting the machine pointed in the right direction before re-engaging the throttle.
The Sidewinder L-TX GT, meanwhile, was incredibly smooth in its handling. This is one of Yamaha’s models with electric power steering as standard equipment for 2022, and that in turn allowed designers to add more aggressive runners to the Stryke skis because the penalty of heavy steering is negated by the assisted steering. That said, the unstudded 1.25-inch lugged RipSaw II track on the Yami didn’t always keep a very solid grip on the trail below. On the ‘Winder, you definitely had to “front-steer” the machine – guiding the sled through with an easy turn of the handlebar, knowing that the back end might drift a bit before grabbing hold.
Real World Conditions
We started the day riding with Jerrod Kelley, a former co-worker who was the editor of our ATV Sport magazine back in the day. Ol’ J-Rod showed us many times over the years that he could cut a mean path on a twisting trail on a sport quad in the spring, summer and fall, so we weren’t at all surprised that he generally kept right up when we handed him a snowmobile. It’s also always fun to get fresh opinions on our demo sleds, and Kelley proved insightful.
With Kelley chasing us across farm fields, along ditches, down firelanes and through some wooded stretches – with me on the Lynx and him on the Sidewinder – we spun about 80 miles on the odometers between about noon and 5, with plenty of stops along the way to chat. Strong winds out of the south made it so most of our stops, though, were against tree lines – who would have thought that a south wind could feel so cold?!
“You’re wheelieing all the time on that thing!” Kelley said at one stop, referring to the Lynx. “It looks like fun.”
Indeed it was – when we were going straight. In tighter turns, though, we had to lean far off to try as best we could to plant the front end. In those sort of trails, it wasn’t as fun. The Lynx, by its very nature, is a brilliant ditch banger, designed to handle big moguls in a straight line with ease. It is not designed to be great in the twisties, though, and it showed.
In this particular instance, the handling was further hampered by the fact that our carbide runners were well worn – I don’t know how we wore them out, considering how infrequently the skis touch the ground, but they’re pretty much shot. We’ve got a new set of Woody’s new Maverick bars on the way. We’ve had enough miles on that sled in a variety of conditions this winter, though, to know that you must muscle it through turns, lean hard and crank on the bars.
“This thing is incredible,” Kelley gushed about the 180-plus horsepower Sidewinder L-TX GT. “I can’t believe the power – I’m only using half the throttle sometimes and it still pulls like mad.” Tucked behind the big windshield, he easily rode in comfort, though the heated seat on the machine wasn’t working so he didn’t have the full Cadillac mode.
After a stop for a couple of Diet Cokes at Miltona, Minnesota, we switched machines – I moved to the Yamaha while Jerrod swung a leg over the beautiful, head-turning Lynx.
Following the switch, it almost felt like I was cheating on the Yamaha when we hit the first stretch of wooded trails. The front-end handling was a dramatic contrast to the Lynx we had just gotten off of. Simply point the skis – it held its line expertly all the way through the turn. For the first couple of miles, the steering was so light because of the EPS that it almost felt disconnected – especially when coming off of the heavy-steering Lynx. But 5 minutes later we had completely adjusted our mindset and loved the strong front-end hookup to the trail that came without penalty to the arms and shoulders. That said, the unstudded track made some icy uphills a bit sketchy, and in the straights when hitting moguls I missed the jump/pop of the Lynx when trying to bound over mogul.
At first, Kelley seemed to struggle to keep up on the Lynx, particularly when we got into the woods. Frankly, he was just riding smart – if you can’t trust the front end, you shouldn’t push it. As he adjusted to the new reality, though, he caught up in fields and ditches and could be seen lifting the front end and even catching some air off some rises.
“This is a lot of work, but man is it fun sometimes,” Kelley said on one stop. At a later stop, we saw him stretching out his shoulder and back muscles – he’s a very fit athlete, but the strain of trying to get the Lynx to handle when in the trees was wearing on him.
The pattern repeated itself at night – except with a different rider. We spent the night chasing longtime Snow Goer Contributor Jeff Oberg around his hometown trails. Oberg was determined to put on as many miles as we could before the clock struck midnight.
He started on the Yamaha and rolled along with ease. Especially on trails closest to his house, he knew them well and could easily anticipate every turn, bump, driveway and field approach.
We followed on the Lynx. With snowdust hanging after the winds experienced earlier in the day had subsided, we hung back a bit, following a somewhat distant taillight through the white cloud. Under the cover of darkness, we again enjoyed both the good and the bad of the Lynx Rave’s unique approach to snowmobiling, with an added twist.
The ability to regularly pull up the skis on any straight stretch or when hopping over moguls again made us laugh inside our helmets like a crazed lunatic. But the big weight transfer also made the headlight illuminate the treetops more than the trail ahead far too often. I adjusted by only using the first half of the throttle’s throw, and easing into the gas more gently to keep the nose down and the headlight pointed in the right direction. It wasn’t as fun, but I could see where I was going.
After about 50 miles of varied trail conditions, we switched rides. Following him, I could see Oberg struggling a bit more to make the Lynx get through the turns, while I glided along on the easy steering Yamaha and occasionally tucked behind its tall windshield.
“Somebody in the aftermarket is going to make a lot of money creating something that limits the weight transfer on these Lynx Rave’s,” Oberg said at one trailside stop.
“I had a thought inside my helmet after we switched sleds,” I replied. “The Lynx makes snowmobiling outrageously fun when you’re in the mood to horse around, but this power steering Yamaha makes snowmobiling incredibly easy to drive down a trail.”
He agreed and added, “I never thought I’d say this, but if I had to take one of these two sleds in a cross-country race through the woods, I’d take the Yamaha; I guarantee you I could make better time.”
I nodded, but added, “But if you were just ripping ditches? The Lynx would definitely be the one to have.”
“Oh yeah!” he replied enthusiastically. Oberg and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, but in this case there was no debate. We strapped back on our helmets and continues on a perfect winter night.