Ever wonder what happened to the SVX 450 Snow Bike project from Arctic Cat? We have, and as a result of asking the question got a “sort-of” answer from Cat’s new Snow Boss, Craig Kennedy, when we interviewed him at Hay Days.
The question was easy to ask. “What’s happening with the SVX 450 project?”. The answer is considerably more complicated.
First-off, there’s the issue of the power unit – the European Sherko 450 off-road motorcycle. While we never received anything concrete on the Sherko we wonder if there wasn’t an issue with price.
ONE STOP SHOPPING
The SVX’s calling card was supposed to be the first integrated, one-stop-shopping Snow Bike. With the Timbersled paradigm there is the necessity to purchase a full-on 450 dirt bike to install your Timber Sled kit on before you go anywhere.
AC saw an obvious opportunity to exploit the TimberSled’s success and sell completely assembled snow bikes. When the snow melted, the buyer could then purchase a front and rear wheel and “convert” the unit back to a wheeled vehicle.
On top of this savvy plan was this: The SVX was rumored to be targeted to launch at an incredible (low) MSRP. It would make sense a fully built snow bike should be cheaper to buy than a separate 450 dirt bike and a kit – right?
This info is old news and we wonder if the Sherko was just too expensive to make it to the market as an integrated snow bike. We’ll never know.
WHAT’S A SNOWMOBILE?
Back to Craig Kennedy. Craig was quick to acknowledge Arctic Cat is still “in” the Snow Bike game, however, he made it clear there are some ongoing challenges with the product relating to SSCC certification.
We heard from industry insiders that to be a “snowmobile” a vehicle needs a left side handlebar brake and a right side throttle flipper – not a barrel style throttle that can be prone to freezing.
From what we understand Cat did develop a left side brake lever that functioned as a clutch for the first part of the lever travel and a brake when squeezed further.
No word if SSCC approved this design or not. We also heard noises about noise – the need to silence a 450 dirt bike engine to “snowmobile” legal levels presents some hefty challenges, not the least of which is where do you hang a large muffler on a 450 dirt bike with a track in the rear?
Kennedy indicated Arctic Cat would continue to work on the SVX project. In other words, Cat doesn’t want to walk away from the snow bike biz so they’re keeping one foot in the door. That’s a good thing.
The SVX 450 is a good first effort at building an integrated snow bike. The use of Camso’s proprietary track, suspension and ski allowed Arctic to benefit from economies of scale and get the vehicle on-track for a competitive MSRP.
Truth is, the Camso kit’s single slide rail design produced decent handling on hard pack trails – something the original Timber Sled kits didn’t do as well – up until the arrival of the new Timber Sled Aro kits.
TO KIT OR NOT TO KIT
At the end of the day we wonder if it might have been better for AC to pursue a snow bike kit rather than the lofty goal of building the first legal “snowmobile” bike. It’s this reality which tweaks our sensibilities and has us wondering again if Arctic Cat will come to market (first) with an SVX kit including the two stage brake/clutch, a flipper throttle and some sort of muffler system. If they approached the market this way they could likely take their time with SSCC certification while actually getting a piece of the snow bike market.
Here’s our final thought. With the incredible financial depth of AC’s new owner – Textron Corporation – and their obvious interest (and ability) to acquire companies, maybe Textron could buy a specialty Euro-dirt bike brand (there are a number) and produce the first fully integrated, one stop shopping snow bike?