Learn to Adjust Your Machine
Sleds are complex machines, but there are some simple adjustments you can make to really change your ride and step up your game. The setup of that machine is necessary to be able to ride comfortably and smoothly. It could be the difference of a day riding on top of the snow or getting stuck IN the snow, which can be exhausting. Bar height, suspension and ski pressure are a good place to start personalizing your ride.
When you get a brand new or new-to-you sled, chances are it is not set up right for you. Experimenting with these adjustments will help match your set up to you and your riding style, making your day of sledding much more enjoyable.
It is common for people to set their bar height while standing in the garage. This may seem practical, but it doesn’t work well in the mountains because we spend a lot of time with our sleds on edge. Setting your bars about 2” lower than what’s comfortable while on a flat surface will ensure that you are able to effectively use your body while riding off-cambered terrain. You should have to reach down for your bars. This seems and feels unnatural at first, but as soon you get onto a side hill, it gives you more leverage. When you have your bars too high it changes your body position and leaves you with your bars in your chest or pushing you far back on your sled. Both of these instances lead to rounding uphill or wheely-ing excessively, making you less efficient and less controlled.
So, lower those bars! Or at least try it.
The main goal with suspension set up is balance. To put it simply, there are two shocks in the skid, a front and a rear. The best way to learn what they do is to go to the extreme on each one. Set them really light to start, see how it feels and how it handles and then keep changing it until you find the attributes that work for you.
If adjusted incorrectly, the sled will handle poorly. For example, you may experience darting, pushing, weird weight transfer and all-over-ride instability. Adjusting the rear suspension can really change the attitude of your sled. It allows weight transfer. When you accelerate, the weight transfers off of the skis and onto the track. This changes how the sled feels by making it lighter during throttle applications. If the sled transfers too much weight, it can make you feel out of control, lifting the skis high in the air. A huge difference can be made in overall ride predictability here.
Ski pressure adjustments usually start with the front shock in the skid. Lots of pre-load makes light skis and vice versa.
The main question here is whether you want to use your skis to steer or to balance. Ski pressure is unique to each rider. Some people like to run with heavy skis. The advantage to this is it will steer well on the trail, generally drives easy and goes in the direction the skis are pointed. The disadvantage to this is the sled feels heavy and is hard to ride in more advanced terrain.
If your sled has light ski pressure, it will try to push through the corners even when your skis are turned. While this sounds counter intuitive, the advantage is it helps you put your sled on edge resulting in a nimble and manoeuvrable ride. Playing with these shocks will give you the chance to really find what suits your riding style best.
Front suspension, which is the shocks for the skis, mostly adjusts how your sled feels in the bumps and uneven terrain. Again, going to both extremes, stiff and soft, will allow you to understand how this affects handling.
In any case, spending a little time to set up these few simple things can make your ride a lot more efficient. Always adjust one thing at a time so you can be sure about the results. You can visit your local sled dealer to help with this, because a well set up sled will up your sledding game!