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REVIEW: 2020 Timbersled RIOT

Starting a RIOT -- Timbersled creates a dirt bike for snow
Polaris Timbersled RIOT review
This thing is a ... RIOT, of course, as Polaris and Timbersled combine forces to create a nimble snow bike for powder play.
The aptly named Timbersled RIOT is a snow bike kit aimed to handle like your dirt bike. The combined engineering forces of Timbersled and Polaris hit the mark so well, my only concern is that riders may be hitting tress while they look back to see if there is a wheel instead of a track. While the kit has all the major design features of Timbersled’s ARO, it strays in significant ways to provide bike-like playfulness that’s new to the bike kit scene.

This new dirt bike feel is created through losing mass, and centralizing the kit’s weight to allow the rider a more reactive ride that responds easily to rider input. Riders can lean back to raise the front ski and float through whoops; or lean back with some throttle to wheelie through terrain. Conversely, shifting rider weight to the tank helps to corner and climb.
Polaris Timbersled RIOT review
■ Great for Beginners
In our riding, we found that those with dirt bike experience transitioned easier on the RIOT than other snow bikes. In fact, test rider Kenny Thompson was out in deep snow and steep back country terrain on his first day, while those of us that started on other models spent considerable time in the meadows on our inaugural rides. Dirt bike muscle memory shifts well to the snow, and other test riders found themselves sending jumps and drops in the winter that were simply too risky in summer. Snow-covered hills are much more forgiving than rocky climbs, and the RIOT provided a great chance to try maneuvers that were above most of our summer pay grades.

■ Trimmed the fat
Engineers at Timbersled found a lot of places to shed weight here. The chassis is 10 inches more compact than the ARO and there are several other components of the kit that have lost weight, including the jack shaft, brake disc, drive sprockets, and side panels. 

The drivetrain is designed to save weight and produce fast response time. And it does just that. The weight loss is noticeable, and while there was a bit of apprehension that the 120 track would trench in deep snow, the suspension allows it to ride more like a long-track, performing great in the steep and deep.
Polaris Timbersled RIOT review
■ Balancing Act
The rear suspension is perhaps the most remarkable change and is what allows for the dirt bike on snow experience. The RIOT has a single-arm suspension that differs from the ARO’s duel-arm offering and shifts the suspension balance point forward under the rider. There is 14% less rider weight on the front ski, and while this is a boon for dirt bikers, experienced snow bikers may face a learning curve. As an avid Timbersled rider, I was accustomed to having my front ski stay connected to the snow on shifting. It took a bit to get used to the ski lifting and managing my direction with weight changes. It was a short learning curve, however.

■ Converting Ease

While time in the shop is necessary, and even at times cathartic, riders do not want to waste valuable riding time working on their machines. This is especially true for snow bikers as unlike snowmobiles their machine is being used in the Fall so the shop days can’t be spread over a long period. Timbersled has touted that it has the fastest installation in the industry. It has a direct bolt-on system that doesn’t require drilling, and has pre-bled brakes. All this equates to a shorter install time. RIOT is compatible with ARO install kit parts and works well with a TSS (Timbersled Shock Suspension) or solid strut.
Polaris Timbersled RIOT review
The RIOT provided a great opportunity to try the maneuvers that were above most of our summer pay grades.
■ Front to Back Improvements
RIOT has other additions that add to rider comfort. The Traverse ski has a new deuce bar center skag that allows it to smoothly travel over obstacles. This is a huge plus for riders in low snow. After a few throws over the bars on the previous model, I shaved off the skag for a better approach angle. RIOT riders will appreciate not having to make this modification.

The shorter track also allows bags and equipment to be kept closer to the suspension balance point. This translates to easier access to your items, but allows your ride to be more compliant by placing the additional weight closer to the rider.

Finally, RIOT is equipped with a new bumper and snow flap. The bumper is built part of the frame for maximum durability, with its end curving up. This curve allows the rider to easily grab the bumper when lifting it out of the snow. The snow flap looks better and helps to remove snow tunnel buildup.

With all of its additional functionality, and suspension modifications this machine should be a hit among dirt bike riders and may stir a few snowmobilers to turn to the dark side to see what all the hype is about.
SPECS: 2020 Timbersled RIOT
Timbersled IFP Front / Timbersled RIOT Long Arm Rear Track Width / Length/ Height: 11.5 x 120 x 2.5 in. Traverse Track Ski: Timbersled Traverse Ski Install Kits: ARO Fixed Strut/ Suspension Strut
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