Face it, crossover sleds are very popular as many riders are looking for a single machine that gives them the ability to be a good rider wherever they go. Maybe it is on a groomed trail. Maybe it is through a foot of fresh snow. Maybe it is in even deeper snow off trail. The secret to having a sled that can do it all well, within reason, is a combination of both track length for flotation and track lug height for moving the snow, propelling the vehicle forward. Yamaha has also learned that with the inherent added weight of their durability-superior engines that having a longer tracked sled also balances out the extra engine mass, resulting in a better balanced sled that masks the engine mass very well.
High Powered Crossover Versatility
While Arctic Cat has pretty much closed the book on their 141” sleds (except for the XF High Country) Yamaha offers their popular Sidewinder X-TX SE in the 141” track length with the Cobra 1.6” lug height. This track has emerged as one of the most popular 50/50 crossover tracks as it is very capable in loose or fresh snow, but it hooks up fairly well on groomed trails and can be ridden hard and provide excellent performance there, as well. That is the trick, as most tracks that work well off trail do not work well on packed trails. The Cobra 1.6” gives us a broad range of capability. Yes, it is a softer lug that does wear faster, but think of it like a set of all-season tires, it works good across a wide range of snow conditions. Not as good as a 1.75” off trail, but far better on trail. Not as good as a 1.5” on trail, but far better off trail. That said, on hard packed trails the lugs tend to fold over so one has to remember it works better as a soft snow track, not a hard snow track.
With the Sidewinder X-TX SE you have a single snowmobile that can be ridden both at low elevation on groomed trails and at higher elevation with ZERO changes to the clutching and gearing. Just load and go. Granted, this is a 1.6” lug track so you’re not going to be able to break trail through the deeper snows, but again you can ride it down a groomed trail for hundreds of miles at speed, something a true mountain sled can not do. This is not a true mountain sled by any stretch, but it is a capable sled in most conditions.
It is interesting that Yamaha has torsion spring 137” L-TX models, then the 141” X-TX air shock models along with the 137” and 146” S-TX models, all powered by the exact same turbocharged 3-cylinder 4-stroke. Make no mistake, this is a different beast from the 137” track length L-TX models. The rear suspension itself is where most of the difference is found, fitted with a Fox FLOAT 3 airspring shock for lighter weight and better resistance to bottoming than the torsion-spring equipped SR 137” suspension. The 137” also has the slide action front arm and the torque sensing link on the rear arm, making it a better trail set-up. On the 141” the shock and spring are moving at the same motion ratio, where on a 137” the spring and shock are moving at different motion ratios. By this virtue, the 141” is not going to be as smooth on the little bumps motoring down a groomed trail, but it is going to be more capable in the bigger bumps riding harder, and it isn’t going to bottom anywhere near as easily with the air spring. Thus, the 141” is also better suited for more aggressive riders or those catching air on occasion that need to control the landings.
The 141” suspension actually works better than it did a few years ago, with the revised bleed shim valving starting in 2015, found in all three of the Fox FLOAT 3 shocks (rear and front). This bleed shim valving works incredibly well and really took away some of the firmness that the 141” was known for, making it perform even better on the trail and through the chop. That said, if you do more riding on groomed trails then you’d be better suited with the 137” L-TX simply due to the better handling and smoother ride quality. If you do equal amounts of on and off trail then the 137” S-TX would be a better match. If you do more off trail than on trail then we would steer you into the X-TX. We are kind of splitting hairs here, as all of them are going to work quite well in most conditions, but there are these functional differences from the different features that should be considered.
We know from experience that the even longer track length that gives you greater versatility with added flotation, better weight distribution, all in a high performance package that just begs to be ridden hard. Fox FLOAT shocks give you that added capability with their rising rate air spring that is extremely difficult to bottom out hard. As the air spring shock compresses, the spring rate rises exponentially so it takes a huge amount of force to fully compress the shock, and reach the point of bottoming. This is why this rear suspension is better suited for the more aggressive rider, and those catching air. In any case, the added length spreads out the vehicle mass and gives us a better balanced machine, one that diminishes the added mass of the engine, one that gives the motor enough track to properly hook up with the killer torque band, and face it, it gives us the all-around performance that better suits the typical 4-stroke rider – one that wants the best durability and reliability for thousands of miles.
The turbocharged 3-cylinder engine was nothing short of scary. Power was indeed close to 200 HP as we had to be very selective in who was able to ride this sled. Only our most experienced riders were allowed to run this one hard, as it was quite easy to get it going very fast very quickly, so one had to be on their game paying attention to the rate of acceleration and allow enough room for braking distances. If this was the only sled you rode you would acclimate, but with our test riders switching and swapping we had to pay close attention to the Sidewinder. Throttle response was indeed quick for a turbo, thanks to the triple throttle bodies of the Sidewinder package. We never had any running quality issues of any kind, it was flawless in this regard.
About the biggest issue we encountered with our test sled was how the front-mounted intercooler would melt the oncoming powder snow spray when riding in deeper fresh snow, causing a plume of steam to ride up over the windshield. In certain conditions at certain speeds this would be very annoying for the rider as his vision would be obstructed by the steam, causing the rider to change speeds, or stand up to get out of the steam path.
Add it all up and we have one of the most impressive 4-stroke 50-/50 crossover sleds Yamaha has ever offered. Yes, it is nose heavy, accept that, so this isn’t the best sled for the rougher rides of the season but you get the added durability and all of that power. The added length brings so many benefits to the table, and the resulting versatility in such a wide range of conditions must be sampled to be appreciated. SnowTech test riders believe this sled will exceed your expectations.
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