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Little Big Kids

Right-sized sleds get everyone in the game!
RELATED TOPICS: SNOWMOBILES | POLARIS | YAMAHA | ARCTIC CAT
2019 Polaris INDY EVO ES
How will snowmobiling survive? With family involvement!

The motorcycle and off-road markets have understood this for decades, and once upon a time, the snowmobile market did too. We strayed from making machines that folks of all ages, sizes, and experience levels could start out on, grow into, and progress with. Thankfully the manufacturers are finally listening to what folks have been saying for years … we need new snowmobiles for EVERYONE in the family.

In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s when many of us were growing up and getting our first snowmobile licenses, a typical rider’s sled progression went something like this: Kitty Cat, 250cc, 340cc, 440cc, then 500 liquid. Up until last year, if you wanted to buy new, the progression was something like this: Kitty Cat/120cc, 550cc fan, 600 liquid. That jump from a tiny 120cc sled to a full sized 550cc fan is HUGE!

Last year Yamaha and Arctic Cat announced the revival of Yamaha’s SnoScoot and its Cat ZR200 sibling. This was a long jump forward in the fight to keep kids’ attention and give them a “step-up” sled to focus their overstimulated video game brains spans on. That’s what we need, to keep kids away from their screens and out on the snow. This year Polaris announced the slightly larger EVO sleds, basically a lowered and governed 550cc fan. But that helps complete a step-up process for kids! And these are all sleds that even older folks can still go have fun on. Call us “little big kids,” but from all of us former tween-agers, we want to congratulate these manufacturers for getting these sleds to market.
2019 Polaris INDY EVO ES
lots for the money! The EVO has a lower seat height, lower and narrower bars and a full 121-inch long rear skid and track.
■ Polaris EVO pulls at the heart-strings
If you have not watched the Polaris promotional video for this sled, watch it! For those of you with a digital subscription here is the link, www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNqmYL7wtv4. As a dad, this video portraying a young girl who is patiently waiting to be old enough and tall enough to ride her own INDY sled, and the dad who is equally as anxious, really tugs on the heart-strings of any long time snowmobiling family member. The marketing wasn’t just great though, the timing was too!

Coming out a year after the smaller 200cc sleds, the EVO from Polaris is essentially a toned down 550cc fan. The deal is this; it is a compact sled with easy steering, more stable and slower than a true 550 fan. The specifics include a lower front and rear suspension (3-inches lower in front and 4.8-inches lower in back) than the standard 550 built from 2014 till present day. RydeFX MPV shocks like those on the 550 Indy are used, but travel is less. Front travel on the EVO is 4.1 inches versus 7.1 on the standard Indy 550 and rear suspension travel on the EVO is 9.1 inches versus 13.9. The EVO is also estimated to be 13 pounds lighter overall at 432 pounds than the standard 550 at 445.

This is a decidedly smaller sled. Some call it a ¾-sized sled, but exact percentages are not important. It is simply easier for smaller or new riders to control. The chassis is still a true 121-inch Indy 550, but just about everything else changed. Several of the above changes in conjunction with a new lower Indy Evo seat (versus the Indy Pro Ride seat), contour of the fuel tank, new console, bar position, and other ergos move the rider forward slightly. Smaller riders can get the leverage and feel of correct body position for tight turns and can manipulate this sled much easier than a standard 550.
2019 Polaris INDY EVO ES
Overall height is lowered from 48 to 41 inches on the EVO and overall width narrowed from 48 inches on the standard 550 to 44 on the EVO. Ski stance on the EVO is also 39 inches versus 42.5 on a standard size sled. The gas tank is slightly smaller capacity at 10 gallons versus 11.5 on the other Indy sleds. The handlebars are also narrower and the throttle flipper has a shorter reach to accommodate folks with smaller hands. All this was done to make a smaller package.

Finally, the EVO comes in at a much smaller price point at $5699 (electric start) versus $7499 (550 Indy ES). The standard EVO without ES is a bigger value yet at $5299 but we were simply comparing apples to apples here.

■ More EVO comparisons
We have focused on mainly the 550 as the nearest comparison sled to the EVO because that is the next step up that is currently made by any of the manufacturers today. You could buy a new Yamaha VK 540 which is technically still a smaller 2-stroke motor, but that is a utility sled and larger in overall size, in comparison. The other 2 sleds on the market that compare power-wise are the Ski-Doo MXZ Sport 600 ES with the ACE motor technology used in other BRP platforms. Second is the Arctic Cat ZR 3000 with motor tech that was parlayed from Cat’s ATV side. Both come in around the 60 hp number but both are much heavier and full-size 4-stroke sleds
2019 Polaris INDY EVO ES
My personal opinion is that a 4-stroke is a difficult machine to learn to ride on. The throttle pull is less predictable, and driving at slow speeds is almost tougher than a toned down 2-stroke like the EVO. I know dozens of ACE owners who have adapted to the fly-by-wire technology and who absolutely love it. Several of those owners also enjoy being able to rotate the throttle into different positions. Most of these owners cite hand fatigue as a main factor in their liking of the easy-to pull Ski-Doo ACE throttle as a main reason they like it. However, most of them are not novice riders. Also, most are not younger riders that are moving up in the sport. Same goes for many of the Cat ZR 3000 riders.

For me, in my own sled-upbringing I would compare it to my baby blue 1980 300cc Yamaha Enticer … but the EVO is obviously much more capable. That said, the same things that made that Enticer sled great for a kid in the 1980s is still true today for the EVO. It was lightweight, had reasonable power that it could handle being on a trail with bigger sleds, was easy to maneuver, reliable, and simple to learn on. Especially for folks who came over and wanted to try snowmobiling. Let’s be honest, even for full grown adults hopping on most modern sleds can be intimidating, and the EVO is not intimidating. That’s a good thing!
2019 Yamaha Snoscoot ES
■ SnoScoot and ZR 200 Updates and more
The intro of the SnoScoot and ZR200, as well as the updated chassis and look for the Cat and Yamaha 120cc sleds were big news for MY2018. This signaled the resurgence of a family-focused segment in the industry. Every single SnoScoot and ZR200 produced for last season was either sold or used as demo unit and then sold (which is what happened in the AmSnow neighborhood). Granted, the profit margin is smaller on these units, but the revamped 120cc, the new-last-year and now updated 200cc and of course the EVO are building brand loyalty from an early age. More importantly these sleds are building a future consumer base.

One has to ask the question, will we see Ski-Doo attempt to enter this small-size-sled market segment again? The Freestyle was their last attempt and the base version (Session) of that sled came with a 300cc 2-stroke fan motor. In 2008, the last year Freestyles were made, you could also get the Freestyle Park or Backcountry which both came with a 550cc 2-stroke fan motor (note that the Tundra continued in this chassis a bit longer). The mini-Z was their last small 120cc 4-stroke sled, but that has not been made for a decade either. As the #1 snowmobile manufacturer Ski-Doo is seeing stiff competition from Polaris and the red team has arguably positioned themselves well with a variety products, and now the EVO.
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The 200s (SnoScoot and ZR) get a big upgrade for 2019 too! Electric start is standard on the Cat and available on the Yamaha! I am not sure if this is really for the kids, or if the parents are just tired of pulling the rope on yet another sled! The cost of this and all the other upgrades brought the price up $250 over last year to $3999, but that’s still under the $4K mark, where we believe it will still sell well.

Additional upgrades included a new oil dipstick. Formerly you had to angle the entire sled to get a correct read and get all the oil out when changing it. There is also a longer pull cord and back-up recoil starter. A few people pulled a little too hard on the cords last year! Finally there is a new composite carb isolator. This helps in predictable starting when you have been running the machine already and turn it off for a short period, then start it back up again.

What we learned last year is that this lightweight 192cc 4-stroke motor will push the 10x93x1 track just fine and it gets up on top of even the deepest snow. It is belt driven, has a Hayes hydraulic brake (that actually came from their competitive mountain bike side of their brake business) and it actually works… unlike brakes from small cc sleds in the past.

Not much else is new on the SnoScoot and 200, but we want to reiterate that these are truly capable machines with real slide rail, torsion spring rear suspensions and independent double wishbone front suspensions with hydraulic shocks and plenty of suspension travel (4.5 and 8.5 inches).

For the 120cc sleds, they get a new idler wheel design and, of course, BNG!
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