Took the Firecats up to the Pellstone / Alanson / Indian River area last weekend. This was our first time out and we were breaking in the sleds.
I'll give my brief impressions then details.
1. Power, WOW . . . it flat out rocks.
2. Handling, WOW . . . it rocks . . . some ski lift on standard setup.
3. Turning radius (with 156 studs) less than a ZR but sufficient.
4. Unofficial drag tests (at about 380 - 390 ft drag) . . . it ROCKS.
5. Jumping ability for jumping and landing. . . BETTER THAN last model ZR440 Sno-Pro (pre-firecat body)
6. Overall trail speed, NOTHING (can't speak for the REV) I've ridden can touch it on the trails. This from break in.
7. Engine cooling capacity, is AWESOME.
We trailered up toward Pellstone. The snow was a LOT better in Gaylord, but we were heading to Motels that we usually stay at, and we hoping the lake effect up there would give good or better snow conditions than in Gaylord. We guessed wrong. The snow that was had in the area (about a foot) was blown off the trails from high winds the night before. Mackinaw had ZERO snow, the town was dead as far as snowmobiling was concerned. (We drove up there first.)
The snow conditions on the Pellstone trail were poor at best. The airport field where we sometimes have spur of the moment drags had about 1/2 inch of snow on it. It was almost like grass dragging (and I don't grass drag). There were some drifts by the airport from blowing snow, but other than that the conditions were so poor that we trailered down to Alanson to try the trails further south. (For some reason the lake effect was hitting low from Indian River and Petrosky down toward Gaylord.)
So we had some pretty crappy trails. Snow conditions were 1/2 inch to maybe 2 inches in some areas. The ground was fairly firm, but the ground in areas was much like grass dragging on 1/4 inch of snow and grass. Not exactly ideal. I'd say conditions were 1 to 3 on a scale of 1 to 10.
We only rode 120 miles in two days, we had other issues and checked our sleds. This was actually mostly the break in period using pre-mix. The first got 100 miles and when I filled up with my first REFILL I put in 10.4 gallons.
As soon as we started on the sleds, my friend remarked (he rides a F7 Sno-Pro) that the sleds were SICK fast. We couldn't even imagine them being faster after the break in period. AC surely hit this one out of the PARK. Astounding for a sled of this displacement.
It's been two years since we rode my 1998 T-Cat with Vforce reeds, Trail ported and high engagement clutch. My friend didn't ride my T-Cat much, but he thought the F7 pulled as hard as the T-Cat. I agreed, but wasn't sure it was really pulling as fast. I think the sensation is that it is pulling as hard, because the sled weighs a lot less and the mass being less will allow the thing to pull like crazy when you start out.
There is a field at the airport where we raced. I guessed in some past posts that a common distance of 330 - 350 feet was the drag race distance we take at that field. This field is next to Pellstone airport (on the trail). There is a permanent sign at the midpoint and we often line up for unofficial drags between friends in that field. Well after taking some heat about previous posts on some board in the past I figured this was a good time to do a quick measurement of the field to compare (different year) drags at that field. We measured this by using our two firecats and driving one in front of the other Ski to bumper and visa versa, COUNTING the number of sled lengths. Since the sled is 10 feet long we'd know the apx. distance fairly accurately at this stretch of field. (It's not exactly scientific, but fairly accurate.) We measured 39 sled lengths, so my past posts were wrong. Depending on where we line up we started 380 to 390 feet from the sign that's midway in the field.
So After 75 miles with premix still in the tank I felt ready to do a WOT drag test in the field. The conditions were hardpack with 1/2 inch or less.
First FROM past years in that field.
ZR600 2000 SE at the signpost (380 - 390 ft) was doing 60 MPH
ZR440 Sno-Pro at the signpost (380 - 390 ft) was doing 60 MPH
(About dead even in the past, the ZR440 would beat the ZR600 by 1/2 sled length more often than not. The next 10 sld lengths the ZR600 would hit 80 and the Sno-Pro would be left behind.)
Now at this distance the 1998 TCat would hit 90 MPH. It had close to 200 Horses. Would the F7 be as fast as this TRAIL PORTED MOSTER.
I lined up hit the throttle, hooked up pretty well and read the speedo at the signpost. About four sled lengths before the sign I started letting off on the throttle (nervous about grass conditions). The sled was doing 78 MPH at the signpost. I think it would have been doing 80MPH if I would have held the throttle down at *** until the post. So at about 380 to 390 feet a T-Cat with 200 horsepower in our unscientific test a couple years back was doing 90 MPH. The F-7 is doing about 80 MPH. It's not as fast as a trail ported 1000cc, but it's spanking fast anyway.
Now I didn't go any faster or longer on drags. After all I was breaking in the engine with premix and didn't go much into the 7000 RPM range until the first 50 miles were complete. The Alanson twisted trails were great for breaking in the sled because they have so many twists, it kept me off the throttle.
The stock standard settings on the F7's provide a LOT of ski lift. My standard has a lot more ski lift than my friends Sno-Pro. My standard feels like my friends old ZR440 Sno-Pro but much softer. We haven't changed the transfer block setting and both have 156 studs in our tracks. My friend broke one FAST TRAC backer plate, probably on a rock in the low sno conditions. Replaced that right away.
We will experiment with ski lift. We haven't tried shortening the limit straps. I weigh 135 lbs and have my sled setup for my weight. Maybe setting the rear spring a bit stiffer will help some.
I only bottomed the rear out once hitting a 2 foot bump (rise) at 50 miles an hour. Other than that the suspension was plush on the standard and sucked up the bumps like NOTHING I have ever ridden before. Even better than the earlier model Sno-Pro's.
My friend's suspension was stiffer, less ski lift. He wants to reduce it even further. His is a stock Sno-Pro F7. He was using the C&A ski's with 8 inch carbides. He complained that in low snow conditions the C&A's were harder to turn (steering effort) than the stock AC skis on my sled. My sled still required more effort to turn than my old ZR600. Perhaps 20% more turning effort than in earlier ZR sleds by my guess. This is definately not a negative to me because the sled handles the trails a LOT better. It's way better.
QUICK COMMENT ABOUT THE REV
We talked to a group for a couple of minutes who were riding three REVS in Alanson. We saw them at Bob's Place. I asked them how they liked the REVS. One REV owner said it was the first time he was "looking for bumps". He said he was going over 1 foot stutter bumps at 80 MPH with no problems. (Interesting.)
This is my impression with stock standard setup with a 1 on the transfer block we have more ski lift. This sled when approaching any types of moguls or bumps handled them with ease. I could hit the throttle, the front would pop up instantly and go over all bumps with the rear handling them. I felt like Tucker Hibbert at a hillcross competition or something. It was amazing.
The biggest problem I found riding the sled was after I stopped a SMILE was frozen on my face. I found it hard not to smile.
Since there is more ski lift I changed my riding style accordingly. It kind of rides like a cross between a Sno-Pro and a T-Cat. It's hard to explain, but very fun. I figure changing the transfer block will give it more railing and less ski lift.
I need to be at a very low speed to turn this sled sharply. This is probably due to 156 studs. I was in low sno conditions and there isn't much ski pressure on the skis so perhaps that and weigh transfer accounted for that. Think of it this way, I have 156 studs in a longer track wanting the sled to GO FORWARD in a straight line a LOT with a lot of weight transfer. It takes a bit of adapting. When I moved my 135lbs weight a little to one side or the other. (Half a butt on the seat over the front of the seat just behind the toolkit.) I got a LOT of carving performance on the turns. Didn't want to push it to much because I'm still getting used to this sled.
SPEED ON TRAILS
All in all even while doing break in, on bad trails with maybe 30% complete crap on the trails, this sled is faster during break in than my ZR600 was when I was at my peak riding under peak conditions. This sled is a total trail rockig sled. We can hardly wait for next weekend.
We wondered if the thing would overheat under low snow conditions and 34 degree temporatures. Neither sled had any overheating problems on probably the lowest snow conditions we have every encountered yet. This sled JUST PLAIN ROCKS. You will not be disappointed with it.
I think the F7 is like a Thundercat. It's not a good sled for a beginner, because it has WAY TO MUCH POWER. Those starting out should get an F5 which should also totally rock on the trail but keep you out of trouble with TOO MUCH power. The F7 is probably good for riders with 2 years experience who want KILLER POWER.
This has been a long post. I have more to say, but I'll save those comments for later.