We've ridden a few project sleds that have made us consider giving up winter sports entirely. There are few moments in life as deflating as being two hours into ugly backcountry on some "custom" project sled, having it die on you and watching its builders remember how a particular part didn't get installed right.
But then there are mod sleds that are literally turn-key machines. No fuss, no fight, no worries. If it breaks, odds are you're broke, too.
That's the experience we had this past sea-son as we spent saddle time on Jared Sessions' 2010 Arctic Cat M8 turbo. On several rides, Sessions' M8 was as reliable as it was fun (although other sleds in the groups tended to make up the difference.)
Sessions handles the research and development at Boondocker Performance. You can't get any closer to a perfectly set up Boondocker turbo system. In a way, it's like getting to drive Jack Roush's Mustang.
The M8 has a stock engine with stock 2010 compression ratio. Sessions installed a Boondocker pump gas turbo kit with the new electronic boost control (EBC), inter- cooler upgrade and fuel system upgrade and a slip-joint Boondocker turbo pipe with Koso EGT fast probes.
The fuel system has two auxiliary injec- tors and Boondocker's fuel pump driver Jared sessIons' 2010 board.
Sessions ran his turbo between 8 and 11 psi with race gas throughout the season. The 2010 M8 cylinder head has higher compression than the 2009 head. So the pump gas turbo kit needed some extra octane on the 2010. Sessions says that riders can put an '08-'09 head on a 2010 engine and run premium unleaded with the pump gas kit.
The clutching is a kit that Boondocker has tested to be a proven setup.
Sessions didn't just stop with a turbo install. He swapped out the stock Fox Float ski shocks for a set of Fox Zero Pro shocks and is running Bret Rasmussen signature series titanium springs from Renton Coil Spring. He's also running the ti springs in the rear suspension, with a coil-over setup on the rear track shock.
A pair of SLP Powder Pro skis kept the front end pointed in the right direction. A Stomp Grip seat cover gives Sessions a little more traction against the seat.
Sessions worked with Arctic FX on the colorful sled wrap, which is actually the same RTR wrap Boondocker uses on its other sleds. Arctic FX just changed the color scheme and gave the sled a whole new look. Sessions said they were a little hesitant with the florescent blues, greens and oranges at first, but that went away once they saw the sled on the snow. Sessions added an orange front bumper, orange powdercoated Snow Eliminators and A-arms, tunnel edges, rear bumper and all turbo components powdercoated by ACE Powder Coating to match the color theme.
Sessions also added Boondocker's side panel vents and a Black Diamond nose pan and hood vent kit to optimize inter- cooler and air intake efficiency.
A set of Boondocker's switch guards keeps the grip controls and kill switch from being bumped inadvertently.
Finally, Sessions eliminated the head- lights for weight savings and switched windshields for a fly screen. He also added a pair of Arctic Cat knee pads for the downhill turns and hard landings.
We got to spend some time on Sessions' M8 turbo on a couple of dif- ferent rides. The first ride was a cloudy, socked-in day where we spent hours rid- ing steep tree-covered hillsides in deep, dry powder. The second was a mid-June ride on good spring conditions.
The M8 turbo handled incredibly well. Some setups we've tested have a tenden- cy to lose ride quality as the power output increases. But this sled rides and handles as well or better than a stock 2010 M8.
The beauty of a maneuverable turbo sled is that unless your front bumper is up against a cliff or a huge tree or something immovable, you really never get pinned in. A turbo might have the stereotype of being a rocket highmarker, but that's more for the video guys doing nasty chutes in the Canadian Rockies with helicopters. A good two-stroke turbo setup really has its advantages in techni- cal riding. A stock sled can only go so far into compromising territory before gravity overcomes its ability to keep moving. But a turbo gives the sled the extra boost to get out of sticky spots and keep moving- so long as the rider can keep up.
But anyone willing to go looking for fun in a tight, tree-covered drainage is not about to risk dealing with a break- down. That's what impresses us the most
about Sessions' Boondocker turbo M8. It's extremely rideable-no hard hit or brutal power that wears you out before the sun crosses over the sky. The power is very manageable, with little to no turbo lag.
The second thing is the reliability. We've been around this sled all season, at the shop and on the snow. It never had a glitch that brought it to a stop. In fact, the only time it was down was after it tumbled off a mountain side ... but that's another story. And it was straightened out and back on the snow within days.
Sessions has helped make the Boondocker turbo systems the ultimate backcountry weapon.
Get more info at www.boondockers.com.