Archive for the ‘Sledder Featured Article’ Category


Posted on March 19th, 2020 in Sledder Featured Article, Sledder News

Another model year cycle is upon us, and while we can always expect a few new wrinkles, for 2021 electronic innovation is what’s making headlines. It seems traditional new model cycles are becoming anything but traditional. If you recall, Arctic Cat broke news of their lineup way back before the first hints of snow hit the ground, and have been offering discounted, online ordering through their Snowmageddon event on any 2021 snowmobile along with special early order only packages ever since. A few months later, Ski-Doo pulled the wraps of the industry’s first production turbo charged two-stroke in their Summit deep snow category. Not only did they create a buzz with the announcement, they followed it up with early build units to keep the turbo talk building throughout the remainder of winter. That bring us to spring, and the more typical launch of new iron for next winter. From an all-new trail performance chassis and mid-bore engine from Polaris, a proprietary trail map application and accompanying gauge from Ski-Doo, to Yamaha’s return to two-stroke power and the new rider focused Venom. Of course, we’ll be taking a deeper look along with some first ride impressions with our fall 2020 issues, but until then, here is a first look glimpse at what’s new for 2021.

Polaris looks to lead the new 2021 model hype with their all-new Matryx platform found in models like the spring order exclusive Switchback Assault 146 shown here.


The biggest shocker for model year 2021 has to be the new Polaris Matryx platform and the all-new Indy VR1, which members of the media received an early look and ride opportunity in Grand Marais this past January. We simply don’t have enough space in this issue to truly bring to light how dramatically better the Matryx platform is. With a rider area that is nearly 5-inches narrower, the Matryx delivers a rider-first experience that is incredibly easy and effortless to ride. The new chassis also incorporates an elevated level of fit, finish and style that should make it a showroom knockout. Available in three models for 2021 including spring-order only Indy VR1 and Switchback Assault 146, as well as an extremely limited in-season Indy Launch Edition.


Here is the new “working area” of the Matryx platform. Moving about the new cockpit is incredibly easy, resulting in dramatically improved ride and handling with less physical effort.


A new chassis and engine are usually more than enough to attract the attention of the entire industry, but the new Polaris 7S Touch Screen display found on the Indy VR1 and Switchback Assault 146 changes the game with such shocking results, it drowns out every other bit of new technology regardless of brand for 2021. Featuring unthinkable levels of customization and connectivity including SmartWarmer hand and thumb warmers, Group Ride tracking, intuitive glove friendly touch screen and much more, we’re calling it the most significant new technology for 2021.


Polaris has also launched an all-new 650 Patriot engine that we predict will give most 800 motors absolute fits. Based off the 850 Patriot with a new small-bore top end, the 650 revs with incredible quickness and response and should produce just shy of 140-horsepower. Spring order SnowCheck will be your best bet to guarantee you’ll be squeezing one of these sweethearts next winter.


While the 165-horsepower target of the industry’s first factory turbo-charged two-stroke has had the interweb buzzing since launch, perhaps the bigger news is found at the other end of the horsepower spectrum with the all-new Rotax 600 EFI two-stroke. Designed to be both incredibly efficient and easy to own, the engine will replace both the carbureted 600 liquid and the 550 fan options of old. The introduction of this engine marks the end of carbureted models from Ski-Doo.


Joining the new BRP Go app is this beautiful 7.8” panoramic LCD color display found on select models for 2021. The display will synch with the app and deliver additional coveted functionality such as GPS mapping with trail data, Bluetooth connectivity for music, helmet-to-helmet communication and a robust visual engine and vehicle diagnostics.


Model 2021 also will mark the year when the entire Ski-Doo lineup has made the switch to the Gen4 platform. Completing this transition is the move of Skandic, Expedition SWT and Tundra models to the narrowed, centralized mass and open cockpit design.


It was only a matter of time until someone developed a competitive offering to Polaris Ride Command, and not surprisingly it was BRP with what they are calling BRP Go. The free standalone application available for both iOS and Android mobile devices features mapping, turn-by-turn navigation, group ride tracking, social media interaction and connectivity, storage of favorite rides and more. The new app can also be paired with the new 7.8-inch wide digital display also introduced by Ski-Doo for 2021. How the new app and screen will stack-up against Polaris Ride Command and the 7S display is unknown at this point, but we hope to find out this spring and bring you a full report before next winter.


Affordable sleds geared towards new or returning riders is a hot-button topic these days across the sport. For 2021 Ski-Doo will aim for the bullseyes of this coveted target with a Gen4 based MXZ Sport with a new 600 EFI engine pumping out 85-horsepower. The MXZ Sport has always been known to deliver a tremendous performance/value combination. Now found in the advanced Gen4 platform with its open cockpit and active rider design it gets even better. Coupled with the new Rotax 600 EFI engine, 4.5-inch digital display and the comfort and control of the SC-5M rear suspension and RAS 3 front, you have an entry level trail performance snowmobile that delivers a level of performance that far exceeds expectations. Even more shocking is the suggested MSRP of just $8,649 (USD).


Despite the near identical makeup between Arctic Cat and Yamaha models as the partnership between the two companies has evolved, Yamaha has continued to make a concerted effort to differentiate. Two key areas this strategy has been employed is clutching and skis. Opting for a twin-keel design, Yamaha models often delivered less than ideal handling compared comparable Arctic Cat models. Next winter however, Yamaha is looking to regain cornering confidence with a new single keel Stryke trail ski. Not just new, the Stryke single keel ski also employs adjustability with different composite shims to add or detract fore or aft ski pressure. In addition, a unique carbide will optimize a balance between steering effort and understeer. The new ski will be found on virtually all trail and crossover models for 2021 and we hope to give you a ride report this coming fall.


The right-size formula is also found in the Yamaha utility segment in the Transporter LTE. Featuring the same 400cc fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, two-stroke powerplant from Arctic Cat, the LTE receives high-flotation skis, a rear rack and 1.6” lug track with an articulating rear skid.


By now, most have figured out the model mix between Arctic Cat and Yamaha has become somewhat predictable. Still, we were pumped to learn Yamaha will also be offering a right-sized entry version of the Arctic Cat Blast in the 2021 Venom. Frankly, the bold blue color and aggressive naming and decals has us giving the nod to Yamaha in terms of visual execution. But we also know pricing will be the ultimate judge in this category and Yamaha’s MSRP was not available at time of publication. Past history suggests the Venom could come in a smidge higher in terms of MSRP compared to its Blast brethren.


Of course, the Yamaha Sidewinder returns with the full force that only a turbo-charged four-stroke producing near 200-horsepower can. Dipped in some hot new colors including this blue and orange combo, the Sidewinder is one of those sleds you simply can’t judge until you ride one. Once you do, break out the checkbook because you’ll want one.


Last to show their 2021 offerings this spring was Yamaha and while they tried to fly this one under the radar, when Yamaha faithful who crave deep snow running learn the Mountain Max is back, things could get crazy. Not only is the nameplate back in the Yamaha line-up but so too is robust two-stroke power. Featuring the juggernaut Arctic Cat C-TEC2 800 and sporting the ground-breaking and deep snow ride changing Alpha monorail rear suspension, we suspect the Mountain Max will be atop the want list from many Yamaha faithful next winter.


Posted on December 31st, 2019 in Sledder Featured Article, Sledder News

From cross-country champion to changing the snocross landscape to introducing one of the most significant advancements in snowmobiling, Gerard Karpik along with brothers Randy and David, has stood alone at the top of this sport on more than one occasion. Now with King Air, he’s about to do it again.

During the 1970’s the Karpik brothers of Gerard, Randy and David were nearly an unstoppable force in snowmobile competition. Their inventiveness, preparation and unrelenting competitiveness to be the best was a formula few could match. Leading the charge was Gerard, who became known simply as King Karpik for his near total domination in cross-country racing. His four consecutive cross-country titles were unprecedented, yet it was only the beginning for this humble trio from Minnesota’s Iron Range.

The list of contributions and innovations the Karpik brothers, and eventually their company FAST Incorporated, have made to the sport of snowmobiling are many. One however, stands above all others. A revolutionary idea that not only had an undeniable impact, it forever changed snowmobile suspensions. It was FAST who developed and introduced a revolutionary long-travel rear suspension featuring a technology called coupling. This design would eventually become known as the M-10 suspension.


Few recognized in 1991 the impact Gerard Karpik and his M-10 suspension would have on the entire sport. The ride quality of virtually every modern snowmobile has roots that can be traced back to this suspension.

The M-10 changed everything, and while many first scoffed at Gerard Karpik’s plan to market and sell this complete suspension system, it wasn’t long before the M-10 ruled the snowmobile landscape. Not long after, every OEM was scrambling to develop their own long-travel suspension and incorporate coupling technology. Gerard was King once again and the FAST M-10 was his crown.

Of course, plenty has changed since the M-10 made its debut 28-years ago. Long travel suspension systems are the norm; Ski-Doo brought us the rider forward design; and shock technology has taken a quantum leap. In short, today’s stock suspension systems deliver amazing ride compliance and control, and most riders no longer have the need or desire to upgrade to a system like the M-10 or the newer M-20 Airwave.

Yet, up in Minnesota’s Iron Range, Gerard’s inventive mind and his desire to always improve the snowmobiling experience never tires. For this reason, and because we truly enjoy his company, when Gerard called and invited MSPN staffers for a ride late last spring on the CJ Ramstad North Shore trail, we wasted little time loading sleds and gear for what would be our final ride of the season.

Gerard had talked to us about his latest suspension design on several occasions over the past couple of years. The name King Air was enough in and of itself to garner our attention. Still we wondered aloud as we made the drive to the trailhead on a Sunday morning, “just how different can it really be?”

The M-10 truly did change the snowmobile game, but for all of its goodness, there were several things about the suspension we didn’t like. It was unconventional; lacked predictable and controllable weight transfer; the falling rate design at times would “crash-through” on high-amplitude, low-frequency bumps or holes resulting in “spine-tinglers”; and it lacked off-trail capability. It was also very sensitive to rider weight and trail conditions thereby requiring tuning to find the sweet spot.

For comparison we brought two of our favorite 2019 snowmobiles, a Polaris XC and Yamaha SRX. Both touted premium shocks and saw a season of miles and refinement, and as a result we felt they were good, if not damn good when it came to carving trails and tackling terrain. We knew the main trail would be in “okay” shape, but we also knew the Sunday spur trails to towns like Two Harbors and Silver Bay would be in a word…beat!


After spending just one day on the King Air, we were in shock. The goodness of King Air is possibly the biggest game changer in the industry since the REV.

To be honest, we arrived expecting to be underwhelmed. Like old friends do, we started by making small talk; looking over the host sled which housed the King Air (a high mileage 2016 Yamaha Viper with an accompanying accessory air-pump adjustment system); and snapping a few photos for this article.

Gerard’s brother David also joined us on the ride, piloting a FAST BLADE® snowmobile. Yes, the Karpiks were also snowmobile manufacturers during the late 1990s, peaking in 2004 at 420 units and though limited, still being built-to-order in 2020.

The ride was not unlike any other for much of the day. We swapped sleds, made adjustments and talked shop. The King Air was good. But it wasn’t until we reach a spur trail that weaved its way down the hill towards Lake Superior did I recognize it wasn’t just good, the King Air absolutely destroyed the other sleds in our group with far greater ride compliance and comfort.


For the 2020 season, FAST will offer the King Air for Arctic Cat and Yamaha models, as development on Polaris and Ski-Doo applications is still in progress. Gerard tells us the extended travel design of the ProCross/SRV chassis is a good fit for the King Air, allowing it to use full travel capabilities. Suggested retail for the King Air is $1958 for a 129” and $2028 for 137”.

They say lighting never strikes in the same place twice, but we couldn’t help but think back to the first time we experienced an M10 and how it completely superseded our expectations. Now the King Air was doing it again, this time against some of the best OEM suspensions in the industry.

To achieve this level of ride compliance, Gerard took a rather simple approach in concept, but one that is also incredibly difficult to achieve. “I want to use as much shock travel as possible for every bump,” Gerard said as we stood trail side after an 80-mile burn. “If we encounter an eight-inch bump, I want to use eight inches of travel. The further you can stroke the shock, the more you can control how it reacts.”

To take full advantage of the benefits a King Air suspension can deliver; the system is best paired with Assault front ski shocks that will set you back $689 MSRP.

How the King Air reacts is nothing short of remarkable. While it looks very similar to an M-10 or M-20, Gerard tells us there really isn’t a single element that is the same. “Everything has changed just a little. Over time things have evolved, things have become more refined…that’s how the product continues to get better. It’s all those evolutionary bits coming together.”

The magic, as Gerard likes to call it, is in the shocks. The Assault shocks found on the King Air are certainly not new, Gerard and Team FAST Inc. have been developing the air-membrane shock technology for nearly a decade. The design features a rolling lobe membrane – an air chamber bag on the outside of the shock. The membrane is vastly larger than other air-shock designs allowing for more volume and greatly reduced air-pressure. The rear arm shock on the King Air for example, only requires 50 to 60 lbs., about half of other air-shock designs. Less pressure and a traditional smaller shock shaft (1/2”) with a smaller seal means much less stiction and near effortless motion.

The other key bit of technology employed by the King Air and its Assault shocks resides deep inside, and it’s an area where Gerard keeps his cards close to his chest. “I won’t go into details, but the real magic of the King Air is how we control rebound damping,” Gerard said. “We’ve figured out a way to employ a controlled release…a way for the shock to rebound quick enough to be ready for the next bump, but not so quick that you get a rebound kick.”

The magical rebound control is how the King Air attempts to use as much rail and shock travel over every bump, every time. In traditional suspension systems you typically end up with one of two possible outcomes. Either the suspension “packs up” and is unable to deliver enough suspension travel for each subsequent bump and instead simply bounces off the bumps; or the suspension rebounds so quickly you feel as if you are riding a pogo stick.

The King Air does neither of these. Bump after bump, deep holes, rutted corners and large amplitude braking bumps, the King Air with accompanying Assault ski shocks swallowed up everything we threw at it.


Just how good is the King Air? Given this was potentially our last ride of the season, the King Air spelled the difference between spending the night and riding another day or packing it in and heading home.

What’s more, remember those negative traits we associated with the M-10? The King Air destroys all of those as well. It’s lighter than any current OEM trail suspension. It exhibits very controllable weight transfer with a near perfect balance between traction, a light feel on acceleration and enough ski-bite in the corners for confident and predictable cornering. We also never felt anything close to a spine tingling crash through, and thanks to low-pressure Assault air shocks, the King Air appears to have much broader shoulders, meaning less adjustments for different riders or varying terrain.

Still the biggest tell of the ride came from our friend Randy, who up until this point was set on purchasing a new sled for the 2020 ride season. After having a chance to ride several of the latest sleds thanks to our test fleet, he was zeroing in on his favorite. Then he rode the King Air. This fall he intends to purchase a used sled at the right price and install a complete King Air system. “It totally destroys anything else I’ve ever ridden.”

The lineage of the original M-10 lives on within the King Air with slider block coupling. The more robust design continues to employ two-way coupling allowing the front and rear arms to communicate with one another.

Gerard’s test sled also employed the use on an on-board air-pump so we could quickly adjust the rear shock to match our ride weight. With the entire system operating at a much lower pressure than traditional air shocks, a few pounds was all it took to make a tangible difference. Once we found our target, we never needed to adjust shock pressure again.


Posted on December 30th, 2019 in Sledder Featured Article, Sledder News, Uncategorized

If you  didn’t get your hands on a new 2020 Arctic Cat last spring and all this recent snow has you kicking yourself for not pulling the trigger. We have good news. The kids at Cat recently announced the availability of a very limited number of M6000 Alpha One snowmobiles with the ground breaking Alpha mono-rail rear suspension. This model was not available during the 2020 Snowmageddon launch and is not in the current Model Year 2021 lineup available for pre-order. Still you can get your hands on one if you act fast. A very limited number of M6000 sleds will be made available at select dealers from now until they’re gone. Poof!


Posted on December 28th, 2019 in Sledder Featured Article, Uncategorized

The December issue of Minnesota Snowmobiling is now online. Learn about the new 2021 Arctic Cats including the new “right-sized” Blast. See what went down at the MnUSA Fall Workshop in Biwabik. Get hot tips on where to ride out west this winter. And take a step back in time and discover the Columbia Track Master. All this and more in the December issue of Minnesota Snowmobiling. Find it HERE


All New Snowmobiling, Winter Destinations & Special Events, Ice Fishing, ATV & OHV Digital Magazines …

Posted on December 19th, 2019 in Sledder Featured Article, Uncategorized

Your Best Winter Ever Starts Here!
ATVentures, Ice Team Fishing, Minnesota Snowmobiling Magazine
Michigan Snowmobile & ORV News, Wisconsin Snowmobile News, Minnesota OffRoad, Iowa Snowmobiler
Minnesota Snowmobiling Destinations, Special Events…and much more!