At first glance almost any avid sledder that rides anything from a 150 hp stock 800 to a full-out boosted 250 hp mod sled would look at the Timbersled Mountain Horse Snowbike kit and think of a slow stuckfest ride through the woods on an underpowered bike.
I mean, how can something with such little horsepower and small track go through the power and not get stuck, right? Wrong. They say seeing is believing. And Timbersled's Allen Mangum gave me an opportunity to believe this past winter when he took me out riding.
Right off the bat we loaded the three bikes into the back of Mangum's truck (yes, I said three) and headed to the mountains. Once on the mountain, the bikes made for a quick and easy unload. It's amazing that one person can load and unload these bikes without any problems once you get a system down.
After gearing up, Mangum offered a few pointers to help us adapt from sleds to snowbikes and we were off.
Getting on the Mountain Horse snowbike is the most unnatural feeling in the world. (Have your legs fallen asleep and then you try to walk? Well, that's how the first mile on the trail felt . in fact, right off most will hate how the bike feels and want to get back on a sled.) But after a few miles Mangum stopped and asked us if we were ready for some hills. "Umm, ya sure," I mumbled as he pointed his snowbike up a steep ravine and took off.
Still uneasy about the feel of the bike, we turned them into the sidehill and this was where things started to change. Right off one can tell this system is made for the steep. In fact, the worse it got the better off I seemed to be. We spent a few minutes on an open hillside learning the feel of the bikes and then it was off to the hellholes.
I was amazed at how slow I could take the Mountain Horse snowbike through and up a slope that I would have previously considered reserved for the best of the best snowmobile riders. These things just didn't want to get stuck.
I could slow down and make a mistake right before heading up an eight-foot vertical wall of powder on a sidehill, then drop it into first gear and it would just pull right up over the top with the ski in the air.
One of the bikes had an older 2Moto conversion kit. Mangum was riding that one. While he was wide open with the throttle pinned and just barely crawling through these spots, getting stuck constantly whenever his speed would burn off, the two of us on the Mountain Horse kits could simply crawl through the worst of spots without worrying about getting stuck. I'm still amazed at how much fun we had regardless of the snow conditions. It was one of those days when on a sled you do great as long as you keep your speed up . but let off the throttle once or lose your line in the trees and the bottom just falls out from underneath and there is just no traction once the tunnel gets bogged down in the wet heavy snow.
Even as good as the snowbikes performed, Mangum said they do much better in better snow conditions. He said the bikes are even more forgiving on the corners in the powder. You can turn even sharper on the hills with more speed. And the bikes just float over the worst of bumps and ruts. But we found that the snowbikes really don't require optimum snow conditions to have fun. They are a blast in all conditions.
Another thing that surprised me is how well the front ski sticks to the snow. One would think you would have to keep the ski level or it would wash out in a turn. It was just the opposite. The more you lean the bike into a hill or into a turn the more it sticks to the hill.
The Mountain Horse snowbike does require a bit of a learning curve. You have to trust the ski no matter what, even if you are on a vertical sidehill. If you fall into a deep tree well, you just steer into the bank and the snowbike will pop right out of it.
After almost a full day on the bike I was able to start pulling some lines up stuff one just does not take a sled up or even dream of taking a sled across. Narrow creek bed snow bridges with water underneath
are no longer an issue . and it doesn't matter if there's a vertical wall on the other side. You just hit it WOT and pop on top. Or if you need to sidehill across something, no matter how steep it is, you just pin it and go.
You also can cover a lot of country fast. You can fly across stuff no matter how steep or how tight . even through holes that swallow the entire bike. These things hardly ever get stuck. And even when they do, they are easy to get unstuck.
After that first full day of riding, I could see how these kits open up a whole new set of possibilities-not only where you can ride, but how much fun you can have on three gallons of fuel. (And there're no belts to buy.) And it was great to be able to throw three guys in a truck, drive to the mountain without pulling a big trailer and just go riding . almost like going motorcycling, but in the snow. And since that day I've been able to put a lot more miles on the snowbike and my impressions have only been reconfirmed. This thing is awesome.
The Mountain Horse kit adapts to any motorcycle.
The Down Side
Now that I've covered all the great things about them, here are a few of the negatives that I found.
First, once you stop the bike you must put it in neutral to start it. (Not sure why . I start my 450 in the dirt all the time in first with no problems. But this is not the case for the snowbikes.)
Second, not really a con but I felt the Rekluse clutch was a must for the snowbike . but then again, I also think it's a must for the dirt as well. But the stock clutched bike also did well.
Third, the snowbike can be hard on snowpants. Although I never burnt a hole through my snowpants, I did smell them from time to time . so it was probably just a matter of time. I'm sure there's something that can be done to stop this, but it is an issue that will need to be addressed.
Fourth, there is a bit of a learning curve. But nothing like time on the snow to solve that problem.
Finally, iced trails are not the best. You need just a touch of powder on the trail to eliminate any darting. But regardless, if you take it relatively slow, you won't have problems.
Since my ride, I've received a lot of questions about the Mountain Horse system. Here are the most common questions asked.
How much gas do you carry and how far can you go?
We did a full day and burned about 2-2.5 gallons. Once you get used to the bike Mangum says a good 60-plus mile ride burns between three to four gallons of fuel. And it is easy to carry extra fuel on the back of the bike.
How often do you change out chains
I looked at these aluminum sprockets after the ride and they looked almost new. Even after 1,500-2,000 miles they still look in great shape . easily a full season left on them. The snow just does not eat them up like dirt.
How often do I tighten the chains?
After talking with Mangum, I would check them twice a season, maybe three times. But you shouldn't have to tighten them more than once a season.
Does the bike stand up on its own?
It does about 80 percent of the time without much effort. The other 20 percent you may have to find its balancing point.
Is it going to work the crap out of my bike and motor?
I ride the dunes a lot and I can say the dunes are 10 times harder on the bike than the snow. Most times you have to get off the throttle and back on so much . and also there are no air filters to clean and dirt to get into the motor. We've put 2,000 miles on one bike, which is a lot, and it runs just like new . never a top end or anything yet.
Is the cold weather going to take out the seals and leak oil on the forks?
On the Yamaha and other 450s so far it seems to do just fine without any leaks.
Now I'm sure some of you may have more questions. Feel free to e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at Code Red Performance (406) 580-2277.
I appreciated the opportunity I had to demo these bikes. I was a huge skeptic before I got on one. I have always had dirt bikes that just sit all winter. But after spending some time on the Mountain Horse snowbike, I now see some real opportunities with my dirt bikes. This kit will allow me to go into some real cool new areas and have a blast doing it.
Mountain Horse Specs
The front of the track has a 20-degree approach angle to provide the ultimate snow flotation.
Our kit has the same pressure points on the ground as the bike with tires.
121-inch by 12-inch by 2-inch Camoplast Back Country track.
Mountain Tamer rear suspension system provides the best possible traction and a smooth ride.
System adds 60 lbs. to the bike; making the total weight of a motocross bike about 290 lbs.
Bolt on kit to your bike with no modifications (simply remove and replace parts).
Snow bike system comes as a complete assembled unit that is ready to install.
Kits available for late model dirt bikes that are 250cc and larger: A 450cc (or larger) dirt bike will give you the most out of your kit. Designed for Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and KTM.
Standard kit color is all black.
Custom colors are available for $150 per color.
Full line of add-on accessories available.
Retail price $4995.