When Arctic Cat Inc. unveiled its snowmobile lineup for the 2017 model year, it included the SVX 450 – the industry’s first OEM purpose-built, single-ski snow vehicle.
Commented Arctic Cat President and CEO Christopher Metz: “We have entered an all-new category with the lightweight and agile SVX 450 snow bike, which will be purpose-built to meet all snowmobile certification standards.”
Purpose-built to meet all snowmobile certification standards – that means it will be sold as a “snowmobile”, registered as a “snowmobile” and legal to ride anywhere and everywhere a “snowmobile” is legal to ride. Including groomed trails. This is a monumental step into territory that kit-bikes have not (legally) been able to enter.
Metz continued, “It’s an industry first. No one has ever delivered a trail-legal manufactured snow bike. We took the best of a dirt bike and snowmobile and married them together. It’s smaller and more nimble. This is a hero product that will make people look at us (Arctic Cat) differently.”
Snow biking is a growing sport across western North America. Arctic Cat’s patented SVX 450 is designed to provide an exciting new experience for riders who want the lightest, most affordable vehicle for mountain riding. Retail pricing has not been released as of yet, so the statement of “most affordable” can not be truly evaluated. As for being the lightest, chances are very good this will indeed be a very light vehicle (compared to traditional snowmobiles), but also realize it will have far less horsepower than a traditional snowmobile so we can only speculate as to the power to weight ratio for now. That said, current snow bike conversions have proven their ability as fun, agile and capable snow machines that can take riders to places with ease, compared to the much bigger and heavier traditional mountain sleds.
The development of the SVX 450’s revolutionary single-beam skid frame was a collaborative effort between Arctic Cat and Camso – the industry leader in track designs – to be lightweight and agile, and provide traction on the steepest hills and backcountry adventures. The front precision-engineered ski complements the rear suspension, providing the maximum amount of flotation in deep snow and accurate handling and control on the trail, while the powerful 450cc, 4-stroke engine with electronic fuel injection propels the SVX through unchartered snow terrain.
However, there are several engineering hurdles that must be overcome to make this machine a “snowmobile” (as we understand it). One of them is that it must have a left-hand brake. Any of us who ride motorcycles will understand this poses a problem, as we are all familiar with using a left-hand clutch on a motorcycle. But, snowmobilers are used to a left-hand brake lever, and for a vehicle to meet SSCC (Snowmobile Safety Certification Committee) specifications for a snowmobile, it MUST have a left-hand brake.
We suspect this could be one of the items that is challenging the release of the SVX 450. The solution we have seen on pre-production units is a dual-piston master cylinder for a single left-hand lever that actuates both the clutch (first) and brake (second). Anytime you pull the lever to the bars to shift, as you would on a motorcycle, it would apply the brakes. It would also mean anytime you pull the lever to put on the brakes that it would also disengage the clutch, so maybe this isn’t an ideal solution to the problem. Perhaps a better solution would be to leave the left-hand lever as a brake lever only, and fit the unit with a Rev-Lock or Recluse clutch, which is a centrifugal clutch that disengages as engine RPMs drop, but would certainly raise the production cost by several hundred dollars. Even better would be to not worry about the left-hand brake requirement, but Arctic Cat wants this machine to be sold as, registered as and legal to ride as a “snowmobile”.
Curiously, the pre-production unit most recently on display at Haydays had both a left-hand and right-hand brake lever, with the left-hand lever fitted to a dual-piston master cylinder for both brake and clutch duty. And, there was no foot brake. Hmm. It keeps getting more and more interesting.
Another safety requirement of being classified as a “snowmobile” is that the exhaust be contained such that the rider does not contact it. This requirement, on a motorcycle, seems rather silly, but it is what it is. We’ve been told that Arctic Cat is actively working on meeting this requirement, but they were not ready to show the solution as of yet. And there are many others. The intensity of the headlight. The location of the reflectors. The noise level of the exhaust. There is quite a long list of safety requirements for this, or any vehicle, to be considered a “snowmobile”.
These are the kinds of battles a manufacturer must face when they enter a totally new arena with a radically different machine, similar to what BRP faced with their 3-wheeled Spyder and what Polaris faced with their 3-wheeled Slingshot. Different machines sometimes require bending or changing of the rules that were written for days gone by. This also answers the questions Arctic Cat is fielding, like, “Why is it taking so long to bring the SVX 450 to market?”
Fuel is fed via a Synerject Fuel Injection System. Engine braking is controlled at different levels depending on engine capacity for optimum feeling while riding. Basically, it uses a “stepper” system which controls small bursts of fuel charge when you shut the throttle to reduce engine braking and gives the bike a fantastic level of control in corner entry, as the consistent feel when both on and off the gas inspires confidence and balance from the chassis without any diving.
If it was simply just another snow bike, it would have been far easier, but Arctic Cat wants to be able to sell it as a “snowmobile” so it can enjoy all of the benefits as such. The question will be, by the time they get there, will the sled become heavier, more complex, not have enough power, better suited if it had a CVT transmission, and too expensive? We do not know, but are very curious to find out.
Seeing how Arctic Cat has told the world this will be a 2017 model, we anxiously await further details on product availability, retail pricing, and look forward to actually being able to ride this machine. Arctic Cat CEO Christopher Metz has stated it will ship to dealers in December, and their website says “available winter 2017” so we remain hopeful. Arctic Cat has not provided test ride opportunities or action photo opportunities at any of their official 2017 snowmobile introductions or photo shoots, which is quite unusually considering they expect to be selling this as a 2017 model. Our best bet is that they will be producing a very limited number of units for the coming season, maybe something like 50-100 of them, primarily as dealer demo units and maybe a few test units will get out. Stay tuned, this could get exciting.
The SVX 450 is based on the Sherco 450 – a less-known dirt bike from a French manufacturer. Sherco just added the 450cc model to their dirt bike model line in 2015. It features an all-new and incredibly compact 450cc engine had been in development for three years. The 450cc engine is a very cool motor, with the highlight being in how compact it is. The motor weighs in at under 65 pounds, with electric start. It features a unique camshaft gear drive system, which operates from one large chain-driven gear transferring the motion to the cams, rather than the chain wrapping around each of the two camshaft gears. The piston is a double-bridge unit using Formula 1 technology.