So what is a crossover? To me, it’s a sled that performs equally, or at least very close to equally, on and off the trail. It can’t just be a trail sled that is able to go off-trail or a mountain sled that can go on the trial. It has to be capable of doing both, well.
The industry’s best example of a true crossover sled is Polaris’ Switchback Assault – however – this wasn’t always the case. When it was first introduced the Switchback Assault fell into that “mountain sled that could go on the trail” category, and it wasn’t fully evolved. Last season, Polaris made some significant changes to the Switchback Assault and the results were nothing short of amazing.
The most important change is the IGX 144 skid. Plain and simple, on trails, mountain skids ride like crap. They all do, even the best of them. So any sled that has a mountain-derived skidframe is going to have a hard time getting my nod as a true crossover.
The IGX 144 is a hybrid skidframe that includes aspects of a mountain skid that help it perform in deep snow, and aspects of a trail skid that provide excellent ride quality. No, this isn’t just some gimmicky claim by Polaris.
We’ve ridden thuousands of miles on Switchback Assaults the past two seasons and can say with 100-percent certainty, the IGX 144 doesn’t just ride good, it rides great and puts many dedicated trail sleds to shame. Off-trail, it’s equally as good and can hang with converted mountain sleds all day long.
You already know how highly we praise Polaris’ AXYS front end setup and know how much we love how it rides and handles. It’s every bit as good when mated to the IGX 144 skid with its tipped rails that help make it handle like a 136 while still providing the traction of a 144.
But what about off trail? Interestingly enough, even with a full-width trail front end, the Assault is still very capable off-trail. Lets be honest here: A crossover sled isn’t intended to be a mountain sled. Its purpose is to be a capable boondocker and off-trail explorer.
So, while the full width AXYS front end on the Switchback Assault isn’t as good off-trail as a narrower mountain front end, it’s absolutely good enough for powder riding.
The only area we think the Switchback Assault forces a compromise in any way is in the track option department. It’s definitely nice Polaris offers early season buyers the option of a Cobra 1.35 inch or a Series 4 2.0 inch track. But in our opinion, these options are too biased one way or the other. Yes, you can take a 1.35-inch lug off- trail, but you’re sacrificing significant traction in the deep snow.
You can definitely ride a 2.0 inch lug on the trail, but you better hope you don’t run into low snow conditions or a frozen trail surface or you’ll be melting Hi-fax really quick. If there’s one thing we think could be improved on the Switchback Assault, it would be a 1.6-inch-lug track option. We’ve found this to be an excellent compromise in lug height with few drawbacks either way.
I think the best way to sum up the Switchback Assault is to give examples of riders who make no qualms about how much they love this sled. First up, the Motorhead himself, Mark Lester: Many people wear a suit to work… so does Mark, but his 3-piece includes bibs, an insulated jacket and a Tekvest.
I bet you’ve never seen someone sitting at a computer all day wearing all their riding gear. Mark does, just in case he finds an extra five minutes to go for a quick ride. All of this is to say Mark is a hardcore trail rider and he rides a lot. However, nearly all his riding is on the trail.
I won’t say he “hates” off-trail riding, but he certainly avoids it if he can. Want to know what one of this top two favourite sleds last season was? The Switchback Assault!
Our next case study is another familiar face for most of you: AJ Lester. Anyone who watches SnowTrax TV or reads Supertrax Magazine knows AJ’s idea of a perfect day riding rarely involves any trail at all. He loves off-trail riding and spends most of his time in the deep snow.
Yes, he likes trail riding too, but there’s no question his favorite way to enjoy this sport is back in the woods going where no man has gone before. I’ll give you one guess what AJ’s, hands down, favorite sled was last season… Yup, the Switchback Assault. How is this possible?
The answer is simple. The Switchback Assault is the industry’s first true crossover sled that performs equally as well on the trail as it does off the trail.
In fact, it out-performs many dedicated trail sleds on the trail and many much more off-trail biased sleds off the trail. Its not just good at both; it’s great at both. End of story.
Don’t miss Luke’s full TEST RIDE of the 2018 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault 144 coming up this season on SnowTrax Television!