Indulge the Wild Side
The weather forecast was looking grim. With temps forecast to get up into the 60s, we knew the clock was ticking. We only had a few more days of really good conditions before things went to crap on us. Once the base turns to ice and then slush and mud it gets really tough to perform valuable testing.
We had just been out west doing a photo shoot and had been riding all of the new 2022 models from Ski-Doo, Polaris, Arctic Cat and Lynx so we already had a couple hundred miles on the new Lynx RAVE RE, as well as the new Smart Shox technology from Ski-Doo. For trail riders these two were easily the biggest news for 2022. To have either one of them introduced was big, but to have them both come out at the same time?
We loaded the Lynx onto the trailer and headed to the U.P. of Michigan. Even though the snow depth was far less than average this season with less than half of our annual snowfall to date, we still had decent trail conditions and plenty of snow in the woods on the ungroomed forest roads. When the groomed trails go to crap we then turn to the ungroomed forest roads as this is where the base is far deeper and holds the longest. It is also far rougher since it never sees a groomer, which was an ideal testing scenario for learning what the Lynx was truly capable of.
We’re going to assume you have some basic understanding of what the Lynx RAVE RE is coming into this. Built by BRP’s Lynx Snowmobiles in Finland, it is similar to a Ski-Doo in that it shares some main elements; Rotax engine, chassis/platform, front suspension, even gauges and controls. The most notable differences are found in the rear suspension and shocks (front and rear) and suspension calibration. The Lynx uses an un-coupled PPS3 long-travel rear suspension design which allows for more transfer. This is a key difference, as it allows you to lift and carry the skis pretty much at will, as needed. Anyone with dirt bike experience will instantly realize the significance of this capability to carry the skis above the bumps and ride through the rough on the rear suspension. This also makes the Lynx super FUN to ride, more playful and lighter feeling, but also requiring the rider to be more active and not just sit there. If you’re not willing to lift your butt off the seat then this sled isn’t for you.
The closest sled we can compare this to is the Ski-Doo Backcountry X-RS. Firm calibration, un-coupled skid, active riding style, able to carry and control the front end up and over the bumps. In some ways the Lynx acted like a Polaris XCR 137” with the beaver tail PRO-XC suspension, uncoupled and requiring a more active rider to control the transfer. Slide back and wheelie, slide up and carve, just not quite as profound, with a firm calibration all around.
What you likely have been told so far is how the Lynx is built for the rougher riding conditions in Finland, but it is also built for a taller rider. You’re not quite as far forward on the Lynx as you are on a Ski-Doo as the seating position is almost 4” further back and slightly higher, maybe 1.5” or so. You can see this when comparing it side by side to a Renegade X-RS. The seat is also flatter, not forward sloped like the X-RS. For a taller rider this is a good thing, but the front of the seat is sculpted so you still get forward, if needed. That sculpted area actually lets your leg fill it so you can get far forward and lower when cornering, and it really does corner well.
Another thing you notice is the single-stage side panels instead of the two-stage side panels as found on Ski-Doo Gen 4 models. We found this to be much to our liking. The footrests are also slightly different and with the side plates to help keep your feet in while riding hard. Some riders really like this, some have become accustomed to the open footwells of the Ski-Doo. The wider console does a better job at wind deflection and rider protection, another little thing you notice. Our riders would have liked a taller bar riser as it is not adjustable like what the Renegade X-RS has.
In terms of performance it is the shocks and the skid that make this sled what it is. While clearly calibrated for bigger bumps and higher speeds, it’s also surprisingly decent simply riding down a groomed trail. It’s not like it’s going to beat you up or anything. Yes it is stiff, but only the lighter riders or casual types should find it to be too firm. That said, a Ski-Doo is a better choice if all you’re going to do is ride on smooth groomed trails all day long as being coupled helps keep the skis on the ground for cornering and the ride performance at lesser speeds and smaller bumps is more compliant.
The Lynx shines on rough sections, especially corners. Our riders found this to be a surprise, in how well it handled the rough corners. To say this isn’t a good trail sled is flat out wrong. It’ll blow your mind. But, this isn’t where it performs the best. It’s on those sections of whoops on the un-groomed forest roads that you find what the Lynx is truly capable of. Mile after mile of rough tracks that you maybe used to avoid or took far slower are now actually enjoyable. No longer are you riding slowly to keep from bottoming or breaking something, you now attack the terrain with confidence. The sled does not pitch the back end like what you’d expect, rather it strokes and absorbs terrain that typically would disrupt you more.
The large 46mm (2”) diameter KYB HLCR Kashima shocks and pistons (front and rear suspensions) have incredible bump capacity. You get hi, lo and rebound adjustability with a stiffer base calibration. But there’s more to this sled than just shock capacity, there’s magic in this rear suspension. This is an independent (un-coupled) long travel design, with 9.8” of true vertical travel on the long front arm and 11.4” of true vertical travel from the rear arm. Our riders all agreed that it works best when ridden hard. That’s what it is designed for. But we were all pleasantly surprised at how we could ride it like a trail sled and really have no issues. Sure, it will lift the skis and wheelie when you really get into the throttle, but you learn to adapt and how to control the transfer with your body position. Yes, it is a bit stiff and there will be a bit more ski lift when cornering on hardpack trails, but this is an excellent high performance trail sled.
One of the most profound differences we noticed was with the BLADE XC+ skis. This is a square design that is more aggressive, predictive and directionally stable ski, even in soft snow. A square carbide is also used. This ski bites well on packed snow but also carves in the off trail and keeps the nose up instead of sinking in as a narrow ski does.
Day after day, 220-240 miles per day, we pounded on the Lynx, alternating from groomed trails to un-groomed forest roads, swapping riders and sleds, making adjustments, comparisons and observations. We all agreed that the Lynx loves to be ridden hard and fast as this is where it performs best. It is actually fairly difficult to get it to bottom hard, the extremely long front torque arm provides incredible travel and requires the rider to be active to control the amount of transfer. This alone makes the skid unique and different. The rear torque arm strokes through the big moguls with incredible precision and capacity, almost to the point of feeling bottomless. It is truly amazing in this regard.
We hold true to our original analysis that the Lynx RAVE RE is an aggressive sled calibrated for aggressive conditions. It is best suited for those riders who identify with sleds like a Polaris XCR, Arctic Cat ZR RR or Ski-Doo Renegade X-RS and find them to be calibrated on the “light” side. The Lynx isn’t just firmer, it has a broad window of capability so it works well across a wide range of conditions. By virtue of the uncoupled skid, shock selection and calibration it is best suited for rough terrain like ungroomed paths but it can still be ridden on groomed trails. That said, a coupled Ski-Doo will do a better job at keeping the skis in contact with the ground. Those who identify as a stand-up rider would be better suited with the Lynx, those who identify as a sit-down rider would be better suited on a Ski-Doo. As similar as they are, the rear suspension, skis and riding position of the Lynx create a whole new riding experience.
Not all decisions are based solely on function or design criteria. There will be many riders who want the Lynx simply because it is different, because of the rowdy image it projects. It is a bad ass sled. So familiar, yet so different – and you really like it. She’s trouble from the get-go, leading you down a path of living on the wild side. Smooth groomed trails become boring. Instead, you seek the paths with some character to them. If you can identify with this then you understand what riding a Lynx is going to do for you, to you and with you. The sled brings new capability to the table. It might be more capable than you are. It is designed for a different priority than what we’ve been exposed to. Not everyone wants to sit down and motor down the groomed path all day long. Sure, it can do that, but that’s like putting a wild animal in a cage. It’s capable of so much more. And, so are you.