FIRST RIDE REVIEW – Ryan Harris
I could wrap this review up in one sentence. The Pro RMK needed more power and a narrower front end to get higher on my list. Check that off the list.
Here’s a few more sentences. I always start a new model intro ride on the old model whenever possible. Polaris had a 2018 800 Pro RMK 163 with a 2.6 track, so I asked if I could start out on it instead of the 850 prototype. That’s always good for a few weird looks from engineers. “Oh, you have this cool new 850 for us to try? I’d actually like to ride the old 800 instead.”
It’s something I’ve always done to establish a baseline before rid-ing the new product. I don’t care if it’s a new chassis or new shock calibration… I need to establish the feel for the old before jumping on the new. So I rode the 800 for the first half hour. From the R&D shop to halfway up the mountain.
The snow was the deepest day of the season thus far. It had just dumped two or three feet overnight, and now the clouds had blown out and we were left with blue skies and deep powder. Perfect!
So after working up the ridge and drainage on the 800 Pro RMK,
I finally jumped on the 850. I noticed two things right off the bat.
1) The narrow front end changes the handling significantly, and for the better. The rigid chassis doesn’t need a wide front end. It needs this narrow front end. It suits the narrow body perfectly. The only downside to the narrow front end is that your bottom side pan will contact the snow on a steep sidehill sooner. Big deal. It won’t slow you down or keep you off any gnarly lines. Burandt, Adams, Entz and most of the backcountry RMK riders run narrow front ends on their mods. Get it. You’ll love it.
2) The new engine has power. Serious power. Bottom and and mid range that will blow the Liberty 800 twin away. Polaris engi-neers explained to us how they got so much more out of 40-some-odd ccs more than the 800, and it has to do with stroke and a bunch of math. But it’s almost mind-blowing how strong this sled feels compared to the 800. Where the 800 would get on the snow and work its way through deep snow, the 850 launches forward and carries the front end around like it’s a purse dog.
Interestingly enough, the next time we got to spend a day on the 850 Pro RMK was even deeper conditions, with even more new snow (minus the blue skies). This Patriot 850 twin is impressive. The narrow front end is exactly what I wanted out of the next Axys RMK. The lightweight shock springs are icing on the cake. You can still buy the 800 this fall, but I don’t know why you would unless it’s just a price point.
FIRST RIDE REVIEW – Steve Janes