Timbersled Review : From a Greenhorn

ap·pre·hen·sive

Adjective

  1. 1. anxious or fearful that something bad or unpleasant will happen.

Source: Google – When is Google ever wrong?

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Apprehensive is a good word to describe the start to my day. Not only was I about to ride a 2016 KTM500 with a Timbersled Mountain Horse Short Track for the first time, I was also going to have to do it with only a few random years of Dirt Biking under my belt. My dirt bike expeditions have mostly consisted of riding a Sherpa 250 through the mountain back roads on multi-day camping trips; completely different riding style than being on a KTM 500 in the snow. Beyond sporting a “Greenhorn” status, I was also a bit fearful of breaking the new toys on day 1. Apprehension aside, I woke up with a choice; go take my chances on a Timbersled or stay at home and take my chances with a sick wife (She had a cold)… So, like any good husband, I packed up my gear, checked my life insurance policy and bolted for the door.

We arrived at the Colorado, Vail Pass Recreation area around 9:30am. Our goal was to get home in time to watch the Broncos because to be honest, we at Rocky Mountain Adventure Rentals have our priorities. The Parking area for sleds was almost full due to the new snow, blue skies, and the fact that the U.S. Forest Service hadn’t yet started to charge for parking; living in an area where the local ski resort charges $30 to park makes any chance at doing something fun with free parking a big upsell.

Once the machines were unloaded, we chose who should ride what. Spencer, being a long time snowmobile guide thought it best for me to start on the Polaris RMK800 Pro Snowmobile until we were far enough out to where he could make a proper judgement call; that the terrain was suitable for a newbie. So. With that. My day on the KTM 500 Timbersled began.

First things first. The beauty of Vail Pass is that unlike the local Colorado Ski Resorts, Vail Pass is not covered in “slow zone” signs, “hazard” sticks and “no fun zones.” The U.S. Forest Service has their rules on Vail Pass and as long as you respect their wishes, you basically have your own mountain region to explore and explore we did. In fact, aside from allowing me to do a Timbersled Review, one of our main reasons for choosing today of all days to ride was so that we could check snow depths and make sure Vail Pass Colorado was ready to ride – so we explored every inch.

I’ve guided my fair share of hut trips, rafts, backpacking expeditions etc but those are all on foot and/or water and are based more on survival tactics – not mechanics. In the end, I’m just a computer geek with an art background so I needed some learning put on me. Spencer gave me a full run through no differently than he would for a client. After the initial review of how everything works, the first thing that stood out to me was the reason behind using the Rekluse Cluth System. This is an aftermarket system that essentially alleviates the need to shift using the clutch on the handlebars. Instead, you just let off the gas when you’re ready to click through the gears. This little addition makes all the difference in the world to a novice rider; you instantly remove one more item that you have to think about. Beyond the clutch, what also stood out was the stability of the machine. The Timbersled Mountain Horse Short track is just wide enough to keep the bike upright with very little effort and once you’re in motion, you barely notice that you are riding a dirt bike.

We rode around on some pack/slightly packed trails just so I could get a hang of the machine and learn how it handles. Again, my experience is on smaller 250’s so the size of the KTM 500 took some getting used to; much taller the Sherpa 250. After a few out and backs, I was feeling fairly confident. We started to venture off into the powder fields on Vail Pass and begin our day of depth inspections.

When I first mentioned these Timbersleds to others who have knowledge in the rental industry, the first response was always “oh, I’ve seen those, they don’t look like they will handle powder at all” or “Seems like they would just sink.” Those people have since been proven to be clueless. These 2016 KTM 500’s with the Timbersled setups  float through the powder and the ease of use makes them so much more fun for a novice rider in comparison to a snowmobile in the powder. I personally was surprised at how easy it was to turn them in the powder even though I admittedly had to bail a few times. However, once I got the hang of it; the turning, the balance, and the overall control of the bike was more user-friendly to an unskilled rider than a snowmobile could ever hope to be. Don’t, get me wrong, I love snowmobiles but I think these are the future of back country travel. It’s even worth noting the agile maneuverability that they offered through the tight trees and around hazards such as exposed rocks and stumps. The real trick was learning when to be aggressive on the bike – steep climbs require you to throttle down and go for it. 2nd and 3rd gears were my bread-and-butter for climbing while being in a standing position – I’m not sure if that is correct but it seemed to work. The other issue to note is the point in time when the bike begins to dip on you. Every once in a while I would feel the bike begin to sink on the front ski and it felt as though I was sure to fall over. However, with just a quick turn of the throttle, the bike rights itself instantly going from a surefire falling over, getting stuck situation to being on plane and moving over the surface again.

All-in-all. The Timbersled took about 15-20 minutes to really get the hang of and after that, you’re off and cruising. The bikes look intimidating or as a friend recently said on facebook, “slight terrifying” but in actuality, they are anything but. I’m looking forward to getting my wife on one who has even less experience than I do when it comes to riding dirt bikes but I believe that she will get the hang of it just as quickly as I’m sure most anyone would who truly wants to give it a go.

The day ended about an hour after we had planned but thankfully the Denver Broncos were already beating the Chicago Bears. We also had to spend a few minutes and explain to all of the passerby’s what this machine was that they had never seen before – it gave us instant street cred…

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