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Is the 2021 Riot X Really a Mystery?

“Mystery snowmobile”? “Mountain Sled”? Not sure about that wording from Supertrax, but I understand what they are getting at, and I do know Arctic Cat has made crossover choices clearer for 2021. And if you are in the market for a Riot, like Supertrax, I strongly suggest you evaluate how and where you primarily ride.

2021 Riot 146 in Woody's Orange/Skye Blue is the perfect 50/50 Crossover in Arctic Cat's line

 2021 Riot shown with 146 x 1.6 lug track works great on/off-trail

When you get right down to the 2021 purchase decision – If you ride mostly trail – buy a Riot. You’ll enjoy the laydown steering, track options and still have a capable deeper snow play sled consistently making you smile.

2021 Riot X with Alpha Single-Beam Rear Suspension is the perfect deep powder play toy

If you ride mostly deeper snow (whether in the mountains or legal off-trail riding like Michigan’s U.P.), buy the Riot X. It was built to ride the trail that leads to deep snow. And once you get to deep snow, the Riot X with vertical steering post and Alpha single-beam rear suspension will put a smile on your face like no other in those conditions.


The Riot X 146 with 2.6 lug track works on the trail, but was designed to primarily play in deep snow conditions.


It’s important to remember you can ride any deep-lug (2-inches and higher) track on the trail, but there are compromises to maintain track life. You’ll need to slow your trail speeds (do you have the self-control?) and liberally use your scratchers to decrease track heat, which are two causes for throwing lugs and/or track delamination. 

Those things in mind, here’s a reprint of the 2021 Riot X review from Supertrax:



Photo: Supertrax

“We’re calling the new RIOT X “crossover” this year’s winner of the “Mysterious Sled” award! Why? 

Last year’s RIOT X, targeted at the buyer who was about 60-40 into powder riding versus trail riding, was an efficient crossover that could perform decently on the trails but really excelled in the deep stuff. 

This year’s RIOT X has targeted the 90-10 ratio of riders who ride 90-percent in the powder and only use their “crossover” to get from their staging area to the hills. To call this sled a crossover is like looking at an emu with its head stuck in the sand. 

After riding it, you just can’t deny this is a mountain sled with a short track and softer calibrated, more adjustable suspension. 

It uses Cat’s very powder-specific Alpha single rail skid and that feature alone sets it apart from the competition’s crossover sleds. 

Photo: Supertrax

Although our test team in West Yellowstone, Montana loved the RIOT X Alpha in the powder and the trees – and claimed it was absolutely incredible for handling due to its relatively short 146-inch track length and 2.6 paddles, they much preferred the true crossover RIOT with its dual rail suspension and shallower paddle, for trail use. It was pretty much agreed the dual rail, plain vanilla RIOT was the Polaris Assault’s best competitor.

If you’re comparing, the RIOT X falls more in line with the Polaris SKS – which also leans very heavily toward powder and vert use – no excuses made by Polaris. 

Our best explanation to describe the function of the RIOT X Alpha is that it is extremely competent in fluff and can actually climb with some of the most aggressive pure mountain sleds – a lot due to its excellent 800 CTEC2 twin. 

This engine offers lightning-quick throttle response and makes the kind of power that deep snow use demands. The RIOT X will still, however, be a compromise on trails despite its excellent QS3 shocks and lighter spring setup. 

There’s really no problem here – except for the language used to describe a sled like the RIOT X. This sled in no way “crosses over” between trail and powder. 

It’s as boldly about deep snow riding as any all-out mountain sled and is designed to get you to that stuff where you can play all day, not to take for a 200 mile trail ride. 

As long as you realize that fact, you will fall in love with this very competent short tracked mountain sled!” 



  1. Thanks for sharing article. I appreciate seeing a third party opinion, but I quit subscribing to Supertrax five years ago, but yet it still keeps getting sent to my house. LOL! There’s a mystery!! They have turned into one of the worse of the remaining snowmobile magazines left. They couldn’t help themselves by mentioning Polaris in this one. Must be trying to butter up AC because I haven’t seen any of their ads in the magazine.

  2. What is difference in Laydown and Vertical steering? Been outta this snow game since 98 and am looking to get back in. Terms have changed and the snowmobiles have too! Thanks.

  3. Furnace – great question! Im happy you ask, happy you are getting back to snowmobiling and happy you visit this page.

    Ill try my best to explain, and you’ll have to do your best to visualize…

    Take a look at the profile photos above of the Riot and Riot X. Notice the Riot steering post is “layed back” towards the rider? That’s referred to as a Laydown post. And see the Riot X post is vertical? That’s a vertical post.

    When in seated position and hands on bar, the laydown post swings the outside of the handlebars in an arch up and down when turning left to right. The vertical post swings the bars on a horizontal plane front to back.

    The theory for most, is that the laydown post is beneficial to sit-down trail riding. The vertical, better for stand-up off-trail riding. Clear as mud?

  4. I’ve ridden both and did not find the Riot X to be too bad on trail. The ride was good. It doesn’t handle nearly as well as the standard Riot, but was easily controllable – similar to a 2020 Assault. The worst part is probably all the snow and ice that the scratchers and track kick up for the rider behind.

  5. What about the air box on these 2021 sleds? Have they improved the sealing? I have mostly had Cats in my 40+ years of riding but I am scared to buy a new cat. I see a lot of posts from owners on various forums that show/claim to be getting water in their intake from snow ingestion. As a result there seems to be a lot more posts now about blown motors (usually from snow ingestion). My 2011 F8 has none of this, 6600 miles and runs great. Lots of posts about the Suzuki 800 lasting 10000 miles without issue ( one of the main reasons I bought it).

  6. I’m with supertrax on this one..
    The X shouldn’t be marketed as a crossover, it is a shorter track mountain sled.
    Naming it riot just muddies the water, and confuses people. It would be a good use of the name high country, or a new name altogether and stick with it..
    Doo has used summit since 1994, and renegade since 2004.
    Poo has had RMK since 1996

    Cat has been very inconsistent with their naming since 2012, its tough for dealers to keep track, and almost impossible for consumers.

    High Country

  7. By definition any sled considered 90/10 isn’t a crossover. If so, then a ZR & a M are both crossovers too. As for the RIOT, I think last year’s X model was a better all around crossover sled biased to the off trail side. The new X looks like a deep snow sled.

  8. Glade to hear your thoughts on the sled. but they left a big hole in there lineup with only a 1.6 option for standard Riot. should have keep 2″ option. agree with krom and should have been new high country.

  9. Krom/Kevin/Kawcat – I’d like to see the 2021 Riot, and Riot X Alpha with a 2″ track option. I truly love that track on my 2020 Riot X. With a 2″ option on the Riot X, I think it would make that snowmobile more palatable as a truer crossover for trail/deep snow riding (to your points). There’s no doubt that you can rally that Alpha single beam rear skidframe down the trail.

    I don’t fully buy into adding another name (IE: HighCountry). I lived that marketing name mess in Crossover (CrossTour, CrossCountry, HighCountry etc) and that’s how AC landed on RIOT as the name that defines their crossover category. (Like Assault and Renegade)

  10. Kale,
    IMO Its not a crossover, its a mountain sled.
    Being labeled a crossover it will be bought by guys who only ride trails.
    The twin rail Riot X, although not optimal for that type of riding holds up within reason, but the aplha with its bigger lug, and smaller hardware makes me nervous.
    I know guys who break RR skid frame parts, looking to buy one because its new and cool.


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