Yamaha is doing something out of the ordinary for 2017 – they are not only creating some serious excitement with the introduction of their fire-breathing 998cc Genesis Turbo three-cylinder 4-stroke, but they are also creating a brand new class, or model segment as well. Enter the B-TX designation.
B-TX you ask? What now? Yamaha has three new models for 2017 using the B-TX designation. Each of them is fitted with an all-new 153” long by 1.75” lug height Backcountry track, and that pretty much spills the beans right there. B-TX means this is a backcountry sled; not a crossover sled, not a mountain sled, but smack in-between them. Backcountry. B-TX.
The rest of the industry has hesitated to separate these kinds of machines from their mountain or crossover models, trying to call them one or the other, not really sure which they were closer to. Yamaha simply broke the mold and went ahead and created the new segment. Here’s why.
There are a ton of snowmobilers that have been buying “mountain sleds” for use back in the central and eastern areas. According to Yamaha, nearly 60% of the mountain sleds are sold east of the Dakotas, hardly what they are intended for. Since eastern riders are buying these sleds for deep snow capability but not sidehilling into a mountain, the need or benefit of having a narrow front end much less. That was the main complaint of the “eastern” mountain sled riders, was that the sleds with their super-skinny front suspensions were too tippy and unstable for some of the riding they were doing. Makes perfect sense.
So with the B-TX models we find the combination of what is traditionally considered to be a mountain sled track length in the 153”, and an excellent deep snow lug height at 1.75” that will work better in the denser snow conditions (*than what is found in the west) with a wider 40” front end, equipped with a sway bar. Face it, these machines are going to be used to run down a trail or forest road far more often than they are going to be tipped into a steep sidehill when they are being ridden east of the Dakotas.
Having to re-gear and re-clutch the mountain sleds was also a deterrent, but riders wanted the deep snow capability and better flat-land handling. And, here it is. And maybe the best part is, these models still get fitted with the taller deep-snow seat and the taller handlebars with the center grab bar. Combined with the 40” front end we find an excellent combination of deep snow capability with decent trail manners.
Yamaha’s B-TX models come in both SRViper and Sidewinder versions for 2017. The LE versions (2.25” lug height) were Spring-only options, so come Fall the only one you will find will be the SE model, only in the Sidewinder. This gem is fitted with Fox FLOAT shocks up front and rear (coil-over at center) to give us as much weight savings as possible. The sled also gets the new-for-2017 Yamaha mountain skis that are 180mm in width with a 55mm wide center keel to help reduce darting, along with the sleek mountain spindle. This combination reduces the steering effort and delivers an optimized position of the ski keel to the spindle. The ski blade stiffness was very specifically chosen, and the rear tail of the skis lifts out of the snow to better control feedback, especially when counter-steering. And yes, they are legal trail width in Wisconsin – barely.
Now for the crazy part. Out of all the 2017 Yamaha Sidewinder models we have ridden and tested, the B-TX was the one that seemed to be the happiest. This was the length, lug height and overall combination that was the single best total package. This really surprised us, as on paper this just seems to be too much of a mountain sled, even with the front end, but even running down groomed trails (softer snow, not hardpack) the sled was flat out predictable and well balanced. The added length in the rear seemed to really balance out the mass of the wicked turbo engine up front, to the point the machine just didn’t act or feel as long as it actually was. With so much power under the hood you just didn’t have the same sensation that the track was a great big flat tire sucking all of the power from the engine, it just kept pulling and screaming faster and faster. Granted, with the longer and taller lug track it will be geared lower so it will be pulling a higher engine rpm for a given ground speed, but with the turbo under the hood you could still go really fast. We say this because a sled like this will always use more fuel than a sled with lower lugs and taller gearing, all other things being equal.
Usually a deep lug sled like this doesn’t corner worth crap, and even here we were pleasantly surprised at the balance and capability to wear both hats. Down right impressive, as our test riders would hop off and look at the tunnel to see exactly what track length they were riding. Again, this was western trail conditions with plenty of snow, not hardpack, but from what we could tell Yamaha had done well in their delivery of a capable Backcountry sled that wasn’t the stereotypical narrow and tippy mountain sled when out of the powder.
The 2017 Yamaha Sidewinder B-TX comes in your choice of blue or orange and retails for $15,899. Hey, with almost 200 HP in a 4-stroke that runs the same at any elevation you never need to change clutching or gearing to go out west or anywhere. This sled will last for many more years than any high-performance 2-stroke could dream of. If Yamaha has ever built a do-all go-anywhere snowmobile, this is the one. Maybe not a true 50/50 crossover, but a formidable Backcountry slayer in every respect.