Mark and Kent Lester battle it out over their picks for the 2017 BEST IN CLASS AWARDS. THE ARGUMENT: A New Definition of the Category Means Old Opinions Must Go!
WINNER: POLARIS SWITCHBACK 144
For the past few years we’ve seen on-off trail sleds morph into more specialty “on” trail sleds capable of deep snow navigation but that work better on trails. Then there’ve been “off” trail-trail sleds that kinda suck on trails but totally rip in the deep. None of these sleds are targeted mountain rippers but rather, trail-capable flatland boondockers and deep snow navigators.
This paradigm just got re-jiggered in a profound way. You can now have competent deep snow ability and excellent, all-day trail riding talent in one sled. Polaris’ all-new AXYS-based Switchback Assault, available with 600 and 800 Cleanfire power, breaks the preconceived notion that you have to compromise when buying a serious X-over ride.
Kent, X-Over means Cross-Over – as in dual purpose. It’s a pretty common phrase. The all new uncoupled, 144-inch skid in the Switchback uses a super-long torque arm from the Pro-XC skid to generate an on-trail ride that’s stupid plush and transfer-reactive.
Conversely, the uncoupled skid allows the Switchback to climb on- top of untramped snow and literally float.
Intelligent pick, if I do say so.
RUNNER-UP: YAMAHA SIDEWINDER B-TX LE (1.75)
Well, I gotta say the totally revised and AXYS-based Switchback 144 is a great sled and a worthy winner in this category. Somehow, surely by accident, you figured that out, Mark.
There’s another sled in this category, though, and it’s really impressive this year, too: The Yamaha SideWinder B-TX LE.
Sure, any SideWinder dazzles with its extreme power and the techy nature of its engine and new drivetrain. However, riding the B-TX LE earlier this year blew me away with its suspension upgrades. Both Yamaha and Cat have gone to school with improvements to the ride quality of this mountain-based uncoupled skidframe and its new shock and spring calibration.
Frankly, we were convinced this suspension could not ride anywhere near as well as a coupled trail skid…and we were wrong! We’re glad to admit that fact (probably not Mark, though. He’s never wrong).
Ride quality comes from the combo of the mogul-bridging benefit of a 153-inch track combined with a set of Fox FLOAT 3 EVOL adjustable air shocks (the skidframe’s rear arm shock is rebound and compression adjustable). Lug depth on that 153-inch PowerClaw is 1.75-inches and that’s exactly what you need to get that 998cc turbo to hook up.
Okay, Mark will tell you the track’s too long and the lugs are too deep. Ride it, Mark! This thing handles and rides incredibly good on trails and its dimensions ensure it works like a mountain sled in powder. Awesome!