For 2020 Polaris is adding a new model to its lineup. It’s not intended to replace any existing models but to instead bring a different handling option to their lineup. Through consumer feedback Polaris learned that some buyers wanted the stability of the AXYS RMK but in a bit more playful package. Polaris didn’t want to alienate those that have relied on the current chassis arrangement, which meant a new model was in order.
The RMK KHAOS is based off the Pro RMK 155”. It uses the AXYS Pro Ride chassis with an aluminum over structure and rear bumper. It utilizes the same React front end that was supplied on the 2019 RMK Snow Check models and will be offered with a 155” x 2.6” or 3” lug height track. There will be two engine options as Polaris will build the KHAOS with the 800 Liberty motor and the 850 Patriot motor. The 800 will be available as a Snow Check and will also be available in-season while the 850 will be available via Snow Check only.
So what’s the big deal? What are the differences between the RMK and the KHAOS you ask? The changes, which at first glance are almost unnoticeable, come from the shocks as well as the rear suspension both in components and geometry, and although seemingly small, they do create a different feel for the rider.
Velocity Series Shocks
The KHAOS comes with Walker Evans “Velocity” shocks that feature a remote reservoir mounted midway on the shock body with an internal bypass system. This position-sensitive design allows for a soft (or plush) feel in the first portion of the stroke. Once the piston and valve stack travels past the bypass it progressively becomes more firm, with about a 30% increase in damping. The result is a shock that has a nice comfortable feel through the small chatter bumps but is stiff enough to handle the big hits. The Velocity shocks include both high and low speed compression adjustments which is a benefit to those who understand how shaft speed affects ride quality. And to top it off they use special coatings to reduce friction and protect the shock.
While you may not be familiar with the Velocity shocks they are not a new addition to the Polaris lineup. The signature feature is the remote reservoir that is positioned midway on the main shock body, resulting in a position-sensitive response making it compliant at midstroke with excellent anti-bottoming at full stroke. Some versions also incorporate an internal needle, but none of the four Velocity shocks on the KHAOS have this feature. Polaris has been using Velocity Series shocks on the new Indy XC and XCR models in 2019, as well as the 600RR Snocross sled for a couple of seasons. Snocross racers are really tough on equipment and that makes the snocross track an excellent place to put a component to the test, especially shocks. They need a shock that will take big hits, resist fade and be adjustable enough to calibrate for track condition or individual rider preferences. Polaris feels like these same features will be beneficial to mountain riders, and we agree, the premium shock package is a welcome improvement.
On the geometry side of things Polaris took a different “approach” with the rails, front arm and limiter strap. The rails now sit further out of the tunnel with more angle or curve at the front. The limiter strap is now longer and the approach angle is increased which provides the sled with a bit more chassis clearance. With these changes Polaris aimed to give the KHAOS less ski pressure and make it more maneuverable and playful. This is also the reason Polaris is not offering the KHAOS in a 163” or 174” length. When talking with the RMK development team they explained that in order to maximize the playful feeling of the KHAOS they restricted the length to a 155”. This is understandable to us as a longer length would reduce the transfer and the rider would feel the extra track.
How Does it Work
The ride quality, handling and playfulness of the KHAOS is definitely elevated compared to the RMK. This sled does exactly what Polaris told us it would do. Some of the weight has been taken off the skis and is being carried by the track. The result is a more playful responsive feeling machine, while taking a bit less effort to keep the front end elevated. It’s easier to wheelie through the creek bottoms and pillows and feels lighter on the front end when carving through deep or off-camber conditions. We aren’t sure yet if the lighter feeling will come with a trade off in stability but our first impression is that there is very little trade off if any at all, and if there is, the limiter strap can be shortened in order to get the desired feel and stability.
The Walker Evans Velocity shocks are very close to what we were hoping they would be. While the monotube and piggyback clicker shocks Polaris has been using on the RMK’s in the past have been decent, we have been hoping for a higher end option for a few years. The RMK Assault has been using Walker Evans needle shocks that has worked quite well since the Dragon days so we had hoped to see something similar on the narrower front end RMK’s. We are especially impressed with how well the Velocity Series shock performs as we think this is a huge key to Polaris achieving the lighter “lively” feel and better quality ride. The rear shock does not blow through the stroke so fast on G-outs or hard hits like the RMK machines can occasionally do. The Velocity Series shocks seem to be adjustable enough to fine tune for a variety of conditions but a bit more seat time will tell us this for sure. While we were able to play with the clickers it was only for a short time and only in one condition so once we get more miles on them we can give more feedback on adjustability and durability. We are confident in saying that this shock will rival many of the aftermarket shocks that are available in the snowmobile world at this time. Their reputation is already being well established on the 2019 Indy XC models.
If we have any scoffs they are pretty minor. Ideally, we would like to see the needle versions of the Velocity Series shocks. We originally believed these were going to be the shocks this sled would come with. Another high end feature could be a separate rebound adjuster to truly finish off the higher end adjustment package that these shocks offer. While we admit that many riders won’t ever touch them or even know how to adjust them, there are a few riders who do understand them and have a use for them.
We also think some riders will want a 163” version as there are people who want the higher end shocks but in a longer track package. For some they want the stability that a longer track offers but want the better ride quality of the Velocity shock package. The Velocity shocks work extremely well on the un-groomed trails that are plagued with miles of big bumps from riders attempting to access those deep forest zones. Often riders prefer the longer 163” to help span the bumps or in some cases they prefer the added floatation. But as stated before, we understand the decision on this as a playful feel was the goal for the KHAOS.
This is the best suspended and most maneuverable mountain snowmobile Polaris has ever offered. We like that Polaris is building a beefed up mountain sled that will handle the big bumps and have a playful feel. And we also like that Polaris is giving us more options. They aren’t eliminating the models that have the reputable “Polaris” handling and feel, so if you prefer stability and a flat approach angle, the traditional PRO RMK is proven and will continue to deliver that. But if a playful more nimble feel is what you like, the KHAOS is a machine you should consider. Two very similar sleds but different enough to offer a different experience. We like having options!
By Dustin Pancheri – SnowTech Mountain
Stay tuned for a follow up and more in-depth test report in SnowTech Magazine as we spend more time on the 2020 Polaris RMK KHAOS.