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  1. #1
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    The Tech talk sled thread (snowmobile)

    After seeing a couple of other threads pop up on the main board, and seeing as "search jong" appears to pull those up without there being a definitive thread in tech talk, I'm posting this with a few links and some thoughts from my own experience.

    As there are others that have posted in the past, hopefully they will also chime in to contribute from their unique perspectives. That would be you, Blurred, GoNads, VC, Mountainman, Mannix, and others.

    This first post is intended to get the thread rolling. I'll cover a bunch of things, however as this is a subject that covers a lot of ground I'm hoping that others will weigh in and contribute to keep it going.

    ----

    For those thinking of jumping in for the first time read this first.
    It's a fairly comprehensive thread on sled skiing in general:
    http://biglines.com/forum/sled-skiin...ned-discussion

    They also have a forum dedicated to the subject:
    http://biglines.com/forums/general-d...ednecks?page=1

    Here's a link to the sled stoke thread in the main forum here:
    [ame="http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php?t=137127"]Maggot snowmobile thread - Teton Gravity Research Forums[/ame]

    Here's one on homemade ski attachments in Tech Talk:
    [ame="http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11229"]Attaching skis to your snowmobile? - Teton Gravity Research Forums[/ame]

    For those with more money then time to fiddle with a homemade ski rack, here are two links to companies that make one for just about every sled application (there are more, but these two seem to do the volume of business):
    http://cheetahfactoryracing.com/
    http://www.x-rack.com/index.php

    This is a link to all things snowmobile that will answer most if not all questions with regard to which brand/model, which year, etc. Also, this forum has the best resource for information with regard to know problems etc:
    http://www.snowest.com/forum/index.php

    My personal experience has been with Ski-doo product.
    We have 2, 04' Rev 800/151 highmarks with that have been trouble free.

    IMO*, 800 with a 151 track is the smallest that will work effectively if your goal is to get off trail, ride two up and shuttle an aspect. If you plan to only run on groomed trails (or use it specifically for approach) you can get away with less.

    *This post is written from a perspective that I will be using my sleds to session or shuttle a particular aspect as well as using them as an approach vehicle.

    Every sled brand/model has it's own inherent strengths and weaknesses.
    Some more than others. Go to the snowest.com to ferret this out.

    From my perspective I would start by looking at the following sleds:

    Ski-doo - Rev 800's
    Arctic Cat - M series
    Polaris - RMK/Dragon
    Yamaha - FX Nytro MTX

    Look for something with a 151 or longer track (Unless this isn't going off the trail).

    When looking at a used sleds, look for something that has no, or few modifications beyond those that enhance function. Upgraded skis are common and often preferred for instance. The more a sled has been modified (engine and drivetrain), there is a higher likelyhood of it being well used and abused.

    Clutching...
    Much can be said about this, and for the most part it has (search snowest.com). I'm bringing it up here to say that a properly clutched sled does not blow through belts. Some sleds come from the factory with good clutching, others not so much. It's not difficult to overcome however, and most sled heads consider it part of the process when setting up a new sled. I'm still running the same belts that I have had for four seasons.

    That's what I got for now, hopefully others will add to this to keep it going and growing...
    Last edited by AlpenChronicHabitual; 11-07-2009 at 01:06 PM.

  2. #2
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    What do you mean by "off trail"? I had my '93 Cat 550 in 4 feet of powder a few years ago, the thing did fine. 151" track, if I remember correctly. 800 is a good size, but you can get away with much less if you need to.
    Have sled, will travel.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlpenChronicHabitual View Post
    IMO, 800 with a 151 track is the smallest that will work effectively if your goal is to get off trail. If you plan to only run on groomed trails you can get away with less.
    ______________
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    "Having been Baptized by uller his frosty air now burns my soul with confirmation. I am once again pure." - frozenwater

    "once i let go of my material desires many opportunities for playing with the planet emerge. emerge - to come into being through evolution. ok back to work - i gotta pack." - Slaag Master

    "As for Flock of Seagulls, everytime that song comes up on my ipod, I turn it up- way up." - goldenboy

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by NSOutWest View Post
    What do you mean by "off trail"? I had my '93 Cat 550 in 4 feet of powder a few years ago, the thing did fine. 151" track, if I remember correctly. 800 is a good size, but you can get away with much less if you need to.
    Off trail = off a groomed road.

    Of course it will, and if your are using it strictly as an approach vehicle it'll probably be more then enough. If on the other hand you plan to use it for shuttling, adding a second person, gear, deep snow and any kind of incline and you will start to see it's limitations pretty quick.

    To your point I should have been more specific. I'm coming from a perspective that my sleds will be used for both approach, and shuttling. I've adjusted my OP to reflect that.

  5. #5
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    Here is an idea. Keep the pissing and moaning to a minimum. Everybody knows that your 95 Polaris RMK 500 will outclimb everything and that your Ford truck is the shit.

  6. #6
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    ACH pretty much summed it up. The one thing that was a big surprise to me (on my second year of sled-access stuff) was just how hard they are to ride.

    You WILL get skunked on you first big-snow day. Sucks, but it'll happen. Spend as much time as you can learning to ride, practicing sidehilling, riding double, etc - BEFORE you need to.

    I'd ridden snowmobiles a handful of times as a kid, then another bigger handful at ski areas. It absolutely, positively did NOT prepare me - I've taken several people out so far who claimed that they'd "ridden" in the past. Cool - we should have a good day, I might learn something.

    Nope. Riding snowmobiles on lakes, groomed trails, windy snowmobile trails on the icecoast or on a field with 12" of snow on top of grass just does not count. Period.

    I got lucky - a friend has been playing with snowmobiles for 20+ years, and I managed to tag along with Kaleb/Backcountryislife a couple of times. HUGE help just to watch other people ride. Make them get on your sled, if you ride with people who don't suck, just so you can eliminate the "I need XXXXXX" thoughts.

    Tracks - my sleds, both Skidoos, both have sub-151" tracks; one is a 136 (99 Summit 670x), the other is a 144 (03 Summit 700, the last year of the older-style chassis).

    We got around fine last year, truthfully - but the sleds are still better than us. We did not really ask the sleds to do more than they could. We asked _wrong_ a number of times, wound up getting stuck/doing something stupid in the process, but the sleds were OK.

    That said, I have a 156" track in my van right now, waiting on rail extensions, so....yeah. More track is certainly good, but a "mountain" track of 136"+ will get you a LOT of places. My 99 670x is really pretty capable, although it is a bit of a trencher. From a float standpoint, I could not feel the difference between it and my 03/144 last year. This year, I put new skis on - Simmons Gen2s - they're 10" wide, a solid 3" wider than what I'd had. The 03 sits higher in the snow now. Only ridden twice, but it was enough to tell the difference.

    I'll update the post once I have the 156" on & have had the chance to evaluate it, but I'm pretty sure it is going to be significant - it seems like there's a float threshold around 150", where the additional track starts making bigger and bigger differences - IE, my 136 feels a lot like my 144 in deep snow, but a 151" Summit like mine seems a LOT floatier. Dunno.

    A guy I ride with has a 141" track, though, and he can go places most of you can't. I'm not convinced that 151" is a MINIMUM, I'd probably say 144" is the shortest that seems prudent, but if you're buying a sled & your budget is $2500 or more, it should not be hard to find a 15X+ track - and for towing, I'm pretty convinced that more is better.

    When I was researching sleds, I came away with "800/151," as ACH said - I thought that I'd be wasting time with anything less. Wound up with 700/144 (the 700 is the primary sled), and no, it is not a waste of time. It works well.

    One of the bigger improvements I did to my sled was put on as much riser as possible. Those buying an 04ish and up sled will already have more rise; those buying 98-03ish sleds will likely have the old-style, low and back handlebars. I raised mine as high as I could without getting a longer brake hose. It made a big difference in my ability to stand up comfortably, as well as ride "Canadian," one standing on each rail (which is WAY harder than it looks).

    Maintenance - do it. They're blackholes for time and money, frankly, but if you do the maintenance, they (for me) eat up way less money than time.

    Get a grease gun, read lots of stuff on snowest.com, take good care of the sled, it'll take good care of you. I towed two people out last year; not a lot of fun, frankly (take the belt off the sled getting towed), and both said "it ran great last year."

    Probably because someone had not done the homework. Hrmph.

    Carry a spare belt. Pay a professional to get your clutches checked/aligned. That's the only mechanical failure we had last year - grenaded a belt after a long day of towing.

    Towing - we're pretty much done towing. Maybe at Vail Pass; I'm using what amounts to a waterski rope (actually a foot long chunk of Girvin bicycle fork with a rope through it and tied off ~2' ahead). For Vail Pass, it works, anywhere else, ehhhh. If it is flat and groomed/packed/firm, you can tow people up a lot of stuff, but I'm planning on ditching the tow rope and working on riding two-up. Four people, two sleds, two drive, two ski. Rotate.

    www.sledmods.com has a few relevant threads.

    Lose the windshield. A) it'll break off when you roll down a hill because you screwed up and B) when the sled is stuck, sometimes just rolling it over is the fastest way out.

    I don't regret buying the sleds for a second. I rode lifts a few times last winter, snowmobiles the rest. I got some _really_ good skiing out of it. That said, it does add a ton of complexity to a day on the hill.

    Racks - I made a few homemade jobs last year, the best I came up with was stupid-simple; long bungee cord over the tank, up near the footwells. Tips go under those. At the back, I bolted a 2x4 to the tunnel (don't drill through the heat exchangers!) with a couple of garage-ladder-hanging-hooks. With the tips under the cord at the front, bend the ski a smidge, hook it inside the hooks, bungee cords to affix. Crude, but effective.

    Some people claim to have had good luck with ATV gun-racks. I bought some, broke both in 3 trips. Don't bother, IMHO - make something with whatever is lying around or pony up for the good stuff.

    That said, I am planning on a CFR rack or something this winter, something a bit more user friendly, something a bit more set-and-forget.

    On the bungee cord note - http://www.snobunje.com/ - silly little device, but pretty helpful. Stretch the cord out when hooked to a ski, put as much tension on the cord as you can, on three, someone revs the motor & the puller pulls hard. You wind up falling back into the snow, the sled tries to run you over, but the extra pull from the cords gives that little extra bit of momentum to get it out of the hole.

    blah blah blah. There's a lot to learn, but if you want to ski natural, untracked snow EVERY DAY......




    Iain

  7. #7
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    Oh - another thing, the throttle is NOT a switch. It is a rheostat. Dimmer switch.

    A guy I rode with last weekend just can't get that through his head. He revved it up, the track started to move, sled started to move, he'd whack the throttle open and BURY the sled. A little track spin is OK, but if the track spins much faster than the sled is moving, it just relocates the snow behind the sled, or up and over and in front of the track.

    It does it very, very quickly. Once the sled starts moving, give it a little more....a little more...until the thing is moving. THEN get on it.

    The easiest way to get a sled stuck is to stand on it and pin the throttle; if it is soft enough (IE, not a groomer, not windblown), it'll just trench and bury itself.

    Getting started without getting stuck is the hardest thing in deep snow. Park pointed downhill, preferably in a track.

    Once you get going, you've got to turn. That's challenging, too - and in soft snow, the skis have little to do with it. Stand on the inside of the sled, keep weight on the inside ski.

    Once you know how to turn, you have to know WHEN to turn, IE, climbing a hill - the sled slows down, it starts suggesting to you that it is not going to make it, doh, too late - shoulda turned out 15' earlier.......



    Iain

  8. #8
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    A note on snobunje's and getting stuck (or not)...

    The version of Snobunji that Mannix refers to is called a rattler.
    Basically a D handle on a heavy duty bungee with a hook on the other end.
    There is also a longer version of this with a hook on each end. Hook one end to a webbing loop through a ski or bumper, stretch it out and hook the other end to the back of another sled (not stuck, duh) both hit the throttle at the same time. Pop! out comes the stuck sled. It's amazing how well this works and how much energy it saves.
    I have also used the long bungee in conjunction with a rope winch tethered to a tree when I have been stuck in a place where I'm momentarily alone.

    An additional note about throttles that Mannix touched on.
    Tracks spin very easy in deep snow, and trench quickly. Learning to modulate the throttle helps a lot, this is also where a longer (and in some cases wider) track also comes into play. More surface area at the track also means quicker plane off.

    A trick I learned some years back that has saved me a lot of effort getting unstuck...
    There have been times when I haven't been able to avoid getting stuck. Once I know it's coming, I work to orient the sled in way that will make getting out easier, or possibly even allowing me to turn out and avoid it all together. If I can't avoid getting stuck and I can feel the sled bogging down, and there is room for the sled to run out without hitting something or someone, I will get to the up hill side, preparing to jump. Just as I am hitting the throttle one last time, I jump off the sled. At this moment, the sled is 200 lbs lighter, and with the power input to the track, it's often enough to cause the sled to plane back up on top, only a few yards ahead of where I am left standing. This takes practice, part of it is knowing the limitation of the sled relative to conditions, part of it is in preparation (always looking for an out), and part of it is timing.

    As pointed out above by Mannix, riding a snowmobile in a big mountain (powder/fresh) environment is difficult and strenuous, the learning curve can be frustrating. Give yourself plenty of time to just ride. Prepare to sacrifice powder days when you might rather be skiing to get to learn and build your skills. If at all possible, get to know other sledders that have been doing this for a while and can offer a good example, not to mention encouragement, and help when (not if) you get stuck. I also recommend bringing a lot of post ride beers for these sled friends as well. Consider it stuck tax.
    Last edited by AlpenChronicHabitual; 11-08-2009 at 06:59 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mannix View Post
    Towing - we're pretty much done towing. Maybe at Vail Pass; I'm using what amounts to a waterski rope (actually a foot long chunk of Girvin bicycle fork with a rope through it and tied off ~2' ahead). For Vail Pass, it works, anywhere else, ehhhh. If it is flat and groomed/packed/firm, you can tow people up a lot of stuff, but I'm planning on ditching the tow rope and working on riding two-up. Four people, two sleds, two drive, two ski. Rotate.

    you use the piece of fork to hold onto like a waterski rope ,that sounds hard on the arms ?

    system I used was a rope with a overhand loop tied 3ft from the end

    wrap a mtn bike intertube around yer ass ,clip it together in front of you with a biner

    feed the rope thru the biner and thru the loop that you tied 3 ft from the end

    hold the rope and hang-on ... if shit happens let go the rope


    the mechanical advantage of the rope thru the loop makes it easier to hang on and the inner tube absorbs A LOT of shock

  10. #10
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    Never tried the innertube trick; it sounds really good, but the 3 groups I asked about it last year all said the same thing - "it sucks." Clearly, they're doing it wrong, I continually read about it, but I was never inspired to try it.

    I don't really know how much it sucks getting towed - only got towed a handful of times last year, it was not bad. Way I figure, I bought the sleds, beacons, probes, shovels, trailer, etcetcetc, I get to drive.

    Rode a bit today, took a new guy out - solid skier, but had not _really_ ridden sleds. Windblown crust, with some sugary softish snow. Mostly pretty hard. If you spun the track, the sled trenched and stuck. He got stuck 2 or 3 times, listened, was up and running. Pretty quick learner. Was fun, but wow, we need snow. Skiing would have been icky at best, so it was a good day to tool around and explore.



    Iain

  11. #11
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    I am not actualy into sleds but I read your bit on towing ,only time I ever towed-in buddy said this is how we do it , 2 of us were behind a 700cc polaris on logging roads for 52kms at high speeds low temps and it didnt seem so bad

    Nobody crashed ,it wasnt hard on the arms or legs ,the actual skiing sucked but I did get some minor frostbite on cheeks & forehead ...the best part of the whole trip was beers at the bar afterwards

    ps:also the attachment being LOW on the body at waist or lower on the body is easier than a rope puling from HIGHER

  12. #12
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    Just picked up an 02 summit 800 and need to get a riser and goldfinger lefty throttle ASAP. What online store do you guys suggest?

  13. #13
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    `..><((((>`..`..`...><((((>

    "Having been Baptized by uller his frosty air now burns my soul with confirmation. I am once again pure." - frozenwater

    "once i let go of my material desires many opportunities for playing with the planet emerge. emerge - to come into being through evolution. ok back to work - i gotta pack." - Slaag Master

    "As for Flock of Seagulls, everytime that song comes up on my ipod, I turn it up- way up." - goldenboy

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greguar View Post
    Just picked up an 02 summit 800 and need to get a riser and goldfinger lefty throttle ASAP. What online store do you guys suggest?
    Install your lefty all propers like. Google stuck throttles and you'll see why. With risers research the max increase w/o extending the cables. Check your local dealer for parts. We are losing dealers by the dozen and if they're gone who's gonna fix your sled.

  15. #15
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    So used to shopping the internet because Aspen is void of fkn anything, but ski shops, but good point. Especially if I'm gonna pay retail.

    Other than the extra money associated with the cable extension is there any reason not to get as big of a riser as possible? Sled will be in pow 90% of its life.....

    Thanks for the heads up on the throttle sticking issue.

  16. #16
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    Hey all - there's a raffle for a CFR rack (ski or snowboard) on sledmods.com.

    winarack.

    Might as well be one of you knuckleheads if I don't win it. I suck at winning raffles and things.



    Iain

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greguar View Post
    So used to shopping the internet because Aspen is void of fkn anything, but ski shops, but good point. Especially if I'm gonna pay retail.

    Other than the extra money associated with the cable extension is there any reason not to get as big of a riser as possible? Sled will be in pow 90% of its life.....

    Thanks for the heads up on the throttle sticking issue.
    I have a stock riser block off of an 04 rev I'll sell.
    I think it's 8".

  18. #18
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    I don't think that I can do an 8" riser without changing the brake line and throttle cables which sound like they are pretty pricey.....at least the brake line is.....

    What were you thinking for the riser?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greguar View Post
    I don't think that I can do an 8" riser without changing the brake line and throttle cables which sound like they are pretty pricey.....at least the brake line is.....

    What were you thinking for the riser?
    Its a effort vs. money thing with brake lines, if you want to take the time and effort you can get it done with napa parts for pretty cheap.

  20. #20
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    Ahh brakes.....

    Are they really good for anything except for putting the damn things on trailers?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by kidwoo View Post
    Ahh brakes.....

    Are they really good for anything except for putting the damn things on trailers?
    No fooling.

    There's nothing like the feeling of tipping the sled over into a turn in deep snow. It's like putting an alpine ski on edge, a pretty effective way to control speed on pitch.

    Learned the revers trick a few years ago which has saved my ass a couple of times though.

  22. #22
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    Anyone know if it is better for a sled to tow or have riders? Thinking about belt and clutch wear.
    `..><((((>`..`..`...><((((>

    "Having been Baptized by uller his frosty air now burns my soul with confirmation. I am once again pure." - frozenwater

    "once i let go of my material desires many opportunities for playing with the planet emerge. emerge - to come into being through evolution. ok back to work - i gotta pack." - Slaag Master

    "As for Flock of Seagulls, everytime that song comes up on my ipod, I turn it up- way up." - goldenboy

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pow4Brains View Post
    Anyone know if it is better for a sled to tow or have riders? Thinking about belt and clutch wear.
    Tandem riding for sure on belt and clutch wear. Fastest way to smoke a belt is to tow someone up something steep and deep. A flatish groomed road however, is not to hard on it. I'll often tow easy road approaches (if it is packed), then tandem when the real riding starts or any kind of serious pull.
    I try to avoid towing or tandeming if at all possible, but somtimes it is damn hard to find skier/sledheads to ride with.

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