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Schooled

Published in the October 2011 Issue Published online: Oct 17, 2011 Column Bret Rasmussen
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As I sit down to write this, I realize that as I am heavily engaged in getting my new sleds ready for the coming season, I haven't even put my old sleds away yet. It was a tremendous winter. My last ride was in late July, the streams and rivers were still overflowing their banks and I, among other loyal sledders, was headed to the mountains to make tracks in snow.

I don't remember riding this late in the year without leaving the Lower 48. I have been in British Columbia in August testing sleds and watching bears catch salmon. It's kind of hard to stay on task when bears are nearby. Needless to say I have many bear pictures and not so many sledding pictures from that day.

Arctic Cat has been very gracious in providing me with new equipment for this coming season. This is exciting and at the same time overwhelming. The challenge is to take my personal sleds and massage them into a component that is an extension of my body. I ultimately want a sled that is comfortable to ride, easy to adjust to and conforms to my riding style. I know this is all obtainable; it's just that the unknown is sometimes frightening.

At this point my highest priority is weight reduction. With the M Series we had a number of aftermarket suppliers which offered components to reduce weight and add function. With the ProClimb chassis, no parts have been developed at this point. However, I am sure there will be many options soon, albeit unproven. I have seen this time and time again where the supplier boasts of super performance or lightweight gains. For me I will proceed with caution, test the components as I get them and endorse only the stuff that stands up to my demands.

Weight reduction at the expense of durability is not acceptable, although as you reduce weight, each component becomes more durable since it does not have to do as much work because there is less stress directed to it. I expect most of the parts I use should be nearly equivalent in strength to the factory replacement.

Another thought is that as a seasoned rider I feel that I can ride my sled hard and still be nice to it. How I set up for a bump or turn affects how much stress is projected to the chassis. After riding a sled enough to get a feel for its handling characteristics, a good rider will adjust a sled in the air for an easy landing or set up for a log crossing by being on the throttle at the right time. This comes from looking ahead far enough to plan a route and get in time with the sled.

In addition to weight, I am hopeful to gain some improvement in handling by enhancing rider ergonomics a bit. I like to start at the handlebar grips. A slightly smaller outside diameter gives me a much more secure grip. Next will be the seat. I know, the industry standard is for higher seat heights, but for off-trail backcountry riding I prefer a slightly lower seat, giving me an easier transition from one side to the other. I'll be working with Boss Seats on this project. I am also working with Seth at Trail Tanks to develop a larger capacity fuel tank. I hate to haul extra gas in gas cans. This tank will not only be bigger, but lighter as well since we don't have to comply with the anti-permeation requirements of the EPA.

I plan to address the running boards, among other things, as I get into this project. I know you are thinking about turbo power. Well I won't be passing that up either. I am sure this will be a full season project. Working on development in between rides with clients will make for a long winter season. It will be exciting and I am up to the task.

For more in-depth information as to what and how I will be personalizing my sleds, check out my blog at http://riderasmussenstyle.blogspot.com/