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HomeNewsRiding Two Harbors, MN North Shore Trail on the 2020 Thundercat

Riding Two Harbors, MN North Shore Trail on the 2020 Thundercat

Ever witnessed snow sliding off a tin roof? I was hoping that would happen while Pat Bourgeois (L) and Tom Rowland (R) posed for this photo

All great shows have a cast of characters, no different than the ArcticInsider supporters you read about here. Two familiar names on these pages are longtime powersport journalist, Pat Bourgeois, and Arctic Cat dealer Tom Rowland, owner of Thomas Sno Sports in Ogilivie, MN.

The Trestle Inn located in Finland, MN is home to snowmobilers from all over and amazing hamburgers!

Yesterday provided an opportunity to ride the North Shore Trail leading out of Two Harbors, Mn with both of them, to our favorite burger joint, the Trestle Inn

The John Allan Brandt Memorial Shelter is a sight to see. The views are stunning, and the shelter is one of the best in the state located off the Yukon Trail. Photo: Pat Bourgeois

Pat brought his two demo sleds, a Polaris (2020 Adventure 600 137) and Ski-Doo (2020 Backcountry 600 146). Tom didn’t hold back any punches by bringing his 2020 Thundercat 137. It was truly fun getting the opportunity to ride three different brands over the course of 150 miles, despite these models starring in their own separate categories. If I had to liken the Polaris Adventure to an Arctic Cat model, I would say its closest to a ZR 6000 137, and the Ski-Doo Backcountry would be comparable to a Riot X 146, if it had a 600 engine.

Pat snaps a photo of Tom on the CJ Ramstad North Shore Trail

“I’m not man enough.”

I’ll be honest, I’ve logged quite a few miles on Z1 Turbos and Thundercats over the years, but it’s typically not my first go-to Arctic Cat choice for a midwest trail ride. Why –  Cuz I’m not man enough. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but you may say the same if you’ve never experienced the arm-pulling power of this 200hp 4-stroke turbo rocketship. It’s truly incredible!

The North Shore trail and scenery are truly amazing including bridge crossings like this.

I can’t stress enough, the 2020 Arctic Cat ZR 9000 Thundercat is one potent snowmobile built for the ultimate in high performance and quickest crossings of lakebeds known for impromptu drag races. Available with two different shock packages — Tom’s Thundercat had the FOX QS3’s with manual 3-position setting knobs, you can also choose the iACT (Now renamed ATAC for 2021) version which allows you to control your shock setting from the handlebar mounted gauge. 

This is what 200hp of Thundercat Sexiness Looks like

Powered by the C-TEC4 9000-Series DOHC Turbo Triple that sets the highest standard for power, smoothness and reliability, with an intercooled turbo and three injectors that deliver maximum horsepower at any altitude and with no lag. Those 200-plus ponies hit the track consistently every time thanks to the quick acceleration and auto-adjusting design of the TEAM Rapid Response II drive clutch, Rapid Reaction driven clutch and the entire Arctic Drive System.

The 2020 ZR9000 Thundercat with ProCross chassis

Like all ZRs, the Thundercat is built on the race-proven ProCross chassis — This ultra-rigid platform is matched by a revised ARS II front suspension, offering 10 in. of bump-eating travel, plus the coupled SLIDE-ACTION Rear Suspension with 13.5 travel. The Thundercat is equipped with a 137-in. Ripsaw track and 1-inch lug, plus single-runner ski carbides deliver the utmost speed through a variety of trail terrain. It was a complete joy to confidently set this front end into a corner, let it stick, and feel the rear follow underneath you…then apply throttle. Sweet. Glorious throttle. Throttle that never seems to end.   

137 Slide-Action Rear Suspension

When headed into a corner, the engine braking on this big four stroke slows itself naturally, but when it’s time to slow things down, the Stealth lightweight brake master cylinder provides enhanced braking performance with a comfortable short-throw brake lever. 

As a premium model, you get a comfortable heated seat, ultra-bright LED headlight, rear tunnel flares, 11-in. medium-height windshield and a goggle holder.

If you want the ultimate in speed from Arctic Cat, buy a Thundercat. If you’re too chicken, I’d suggest the Chicken Tenders at the Kwik Trip in Two Harbors, MN.


Its no roller dog, but Kwik Trip serves a hell of a mean chicken tender! Tom didn't believe I could eat their 48-piece family size. Pffffft. No problem.



  1. I’ve ridden areas of Quebec where you wouldn’t want anything else but a Tcat. Lots of wide, fast running. I’m not familiar with Mn trails, but if they are tight, I could see where it could be a handful. It’s so quiet, the power and corners sneak up on ya.

  2. Ive got a 2017 Thundercat that just turned over 13K miles this winter. It’s been an amazing snowmobile. As a retired guy from Wisconsin I get to ride quite a bit in a lot of different areas. Been to the North Shore twice this year but started in Duluth. Love this site and I read your column in the Wisconsin News magazine. Thanks.

  3. The nice thing that I have found about these high powered turbo sleds are that they drive and ride great at slower speeds as well as higher speeds. They are fun sleds for traveling more miles per day.

  4. Dave Good – There’s no doubt you can put on some serious mileage with the Thundercat. It reaches the 50mph trail speed limit (cough) very quickly. LOL.

  5. The Family has a 2019 T-Cat and it is one of the best sleds we have rode! I think there will be more thunder cats around in the future for us. The smoothest sled by far and 122 out of the box is also pretty cool ha! Super fun sled to hit the trails with and cruise!

  6. So how does it compare to the Cat 800 on the trails at “trail speeds”?? I would seriously like to know if it’s the ultimate trail machine

  7. Gregw – I think its hard to define what the ultimate trail machine is because so many people, ride so differently, and in so many different places. On this trip we passed a couple groups who were riding 35mph on big bore units (Turbo four strokes and 800cc+ snowmobiles) Which makes you ask the question, “Tell me again why you need that big bore?”

    Sorry, I digress – Depending where you live, trail systems come in all forms, shapes and sizes. In my opinion, I would purchase a Thundercat for wide, fast trails or traversing expansive open areas or lakes. (That’s where I’ve had the most fun on a Thundercat. The Tcat can definitely handle tight, twisty wooded trails at aggressive speeds, but with the added weight of the four-stroke, plus mental attention needed to maintain that speed and harness the Tcat’s incredible horsepower can be fatiguing.

    I know 800cc+ units are popular in the two-stroke category, but I’m always a fan of the 600 for some fun aggressive trail running. When I can beat Herf on a 600, Ill consider buying the 800. 😉

  8. For those that have become addicted to the smoothness, convenience and all-around fun-factor of the Arctic Cat 4 strokes of recent years….the Thundercat is keeping that legacy alive, and then some. When it comes to engines, three in a row make ’em go!

  9. I love the north shore, there are places up there where a souped up turbo is an absolute blast but there are also places where a turbo is an absolute waste of times I first experienced the my sled vs someone’s else sled up there and thought oh my, I hope cats got an answer, and that was 5 years ago!!
    Does the trestle still have a insider sticker in the bath room?

  10. I spent (6) seasons on Turbos 09-11 and 12-14, lot’s of fast fun and you can hammer them through the tight and twisties, along with mogul mashing them like a 600…….but it’s a lot of work and that realization really became noticeable to me when I traded in my 2012 in the middle of a March saddlebag trip for a 2014 ZR 8000, the 2 smoke is just so much easier to pile up big miles on, even on big wide snomobahn trails it’s the heavy braking and acceleration torque that you have to spend physical energy on with a turbo 4S, and that is energy that you simply don’t spend while riding a big bore two stroke.

    I almost forgot that I spent two seasons on a 2004 T660 Turbo, and both in 04 and 05 I split jackshaft bearings either riding into Chibougamau, OC or out of Chibougamau.
    I can tell you with authority that you can ride 700 miles with a split jackshaft bearing if you keep your speed below 55 mph and grease the bearing every 50 miles LOL

  11. I partially agree with you Vince regarding the ease of pushing high miles on the lighter weight 2 strokes, but, I must say I love the way you hardly ever have to brake when riding the 4 strokes. A person gets accustomed to simply controlling your entry to a corner with just the throttle and not the brake. The two-strokes do seem to be making a comeback though and it looks like i’d better get used to using both hands when cornering again.

  12. Like you said: “The speed limit on trails is 50mph”. Actually, it is 50mph on any PUBLIC land. Including road ditches. But I digress………..

    Whatever happened to the REAL reason for riding a snowmobile which is to explore the back country and enjoy the scenery?

  13. Kale, I feel like after seeing 2021 Yamaha That cat and Yamaha are sticking together. Do u have any thoughts on this partnership for the future? Will 2022 be a big year? I feel like they have to bring something new soon. Polaris and doo are really running away with it.


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