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Tough as nails!

These bad boys can take anything you throw at them
2019 Ski-Doo Freeride 850 154
The Arctic Cat M 8000 Hardcore and the Ski-Doo Freeride both offer two things the backcountry rider seeks: Strength and resiliency. From horsepower to shocks, these sleds are engineered to stand up to the chronic abuse the mountain and aggressive riders administer, then bounce back for more. Simply put, they can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

■ 2019 Ski-Doo Freeride 154
The Freeride is no newbie to the mountain scene. It’s designed for the aggressive rider, with the smooth shifting 165 horsepower 850 E-TEC engine, KYB suspension and sleek Gen4 chassis. The Western crew seemed at peace to know that there weren’t any major changes. With great clutching out of the box, and an easily controlled throttle, the Freeride is a steep-riding, tree-dodging, boondocking animal. The Freeride, however, has not been without controversy. There have been many mixed reviews regarding the tMotion and FlexEdge technology that allow the track to conform to the mountain slope for additional traction and control. Our experience with past Freerides has been that this technology improved performance in most conditions, but had a tendency to washout in hard spring snow conditions. Really it comes down to personal preference; some riders don’t even notice it, others say it’s all they notice (usually the person that also hears every little squeak and rattle that no one else can hear). Others are just indifferent and don’t really care. But sales of tMotion delete kits have been high.

The Rotax 850, combined with the pDrive clutch makes the Freeride responsive and easy to control in difficult lines. This easy-to-manage machine makes the experienced rider feel like a rock star, and will inspire the novice to venture into previously unknown terrain. The Freeride puts the rider in control with a linear acceleration and exceptional response with the slightest foot movement. This sled just goes where you look and is never fighting you. The slim stance of the Gen4 chassis makes it comfortable to hold a sidehill, and the KYB suspension allows the rider to morph from a bumpy trail beast to a steep mountain-hugging machine. One of the features that feels luxurious is the SHOT start: this technology allows the rider to only pull start the machine once per ride (in our experience) and saves the shoulders on the over-50 crowd.

This year’s machine is easy on the eyes, and with the modern color combination and athletic looking chassis you may feel like Bruce Wayne. And while feeling like money is nice, you only have to drop a cornice or maneuver through a tree-dotted vertical line to feel like Batman. And who doesn’t want to be Batman?
2019 Arctic Cat M 8000 Hardcore 153
■ 2019 Arctic Cat M 8000 Hardcore 153
If there is any sled that is made to take a beating, it is the 2019 Arctic Cat M 8000 Hardcore. This competition sled in AC’s mountain lineup was released in the shadow of its Alpha One sibling, but has more than enough mountain credit to live up to its hardcore name.

The suspension is built to take hit after hit, absorbing the steepest drops with a short recovery time. The FOX 1.5 ZERO QS3 shocks are made to swallow your largest pounce and land like a true Cat. Despite the ability of the shocks to take a beefy punch, they are surprisingly adaptable and easily adjust to move through the soft, medium and firm calibrations with the simple 1,2 and 3 quick-adjust clicker settings. Additionally, the Hardcore has reinforced suspension rail braces designed for the big sends and drops of the aggressive rider. We noticed that even with the extra weight of the beefed-up components, this sled did not lack in power at all. The C-TEC2 puts plenty of power to the track.
2019 Arctic Cat M 8000 Hardcore 153
This year, the Hardcore boasted some improvements including an updated handlebar and controls. In the past, Arctic Cat’s controls have been a bit cumbersome. The new look is as sexy as it is useful. Add to this an ergonomically improved short-throw brake lever and Hayes master cylinder and the Hardcore is ready for action. We really liked the response we were able to get out of the brake with just a slight tug. Makes a big difference when boondocking the steep sidehills or tight tree-lines. If you have shorter fingers you will really appreciate the new lever.

The Proclimb-7 G2 Skis are an improvement and provide enhanced floatation and foot traction on the top of the ski. But the most noticeable difference is the way it keeps chatter down in the front end at high speeds.

It’s nice to see Arctic Cat add the Hardcore to its mountain lineup out West. This means that Polaris, Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo now all offer something for the rider that likes to send and drop it.

Arctic Cat is stepping up and realizing the tether is a necessary safety feature and making it standard in their mountain lineup. Most riders agree that not having this feature is backwards thinking. Arctic Cat not only made it standard, but they improved the function by designing a magnetic tether switch. Any mountain rider will tell you that tethers should be OEM standard.
Kevin Thompson
2019 Freeride 154
You wanna huck it? Then Freeride! You wanna pound the rough trials, then Freeride! You wanna drop it, then Freeride is it! If you’re after air miles, then the Freeride is for you too! Out of the box, the Freeride is incredible! Suspension was spot-on and very easy to adjust if needed. Handling is easy, side-hilling is incredible, traction is hook-and-go. SHOT start is a must! This is just a fun sled that really gets around. I do not feel completely drained at the end of the day when on the Freeride.

2019 Hardcore 153
It is just what it says! You better be hardcore to ride this as it wants speed, bumps, jumps, drops, and the throttle to be squeezed! The suspension is set up for all of this right out of the box, but you can tweak it easily with the quick adjust clickers. This machine will rail the trails and corners, as well as the steep and deep. The heat settings for the hand and thumb warmers are really sweet. When I’m in the steep and deep I heat up more, so being able to turn the heat down helps keep the sweat down. Yet on the trail at WOT the high setting is a must. I did find myself scrambling to get my feet back on the running boards more than once - it is amazing what one inch will do. But once I got used to it, the sled was much more compliant.
Lonnie Thompson
2019 Hardcore 153
Super exciting to have a new model out for the more extreme backcountry rider. The new Hardcore is a blast to ride with the FOX 1.5 coil-over piggyback shocks. This sled was built for the guy that likes to ride fast, go big and ride hard. The beefed-up rear skid gives you more confidence to push hard and go huge if that’s what you’re into. The adjustable shocks let you soften it up if you’re taking a break from being a bad- ass. The QSL on the rear skid is sweet for that steep terrain that the hardcore was built for.

2019 Freeride 154
With not a lot of changes to the ‘19 lineup, my impressions are similar to my Long Term impressions of the 2018 Freeride that we had almost 1,300 miles on. It is the perfect mix between fun and function. I said it once before and I will say it again: Ski-Doo does an extremely good job disguising the length. For the most part, the longer tracks on the Ski-Doos feel similar to the shorter tracks of the other OEMs. So while I prefer the longer tracks on the Ski-Doo, the 154 is amazing. The KYB shocks allow you to adjust the compression and rebound easily. Although I rarely find that I have to adjust a whole lot since they come set up almost spot-on by the dealer. Oh, and SHOT start is a must.
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