AMDS Outdoor Adventures - 04/17/02
by Chuck Maas
On April 17 & 18, 2002, I had the arduous task of taking Joe Baker, esteemed representative for Harbercraft/Jetcraft Boats, snowmachining at Petersville. We knew this was a late-season outing with a chance that the riding would be marginal, but it had been planned weeks in advance around a boat show date and we were going to ride regardless of conditions. Joe brought Dan Feil, a friend and boat dealer from Washington state with him. Dan had been to Alaska before, but had never had the chance to ride here.
Ken Baehr joined us with his ’99 Summit 600. Along with my customized ’01 Summit 800 Highmark, we had two demo machines – an ’02 Summit 600, and an ’03 MXZ Revolution Sport. This was the first chance for any of us to ride the “Rev” and we were anxious to experience the quantum improvements in capability we’d all read about.
Now this crowd of mature and conservative businessmen understands priorities, so after picking up the machines at Alaska Mining & Diving Supply we headed straight for the Windbreak Café in Wasilla. Ken doesn’t even need a menu…two eggs, two pancakes, and two strips of bacon, and keep the coffee mug filled please! The rest of us pretty much followed suit, strictly for the purpose of ensuring sufficient energy intake for our intended activities you understand. Being prudent and experienced snowmobilers, we always try to prepare ourselves properly.
After breakfast and gas, we headed to the parking lot on Petersville Road. Expecting mud, we were surprised to be driving into falling snow with an accumulation of several inches already, much better conditions than we were resigned to. Our destination, as in many times in the past, was Kenny Creek Lodge, owned and operated by Bob and Sylvia Quaintance, so we assigned machines and off we went by the back route into the lodge.
What a difference the new snow made. The five to six inches of fresh powder put a nice layer on top of the wind-scoured surface, and aside from fairly flat light and still-falling snow, the conditions were pretty good. The overall snow depth was pretty low, however, changing the appearance of landmarks as we picked our way in, but we sorted it out and had a good warm-up run to the lodge.
After putting our stuff inside and saying hello to Bob and Sylvia we headed out again to maximize our riding opportunities. Each of us got a chance to try the different machines. Ken, Joe, and I were particularly interested in experiencing the REV. Dan was too, of course, being an Arctic Cat dealer (which we certainly won’t hold against him), but after a short stint on it he offered to continue riding my Summit 800 claiming he was just more used to long-track machines. Can’t really blame him – this is the “Perfect Sled II,” you may recall, with 151” M-10, slightly widened front end with Simmons skis, and just about the most capable and comfortable snow-going cruise missile on the planet. Besides, it has an electric visor plug-in, and Dan was the only one in the group bright enough to anticipate the need for one in these conditions. Boy did he make a good choice. With temperatures reaching 40 degrees F and the steadily falling big wet flakes, he was the only one not experiencing visor problems. Smart guy, this dealer from the south, and a good rider too!
So cut to the chase you say…how does the REV ride?!! In a word – fantastically! I’ll admit, I’m a long-track guy; that’s all I’ve ever owned. So I was prepared to find a lot of compromises. But I didn’t. The machine was incredibly easy to ride, exceedingly capable, and the most intuitive sled I’ve ever been on. It’s like driving a boat with electronic controls…you finesse it rather than use brute force.
If you’ve read the magazine articles, you know the logic. New riding position, well forward over the center of mass. New chassis with vastly superior stiffness, and engine placement to lower and concentrate the center of gravity. Lots of well-controlled suspension travel. Here’s my impression. It fits like a comfortable glove. The whole sensation is one of rider and machine acting as a unit, molded together, responding instantly and precisely to small, calculated inputs. With standard HPG shocks, it runs better the faster you push it. This machine is a lot like a fighter jet – purpose built, extremely capable, ready to respond immediately and follow your smallest impulse. Think of it more like a finely balanced race car compared to a long-bed pickup. And the best part is it’s an absolute blast to ride!
I can’t remember when I’ve had as much pure fun on a sled. And with less fatigue. While I’m no spring chicken, I can still wick it up now and then, but I lean toward outings where I can choose where to expend my energy. I hate to get beat up, and I hate to dig out. And I didn’t experience either on the REV. While the riding position uses different muscles (thighs and shoulders), the position over the pivot point of the rear suspension makes it incredibly easy on your back. This is a sled even I could ride most of the day at speed and still feel fresh…it’s that different, and it’s that good. This machine is going to emulate FAST’s claim for the M-10…that it allows you to ride longer (at any one time and for more years total due to the plush nature of the suspension).
Chuck with REV, and Joe & Dan with REV
Conclusion? I admit it…I’ve been REVolutionized! Here’s how my REV will arrive next fall: Sport model (in my opinion, the Variable Rate HPG shocks are going to make a great sled even better, especially if you don’t ride it full bore all the time); 600HO engine (more than enough power in this light-weight chassis, making a slightly more balanced machine); 1.75” deep-lug track (yeah, I know I’ll give up a little in the hard corners, but I’m betting on the fact that this combo will result in the most capable, satisfying all-around fun machine in existence, and it will probably keep me from getting stuck a few times); RER, DPM, and electric start (concessions to convenience relative to my personal preferences and stage in life); color – Black (to match “Perfect Sled II” which will stay in the stable for a long time to come – the best of both worlds, so to speak).
And by the way, how does the REV work in powder? First off, this is not a Summit. It takes a lot more to make a pure powder machine than grafting on a longer track. In reality, what makes a perfect powder sled can be debated endlessly. The MXZ REV is a bump sled with a wide front end and no grab bar. It’s not going to sidehill or weave through trees like a classic Summit. But I’m here to tell you that deep snow is little impediment to its mobility. It went everywhere the other three sleds went and never missed a beat. By the time we left on Thursday morning it was still snowing, there were well over two feet of new wet powder on the ground, and if anything it did as well or better than the other machines. Joe was riding it back to the parking lot, and while I was fighting a sheet of white stuff right in the face, the shape of the cowling and bodywork on the REV seemed to deflect snow better. And all this with the standard one-inch track. I was impressed!
So, did we have a good time? You bet! Even with the struggle to get up the unplowed hill from the parking lot, which turned out to be a real challenge, we departed thrilled to be able to ride in the middle of April and intoxicated by the incredible leap in technology and vastly improved capability of the new REV.
And by the way, it was still snowing when we left. By Friday they’d gotten at least 30 inches and the forecast was for more snow. I’d say this is setting up to be a remarkable spring riding opportunity. Don’t put the sleds away quite yet!
~ Chuck Maas