What You Need to Know Before You Buy One!
By Dustin Pancheri – SnowTech Mountain
Buying big ticket items now days can be fun and exciting but also a little frustrating. Manufacturers give us a ton of options to pick from and while this often allows us to enjoy our rigs with the exact bells and whistles we want it also requires us to do some homework. Which package fits us best? Take for example pickup trucks: LTZ package, Lariat, towing package, rear camera, trailer assist….you want it to park itself? Yah, they can do that now too! It’s nice to have options but it’s important to buy the right ones for your needs. It’s like living downtown trying to park an F-350 Dually in a compact parking spot. It’s a huge pain in the you-know-what. A 1/2 ton would have been more practical.
Snowmobile manufacturers are becoming the same way…..and we love it! Polaris is now giving us more options that allow us to choose a machine that works for our specific set of riding conditions. You can choose from an SKS, an RMK, a PRO-RMK and now the RMK KHAOS. Not sure which one is for you? How do you make sure you don’t accidentally buy the F-350 instead of the 1/2 ton?
What makes the KHAOS different?
There are two major areas that separate the KHAOS from the rest of the Polaris mountain sleds: The new Velocity shock package and new rear suspension geometry. The geometry changes make the KHAOS act and feel lighter on the front end which gives it a bit more of a playful style compared to the other Polaris mountain machines. We aren’t implying that the other machines are not playful, rather that the KHAOS just has a more lively, maneuverable feel in comparison.
Some of this comes from the Velocity shocks which are more adjustable and offer a better ride through a wider range of conditions.
Why would I want a more lively feel?
Everything happens just a little quicker and in some cases a little easier. Pulling wheelies becomes a little more fun and it likes riding on the back half of the track. It has a more responsive feel, reacts faster to rider input and changes direction quickly. It likes to be ridden more with hip input and less with upper body input. It works well in heavier snow conditions such as coastal areas, Sierra Cement, Cascade Concrete…..areas that rarely experience blower powder and floatation is less critical. Zones where playing on pillows and tight canyons might need a quick reacting feel.
Why would I not want a more lively feel?
Sometimes a rider likes a more stable less active feel, especially in steep off-camber slow speed maneuvering. Holding a line knowing that the machine will stay pointed in the same direction with little effort is where a 163” Pro shines. Blower powder or deep snow conditions that need a longer track with lots of floatation will be easier to navigate on a longer Pro. Long sidehills in deeper snow will be slightly easier on a longer track like the 163” or 174”.
What exactly gives it a more lively feel?
Polaris allowed the front of the skid to sit a little farther out of the tunnel compared to the rest of the mountain line. This was accomplished by using a longer limiter strap, a longer front track shock and letting the rails run straighter. The front arm stays the same as the Pro but because the limiter strap and shock are longer, the skid has more drop out and the skis have slightly less pressure. The longer Strap allows for more weight transfer to the track.
How are the Velocity Shocks different from the monotube and piggyback shocks?
All three are made by Walker Evans but the Velocity shocks are a bypass shock which means that some of the oil is not forced through the piston valve stack and is allowed to “Bypass” around it or away from it. Once the bypass is closed off the shock becomes 30% stiffer. The bypass is controlled by the location of the piggyback reservoir on the body of the shock. Compared to the standard piggyback shock the Velocity reservoir is mounted lower on the body.
Velocity shocks also include both high and low speed compression adjusters unlike the single compression adjuster found on the standard piggyback shock (supplied on the Pro). These allow the user more ability to fine tune the ride based off shock shaft speed(not ground speed). They do not include a rebound adjuster although in 400 miles we only found a few situations where we wished we had it.
The KHAOS Velocity shocks are not a needle shock although the Velocity shock supplied on the rear of the XC trail sleds is.
What if I just want the better shocks but prefer the handling of the RMK?
The KHAOS can be made to handle similar to an RMK by taking a couple simple steps. Start by shortening the limiter straps 1”. This will require drilling new holes in the limiter straps but it will reduce the front end lift and lighter feel. Keep in mind you will also give up some front track shock travel but in most cases this won’t be noticeable. The KHAOS is supplied with a softer rear track spring than the RMK so increasing the preload or installing a RMK spring will also make the KHAOS feel more like an RMK. We are running the new Velocity shocks on our Pro RMK now and love what they have done for the sled so if you prefer the handling of the RMK you still may want to consider purchasing the KHAOS if you are looking for better shocks on a 155” package.
Is the new 850 Patriot reliable?
Short answer is so far, yes. We have 3 different 850 Polaris motors in our mountain fleet ranging from 1000 miles to over 1700 miles on one of them, with another two back east with zero issues. We are aware of one or two first year glitches that happened to a very small number of people but Polaris was quick to respond and resolve the issue. At one point we disassembled one of our 850’s to mount a tether and we noticed right away the changes Polaris has made to things like fuel lines, wiring harness, etc. that will improve quality and durability. We have also had good feedback from aftermarket companies who do durability and dyno testing.
How does the KHAOS work?
Amazing! The Velocity shocks are a big step up and have a much better ride quality than anything we have seen on a Polaris mountain sled in recent years. We found that the stock calibration has a nice medium-soft comfortable ride and works good at intermediate speeds and average sized riders. Our test riders who range from 180-225 pounds preferred slightly stiffer settings both on the spring preload and on the high and low speed compression. If we pushed the sled hard we found that the rear would occasionally step out and the shocks would ride to low in the stroke. This was easily remedied after we fine tuned the calibration for our riders.
The 2.6” lug 155 track offers good all around traction for a variety of conditions or riders and will work for most people unless they are in the really deep dry powder. The 3” lug 155” track works better in the deeper snow but is not as good in the harder spring conditions.
The KHAOS is very playful and easy to throw around or maneuver. It does respond quicker to rider input compared to the RMK Pro. If hop-overs, wheelies, re-entries, or jumping off pillows is your thing you will probably love this sled as we felt like it helped us to do these things will less effort.
Remember that the 850 is only available as a spring snow check model but the 800 will be available during the entire buying season. Both motors work very well but if you want the extra torque and grunt of the 850 you will need to lay down some cash by April 17th!