The question asked a thousand times....dirt bike immigrant

Oct 25, 2020
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Yep, it's another "What should I get?" thread. First post, just got my registration done.....basically no more vetted here than a Nigerian prince. Yes, I split that infinitive, but it rolled off the tongue better that way.

Context always seems to help in these situations.

Spokane, WA
39
6'1"
absolutely zero sled experience
intermediate/advanced dirt biker
advanced skiier/ crappy boarder
athletic with the COVID 30 hanging on me. ****....220 now? Damn.
Married with children (more on that later)

So my oldest princess (7) wants to try snowmobiling. And dad, despite not having any experience whatsoever is liking the idea. She's a decent skier, and I LOVE dirt biking (her not so much). I bet you can see where this is going. But I'm also not looking to throw thousands of un-recoupable money at a hobby she ends up not liking. I already have skiing as a family hobby in the winter, I don't really need one where I'm away from the brood.

So in my head it's probably a dad and daughter riding groomed trails experience to start. If it develops from there, I can re-evaluate. And I'm wondering if I can apply some of my dirt bike experience to sled purchases. For example, I have a badass 300 two stroke and a 25 year old XR 250. At my skill level I can go 90% as fast on the old trail bike as the race bike, go the same places, and the cost difference is astounding. Plus any idiot can go buy a decent XR 250 or CRF 230, ride it for a year or two and sell it for about what you bought it. Oh, and reliability wise my XR is a change the oil and filter a couple of times a year deal. I can do major maintenance/rebuilds......doesn't mean I want to.

So I'm wondering to what degree sleds are like dirt bikes. Is there a beginner sled that can handle it all (albeit more slowly)? Used sleds seem very cheap by comparison to used dirt bikes so I'm trying to figure out what the deal is there. I haven't included a budget, because the prices are so crazy variable. But I also know I can go find a good dirt bike I can ride the hell out of for 1500 or spend another 10K for a new one that I can go 1-2mph faster on. (Tsk, Tsk, ending with a preposition) Some of the sleds I think might be a good fit based on my google-fu.

Yamaha phazer
Yamaha Mountain Max
Polaris Indy fan cooled motors


Are there others out there that hit that reliable bang for the buck sweet spot?
 

Teth-Air

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I am a sledder first and a biker second but have done both for 40 years. A good bike can be a 10 year old model and still be very similar to a new bike because they evolve slowly compared to sleds. Fuel injection and 2 stroke v.s. 4 stroke are most notable changes we have seen in dirt bikes over the years along with the addition of electric start.

Sleds too are available in 2 and 4 stroke versions but there are many more variations available beyond that including specific designs directed at riding styles, rider size/experience and terrain.

IMHO you want something that your daughter will be comfortable on but maybe something you like too? A few things you need to consider:

How big is she? Can she pull start a sled or will she require you get electric start? (at 7 she probably isn't driving)
You mention trail riding but would you want a sled capable of getting into the back-country where you can sled ski? If so you may want a bit more power and a long track sled.
Are you planning to double. Doubling is nearly impossible for anything but trail riding unless you have experience. Make sure you realize this.

Even though I ride a Polaris, I recommend a Ski-doo XM 800 with a 163 track and electric start. They are abundant, reliable, easy to ride yet not the latest model so won't be excessively priced. 2 up seats are available if needed.

Now if you don't want to sled ski and want to just stick to trails there are trail models available and they are generally heavier (some 4 stroke) wider, have short track lugs and shorter track lengths. They won't go through as deep of snow but they usually have tall windshields and better engine cooling so long rides in marginal snow is easier on you and it.

In short, make sure you get a model for they type of riding you intend to do or you will have a negative experience. I highly recommend renting a sled first so you can try before you buy.
 
Oct 25, 2020
3
1
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I am a sledder first and a biker second but have done both for 40 years. A good bike can be a 10 year old model and still be very similar to a new bike because they evolve slowly compared to sleds. Fuel injection and 2 stroke v.s. 4 stroke are most notable changes we have seen in dirt bikes over the years along with the addition of electric start.

Sleds too are available in 2 and 4 stroke versions but there are many more variations available beyond that including specific designs directed at riding styles, rider size/experience and terrain.

IMHO you want something that your daughter will be comfortable on but maybe something you like too? A few things you need to consider:

How big is she? Can she pull start a sled or will she require you get electric start? (at 7 she probably isn't driving)
You mention trail riding but would you want a sled capable of getting into the back-country where you can sled ski? If so you may want a bit more power and a long track sled.
Are you planning to double. Doubling is nearly impossible for anything but trail riding unless you have experience. Make sure you realize this.

Even though I ride a Polaris, I recommend a Ski-doo XM 800 with a 163 track and electric start. They are abundant, reliable, easy to ride yet not the latest model so won't be excessively priced. 2 up seats are available if needed.

Now if you don't want to sled ski and want to just stick to trails there are trail models available and they are generally heavier (some 4 stroke) wider, have short track lugs and shorter track lengths. They won't go through as deep of snow but they usually have tall windshields and better engine cooling so long rides in marginal snow is easier on you and it.

In short, make sure you get a model for they type of riding you intend to do or you will have a negative experience. I highly recommend renting a sled first so you can try before you buy.

Thanks for the advice. I was looking into the rental thing and it'll end up being somewhere between 200-300 bucks for a two hour rental (or tour) around here. By comparison, there's a nice 2000 RMK 700 for 1100 bucks. Decisions. I really don't see anything beyond groomed trails for us, especially since I'm not looking into it as a personal hobby. If she loves it and wants her own sled at some point, well that's a different animal altogether. We'd be going 2-up, and I have no illusions I would be mountain topping with the big boys.
 

Teth-Air

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Thanks for the advice. I was looking into the rental thing and it'll end up being somewhere between 200-300 bucks for a two hour rental (or tour) around here. By comparison, there's a nice 2000 RMK 700 for 1100 bucks. Decisions. I really don't see anything beyond groomed trails for us, especially since I'm not looking into it as a personal hobby. If she loves it and wants her own sled at some point, well that's a different animal altogether. We'd be going 2-up, and I have no illusions I would be mountain topping with the big boys.

Okay then just try to find something with low miles on it. Those older sleds are a little easier to work on as they are simple compared to the newer ones. It is a big asset if you can do your own maintenance. i will leave it to others to comment on the reliability of that model/year.
 
Oct 25, 2020
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Okay then just try to find something with low miles on it. Those older sleds are a little easier to work on as they are simple compared to the newer ones. It is a big asset if you can do your own maintenance. i will leave it to others to comment on the reliability of that model/year.

Noted. I found a 2004 Yamaha Venture like new with 105 miles for just under 3k. So there are decent low mileage sleds out there. I'll have to do some thinking with the wife about this. I do appreciate the advice.
 
Jun 23, 2004
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Black Diamond, WA
A 2000 700RMK in good shape with not a pile of miles is about your best bang for the buck for reliability vs price point and something you can drive down the trail all day with your daughter and still go rip a bunch of powder turns.
 

Dogmeat

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I agree with the comments above about bikes evolving more slowly per se than sleds. I typically get 5-6 years out of a dirt bike, and the only reason I upgrade is a) because I want to and b) if I can afford it. Sleds, its not that way .... I basically want a new sled every other year and base my life around being able to afford it if I can do so :D There has been far more progression and evolution with snowmobiles the last 10 years than dirt bikes, by a long shot. I think that trend is going to continue into the foreseeable future, as Skidoo finally put out a factory turbo.

I think you are asking the right questions about getting into this, because it isn't cheap. I figure my sledding habit is approximately 4x the cost of my dirt biking habit :)

If you're looking at getting into it on a budget, I'd recommend looking at 2013-2015 Polaris Pro RMK sleds or 2013-2016 Skidoo Summit sleds. They are starting to show their age, but they are still very capable sleds that will do anything a brand new one will, albeit perhaps slightly less gracefully. Sleds of that era can be found in good shape for around $5,000, give or take, and you won't break the bank buying them in comparison to new models. I'd suggest not going much older than 2013 as prior to that the OEMs were in something of a state of transition and some of their offerings had some issues, etc. This is my opinion and my opinion alone.....

Over all, when buying a used sled, you are trying to find one that's in good shape. That's the deciding factor, so you might even look at 2009-2011 Arctic Cat M sleds. I spent some of the happiest days of my life on the snow with my old 2009 M8 .... Those sleds, while not graceful, were virtually bulletproof and arguably one of the best sleds ever made IMO. They can also be had very cheaply these days.

As far as gear goes .... You don't have to have gear that has a very expensive "K" logo on it. Arctiva, Castle X, etc all make good gear at a much easier price than Klim and 509. WIth that said, basically all my gear is Klim or 509, but I've been willing to pay the supermodel premium.

Last but not least, don't forget basic avy gear, Beacon, Shovel, Probe and Pack - You don't need to spend the money on an airbag unless you want to. Getting some avy training and practicing with your beacon and probe are the core of avalanche knowledge. The "prayer bags" as I call them are just that .... If you can/want to afford it, go for it ... If not, knowledge and the right tools go a long way.
 

plumnuts

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I would start off with used... good beginner sleds (and there are zillion good ones out there) are the Yamaha Phazers (the late 80s to 90s models)... they are a sit down sled but a hoot to ride and will give you an idea what it is all about (we still have one for pre-teenage g-kids)... we started our kids and now the grand kids on Yamaha ET 300 or 340s at around age 7... 1980 models... lots of them out there, cheap to buy and maintain... (the challenge your daughter will have is "throttle thumb" as her hand and thumb will get sore running the throttle )
 
Dec 14, 2020
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Rent first, spend second.

Sleds went through a massive design change to make them 1000% better in the mountains in 2011/12. I'd compare it to what bikes went through in the late 90's, where the tech was changing constantly and every manufacturer was evolving with the limits of the suspension and build materials with computer design becoming affordable and mainstream.


I had a 92 indy 500 SKS 133 1.25" fall into my lap for free. $300 later (new fuel lines, pump, trail sticker/registration) I was bombing down trails and having fun, but not crazy fun. More like "it's cool, then I get stuck in 2' of snow and life sucks, then I get out and life's fun again". At this point I retired my Husky 360 and replaced it with a Husky 300 because bikes were way more fun and way more motivating to put my fun budget towards.

I went to Cooke City since I live a few hours away and rented a M8000 from Bob. My buddy rented his 174" Axys, and another buddy brought his turbo M8000. After a weekend there on a capable sled in the backcountry I knew what I wanted, what I would enjoy, and started searching.

Couldn't find a used axys chassis sled for the next 8 months, so I grabbed a 14 Pro 800 163 for a good price that was local. So much fun, so much less work because you're not stuck every time you hit fresh powder. I'd never go back to anything earlier.

The Indy now goes to the lake ice fishing because with 3 heat exchangers you can't get it hot, ever. It'll do 90mph (speedo, so maybe 75 really) on flat open nearly snow free ice, and is in it's element there with good carbides and a few studs.


The only sled I've rode that would do some boondocking, while still being behaved on the trail is my buddies 2010 M7. It takes a lot more work to get it the same places a RMK or M8000 will go, but it does kick our asses down the trail. That said, we generally will put on 60-80 miles in a day, and less than 20 of that is trails just getting to the fun areas to play on so I put trail manners at the very bottom of my list of wants.
 
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