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iRide ��� 2020 RIOT/X 146 Defined ��� My First 1000 Miles on RIOT X

Is the 2020 RIOT a True 50/50 Crossover?

Rewind a handful of years and Arctic Cat’s offerings in the “crossover” segment started getting murky as the category grew in popularity. There were Crossfires and CFRs, XF’s, CrossCountry, CrossTour and HighCountry, Ohhh my! At the time, I clapped knowing AC was filling the needs of a wide variety of riders in the Crossover category, but later, myself and others stood in ovation when the decision came to end the many choices and focus on a true 50/50 crossover – Welcome to the 2020 line-up, RIOT and RIOT X.

The 2020 RIOT 8000 146

The goal was to build a true crossover to tame the lakes, trails, trees and power lines that are the playgrounds for adventure riders mastering the DNA pulled straight from the M Series and ZR models.

The all-new uncoupled Cross-Action 146 rear skidframe is the source of many smiles when hitting the throttle on a new RIOT

The RIOT models hit the perfect blend of crossover performance thanks to a combination of ARS II front suspension and an all-new CROSS-ACTION rear suspension. The uncoupled CROSS-ACTION suspension provides a playful, smile-inducing ride on the trail or in the trees thanks to its great weight transfer that lifts the skis with every hit of the throttle.


Want better cornering out of a RIOT? Tighten up the limiter strap on the front of the Cross-Action Skidframe

I’ve seen several early comments from owners remarking the RIOT doesn’t have a firm, planted front end when cornering like the ZR, CrossTour or CrossCountry they previously had. If that type of riding is what you primarily do, I would direct you to purchasing a ZR with a 137 skidframe. You can tame the RIOT’s ski lift by sucking up the front limiter strap on the rear skidframe, and in addition spend a pile of money on aftermarket skis and more aggressive carbides, but bottom line, the uncoupled skidframe was designed to transfer, adding a playful nature by dangling the skis. Changing that will bring other compromises. 

The ARS II front suspension comes straight off the racetrack where it redefined what precision control and big-bump comfort is all about. New geometry and a new forged spindle are 1.5-in. taller than previous crossover spindles giving the ARS II a trail performance advantage. 

Other key features add to Riot models’ signature 50/50 blend of crossover versatility, including the loose/deep snow performance of its 146-in. Cobra track, the all-condition predictability and deep snow flotation of the G2 ProClimb-7 skis with molded boot traction,
a laydown steering post like ZR models, the mountain seat and an adjustable 42-in. to 43-in. ski stance with sway bar. 

RIOT models include premium handlebar gauges with a dual combo Electric Start/Engine Reverse button

Premium handlebar-mounted controls with optimal ergonomics are easy to use while riding. Control positions are visible on the digital instrument gauge, plus the push-to-start button doubles as the reverse button. The Stealth lightweight brake master cylinder and short-throw brake lever provide enhanced braking performance in an ergonomically comfortable and protected design. 

The next-gen 8000 Series 800 CTEC2 Engine with 165-class hp

Riders can have a Riot with their choice of C-TEC2 power from the lightweight 6000 (Riot) or Next-Gen 8000 Series (Riot/Riot X) engines with push-button start and push-button reverse, along with choices of 1.35-in. or 1.6-in. Cobra track. 

I’ve enjoyed 1,000 miles of flawless performance from the new 800 engine. To be honest, I think the Next Gen 800 compared to the 800 before it (with slotted piston) feel the same power-wise (A dyno might say different, but I’ve never ridden a dyno). Mostly, I think the uncoupled skidframe adds to the sensation that the new 800 is faster due to its transfer when hitting the gas. (The part I enjoy most)  Regardless, the engine is really strong, really smooth, and really quiet – three attributes I appreciate, as well as the added bonus of better oil and fuel consumption.

2020 RIOT 146 with Laydown steering post and adj 43" Ski Stance

The 2020 RIOT X is shown here with a laydown steering post which is incorrect. This studio photo was released during pre-production and never got changed to reflect its vertical steering

I have the RIOT X which differentiates itself for those who want to venture into steeper and deeper snow. The X boasts the lightweight front Arctic Mountain Suspension (AMS) featuring mountain spindles and geometry for easy carving in snow and on hardpack. Its adjustable 39.5-in. to 41.5-in. ski stance and vertical steering post deliver excellent side hilling capability and confident handling in a wide range of crossover conditions, especially when gripping snow with the new 2-in. Challenger track. 

The 2" Challenger track on the RIOT X is fantastic! Not too excessive on the trail, but perfect for deep snow playing.

On the trail though, I’ll admit the RIOT X is a true handful for me when hauling the mail versus the RIOT. I struggle with vertical steering posts for trail riding, but I remind myself, the X was built to perform in deep snow versus the RIOT with the laydown post and wider ski-stance which performs better on-trail.  When the ride transitions to playing in deep powder and stand-up riding on a RIOT X, that’s when I sing the praises of the vertical steering. (Nothing beats it). Again, we are back to trade-offs of a 50/50 crossover. It’s up to you to decide where you spend more of your time playing.

The RIOT X is getting a windshield. The one-inch mountain shield isn't quite cutting it in the Midwest.

When it comes to hand protection and keeping warm, NOBODY beats the quality of a ROX Speed FX product. Shown are the new All Season Gauntlets (ASG) which you can bet will find their way to our RIOT X

Now that I’ve had some fun on the 2020 Riot X in stock form, I’m going to sex it up a bit with some easy bolt-ons you can do at home. Anything you would like to see? For starters, this bad boy is getting some type of windshield and hand protection! By the end of the week, Ill post some further thoughts on my experience with the 2021 RIOT X with Alpha single beam rear suspension and how it compares to the 2020.

The 2021 RIOT X with Alpha single beam rear suspension is everything a deep snow play toy should be!



  1. I think the Riot is a great snowmobile, and agree AC model offerings were confusing as hell in crossovers. High Country had 153 track…isn’t that a mountain sled then? Lol. Cross Country and CrossTour. CrossTour was same as a Pantera. What a mess. So, nice job Cat, cleaning that up. Interested to hear about 2021 Riot X with Alpha skid. How good is it on trail?

  2. Rox is a great company! I’ve bought my last three sets of handguards from them. I see they are making seat covers now. I’m going to buy their roll up gauntlets.

  3. Another great article! More like this please! Since there isn’t the Pantera in the line-up anymore I bet the Riot could easily be converted into premium 2-up. If anyone has done this please comment.

  4. I don’t agree with the flawless performance of the engine. It has a very noticeable rumbling/drone sound in the 4600-4900 rpm range as though somethings off in the mapping. Every time you back off the throttle or come into a corner you get this sound. Makes driving in the turns or lower speeds a lot more annoying.

  5. (Kevin) I have a 2020 ZR 8000 RR with over 1200 miles on it and I am glad your are experiencing the same issue I have been experiencing. The rumbling and almost grinding noise when you let off the throttle is terrible. It is so bad that I feel like it won’t make it home. I even brought it to my dealer and they couldn’t find anything wrong.

  6. Kevin and Brian, I have a 20 ZR 8 LIMT. and mine does the same thing. To me it sounds more like an exhaust note when backing off the throttle entering a corner. I do not hear any grinding and believe the noise is coming from the exhaust system. It seems minor to me, and just assumed that it was a nature of the new engine combination.I have around 700 miles and the noise is very consistent at that rpm range your talking about. The performance is not effected, but i will keep my eye out for any more info.on this, and will also check with my dealer to see if they have heard anything about it. I will post any new info. i get. Thanks guys

  7. I have a 2020 Riot as well. While I am pleased with the sled, I do have a few observations.

    1) I agree with the posts above about a rough engine at lower rpm. It is not crisp, like it is at higher rpm.
    2) Doesn’t seem to transfer the weight as much as I expected. Saying that it is fairly planted, but still likes to push in the corners – especially when the snow is loose. I upgraded to 6″ shaper bars but didn’t significant improvements. I realize the expectations here are all personal preference.
    3) LED headlights needed to be adjusted down.
    4) Gas and oil consumption still seem high after 1400 miles. I use more than 2018/2019 c-tec2 8000 sleds.
    5) Oil light came on about 200 miles. Manual says it will come on with 1.15 qts. remaining. I did not add over 2 quarts, so I concluded it came on early and I had enough oil not to be concerned again. Total capacity is 3.25 qts, so I had plenty left.
    6) We were cruising at night down a trail at 65 mph and riders behind me said that they could see a blue flame out the exhaust.
    7) The high idle before shutdown is annoying, but I get the point is to burn off excess gas in the exhaust to prevent flaming. Sure wish Cat would get this flaming issue under control.
    8) It’s tough to stand next to exhaust side or in trailer since it burns my eyes and throat. Perhaps this is a sign of the improved gas/oil efficiency over older two strokes or is related to excess gas in exhaust and flaming.
    9) Tunnel decals are peeling – warranty.

    Overall, I’m happy with the sled and don’t have any regrets. Just wanted to share so others might understand that they are not alone if they experience any of these items.

  8. I think if they really wanted to hit the nail right square on the head, they’d offer the riot with a tipped rail skid. 146″, no thanks for trail riding. Tip the rails up in the rear to take some pressure off, I’d highly consider it. I’m mostly a trail rider who likes to venture off now and again. One thing I learned about my zr600rr 137 is that it is waaay less capable off trail than my crossfire 8 was, but handles and rides far better on the trail. Is there any negative effect of tipped rails in the off trail world?

  9. Kale, talked to you in Cable at AWSC directors ride. I now have a hair over 2200 miles on my Riot 800 riding all NW Wisconsin trails and a bit of playing in U.P. I haven’t experienced the bog others have at 4600rpm or any of the flame thrower issues but I do get a backfire after long pulls and shutting it down quick at trailside stops. With our snow, Ill have 4000 miles on this sled by end of winter and will be ready to sell. Ill probably snow check the same thing. I sure hope Cat comes with new full-size for 2022.

  10. We are from northern Maine and have 5 Riots in our group with varying levels of modifications. All the stock ones seem to have some fuel mapping issues. The high idle when coming to a stop is a little annoying since it will backfire if it’s not all the way back down before being shut off. All have a few stutters here and there in rpm range. 4500, and 6500 being the worst. The one with the earliest build date has a odd bog if you let off throttle and hit it to about 1/4 throttle again. WOT and high rpm they all run great. However the inside of Y pipe looks a little scary. Almost white and dry with no residue anywhere. Other then those small issues we all love them. Best sleds we have owned. They handle great for being a 146 and are so much fun to ride. May have to look into an aftermarket tune to make it perfect.

  11. Flames out of the exhaust and rough running are simply issues that are going to pop up on almost any sled built today. Go to a XC race and most of the polaris 600’s and the arctic 600s and the occasional skidoo 600 all have this when coming in for fuel. It has to be the emissions crap they are trying to meet. Aftermarket flashed ECU’s could probably solve most of those issues, but you lose your warranty, and they are not available for alot of machines. Plus the emissions won’t be legal after that. I will keep my carburetors, thank you!

  12. Imagine that, a longtime ACat employee with all of his Cat friends saying his Cat runs perfect and this is the ideal snowmobile with no flaws, when the rest of us who lie in the real world experience problems with our sleds. Did you guys honestly expect a real, impartial eval on this site?

  13. Kale, All of my riding no so far has been in northern Wi. My machine does not bog or grind. I cannot feel anything in the chassis. A slight exhaust note at 4500 rpm goes away as soon as you get back on the throttle. But I know they kept the same exhaust systems as they had in prior years. So it may sound different because of the changes they have made with the new motor. Mine does stay at 2650 rpm when coming to a stop, for about 30 sec. and then idles down to 1700 after that. I also did not see any breakin period for the motor. It ran to 8150 rpm and 85 mph right out of the box. But I backed off and went no higher until after about 300 miles.

  14. KeepinItReal – I’m glad I have one fan. Thanks for the support. For the record, I never said this was the ideal snowmobile. (Maybe for me) I absolutely said I’ve seen 1,000 flawless miles on MY Riot X though (That’s my experience). And, I don’t remember calling anyone a liar on here that has had problems, because I know they will exist. The cool thing about this site is stories like these evoke people to share their experiences and opinions. Something I applaud. Hope this clarifies things cuz I gotta get back to the real world and replace the leaking fuel shut-off valve on my son’s 440 Sno Pro so he can ride tonight.

  15. Kale – I live in the central U.P. (Marquette County). If we ride more open trails or grades I don’t notice the issue because we’re staying above that rpm range. Anything in tighter trails where you’re on and off the throttle and crossing that 4600-4900 rpm range a lot makes this issue really stand out.

  16. Keepin it Real — Arctic Insider represents the brand in a positive light- we all understand that. There’s a lot of good info here and people can share their opinions. With that said, it was a very fair article – accurately addressing the many positive traits as well as realities such as the ‘pushing’ tendencies (of a sled designed for crossover use); and the power – which isn’t maybe what some hoped for.

  17. AC’s marketing dept with their claims of “165 hp class” is causing headaches..
    I bleed green, but it made no sense to redesign the engine and leave it an 800.
    The chassis is the oldest, and heaviest in the industry, 2 stroke engines are way behind in HP (for the first time in 25+ years maybe ever) and almost every part needed to keep a sled is on backorder until spring.
    Doo has released an 850 turbo, and gotten one to any dealer who wanted in in less than a week from the unveiling.
    Cat released the blast how long ago? My dealer won’t be able to get one this year, their rep has one single sled for several states.

  18. Kale, I primarily ride the MN North Shore. The issues I stated earlier are just what I have been experiencing with my 2020 ZR 8000 RR. My son has the Riot 8000 with no issues, he loves the sled. I love Cat and my dealer and will continue to buy Arctic Cat.

  19. Kale, I went too a local cat dealer yesterday, talking to the owner,he told me he recently got some floor plan paper work from arctic cat. He said at the bottom it said Yamaha motor Corp. And usually it says arctic cat/textron. He thinks Yamaha bought the sno business any truth or just him spouting off?

  20. Kale, also I’m looking at leftovers at my dealer. I have a turbo now was thinking about grabbing a leftover 8000 cheap. And having two sleds.He had 18 zr 8000 sno pro. 10,995 plus freight. I was amazed at the price. I figured being an18 I’d grab it for 9k or so. The owner said there really isn’t any programs through arctic cat right now for rebates. If that’s so how does cat expect to unload these leftovers. Next to the 18zr was a 2020 850 skidoo for 11,500.

  21. Jason – Not sure what to tell you on the Yamaha paperwork? If a buyout occurs, Ill be finding out the same time you will. As far as carryovers and pricing…you’re right, there are no rebates on carryovers. With AC’s current spring only program, combined with fantastic snow this season (in most areas), the carryover inventory is pretty low in the field. That’s not the case for ALL dealers though. I recently talked to one large AC dealer who hasn’t had the luxury of great snow in their area, and have a bunch of carryover units and no rebate help to move them. Those dealers, I feel bad for, and hope AC helps them on a per case basis. Even though Id like to see carryover units bought from dealers, in the price range you’re looking at, you’re better off spring ordering a 2021 through the Snowmageddon program, unless you need a snowmobile right now.

  22. Kale: I bought a 2020 last spring and in reality it was a better price than what I paid for my lesser 2018 6000 ES. I bought the 6000 Limited with iACT and it has been about the most fun sled I have ever ridden. Is it flawless? No. I have some decal issues that I will take care of with warranty at the end of the season but the running quality of the sled is amazing. Great fuel economy, great on oil rides like a dream. Looking forward to what they release for there 60th anniversary in 2022.

  23. I’ve got 1100 miles on mine now, just just back from a 950 mile 4 day trip in Maine. I notice the Bog / Drone sound from 4100 to 4700 RPM, feels like it’s loosing power. Make it hard to ride up twisting steep trails. Also found mine has a surge up and down in RPM around the 6000 to 6150.
    Dealer advised me to put a new set of plugs in, did that and still has the Bog issue @ 4100 to 4700 RPM.

  24. The only cat I,ve owned lately was a carbed f7 black widow that was not rich. All efi cats I have owned are way rich from engagement to about 4500 rpms. My 09 f1000 was so bAd at That rpm you couldn’t,t trail ride it in the tight trails where you had to go slow. My 15 8000 has. Boondocker on it to try and lean out the motor at this low rpm range. My 18 tiger isn’t,t as bad but could be leaner at lower rpms by the way I run nothing but ethanol free 91 so gas is not the problem. Arctic,s programming is.

  25. From what i have been reading for the last 2 weeks on the run quality of the latest 800, my first thought was possible power valve staging at the RPM range consumers are having issues with. Possibly a programming error on Cat’s part. I would not rule this out. Just my thoughts…

  26. What? Did I read correctly? You are going to install a REAL windshield? Just a few weeks ago you were spouting off on Facebook about how thong bikini windshields are sexy and help sell machines to the “still wet behind the ears” buyers. Obviously you don’t practice what you preach! Meanwhile, I am loving my new Riot 8000 with a HIGH windshield. But I do agree with my Significant Other that my 2018 ZR 6000 El Tigre is a better trail machine.


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