Few new pieces of technology have invoked as much cynicism and joyful accolades all at the same time.
The idea of shock absorbers that can react to terrain inputs thousands of times a second, mounted on a vehicle admittedly operated in brutally harsh, cold and unpredictable terrain is, by definition, remarkable.
The fact that said shocks actually make a discernible – even tangible improvement to overall ride quality is nothing short of revolutionary!
While there’s debate about the amount of measurable ride quality improvement Ski-Doo’s new Smart-Shox produce swirling around out there in sno-mo-land, I thought I’d throw in my very first impressions and takeaways after a 300 km (180 mile) test session.
I respect there is some doubt in the marketplace about how much better (or not) semi-active ride control actually is. This is all-new and pretty ground-breaking technology – and there are bound to be skeptics out there, doubting.
Our 2022 850 Renegade X-RS has been on the ground here at Supertrax/SnowTrax world HQ since last March. Unfortunately, when we received it here, our winter was in the clutches of a full-on mega-thaw. This provided us with precious little ride time so we used it to produce a Snowtrax Test Ride feature segment.
Upon completion, we tucked the Renny with Smart-Shox away for a long summer’s nap. Early this fall we were asked to ship the X-RS back to Valcourt to undergo a comprehensive re-boot of the Smart-Shox system and its associated ECU. The sled was back here by early November. We then waited for the days to click by until we could have our first pull.
Just so you’ll understand the parameters of our early season riding, where we are located the trails must be officially opened before they can be ridden. This left us with ditches to bang and a few high-speed unplowed areas to evaluate the Renegade’s Smart-Shox. Fortunately, that was more than enough rough surface riding to come away with some strong first impressions.
Yep, this is game-changing technology that’s going to impact the snowmobile industry. The more I rode the Renny X-RS the more I was impressed – even shocked sometimes – how smooth the ride was. This opinion comes with full knowledge and appreciation of the fact the platform for the Smart-Shox system is a full-on 137 rMotionX skid. Without a doubt rMotion has been the industry’s benchmark for ride quality for over a decade.
Additionally, I did not need to pull myself off the seat when heavy rollers or sucker bumps presented themselves. When you set the three position Smart-Shox mode switch to Comfort that’s exactly what you get. I suspect most buyers will ultimately gravitate to this setting unless the trails are horrendous, or the rider wants to do a high-speed mogul run. For these purposes select Sport or Sport Plus.
SEMI VS FULLY
Smart-Shox do not produce – by description – fully active suspension. Fully active suspension adjusts shock valving by reading the terrain ahead using sophisticated sensor beams. It does this before you actually ride over it. Simply put, the vehicle does not need to hit a bump to start reacting. Fully active suspension sees the bump and reacts before engaging it. Semi-active suspension, specifically Smart-Shox, respond to terrain as you ride over it.
I noticed something interesting about Smart-Shox reaction to big hits up front. Heavy impacts at the skis seemed to be erased by the time the rear skid reached the crater I felt through the bars. This is consistent with what Ski-Doo claims the system does.
When the ski shock accelerometer encounters and responds to a ji-normous hit, it instantly talks to the front arm and rear arm shock causing them to firm up the valving and get ready for the imminent arrival of a potential spine-tingler.
I found a number of situations where the Renegade actually made the big hit I felt up-front disappear. What I wasn’t able to experience was the claim Smart Shocks reduce body roll by reading pitch and stiffening up the outside front shock when cornering. My riding opportunities this early in the season didn’t allow for tight and twisty corner railing. I will report back.
Thus far I can say with conviction if you are pursuing the ultimate ride and money is no object, then you must experience Smart-Shox – and experience it this season. Unfortunately, I doubt you can find an unsold Ski-Doo with Smart-Shox anywhere in the US and Canada. If you can find one, buy it! You won’t be disappointed.