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Willpower vs. Horsepower

Willpower vs. Horsepower

For anyone who knows me and my brothers, it’s no surprise that we are a “faster-bigger-louder” bunch of guys. Like many of our sled-friends, when it comes to anything with an engine, stock just doesn’t seem to cut it. We are always looking at what we can bolt on, bore out or modify in order to make our sleds a little unique and a lot more powerful. Before I make a performance upgrade I always consult my older brother, the mechanical brains in the family.

Wes spent his teenage years (and then some) racing snowmobiles in central and western Newfoundland. His mechanical skills combined with his competitive nature, gave him success in his races and a lot of know-how for tuning sleds. Hours upon hours of wrenching in garages, breaking down and rebuilding engines and tuning sleds have given him a thorough knowledge of what a sled can do with the right work. I have managed to pick up on some of that over the years, but some secrets are still guarded to this day. Although it wasn’t that complicated back then, you pick your brand, the largest engine displacement and the usual array of modifications. The races were generally won in the finite details and adjustments on the day.

In recent years, the advancement in 2-stroke snowmobiles and the rise of 4-strokes have changed the game. More power can now be realized with a simple computer program for your machine. There are varying levels of power enhancement that appeal to everyone’s desires and the gains usually climb with the price. My brother always rode 2-strokes and performed a regiment of maintenance each year to ensure premium performance. He was never a fan of 4-stokes due to the power:weight ratio.

When Arctic Cat launched its 1100 Turbo in the full suite of platforms from short track to mountain sled, Wes’ eyebrows were officially raised. There was an appeal factor in the turbo powered crossover sled with a reliable and low-maintenance 4-stroke engine… that just happened to have the highest horsepower of any production sled on the market. After many discussions over the extra weight, he decided that the good outweighed the bad and purchased a 2013 Arctic Cat XF 1100 Turbo Limited.

Q: What does one do after purchasing the highest powered sled on the market?
A: Add more Power!

Wes found an ECU program which came with a 3-map selector switch that allowed him to choose between 230hp @ 87 Octane, 260hp on 91 Octane, and 320hp with race fuel. This option could not exist without Wes having it. Once he told me the road he was starting down, I had to come along for the ride as he turned his stock turbo-cat into an “angry beast-cat”.

After installing the new ECU program and maps, this sled was now powered up and could turn the stock 9psi of boost up to 20psi depending on the map. With all that extra air, the next step was naturally to let this thing breathe. Wes ordered a high-flow exhaust manifold and muffler and the results were exciting. Judging by how awesome it sounded in the garage in August, we knew it was shaping up to be a lot of fun for the winter. With all these upgrades, one problem that still lingered over Wes’ head was his belt durability. After the first few rides on the very torquey XF, it was clear that when riding these machines hard, the belts won’t always last. I recall Wes blowing a belt 2 days in a row, on the same hill in the exact same spot. I think he was “3 belts in” at 600 miles so something had to be done if he was going to run an extra 90hp. Arctic Cat has actually made strides in fixing the belt problem that some riders have experienced, but with all this extra power Wes was looking for something as beefy as is power mods.

There are a lot of aftermarket solutions to choose from, but many of them did not seem to impress my power-hungry brother. He wanted the perfect solution that left nothing to chance and ensured his problems would not interrupt his first ride on this beast. He stumbled upon Evolution Powersports and I could tell he was impressed after he talked with them. These guys were snowmobile enthusiasts like us and they had taken it upon themselves to solve this problem for stock sleds as well as higher powered machines. The main issue with his sled was that the torque control link (TCL), which was designed to maintain alignment between clutches by linking the engine to the jackshaft. In this case it was not standing up to the high torque riding and would likely have less success after the modifications. The main problem was that while the linkage would keep the engine-jackshaft alignment, the flexing would come through the jackshaft and flexible bearings to side load and overheat the belt. The result was little black pieces of rubber surrounding an angry Wes in the middle of a hillside.

Arctic Cat has since fixed these issues with better alignment and cooling, but the guys at Evolution have gone the extra mile. Wes purchased the Stage 3 TCL Delete kit and it came with a new heavy duty jackshaft (much bigger/stronger than stock) with straight roller bearings to maintain alignment in the chain case as well as the secondary. This was made possible by removing the TCL and replacing the brackets to revert back to the traditional mounting philosophy. Adjustable engine mounts and brackets were provided to bolt directly onto the chassis (stock brackets were incorporated into the engine cooler). This reduced the chance of damaging the cooler while giving the flexibility and adjustment needed to install the kit and achieve alignment with the clutches.

Wes had this sled stripped down to the bones and I didn’t know if it would ever look like a sled again, but with his know-how and the elaborate instructions and support that came with his kit, he was able to get it all back together and ready for the snow.

He finally had the chance to take the new beast out on the snow in the middle of January this year and the results were astounding! I know he loved it, but since I am writing this article of course I had to try it out multiple times as well (wink!). It really was a loud, fast, torque-monster that is a lot of fun to ride. The sounds of the new exhaust combined with the turbo constantly blowing off as you pump the throttle brings on a child-like excitement that I compare to riding a Transformer and definitely a Decepticon! This is an angry cat and when you lay it over in a deep side hill with the pipe exposed it sounds like it is coming for a fight. The torque comes on when the turbo spools up and it will not relent until you do. It seems to become lighter as you feel the 260hp unravel from beneath you, I couldn’t tell you how the lower power setting was… it wasn’t used!

I think plans for the 2.25” lug track may be bouncing around in my brother’s head and if not, they are now. This sled has all the power it will ever need and hasn’t blown a belt since the upgrades. All the hours have paid off on this project and I am calling dib’s if he sells it.

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Steve Furlong, from Plate Cove West, Bonavista Bay, residing in Bloomfield with my wife and 2 awesome boys. Snowmobiling is a passion of mine and back country riding is my favourite. A mountain sled is a must to access the beauty of NL's back country, but I also enjoy a simple ride through the trails for a boil up with the family. I enjoy writing articles about our crazy trips that came up unexpectedly or had some unique quality about them. It is always nice when a trip comes together and the weather works out for you. I also enjoy writing articles around sled and equipment purchases and trip planning, which are two things I do a lot of and take seriously. Always looking to find my limits and improve upon them, snowmobiling offers an endless challenge. Life is short and winter is shorter! Get outside and ride!

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