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2018 Ski-Doo Freeride 165

No holds barred! The Freeride was the test rider's top pick
2018 Ski-Doo Freeride 165
The Freeride was the top pick in our demo fleet for most of the backcountry team. There were several tantrums thrown that resembled those of my three-year-old when the sled was taken away from test riders. It was a sad day when the sled was turned back into the dealer and there was still a tiny bit of snow in the mountains. “Freeride-itis” or a swelling of ones ego while on the Freeride was also common. The only cure known was a handful of throttle and the sweet sound of the 850 E-TEC engine purring in one’s ears.

■ Finally in the Freeride
We knew that the 850 would eventually be in the Freeride line up and we were more stoked when it got the 165 track length too! The Freeride is made for aggressive backcountry riding and built with running board and slide rail reinforcements. This sled absorbs hits like Ali, jumping cornices or maintaining momentum while hammering through rollers, all while still feeling light and nimble. AmSnow test rider Lonnie Thompson wasted no time putting it through the paces, drops, big rollers, step ups and re-entries. Other than some minor plastic damage from his knees on one hard landing, there were no issues. This sled is built TTRP tough!

The sled also has finesse. The Gen4 chassis’ thin stance and calibration (that can be ordered for sea-level or high-altitude) are features that allow this athletic machine to navigate complicated lines all while dodging trees, stumps and rocks.

The 850 had great stock clutching and track hook-up. Clutching was on point from low to high RPM right out of the box, the throttle was easily controlled and allowed for easy tree riding and handling. Pros and less experienced riders all felt more confident. This sled could take you anywhere on the mountain you wanted to be. The tMotion and FlexEdge technology have always been topics of discussion, which some riders hate, some don’t care or notice, and some love. There is a growing market for tMotion lockout kits too.
2018 Ski-Doo Freeride 165
One discussion point is whether tMotion sleds have the tendency to washout where others don’t in hard pack and spring conditions. Our conclusion is that because of the FlexEdge and wider track, it does not bite into the side-hill in harder spring snow. Basically, the tMotion and FlexEdge are doing their job and conforming to the mountain slope and when that slope is slick and steep it wants to slide with the slope instead of digging in and carving a flat surface to run along. Really hard spring snow conditions were the only time we noticed this happening, in deep powder and normal riding conditions it was part of what made the sled perform well. With minor suspension adjustments and some seat time, you rarely notice it. Feedback from anyone that spent a full day riding the Freeride was that it was the most controllable and responsive sled in the demo fleet and easiest to turn.

■ Suspension & highlights
The KYB suspension allowed us to kick it with backcountry buddies, or pound the trail in the worst of conditions. Although the suspension cannot be changed on the fly, the easy-adjust shocks let the rider morph the sled from a mountain-hugging climber, to a cushy trail ride. We think Ski-Doo’s suspension setup is the best on the market out of the box. I would not want to change anything on it as far as the suspension is concerned. Most aftermarket suspension pieces are going to cost you a fairly big chunk of change, so if you are looking for the sled that comes loaded, then the Gen4 Freeride is perfect.

The 165-inch track was an advantage in a sled designed for rough riding and big jumps because you could take it up lines not possible with the shorter track. It was the best demo sled in our Real World Powder Eval Hillclimb Course that wound through the trees on a steep hill, riddled with technical boondocking, and then a straight-line shot to the finish.
2018 Ski-Doo Freeride 165
There were many times during our rides when the Freeride would get to are-as that left others digging. The combination of track length, 3.5” pitch, 850cc engine and the Gen4 chassis smoked most of the competition in technical terrain, especially very steep hills thick with trees.

Heat and belt longevity has been a hot topic with the new 850 and while we know of people that had issues, we have not had any issues with belts now for two years in a row out West. Checking the clutch before or after every ride is crucial to belt longevity and adjusting or cleaning as needed. Yes heat certainly plays a role in issues folks may have and there are things you can do to mitigate that, MTNTK makes a blowhole kit that uses a fan to suck the hot air out and is extremely effective on any sled to reduce clutch heat build-up and prolong belt life.

The 850 E-TEC is incredibly engineered and designed, with electronic direct injection for better reliability. The fact that the Freeride can crank out 165 HP (10 more than its predecessor, and more HP than a lot of cars) is an engineering feat. Next, add the SHOT technology starting system which does not compromise weight by more than two pounds versus not having electric start, and you realize that some-one really paid attention in school. SHOT is one of the coolest features we have seen and one that you have to experience for a day to truly appreciate.
2018 Ski-Doo Freeride 165
Maybe down the road wearable Bluetooth or ad-hoc wi-fi tech will also enable you to turn on and tune your sled. The tech itself already exists, I use it on my motorbike when I need to change the fuel mapping, I simply open an app on my phone and pick a preset map or create my own and send it to the bike. This connection also allows me to see how my bike is running and gives me other critical information, such as air intake temperature, engine temperature, throttle response and info on codes it may be putting out.

Smart sled tech is just around the corner, think about all that the ECU does, it’s just a matter of time before every sled has an app that communicates with it. Honestly I am surprised it doesn’t exist yet! Manufacturers may not want consumers making engine changes, but even using it to get general information so you can visually see what is going on would be cool. “Hey Freeride, start my sled,” might be a phrase you hear soon! After that it will be “How hot is my belt?” “Change the clickers to 2.” “How many miles can I go with the fuel that is in my tank?”

The generation coming up will most likely expect it …
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