By AJ Lester
If you were a manufacturer making products specifically designed to meet the demands of hardcore snowmobilers, you’d want to sell as much stuff as possible, right?
It’s funny how the snowmobile aftermarket is increasingly focused on mountain riders and their anodized, lightweight, CNC carved sleds but pays very little attention to the elephant standing in the corner: flatland freeriders.
I know I’ll get the inevitable comment “this isn’t a large enough segment”, however, two of the four snowmobile manufacturers are building flatland freeride-specific sleds in full production for 2010. That doesn’t include the 136-141-inch crossover craze that’s been around since the X-series Renegade in the mid 2000s. Still, this segment continues to grow each year.
There’s potential for cutting edge aftermarket designers to break into a totally new and potentially bigger market than mountain alone. Flatlanders are starting to venture out into the horizontal powder with crossover sleds and are looking for cool skidplates, trick bumpers, beefed-up rail supports, high quality shocks, the list goes on.
While many could order mountain gear and tailor it to fit their freeride sleds, the aftermarket industry needs to target off-trail adventurers living closer to sea level.
The awareness that a crossover snowmobile can take you to places you’d never expect to roam is certainly growing year to year. Quebec was one of the first areas to adopt off trail exploring and while we’re firm believers that snowmobiles should stay on designated trails when they’re available, there are tons of open areas begging to be explored.
Why should the aftermarket be interested in this? While flatlanders don’t have as much powder to play in as mountain riders do, it isn’t holding them back from playing.
Take a mountain rider in his element, cut the snow coverage down by at least 50 percent, reduce the sled’s track length and its commensurate available flotation, then add in rocks, stumps and a wide variety of other damaging objects. You’ll be left with a substantial need for replacement parts and protective aftermarket equipment.
I speak confidently because I have, on multiple occasions, notched the Wall of Fame at the Supertrax offices from tagging various kinds of off-trail gnar.
While protective gear is a huge aspect of the flatlanders aftermarket requirements you can’t argue that trick bling is also on the freerider’s wish list. Big riser blocks, aluminum throttles, CNC’d wheels and anything that can personalize your sled and differentiate you from your buddies is on the menu.
Everything from hood graphic kits to turbochargers have the potential to be devoured by the average flatlander and will be gobbled up if made available and marketed properly.
The snowmobile world has always been great at segregating vertical and horizontal riders, and while the two don’t cross paths very often, it’s tough to deny that flatland freeriders have a high altitude mindset and the same desire to trick out their sleds. Hey, aftermarket people – opportunity awaits!