For those who aren’t followers of the SnoWest Forums, you may not be aware of a project sled giveaway that we are doing with Arctic Cat this season. So let me bring you up to speed.
About a month ago Arctic Cat corporate called and said they had an extra 2015 Arctic Cat M8000 SnoPro snowmobile that wasn’t assigned to anyone and wondered if SnoWest wanted to do anything with it—sort of like turn it into a project or something.
During that same period, we had been spending some time with Cat’s R&D staff riding the prototypes of the 2016 models. Naturally there were some significant changes to the ‘16s that we knew would be great additions to this ’15 project.
Using our connections, we managed to talk Cat out of a few parts (not yet available to consumers) and started working on our new project Cat.
Naturally, since we where building a hybrid snowmobile for next season, we needed to decide what the end purpose of the sled would be. It was determined that at the end of the build we would give the project Cat away to one lucky SnoWest Forum member. (The great news is that anyone can join the SnoWest Forums before next fall when the build is complete and we give it away.)
And the best part about the entire project is that we’re using comments from the forums to ultimately determine what goes on the project Cat … right down to the name and design. You can follow the thread here: http://www.snowest.com/forum/showthread.php?t=394235
Part 1—Front End
So the first thing we acquired for our 2015 Cat was the new front suspension. The handling between the ‘15s and ‘16s are like night and day. And everything starts with the new spindle design.
What you notice with the 2016 spindle’s sleek design is that the caster angle is changed from 17 degrees to 27 degrees. This change in geometry makes a world of difference when riding terrain. The spindle design takes away the sled’s tendency to climb when sidehilling and allows you to hold your line with a lot less effort.
The new geometry allows the sled to roll over on its side with a lot less effort. (This was really noticeable when working on the sled. After we put one side on and rolled it over to do the other you could tell immediately it takes more effort to roll the ’15 over the ’16.)
The shock angle and length is also a little different, which improves the handling in the bumps. But to make this project just a little nicer, rather than grabbing the standard Fox Float shocks, we snuck out a set of Fox Evol piggyback shocks for extreme performance riding. Installed, they will be a little more vertical than the old shock.
Finally, to finish the front we definitely wanted the 2016 skis. This year Cat has come out with some significant changes to make the skis perform better in powder.
First, the keel was increased from 1 inch to 1.5 inches in depth. It was also extended longer and built on more of a rocker style. To accommodate for the adjustability in ski stance, the sidewalls of the ski were extended out to the edge. The combination of a deeper keel and sidewalls allow the ski to work much better in powder snow with a greater turning surface. The skis were also widened in the front to 7 inches, tapering down to 6.5 inches (the old ski was only 6 inches wide).
We also added the Limited Edition bumper to this build, giving us great protection to the front end for tree riding.
1) Remove hood. There will be six torque screws to remove. Four are the same length and the two under the nose are longer.
2) Remove the black plastic skid cover under the nose, along with the aluminum skid cover, to expose access to the lower A-arms.
3) Remove the rubber boot that secures the lower A-arms. Pull the pins straight out (much like those that secure the windshield). This will allow the rubber boot to be pulled away, exposing the bolts that secure the A-arms.
4) Now that everything is exposed, remove the A-arms (four bolts), the upper shock bolt and tie rod. (You can break it down into parts, like taking off the skis, spindle, etc., but we were taking it all off at once. It’s also helpful to just loosen all the bolts first, then doing the final removals so you don’t have to fight with dangling parts.)
5) Reverse the process with the 2016 parts (you will need to use the some bushings, washers, bolts and ends you removed from the 2015). Things to note: the new A-arms will have either an L or R mark cast on the inside of the arm so you know which side they go on. The upper arms are identical so it doesn’t matter which side … just make certain the shorter length is to the rear. Also, do not completely install the rubber boot until the end so you can do your alignments.
6) Assemble shocks from existing attachment parts. Basically, whatever you strip off the stock shock you will be using for the new shocks. When installing the Evol shocks, make certain to put the piggyback chamber forward so it won’t rub the chassis. (Shock adjustments will come once we get on the snow.)
7) When installing the spindles, you’re going to find tightening the bottom shock bolt to be tricky. We go to the point where the bolt was spinning in the housing (while the sled was still on its side). We then let the weight of the sled fall on the bottom of the spindle, applied a little down-force pressure on the A-arm and finished tightening the bolt.
8) Install skis with spacers either inside, outside or both, depending on the width you desire.
9) Align skis with steering. You can install a properly sized-to-fit screwdriver or bolt into a hole on the front end that will lock the steering in a straight position. Then it’s just a matter of adjusting the tie rods to get ski alignment. You want one-eight inch tow-out on each ski. Once steering is aligned, lock set nuts in place.
10) Re-attach rubber boot by putting push-pins back in.
11) Before you re-attach your aluminum and plastic skid plates, install a clip that will be used to attach the black plastic skid plate.
12) Re-install aluminum skid plate.
13) Re-install black plastic skid plate.
14) Remove stock bumper if you chose to install the Limited Edition bumper to add a little more meat up front for tree riding.
We removed one side first and then installed the 2016 parts before moving to the other side. The kit (which will be available this fall and will fit all SnoPros from 2012-15) consists of the following: two upper arms, two lower arms, two tie rods and two shocks. (We also installed the 2016 skis … which are a huge improvement.)
The kit can be ordered for a 36-inch front end or for the Limited Edition, which comes in a 40-inch front end and Fox Evol piggyback shocks. (We went with the 36-inch front end but opted to install the Evol piggyback shocks … sort of a mixing of the regular and Limited Edition kit.)