Being able to walk into a snowmobile dealership and purchase a snowmobile that is capable of producing right about 200 horsepower should scare anyone familiar with the sport. Scares us. It used to take quite a bit of talent to be able to build a machine that was capable of what a bone-stock Yamaha Sidewinder is capable of. That would be going very fast, very quickly. You just can’t go out and “pin it” at every opportunity or you will get into big time trouble. A machine with this kind of power demands both your respect and appreciation.
To a degree, the price tag of the Sidewinder models has acted as a suitable screening device as the vast majority of Sidewinder owners we came across last winter were indeed older gentlemen, most of them being seasoned veterans and VERY experienced riders. Most every one of the Sidewinder owners we talked to were at least 50 years old with many of them being 60+, and making a sled purchase of this magnitude was seemingly well within their budget.
They all wanted to have the very best they could afford, and they were all in love with their sleds. Overwhelmingly, the Sidewinder owners we spoke with would beam with affection for their new ride. Not because it could take them to speeds well over 100 mph, but more for the arm-stretching acceleration that they had on tap. At will, they could squeeze the happy trigger and the sled would give them a burst of intoxicating fun without much difficulty, or time. And for some, it was somewhat of a fashion statement in that if they were on a Sidewinder, few were going to mess with them.
One of the problems with a sled like this is traction. The torque of the engine overpowers the track, and its ability to grab the snow. Of course, some of the riders opted to install traction devices (studs) into the track length of their choice, but this works far better on hard packed groomed surfaces and does little on looser snowpack or chewed up trails.
Another issue is with the weight of the engine. The 4-stroke SR Viper was already nose heavy, so when we take a three-cylinder 4-stroke and add to it the mass of the turbocharger, intercooler and all of the plumbing we have an even heavier sled, still carrying that mass up front. This why, for many years, we have been suggesting riders of the mighty 4-stroke sleds consider a model with a longer track length. This does two very important things – it spreads out the mass of the machine which will reduce the feeling of the sled being so weight biased to the front – and gives it a far more predictable demeanor out on the trail. Second, the added track length gives you more track on the ground, providing a much better arrangement for transferring the power of the turbo to the ground.
We see fewer and fewer short track sleds being sold, and can not imagine having a short tracked sled with this kind of power as most of us been migrating to longer track lengths as the engine power levels continue to rise. We knew all of this going into our test sessions with the 2018 sleds, and is exactly why we targeted our time onto a very specific model from Yamaha – the 2018 Sidewinder S-TX DX 146”. The chassis is very similar to the 146” platform developed by Arctic Cat for their Pantera 7000 touring series, and has been successful as a CrossTour model positioned and calibrated more as a Crossover sled for solo riding than the 2-up touring character of the Pantera.
Yamaha has smartly tapped into this crossover platform for 2018 by adding this all-new version of the Sidewinder, and our seat time on the pro-production models has confirmed our suspicions – it could easily be the very best Sidewinder cruiser model in the line-up, and few even know about it.
Seeing how so many of the Sidewinder buyers were seasoned veterans using them as trail sleds, it only seems logical that the S-TX DX would come about. The configuration is a great match for the overall package – better traction and stability, excellent high mile capability, superior wind protection, generous luggage and cargo capability, all features that seem to be a perfect match for the typical Sidewinder buyer.
Now mind you, while this is a 146” track length, it is a 1.25” lug height RipSaw so it isn’t going to be a wicked handful around the corners. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised at how well the Yamaha team had calibrated the S-TX DX for trail riding. The entire package was able to defy its actual weight with steering that was lighter than the shorter tracked models, well balanced with little pitching, yet able to maintain decent front end bite for predictable cornering. And the gravy here is the incredible ride comfort and bump compliance afforded by the 146” torsion-spring rear suspension, what we believe to be the very best offered by Yamaha. The entire machine is balanced in every way.
With this kind of track length, you can also expect some fairly decent fresh snow capability, within reason. Not that many will buy it for this purpose, but those who ride in lake effect snow regions do encounter a foot of fresh snow with enough frequency that this sled is going to blow them away at how well it works in conditions that suck the power right out of a smaller engine sled. Track length trumps lug height, and this package will get around just fine in lake effect snow belts. And with the turbo, you can load it on the trailer and take it to any riding area and go trail riding, no calibration changes needed. Load and go.
So if you have been thinking about buying a 137” or even a 141” Sidewinder, don’t pull the trigger until you consider the 146” S-TX DX instead. With the mammoth fuel capacity (extra fuel tank in the rear) you have range that others only dream of. With this long of a track you will have excellent traction and a very predictable machine, not too quick to come around when all of that power kick in. You can pretty much hop on and go. We rode the pre-production models around for a couple of days and found this one to be our favorite Sidewinder model for cruising the groomed trails. Only in the tightest of trails will the 146” length be a liability, but anyone riding a Sidewinder knows that a sled like this is far more at home on the wider trails. Just show some restraint with the throttle, because you can get it going really fast, really quick. It is so smooth it is deceptive, but it sure is fun. It retails for $16,599 USD, with the capability and the power to satisfy even the most demanding groomed trail veterans.
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