In Search of Yetis
Ever tried riding your dirt bike on snow? It’s good fun. Doing donuts, falling off, laughing at your friends. However, you won’t get far. And it’s hardly going to catch on as the next big thing in snow sport.
Riding my motorcycle is becoming increasingly miserable as winter arrives here in Canada. I needed to try a more appropriate sport to take on the winter in style. With my only skiing experience ending in a desire never to repeat it again, what could I do?
What if you could combine a dirt bike with a snowmobile? What if you could put your bike on a snowboard and go where no snow-lift has gone before? What if you could ride up AND down the gnarliest of ranges where even a snowmobile would struggle?
Enter the Yeti MX!
Snow bikes are fairly new, with Timbersled bringing the first dirt bike conversion kits to the market in 2011. Yeti MX quickly followed, and several design generations later they’ve come up with the ultimate in snow machines. Their original bulkier designs were quickly superseded by a lighter and more versatile model. They’re equipped with the syncrodrive belt drive system, and the Maxtrax lightweight track delivers almost ALL of your MX bike’s horsepower to the snow. I needed to try one for myself.
I met Kevin Forsyth, co-founder and Yeti MX designer, and a couple of his riding buddies. His truck was packed with bikes loaned to us by pro rider and owner of Monashee Adventure Group—Cori Derpak. After quick introductions, we were on our way. Kevin expertly controlled the heavily-laden truck as it slid around on the increasingly slippery tracks leading into Hunters Ridge in the Monachee Mountains. I grew nervous as we neared the snow line at 1,700 meters. From here it was going to be a steep climb and a steeper learning curve.
I must admit, the converted 450cc Husqvarna’s, with its additional 25 lbs. of mean-looking track and single front ski was slightly intimidating, but I was keen to show these Canadians that this Welsh girl had what it takes! Packing an avalanche beacon, radio, and lunchbox into my rucksack, I confidently swung a leg over, lost my footing on the ice and promptly landed on the floor with the bike on top of me. This became a familiar position as the day went on.
Blasting through this sensational scenery was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. The bike drove through anything with surprising stability—similar to sand dune riding, with a similar feel but just as exhausting, yet somehow easier. Steering was all about weighting your body in one direction and leaning the bike in the other. Maneuvering was smooth, consistent, and fun. The carbon fiber chassis soaks up the bumps with ease as you keep your weight back and allow the front end to find its own way.
Stopping and starting is arguably the hardest part when getting to grips with these awesome machines. Being of the shorter persuasion, I’ve developed my own techniques for mounting and dismounting tall bikes. However, in this case I had to forget all of that! Instead it’s all about balance and advance planning. Slow down, feel the center of gravity and gently bring the bike to a controlled, perfectly balanced stop. As I found out on more than one occasion, putting your foot down results in the same inevitable outcome—it disappears into the snow, often up to your waist! Of course, the bike then follows, ensuring roars of laughter and plenty of photo opportunities!
We traveled up trails, off trails, across meadows, and were kept on our toes by the occasional snow hole or creek that had been invisible until a split second before we hit! Face-planting was surprisingly forgiving MOST of the time, but getting upright again was not so easy! The powder was so soft and enveloping, but on a bluebird day like today—who cared? These machines might not be as light as dirt bikes, but they were certainly easier to dig out than a snowmobile.
The snow ghosts gave the landscape a wonderfully mystical look and we played like children as we carved our way through this beautiful dream world—the most fun I’ve ever had in the snow.
Stopping for lunch at a pretty little rustic cabin, we warmed our hands and butts on the fire. I was ready for some fuel and a recharge! Being new to the sport, my arms had quickly tired despite shouting at myself to relax! As a first timer, though, I found the basic techniques surprisingly easy to grasp—with the exception of stopping, which has to be the hardest part of the learning curve.
As I stood outside sharing my sandwich with a couple of hungry whisky jacks, I heard the unmistakable angry sound of approaching snowmobiles. Kevin—quick to spot an opportunity—was soon introducing the intrigued riders to his Yetis. The snowmobilers were keen to try them out, and Kevin knew only too well that all it took was a quick blast on his brainchild before they’d be hooked! He was right!
With the Yeti MX being lighter and more agile than any snowmobile—or any other snow bike on the market for that matter—these bikes are FAR from abominable!