Are you changing the track shocks from what comes on the Timbersled?
I run the stock QS3 shock but I bump myself up to the 200-lb spring. They come with a 150-lb spring. For jumping and being a little meaner to it, it’s a good setup. But the 150s work good for trail riding. For the average guy, the 150s are totally fine. You get a nice supple ride on the trail and a good rate in the backcountry. And you still have all that adjustment from 1, 2 and 3 on the QS3 shock.
On a race bike, you’re doing a full motor build. Is any of that necessary in the backcountry?
I did pretty much a full motor build this year. We put a high compression piston in, a ported head. Nothing crazy. Just cleaned it up a bit. Junior Jackson Racing helped me get it all set up, and we used his ignition. Ignitions are pretty important with the fueling. We’re up in high elevation and we’re really cold and in the snow. We run a GET ignition on it. I don’t run race fuel in it all the time, but I do when we’re going to film or do some really cool stuff and want a little more oomph to get over those bigger hits and what not. And then for the exhaust package, we’re running a Bill’s RE 13 full stainless system. It gives it a little more power. And then for intake we’re running the CR Racing plate and intake kit.
So take a guy who has a brand-new YZ450F. What are the first things he should do, strictly power-wise?
So if you've got the bike and got the snowbike kit, the first couple key things I would do… the Yamaha is awesome because it has the tuning ability. You can pull the fuel out with the Power Tuner. The GET ignition is a little easier and you get way more tuning with it, but Yamaha put it on the bike so now you have WiFi to the bike and can change the tuning on the fly. You can connect to the bike with your phone and change the tuning in the backcountry. That’s my favorite thing about the Yamaha. So the first things I would do for power… I would do the intake for sure, and then I would do the exhaust. Those are the easiest and cheapest ways of getting it going and getting a little bit more horsepower and less restriction with getting snow plugged in the intake. Then if you want a little more oomph, then yeah I would say ported head, Wiseco piston. More power, higher compression. Pulls a little better in the elevation.
Other key accessories I’d suggest are a better seat. You need a Seat Concepts seat. The Adventure seat is wider and a different seat foam. And it’s waterproof so you don’t get that frozen seat that is hard as a rock every time you hit a bump.
The second thing is the Pro Moto Billet Adventure pegs. You’ve got to have a little wider peg. For moto, I like a narrow peg, but for snowbike, I love the wide pegs. It makes it easier jumping back and forth and getting your feet in the right spot every time.
Number three, I run the snowbike.com heated handlebars. Those are a must. Last year is the first season I ran with them, and that was the best new accessory I put on last year. They also help you know when your engine is getting too hot and when to take off the engine blanket or put it back on. Basically if you’re hand are too hot, then your engine is too hot and needs some more cooling. We don’t have gauges on these bikes like a snowmobile, so you have to feel and listen and know what’s going on, and that just helps you understand that better.
Talk about your riding style…
The biggest thing is—and this sounds really weird—but you have to hold on looser. When you get on a bike, you tend to hold on real tight like a dirt bike. You get on a snowbike and you think it’s going to snap out of your hand so you hold on as tight as you can. But you kind of have to let it wander a little bit. Especially on a trail. You’re still in control, but just let up a little on your grip. If I’m turning left, I pull with my left and loosen my right and a push a little bit. Everyone seems to fight that. One of the biggest things the guys who come out and ride snow bikes for the first time get is arm pump. It’s all from holding on too tight. It’s funny, because you'd think snow bikes is one of the best things for combating arm pump in moto. After a season on the snow I’m like “Yeah, I got this. There’s not way I’m going to get arm pump in moto.” But when you switch back over, it’s a different style of grip and holding on, and form and positioning. Just ride loose and try not to fight it. Lots of guys will go slow up a trail and kind of take it easy, but it’s harder to stay straight and upright going slow. If you’re cruising in third with some momentum, the gyro of the track will keep the bike up and steady. Guys jump on and they get this feeling like “I don’t want to crash,” but if you get a little momentum going and get that bike chewing through the snow and up the hill and it will just lock in and cruise. That lets you loosen up your grip.
What’s your advice for body positioning in the backcountry?
So for moto, I ride over the front of the bike with my body weight getting the front wheel to bite. But on a snowbike, I’m kind of neutral, and moving back and forth depending on whether I’m going up or down. I’m pretty much straight up and down with the pegs all the time. With snowbiking, you sit a lot more than on dirt. A lot of guys want to jump on and stand the whole time out of habit. There’s times for standing, but most of the time when you’re playing and having fun through the trees, you’re generally sitting in a neutral position. That’s where your bike setup becomes key. If your setup isn’t right, you’ll see guys leaning way back trying to get the ski off the ground so it turns a little lighter. Or the ski is not as stiff and they’re leaning over the front trying to get the ski to bite. So if you can’t maintain a neutral riding position, go back and work on your bike setup.
What are the go-fast tips? Mental? Is it where you’re looking? Is it about keeping the throttle on?
It’s all just simple things that we all forget when we haven’t ridding snow bikes. Like when you stop at straight spot, just plant. Don’t put your leg out or you’ll tip over.
Same with moto. You’re always looking about 20-30 feet in front of you. Wherever you look, that’s where you’re going to go. If you’re staring at a tree, you’re going to hit it. But if you look past it, you’ll go around it. It’s all about body positioning, getting your foot out, being aggressive and attacking it. We usually ride around third or fourth gear in the backcountry through the trees. You’ve just got to keep that momentum and track speed. Go fast an you will keep going. Put around and you’ll tip over. If you’re always in first or second, don’t get used to it. Try to run another gear, carry more speed, hit things a little faster and the bike won't fight you as much.
The big thing is confidence. Knowing your bike and knowing your setup. If you know your setup is good, you can try all these fun things.
If you’re coming into a wind drift and it’s an east-facing slope and you’re leaning, you really need to get your head and body positioning so as you’re leaning, you’re turning in and pulling your head and weighting that inside peg to get that bike to bite. Weight distribution and weighting the pegs is really important on these things. If I’m turning right, I’m pulling with my right hand, pushing a little with my left hand and weighting my inside peg. In moto, it’s opposite. If you’re swinging a right-hand turn, you’re usually weighting the outside peg.