Long Term Test: 2017 Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX LE

An instant classic!
We should have made a movie out of it. Filming the reaction of everyone after they took their first spin on the 2017 Sidewinder would have been epic! My personal favorite was the head shake, as in, “I simply can’t believe what I just experienced.”

2017 Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX LE
■ Initial impressions
Of course, there were more expressions like the classic deer in the headlights, high fives, and I think I may have even caught a tear or two when someone’s turn on the Sidewinder was up. Regardless of your preferred character type, the theme was amazement.

We had ridden the Sidewinder prototypes out West in the spring of 2016, and as you probably know from reading those early reviews, the prototypes were impressive. Almost too impressive. Whenever we come away from prototype test rides that impressed, it always plants a seed of curiosity in our minds. We’re always wondering just what secret little tweaks the OEMs had their techs use to give us media-types that ultra-impressive ride. And will the consumer production sleds be exactly the same?
stat box 2017 Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX LE
Well, a couple of us test riders took advantage of some early snow up north before Christmas and hit the trails with our full-season demo Sidewinder. Yes, it was just as good as those early prototype rides out West, if not better!

The raw power of the 3-cylinder Genesis turbo 4-stroke that resides in the belly of this beast is incredible. The way that power is delivered to the track in such a smooth, effortless, consistent manner is ridiculous!

“This should be illegal!” That was one test rider’s reaction after cruising comfortably along the trail at speeds we probably shouldn’t print. “Comfortably” is the key word there. In order for the Sidewinder to be a successful product for Yamaha, the rider has to be able to harness all that power from the big turbo and feel in control. Without that, you’d have a wildly fast and unpredictable ride.

Well-deserved kudos to the Yamaha team (and their friends at Arctic Cat) for finding a combination of chassis, track and suspension to work in concert with this mighty engine.

As we’ve said in the past, the 137-inch track length is our favorite with these Yamaha-Cat combos. And actually, the longer you go with the track, the better these sleds seem to get. The longer tracks act as a sort of counterbalance to the engine mass up front and can actually put that power to the snow instead of often spinning.

No doubt it’s a heavy sled, tipping our scales at 671 lbs. wet, so the importance of the balancing act is magnified in order to not have too much weight in the front end. Shock calibration is a big deal too with all that mass, and the QS3R Kashima-coated shocks from FOX were ideal here. We found riding on the softest setting was our preferred place for the majority of our trail rides.
2017 Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX LE
■ Always a little drama
We won’t lie. Everything was not hunky-dory with this sled for the full season. The first 500 miles or so were fantastic, but then the oil change occurred. Per Yamaha’s maintenance schedule, we had a dealer perform an oil change and the recommended once-over service around the 500-mile mark.

Things seemed great until we rounded a corner and a mushroom cloud of blue smoke shot out the exhaust. That inspired a head shake of an entirely different variety than what we mentioned earlier.

Our investigation found an extra O-ring, causing a bad seal with the new oil filter. When that lets loose, it’s amazing how quickly a spooled up turbo will chug three quarts of oil!

Another trip to the dealer, and brand new shiny turbo unit later, we were back up and running strong, but not as strong as those initial 500 miles. Power seemed down by a few ponies. It was still the fastest sled in our fleet, but not by as wide a margin as our initial ride experience. Same thing happened on our Thundercat with a drop in top-end after the oil change. We’ve stated earlier that one of two things is most likely the culprit: 1.) The OEM recommended amount of oil in the kit is wrong so the oil is actually overfilled causing the drop in power. 2.) There is a different oil in the sleds originally than in the OEM oil change kits.

We’d also opt for a larger windshield and handguards on the Sidewiner L-TX LE. Taking 200+ horsepower under the chin of your helmet all day is not an experience most consumers want to have. We understand the small windshield looks sporty, but it offers little in the way of functionality on crisp below-zero mornings.
Other than that, ergonomically, the Sidewinder is an extremely comfortable sled from running boards, to seat, to handlebars.
Butch 2010
Butch Veltum - AmSnow Head Test Rider
Take 2!
DON’T LET GO OF THOSE BARS! With that much motor you better hold on. We had a blast on this and the Thundercat with only one issue that affected both. - Butch Veltum

Three Takeaways
1. Nothing can touch this engine’s power and ultimate-sled status

2. YSRC clutching is spot on and better than the Cat version

3. Ergos are great, you are faster with an actual windshield
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