LONG TRACKS ARE HOT BUT SHORTIES STILL ROCK

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There’s no doubt the last few years the trail-biased crossover market has skyrocketed and removed some of the focus from shorter tracked performance sleds.

137-inches seems to be the magic dimension and sleds with this track-length are selling like ice water in the Gobi.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Most of the buyers who want a longer tracked sled are looking for versatility – “I wanna ride off-trail sometimes and not get stuck – maybe even do some conservative hill-climbing.”

Certainly, a longer track enables a rider to do both trail duty and ride off-trail competently, too. However, in the same breath many of these 137 buyers are telling us they like the mogul-bridging ride of the longer meat on the trail and actually prefer these sleds to 120s because they ride smoother. It seems to us, you need to get a handle on how you really ride.

After some extensive trail time on a couple of 120-inchers at the end of last season we concluded we had been missing something with the longer tracked sleds and it wasn’t just about handling.

Speaking of handling, though, there’s no question an extra 17-inches of track (actually, about six more inches on the snow) slows down the razor-sharp handling you get with a shorter sled.

You feel it in the handlebar effort required to turn or when you’re using the throttle to break the track loose to bring the back end around in tight corners. More length means more bite and more side-slip resistance.

Simply, more body-English and muscle is required to get the 137 to do typical snowmobile cornering maneuvers. It’s not a huge disadvantage – especially to those who ride a lot, but novice riders notice the difference right away when their handlebar inputs don’t produce as rapid a response on the snow.

The other factor is weight. Super-light vehicles like Ski-Doo’s XS line-up or the new AXYS, with its mass well-centralized, do gain a few pounds when there’s extra track and skidframe length added.

You can feel the sled has lost a wee bit of agility when it’s airborne or when you’re railing tight stuff and the extra weight out back slightly changes the sleds front-rear balance ratio. You also notice the extra mass when you’re loading the sled in your pickup.

Long track versatility is great but it sure is nice to ride a lighter, more nimble 120-incher. We’d still call it a draw!

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