I recently spent a few quality days riding the 2022 RIOT X 8000 146 in what I would consider, THEE most fitting ride conditions for this Mountain Crossover, in Northern Minnesota.
We covered ground both on- and off-trail from Kelliher to points north in Waskish and Baudette, and even traversed a bit of the big frozen waters of Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake.
When the two RIOT models were introduced in 2020 as a true 50/50 Crossover, I bought the RIOT X version with Challenger track, 2-inch lugs and the twin-rail uncoupled CROSS-ACTION skid frame. Although the RIOT X was considered a 50/50 Crossover, the X still skewed more towards off-trail riding, than on-trail, with its deeper lug track, front Arctic Mountain Suspension and vertical steering post.
Since I was familiar with the 2020 RIOT X, I was looking forward to spending time on the 2022 version with several upgraded key differences. The 2022 RIOT X has the ALPHA single-beam rear suspension (146 length), 2.6-inch Powerclaw track, ATAC adjust-on-the-fly suspension and the new Arctic Cat ADAPT clutches. More so than my 2020, the 2022 RIOT X definitely skews more towards deeper snow riding than trail. Hence, the factory referencing it as a Mountain Crossover.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a flatlander at heart, and can ride well-enough to survive navigating backcountry rides point to point with no fanciness in between. That said, the ALPHA rear skid helps an average guy like me…I absolutely love how you can make this skid frame dance in deep snow with the slightest of input. Executing deep powder turns are a cinch – while standing, apply one part counter-steer, a bit of body lean into the direction you want to turn, point your head, and the RIOT X naturally follows. It’s so damn easy to ride you’ll feel like a veteran deep snow rider.
IS THE RIOT X ANY GOOD ON TRAILS?
I receive this question quite often – The short answer is, YES. Ill say this though – If you are purely a trail rider, take a good hard look at a ZR with a 137-inch skid frame, or opt for the standard RIOT with a 1.35″ or 1.6″ lug. You’ll be much happier with their trail prowess. While riding in Northern Mn, we logged several hundred miles of well-groomed trail mixed with twisting rolling terrain through swamps and hardwood forests. The RIOT X handled all of it at (cough) above average speeds.
Here’s where the trade-offs come into play when owning a RIOT X…although it can handle trail speeds for hard chargers, you need to work that sled over with some true rider input and body English to keep the front end planted in the corners. (It’s a workout) The other trail trade-off is the 2.6-inch PowerClaw track. It’s main purpose in life is to sling copious amounts of deep snow. Off-trail, this track works incredibly well, but you really need to baby the track when running hardpack trails. At some point, you will start to throw lugs (paddles) from the track if riding with generous throttle application all the time. The standard equipped scratchers will help cool the track, but again, you need to remember what the track was originally designed for – Deep snow.
One of my favorite additions to the RIOT X for 2022 was the ATAC adjust on-the-fly suspension system. The innovative ATAC utilizes a thumb-operated button on the left handlebar controls to operate the FOX 1.5 ZERO iQS coilover ski and Arctic Cat IFP 1.5 front- and FOX 1.5 ZERO iQSL coilover rear-track shocks, allowing the rider to instantly switch between three factory compression settings (Soft, Medium and Firm), with two additional settings (Driver 1 and Driver 2) allowing you to customize your own calibrations between front and rear shocks.
For my riding preferences on the trip, I found the Medium setting worked the best in all the groomed trail conditions, so I left it there and didn’t stray from it. But when we got off trail navigating 3ft+ deep snow, It was a welcome feature to toggle through the ATAC settings to the rear shock Lockout feature which helped launch the RIOT X to the top of the snow under acceleration. The only thing you had to remind yourself of, was returning the setting back to medium once on the trail.
NEW ADAPT CLUTCHES
Several of you have asked about the performance from the new ADAPT clutches designed by Arctic Cat for the 2022 models. (Fullsize units) I’m not sure what to tell you? And by that, I mean, I didn’t notice a huge performance difference over a TEAM clutch it replaced. From a Layman’s viewpoint, I don’t think Im alone in my feeling, as many snowmobilers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The lightweight, compact design seemed to spool up quick, and the belt kept tension without fade and performance during our entire ride, so I call that success.
Like I said in the opening paragraph, the deep snow conditions we rode for three days exploring unplowed logging roads, drainage ditches, swamps and fields mixed in with trail rides to get there, were truly where the RIOT X shines, and you should buy one if this is your type of daily riding. My only nitpick of the RIOT X is a personal one, and one I haven’t changed my opinion of since owning the 2020 RIOT X – I’m not a fan of the vertical steering post. As hard as I try, the push/pull motion of the handlebars is fatiguing while trail riding and my wrists truly hate me after a full day of hard charging. The vertical post is more comfortable when standing up riding off-trail (Its intended purpose), but Id still prefer the laydown steering post with an up/down handlebar arc. For me, it feels more natural on- and off-trail. You’ll have to decide if its right for you, or one of the trade-offs you can live with. Either way, the RIOT X is a phenomenal mountain crossover snowmobile.