Friday, April 18, 2008

2007-8 Season Review

As usual, this season started at the end of the last season, March 2007. The first order of business was what to do for a sled. My 2006 Renegade just completed it's second year, with 12,000 miles and was in fairly tough shape, even for a backup sled. Ideally, I'd like to get a new sled, which would have been a 2008 XP, a new, untested design, that I really didn't want to risk. Even with a new '08, I'd still need to put a lot of money into my '06, just to make it a backup sled. So I decided to put the money into my old sled, get one more year out of it, and then make it a backup, for 2008-9.

With so many changes/repairs needed, I figured I'd take a chance and try some new tricks, if they didn't work, no big deal, it's just for one year. The first order of business, was a new track. The old track, 1.25"x16"x136" skidoo track, with 120 studs, had 12,000 trouble free miles, and was in good shape, but not reliable enough for another season. I decided to take a chance with a 1.5"x15"x136" ripsaw, unstudded. Too bad it's only 15" wide, but I've wanted to do more off-trail with the long track. Hyfax wear was also a slight concern. As far as weight goes, it was 10 lbs lighter. After, the season [7600 miles], the track is still in excellent shape...

Hyfax wear was normal, and the temperature ran maybe a little hotter in some conditions than the studded 1.25", but nothing serious. Traction and braking were amazing [ice wasn't a problem this year]. I was able to switch sleds in the powder, and the difference was amazing. It's also amazing how little traction/floatation you have in super-powder, when you have to go up a hill. That track with a 600 engine, still isn't a mountain sled. I think I was only able to get stuck once maybe twice, and got thru some fairly deep powder...

With more off-trail riding in my sights, I also decided to add a 2" riser. For $30 and 10 minutes to install, it was a great deal. The height was just about right, and didn't require new cables. Ideally, a little more may be helpful. Next a top-end rebuild, as usual. I decided to try the Cudney Pistons and rings. This may have been a mistake, you get what you pay for, but I can't say for sure that they caused future problems. Next, since the clutch needed some work, I also decided to try the Cudney clutch kit. After the first Thanksgiving trip in the powder, the clutch kit was excellent, but with the 1.5" track and the need to replace a worn chain, I decided to also drop two teeth in the gears. This setup was extremely jumpy and quick on the low end, however, on the wide open stretches, the rpm's would creep up to 9000 at 3/4 throttle. I'm still not sure if it was the clutch or the teeth, but as a result, I could only get 80 mph [on the gps] at ~8000 rpms, before I would have to hold-off the throttle. I'm guessing, dropping the gears was bad. I also dropped them, since the SDI was such a dog in certain conditions, so I hoped this was help. All in all, I liked the setup, but probably wouldn't change the gears in the future.

Next up, was the jackshaft bearing and electric starter gear, which had worn. Nothing exciting there. During the season, various wheels and bearings were replaced. The brake pads were worn to the bone. After swapping them, there was a small vibration on braking, so after that trip, I had an X rotor put in. In doing that, an o-ring was pinched, and leaked crank oil onto the brakes, so that and a bad heated shield plug needed to be changed in Roberval. After that trip, at 14k, I decided to have the crank replaced. After 400 miles, in Dolbeau, a bad seal resulted in a complete melt down and a 2-day, and a very expensive total rebuild, top and bottom. After that, the sled ran flawless, and Garneau's credited me for their charges for the rebuild, not a wash, but ok I guess. The Simmons skis [4th year], continue to impress me, they will go onto the new sled. I should just have to replace two carbides for next year. Since the SDI seems to run better with a new belt, this year, I replaced the belt for every big trip or when it hit 1500 miles. Older belts were used as backups, for towing, or for US riding. John finally figured out the clutch. You set the primary for the initial 8k rpm at full throttle, then adjust the secondary for long-pull rpms. Setting the belt height 1/16" above the secondary is now a myth. Another new feature this year, was a winch. After Tom's off on the Gaspe, it had been in the back of my mind. I ended up with a small boat trailer winch, 1500 lbs, with a 2" wide strap. It was cheap, $35, but has some weight, so the guy that carries the winch, doesn't carry a chain, it's about a wash. Plus, everyone doesn't need a chain. Of course, if you bring it, you won't need it, which was the case this year. I did however, finally get to use the shovel...

I also went with a few electronic upgrades this. First, a new camera, a Panasonic TZ-3. I really thought I could use stability control, plus this camera has a 10x zoom. It uses a proprietary battery, unfortunately, but it worked fine. The cheap chinese knock-offs didn't work well, but weren't needed. Initial pictures in snow, seemed to have varied white-balance issues. Since then, I use the "snow" mode, and it seems better. The next upgrade, was with the gps. After the first trip, where the Magellan screen froze-up in the cold [as it always did], I decided that was enough. After Darryl's research and experience, I decided to go with the Lowrance. I couldn't be happier, it worked fine in all conditions. The only downside would be that you can only have one map per SD card. You can also make or buy custom maps. I made some off-trail maps, and purchased the Quebec snowmobile trail maps.

As for the rides, most individual rides are in the blog. In general, the snowfall was near records. The Thanksgiving ride just barely happened, last minute snow gave us a great trip. Marty and I also got in a mid-december trip between Quebec city, north of L'Etape. Water crossing aren't good till around xmas. This year xmas week was good. The past couple years the Gaspe trip had some real bad rough trails in February, so we didn't do it this year. However, our replacement February trip around Lac St Jean also had a fair amount of rough stuff. So, any Feb trip will be rough, so maybe stay out in remote areas? Once again trails out by Mt Laurier and TQ63 were closed. TQ83 around Parent had many issues as well.
Given the insane gas prices, I thought I'd take a closer look at expenses. The rule of thumb for frequent riders has been about $1/mile excluding the cost of the sled, trailer, and truck. For the 2005/06 season, I have it a little less, $0.94/mile. In 2006/7 the price increased, partially due to sled repairs, and gas prices to about $1.32/mile. This year, the price sky-rocketed, due to many sled repairs and of course gas, to about $1.84. If you take out the big-ticket sled maintenance items it was more like $1.44.
Looking forward to next year, I have spring-checked a 2009 Renegade E-Tec, which will need several accessories. And I'll keep the hope for plenty of snow and low gas prices. See you next season...


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