Timbersleds are making waves in the sled world as hybrid conversion kits that allow you to modify your dirtbike into a snow slaying machine by adding a track, that can help you get into zones that snowmobiles can’t access.
This past spring, we checked out a Polaris Timbersled demo in Utah where we scoped these kits, got a feel for riding them and got the full scoop on these badass machines.
We interviewed Billy Van Vugt, long-time professional motocross racer and freestyle motocross competitor, for his take on Timbersleds. Admittedly, Vugt was a bit skeptical going into the demo, but his perception changed. Check out the full interview below and see why we’re hyped on Timbersleds.
Interview: Billy Van Vugt | Polaris Timbersled Demo 2016
Talk about your involvement in dirt biking and your level of snowmobiling?
I have more than 30 years of riding experience. I spent 20 years racing motocross in the CMRC/AMA; five of those at the professional level. I’ve been a stunt rider for television and live shows, and have been performing in freestyle motocross for the past 10 years. I own and operate my own FMX team, 8sixsixindustries, and have been a test rider for Inside Motorcycles magazine and Racer X Canada. I’m currently a mechanic on the Nitro Circus Live tour. As for snowmobiling, I grew up riding snowmobiles every winter and have a few seasons of experience in snocross and freestyle snowmobiling (FSX).
You came into the Polaris demo thinking that Timbersleds could be a bit of a gimmick and maybe that dirt bikes and snowmobiles should stay separate. How were your perceptions changed by the demo?
I was skeptical about how well the Timbersleds would work, but once I rode them, I realized how well they performed. I thought the Timbersleds would be really hard on the motorcycles. I thought the bikes would have to work really hard to power through the snow and that they’d be running at a higher RPM the entire time. I thought there could be potential clutch and overheating issues. But I never took into account the fact that they would be ridden in a cold climate, so overheating is never an issue. The company did a good job with their gear reduction system. That way, the motorcycle’s transmission doesn’t have to work extremely hard to power through the snow. Whether it was the 350 or 450, premature clutch and engine wear didn’t seem to be an issue like I thought it would be. Bottom line, the sleds aren’t hard on your motorcycle. And they shouldn't affect your dirt bike at all, which is what I was primarily concerned with before testing them. They were super fun. I did not think I would have as much fun riding them as I did.
What are the best parts of Timbersleds and what are the worst parts about them?
The more snow, the better they work. If you live somewhere where there is not much snow, they’re not up your alley. They’re not ideal for groomed snowmobile trails. That’s not where they perform at their best. Their steering and handling is more geared toward backcountry riding than snocross. You also need to know how to ride a dirtbike in order to ride these. You clutch and shift just like you do on a dirtbike. The best part about them is that you are riding your dirtbike. They do not feel like a snowmobile at all. It feels like you are trail riding your dirt bike through the woods. You quickly forget about the long track on the back of the bike. You can go anywhere on them. If your handlebars can fit through an opening, then the machine can fit through the space. You can take them up steep, off-camber terrain you would be apprehensive to take a snowmobile. The places I went on the Timbersled, I either wouldn't take a snowmobile or it would be difficult to take a snowmobile.
Who would you recommend Timbersleds for?
Timbersleds are geared toward motorcycle enthusiasts. Especially trail and enduro riders. If you like trail riding in the summer, you’ll love riding these in the winter. It’s the same experience, just on snow. If you’re a die-hard snowmobile person, this isn’t for you. They’re not made to fly across frozen lakebeds like a snowmobile.”
Could you see Timbersleds as being a good tool for backcountry snowboarders to use to access remote terrain on shoots? Why or why not?
The Timbersled would be ideal for a filmer or photographer or a rider going to scope out a line. A filmer can load their camera gear onto the back of the sled and get to remote spots in order to film the rider coming down the hill. You can be an average motorcycle or Timbersled rider and get to pretty crazy terrain on a Timbersled, but you would need to be an expert snowmobile rider to access the same area on a snowmobile. They’re not great for snowboarders though, because they’re not set up for two people. Ideally, you’d have a couple of these in your fleet.
What are the track options like on Timbersleds?
The Timbersled kits come in long-track and short-track options and can be assembled in your garage with standard hand tools. The long-track kit is more geared toward big-mountain riding and the short-track kits are more for smaller mountains with snow that is less deep, just like a snowmobile.