Sometimes 7 can be the perfect number. After all, there are 7 wonders of the ancient world, 7 seas, 7th heaven, 7 days of the week, 7 deadly sins and even 7 Brides For 7 Brothers.
So perhaps there is something magical, some cosmic balance that makes the 700 class perfect for snowmobiles. Yet, what once was the flagship class of all manufacturers has quietly faded into that in-between stage of sleds-buy the 600 for the wife and kids and the 800/900 for the man of the house.
But as we ride the 7s, we find the perfect class of sled that blends the best of handling with plenty of power. Sure the 8s and 9s may out-climb you. But that's about where it ends. The 7s will do everything else as well or better . and cost considerably less. This is the one class where value is at its best.
Unfortunately, the 700 class is fading fast. Yamaha still recognizes the value of the class, offering two choices for mountain sleds-the Mountain Max 700 and SXViper Mountain. Polaris is the only other manufacturer to provide 700cc mountain sleds-the 700 RMK Vertical Escape (spring only) and the 700 RMK Vertical Edge. For Yamaha, the MM 7 and SXViper Mountain represent the heart of its mountain lineup, although the RX-1 Mountain offers a unique 4-stroke alternative. For Polaris, the Edge 7 and Escape 7 are often overlooked for the 800 class mountain sleds.
So what does a 700 have to offer that is special and unique to mountain riders?
Well, for Yamaha, the SXViper Mountain represents the best of its two-stroke technology. Under its "Heat Red" hood is Yamaha's latest generation power-valved triple cylinder 696cc engine. Creating a broad powerband and its new Detonation Control System, the SXViper Mountain creates the performance in a reliable package.
On the other hand, the dark blue metallic MM 7 is designed to be a little more nimble for boondocking. Its single-piped triple 698cc powerplant features a friendly powerband of usable power for easy handling in deep snow. Both the SXViper and MM 7 show dry weights listed at 515 pounds. The SXViper offers a 144- by-2-inch Camoplast track while the MM 7 has a 141- by-2-inch track
The SXViper's suggested retail price is $7,949 while the MM 7 is listed at $7,399.
For Polaris, the most serious 7 is the RMK 700 Vertical Escape that features the premium shocks package and is 15 pounds lighter, available only through the snow check program. However, the 700 RMK Vertical Edge represents a vastly improved model with most of the latest features that were introduced on last year's Escape.
To begin with, the RMK Vertical Edge receives PERC-the electronic reverse at a push of a button. Then throw in the Team Roller Clutch that runs cooler for improved belt life while improving climbing and deep snow performance. Add the new chaincase and Phantom Brake to further reduce weight and improve performance and you have a snowmobile ready to run with anything on the mountain. For good measure, Polaris offers the Series 4 track that is lighter, has a more flexible tip and comes in both 144- and 151-inch track lengths.
The suggested retail price for the Vertical Edge is also listed at $7,949. It comes in a choice of two colors-silver and red, or yellow and silver. It has a listed dry weight at 507 pounds.
When we test drove the 700s last spring in McCall, our staff had its own list of seven wonders. (Yamaha didn't bring a Mountain Max 7 to McCall so we won't be offering any opinions on how the 2004 model stacks up with the rest of the 7s.)
We wondered which 700 was the best in the class-which one had the best front suspension, which one had the best rear suspension, when one went through the powder the best, which one had the most power, which one climbed the best, and which was the best track length to accommodate the power of the 7.
The consensus first impression of both the Polaris and the Yamaha 7s from our staff was that there wasn't anything substantially new with any of the 2004 models. But then, when you are dealing with established snowmobiles that have been time-tested as bullet-proof, you usually don't see a lot of earth-shattering changes. On second impressions (after riding), we realized that the changes on the Vertical Edge (going to some of the Escape features) made this snowmobile much better than the 2003 VE. The SXViper featured subtle refinements.
When it came to the suspension, ride and handling, both Yamaha and Polaris scored well in their own unique ways. For big bumps, Polaris seemed to score the best. For small bumps, nothing out-handled a Yamaha. If you spend more time on trails than off, then the SXViper may be that perfect sled. However, if your trail time is directed to those ungroomed backcountry trails that feature deep moguls twisting through trees that takes you back to fresh powder and steep slopes, then the Vertical Edge may fit your needs.
Both carved the powder with ease, although Polaris, with its tapered tunnel, seemed best suited for deeper powder. When it came to power, both seemed to have just the right amount for the sled-enough to get the job done without overpowering the rider. When it came to climbing, again the Polaris chassis with its aggressive taper kept the track working better in the deep snow as it propelled the sled higher on the mountain.
The SnoWest test crew also concluded that the 151-inch track seemed to work better than the 144-inch track-again a plus for Polaris for offering this option.
Seven Deadly Sins
Pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth are characteristics of almost every snowmobiler.
We pride ourselves in being mountain riders. We can outride, outclimb, break more trails and carve more sidehills than anyone. Now if you really want to be proud, you lead the way with a 7 . it's not only easy to ride with a more friendly powerband, but has all the power you need to get the job done.
We know that the poor flatlanders in the Midwest are envious of our riding abilities, our scenery, our deep snow, our long seasons and basically our good looks. But then, that's only natural. We are basically snowmobiling legends (in our own minds). If you are riding a 7, flatlanders think that you're superhuman to be able to go places where they can't on their 8s, 9s and bigger.
We are gluttons for deep snow. Go ahead Mother Nature, stack it up. The deeper, the better. We'll just find a longer track and more horsepower. With the nimbleness of a 7, we're able to carve our way through trees and into remote areas packed with fresh, untracked snow.
We may love our spouses and our families, but we lust after winter. We dream about it. We live for it. We have fantasies of clear blue days, fresh powder, no tracks and a tank full of gas. Our snowmobile is our mistress . size 7.
Nothing makes us more angry than someone highmarking us on the mountain. But when you're riding a 7, you have nothing to prove. And when you make the highmark, you can bet that those boys on bigger toys are really going to be angry.
When it comes to horsepower, we are greedy. We can't seem to get enough. Perhaps that's why we buy the biggest available rather than the best for us. But with more affordable price of the 7, you can still add a Boondocker nitrous kit and the Holz coil/over rear end kit and have the power you need on a lighter, better handling sled. Now that's some serious greed.
Finally, when it comes time to buy drinks after a long day's ride, you'll never find a more slothful group than snowmobilers. Your buddies may have been fast on the slopes, but when it comes time to reach for their wallets, everything slows to a snail's pace. After pulling out all your buddies who have been stuck in the steep and deep on their bigger sleds, you will have earned enough drinks to last you well into the night.
Even though the snowmobile industry trend has seemed to move past the 700 class, opting for the 8, 9 or even 4-stroke class, it's still a pretty good class. Hey, if 7 was good enough for Mickey Mantle, who are we to argue?
I've never sailed the seven seas. I've never climbed the Seven Summits (although I think I could make it up Mount Elbrus-18,481 feet, located in Russia on the European continent- with a nitrous bottle and some lightweight parts on my 7.) I've never visited the seven wonders of the ancient world. I've never read The House of Seven Gables.
But I have ridden the 700s. And I would not hesitate to ride a 7 anytime, anywhere with anybody. Seven is the perfect number.