How To Choose Your Right Snowmobile…

Buying the right snowmobile

Related: Tips For Buying A Used Sled

What’s the right snowmobile for you – that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? When we acquire a new automobile, most of our decisions are made before purchase – make, model, options, etc. Then we pretty much drive away from the dealership without much (if any) further thought about how it might perform or handle better.

Basically, we live with what we’ve bought, because most of us aren’t in the habit of adjusting or personalizing a new vehicle much to improve ride or comfort. As a result, many snowmobilers never experience a great riding machine. This can be a real turn-off, particularly for newbies who get their guts bounced around for nothing even after reading my snowmobile beginners tips.

It’s Not Like Buying A Car

Many of us go through the same “as is” process when we purchase a new sled for snowmobile tours and snowmobile vacations. We choose make, model and maybe a few options. Then we don’t make many adjustments or changes after delivery. All too often, we end up hating the sled (and maybe even the brand) because it just never felt comfortable as the right snowmobile.

Too bad, because snowmobiles are made to be tweaked and tailored to suit each individual rider. The four manufacturers go to considerable effort and expense to make sleds adjustable and adaptable. But some dealers don’t bother to do customer-specific set up. And most of us don’t read the owner’s manual and aren’t wrench-savvy anyway.

Consequently, we may end up with an uncomfortable ride. Here are a few tips that can make a big difference to how you experience your new sled as the right snowmobile for you…

Be An Informed Shopper

right snowmobile
As with automobile shopping, sled manufacturers offer different models specialized for the main sledding categories. They are Crossover, Mountain, Trail Performance, Touring and Recreation/Utility. So before you buy, understand what category targets your primary riding interest. If your priority is mountain riding, don’t buy a trail sled and vice versa.

Also remember that each manufacturer’s approach to categories is somewhat different. So one brand’s crossover sleds may suit one person, but not another. So careful shopping up front can get you a new sled better suited to your riding style out of the box. But every sled can also be further personalized to for greater enjoyment…

The Right Snowmobile: Proper Suspension

right snowmobile with proper suspension
Getting the suspension set right for your style and weight is critical to ride comfort. My vote for best in the business on a stock sled goes to Ski-Doo’s rMotion. But each to his (or her) own. Whatever your choice, a properly adjusted suspension (front and back) affects everything from a smooth ride to steering capability. An improperly set suspension is likely the number one reason for disliking a sled. And many riders don’t even realize that’s the problem.

Your suspension choices start before purchase. That’s because different models provide various suspension options. For instance, if you’re a leisurely trail rider, you may find the suspension on an aggressive trail sled too hard. So be careful what you buy.

When you take delivery, do whatever’s necessary (including hands on advice from your dealer) to get your suspension working best for you. Otherwise, you may never be happy on that sled. Depending on your needs and budget, you might also want to look at upgrading the stock front shocks with aftermarket ones.

The Right Snowmobile: Optimized Handling

right snowmobile
A properly adjusted suspension can go a long way to benefit steering. Adjusting the height or angle of the handlebars can also provide better steering leverage as well as a more comfortable riding position. But having the right skis and carbides is a major factor for comfort and predictability too. I’ve tried all kinds for trail riding. My fav so far are Ski-Doo’s adjustable Pilot TS skis with carbide runners made by Woody’s.

For me, this combo delivers optimum steering, cornering and handling with no darting. Adjusted to the trail conditions, the Pilot TS skis are so light and effortless that my wife calls them “the great equalizer”. That’s because they hardly require any muscle power to manoeuvre. Plus they give her the confidence to ride with the guys! For sleds without Pilot Adjustable Skis, I’d say to give Split Rails a try.

The Right Snowmobile: In The Saddle

right snowmobile for two riders
Unless you’re primarily a deep powder rider, where you plant your butt can make or break a sled. After all, your backside will mostly be in the saddle. And the longer that occurs on each ride, the more you’ll appreciate a sled seat that enables you to optimize your enjoyment of whatever riding style you prefer.

Snowmobile seats range from narrow and solid to wide and plush, depending on what the sled’s primary focus is. Some seats also sit you higher or farther forward (or back) than others. Some are more slippery, while others cradle the rider more securely.

Performance machines tend to come with seats made for lots of leaning, moving and body english by a solo rider. A touring rider or couple who want to ride 2-up may be more interested in a softer, cushier seat with more room. Be sure to compare seats from sled to sled to find one that provides the level of butt comfort you will enjoy the most.

The Right Snowmobile: Keeps You Warm

Some sleds are warmer to ride than others. That makes them more comfortable in whatever Mother Nature can conjure. For example, Ski-Doo’s REV Gen4 platform has proved itself to me by diverting the cold air away from my body like nothing before. My next key to warmth (after stock hand and thumb warmers) is adding the right height of windshield and a good set of handlebar muffs. Add whatever you need to your sled (like a heated seat) to be comfortable in those sub zero temperatures. Otherwise, your new sled may not measure up as the right snowmobile for you!

The Right Snowmobile: No Throttle Thumb

right snowmobile
Those with small hands or light grips often find stock throttles uncomfortable. That’s because the thumb lever is too wide or too stiff. Sometimes an adjustment can be made to rotate the right hand grip slightly. This allows the ball of the thumb to be used instead when the thumb gets tired or sore.

But Ski-Doo has introduced a more practical solution. The industry’s first electronic wireless throttle. With no cable, this throttle is very easy to squeeze. It’s also adjustable without tools to adapt to either thumb or finger use, eliminating most causes of throttle thumb. Other alternatives to combat a sore thumb include throttle extenders and left side throttles.

The Last Word on Buying The Right Snowmobile

Here are my two final tips for buying the right snowmobile for you. One is to get the most comfort and enjoyment by not constantly fiddling. Make your adjustments and additions before and during your first rides. Get it set. And then leave well enough alone (unless you add a passenger or more baggage), because the most enjoyable part of a properly set up sled is just enjoying the ride!

Two is not to be distracted by the sizzle. Flashy colours and graphics may look great, but don’t make that gleaming new machine the right snowmobile for you. Stick with finding one that feels good and is best at doing what you need. After all, what use is a the sharpest looking sled ever if you hate how it rides? As I always say to folks: once you’re on it, you can’t see how it looks. But you sure know first hand how well it works!

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The tips and advice in this blog are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.


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