Story and Photos by Brad Harris – SnowTech Canada
Model year 2018 brought a breath of fresh air into the industry in the form of a new youth sized sled intended to help bridge the gap between the existing 120 class sleds and full sized models. This came in the form of Arctic Cat’s ZR 200 and Yamaha’s Snoscoot. Finally, an option for kids that have outgrown their 120 that isn’t 20+ years old.
The ZR 200 is a stepping stone for young riders on the path to a full sized sled. Although it is trail legal, it was never intended to be ripping through busy trails with adults on 200hp sleds and to be honest it’s too small for that. But, I believe it’s sized perfectly for the intended use as a transitional sled. It’s small enough that as a kid gets a little too big, physically, for a 120 they can transition up to the 200 without the sled being too big or heavy for them to handle. It’s also big enough with a tall enough seat and handlebar height that an older and larger kid can still ride it and have fun.
The main focus for me when it comes to my kids riding sleds is that they can handle the entire sled, not just the power. It’s one thing to learn throttle control but it’s another thing to be able to control the sled. Regardless of engine size, if the sled is physically too big and heavy for a kid to control, or their body weight isn’t enough to influence the sled, then it’s eventually going to end up going bad at some point for both the kid and the sled. The ZR 200 lets kids continue to learn to ride properly and gives them confidence in their abilities. That is exactly what it was intended to do and that is exactly what it does.
Arctic Cat (Canada) was nice enough to provide me with a ZR 200 for a few weeks of testing. It’s all well and good for an adult to take a few laps on a 200 but what’s it like for a kid ready to move up from their 120? After a few weeks of riding the ZR 200 I asked my son some questions on his experience.
Test Rider: Carter Harris
Weight: 55 lbs.
Height: Approx. 4 ft. 2 in.
Riding Experience: Kitty Cat for 3 seasons, 120 for 2 ½ seasons.
Q: Coming from your 120, what did you first notice when you sat on the ZR 200?
A: The seating position was comfortable, the handlebar height and width felt comfortable. A lot bigger than my 120.
Q: When you rode the 200 for the first time, what did you think about the power and speed of the ZR?
A: It was a lot more powerful and way faster. I think it could be too powerful for kids who haven’t ridden before. (Note; the governor was all the way out due to Carter’s previous riding experience)
Q: Was it hard to steer the 200?
A: It wasn’t hard to turn the handle bars.
Q: Was the 200 tippy or was flat when going through a corner?
A: It stayed flat when I leaned in the corners. It wasn’t tippy.
Q: When we had deep enough snow, was the 200 easy to get on its side?
A: I could get it on one ski in deeper snow but it was a lot harder than my 120.
Q: Was the 200 easier to climb the snow banks with?
A: Yes it was much easier to climb big snow banks. I only got it stuck once.
Q: Did the 200 jump easier than your 120?
A: Yes, it was easier to jump because it was more powerful than my 120.
Q: How did you like the suspension on the 200?
A: It was comfortable but a little stiff. Way better than my 120. It also helped me jump the sled better.
Q: Overall, what did you think about the ZR 200?
A: I thought the sled was perfect for kids to ride on trails. I really liked the hand warmers too.
Q: Do you think you’d be able to ride it until you were a lot older?
A: I think it would be even more fun as I got older and bigger until I was ready to ride on the trails.
Q: Was it more fun to ride than your 120?
A: It was way more fun. I like how fast it is and its way better for jumping. I can take corners faster too. I want one really bad.
After watching my 8 year old son, Carter, ride the sled my impression was the ZR 200 was the perfect size with room for him to grow and would last for 3 or 4 more seasons before I’d start to think about upgrading him to a larger sled. At that point he’d be 12 and able to get a snowmobile licence in Ontario and legally ride the trails.
What stood out to me the most while watching him ride the ZR 200 was that the sled wasn’t too big or heavy for him to handle. He’s 8 and doesn’t weigh much so his body weight has to be able to influence the handling of the sled. I believe the ski stance, track length, seat height, and handlebar height are just about perfect, but still having lots of room to grow into it. At his height and weight I’d say he’s at the smaller range of riders that the sled can accommodate. His younger brother, Sawyer who is 6, was just a little too small for the 200 and still needed more time on his 120 to improve his throttle control and riding skills.
In my opinion Carter learned how to handle a larger sled with more power, acceleration, and top speed much easier due to the size of the sled. As well, he was able to try different riding techniques on a sled that he can actually influence with his body. He would try climbing snow banks beside the driveway and learned how much he had to lean to prevent tipping over. He also learned he had to stand during this type of riding vs. just sitting on his 120 that would get stuck long before he needed to lean anyway. After a snowfall he even tried getting the sled up on one ski to carve though the snow, something that wouldn’t be possible on an older, heavier sled.
Overall the ZR 200 allows kids to have fun while continuing to learn how to ride. It makes the gap between the 200 and a full sized sled that much smaller which keeps riding fun and keeps kids riding instead of waiting to grow into their next sled. It provides a certain fun factor in riding a sled that a kid can actually maneuver and not just sitting on the seat, barely touching the running boards, on a heavy and wide sled just trying not to hit anything. In my opinion the ZR 200 is a complete success.