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HomeFeaturesStill Snowmobiling: Arctic Cat Engineering in April

Still Snowmobiling: Arctic Cat Engineering in April

Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April. Photo by

It’s April, with all the usual indications: returning birds, snow melt, emerging (and greening) grass…

But it’s still riding season for Arctic Cat snowmobile engineers.


Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April. Photo by

And it’s still full-on winter where Arctic Cat engineers were testing when I visited them recently, with nearly two feet of fresh snow to prove it.


Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April. Photo by

On this day a crew were calibrating and testing a fleet of machines in preparation for future models.


Arctic Cat's Bart Magner. Photo by

One such machine was this ZR 4000RR, which has seen some clutching changes since I last rode it in March. According to calibration engineer Bart Magner, the updated clutching has produced a 3-sled length improvement in acceleration over its March state of tune. Cool!


Arctic Cat's Kevin Thompson and Larry Coltom. Photo by

Drive Team engineers Kevin Thompson (left) and Larry Coltom were working on drive systems.

Improvements in bearing materials and venting on the 2014 models brought solid improvements to belt life for most customers this year, yet the team are still working on enhancements for select models.


Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April. Photo by

One such enhancement I saw on several sleds is a new side panel vent kit, which brings more cool air into the drive system to reduce operating temperature. This will come stock on several 2015 models (look for story here in the coming month or so) and is also available as an accessory (P/N 6639-817).


Arctic Cat's Gary Homme & Kevin Thompson. Photo:

Here engineers Gary Homme (left) and Thompson prep a sled with a temperature sensor to record real-time belt temps. The deep, heavy snow and temps in the 30s provided good test conditions for building heat.


Arctic Cat's Bart Magner & Dave Sabo. Photo by

Other engineers were performing additional data recording and calibration testing. Here Dave Sabo (right) updates a ZR6000 with a new fuel map that will be tested by Bart Magner (left).

This constant refinement is a weekly ritual during the riding season. As Sabo said to me, “We’re always tweaking for improvements because there’s always opportunity to get better.”

Thanks to a wonderfully long and snowy winter, these guys are happy with the gains they’ve made.  


Arctic Cat's Andy Olson. Photo by

Andy Olson was another Engine Group engineer working on  setting up a ZR6000 with a data recorder.

Arctic Cat has fully embraced the benefits of data acquisition when evaluating all aspects of snowmobile engineering.


Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April. Photo by

A few minutes later Olson was on the sled and performing a test run.


Arctic Cat's Gary Homme & Kevin Thompson. Photo:

The pattern of the day was for engineers to make a change on a machine, test it, and then come in for an informational download. Of course, the download involved computer hard drives AND human hard drives.


Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April. Photo by

Some of the tests involved only one or two accelerations, while others involved rides of several hours. I saw one test in which a Bearcat towed a machine at various speeds, and another in which an engineer ran for long distances at partial throttle positions.

Each is part of a comprehensive effort to match the various conditions and riding styles these machines will see once they are production sleds.


Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April.

On one of the more adventurous test rides last week, a group found some REALLY deep, untracked snow. 


Bart Magner used his helmet cam to record Andy Olson busting through the powder on a ZR6000, followed by Magner’s maniacal laughter when Olson gets stuck.


Arctic Cat's Andy Olson is happily stuck on a ZR 6000

Andy was all smiles though!


Arctic Cat engineer Bart Magner gets stuck for only the second time in his career.

And Bart proved that he too was fully capable of burying a ZR6000. He claimed this was only the second time in his career in which he’s been stuck. I don’t believe him for a second.


Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April. Photo by

Back inside one of the engineering trailers, Mike Larson waits for Dave Sabo to finish downloading the data from another test run.


Arctic Cat snowmobile engineering in April. Photo by

More data recorded, more test runs… repeat. And so another day goes by for this crew of Arctic Cat engineers. Other crews were testing at a different area this day, while the mountain team were making runs out of the company’s R&D test facility in Idaho.

It might be springtime for most people who are reading this, but it’s still winter and snowmobiling season for Arctic Cat.

Thanks for reading.



  1. Very Cool! So glad to have found this site! Mom grew up on a farm just outside TRF (Silverton Township, near the old Lutheran Church and old school house) and I begged for years to get one (parents never obliged, got us into downhill skiing instead, but at least we got a Whisker minibike) 2 tours of the factory (including one epic visit to the old factory museum that sadly burned down a year later)……Vivid fond memories of black Cats flying in the ditches on trips to the farm. Kept the passion alive subscribing to all the mags, collecting the die casts in later years after thinking I was too old, too bad a back to get one…then last year after cancer scare, couldn’t hold back the pent-up Cat passion any longer….Bought a new non-current F570. And now partially thanks to your rave review of the new ZR 4000 LXR, will be upgrading to one! Trip planned to the motherland this summer, with stops by the old farm which has changed hands, but holds so many good memories, to the factory, and a first visit to Black Cat Bar and Grille. Feels good to finally be a member of the Pride!! Thank You for this great site!!

  2. Lake of the Woods I presume? And the Northwest Angle? I and another fellow from Thief River Falls were up there on Friday and Saturday. There was still tons of snow even though the big blizzard was earlier in the week. While riding the lake south of Stoney Point we saw the Cat test riders come flying by. The guy I was riding with had seen their trailers at Warroad earlier in the day. Glad to see they got to test close to home because of the long winter. Even in normal winters the Northwest Angle can be ridden until the 1st of April. The Northwest Angle Edgeriders Snowmobile Club brags that they have 6 more weeks of riding than the Lower 48. I believe it. While it is my favorite place to ride any time of the year, it is also good for late spring riding when the rest of the state has turned black. Amazing what a few miles further north can make!

    Where next for the test riders? Thompson, Manitoba?

    P.S. I got stuck too! Way up Bear Creek in about 3′ of powder. And I have a crossover machine.

    P.P.S. Jerry’s Restaurant at Young’s Bay got swamped at noon on Saturday. Apparently the new owners didn’t expect so many riders from all over the state to be up there.

  3. How do I get a job testing sleds! I now its not all fun and games but seems like a job made in heaven for prairie boy.
    Too bad though it took 3yrs for the engineers to find out heat was a problem with the clutches.(012 xf turbo owner)
    Hope bugs are out of the new 600. Lets see how trouble free they are with a full lineup of 600’s. Especially since I just snowchecked one.

  4. It wasn’t just three years that heat was a problem, it started with the M-sleds and Crossfires not getting enough air. I’m in the market for a new sled but still, yes still waiting on a better secondary clutch from Cat and the announcement that the stylists that wrap these sleds so tight have been talked to. Seriously, three seasons to come up with screens when the aftermarket was selling plastic panels with trampoline material like hot cakes on the previous M/XF body styles?

  5. Hey John:

    Will the same clutching and fuel mapping be in the 4000 LXR as the 4000RR? Or will the LXR be tuned down?

  6. Good eye taper!

    I am sure that small print on the bottom of the broshure, the type that says “subject to change without notice,” will be used if they decide to go with the Team clutch for production. I believe they should use the Team in place of all the current secondary’s. It would be a big upgrade, especially if they decided on the tied……

  7. Unfortunatelly the Team has the same issues as the latest Cat clutches, it’s an imitation of Duane Watts original idea and then they bastardized it by using a compression set-up. Duane’s idea to use less pressure, a torsional spring and capturing an extra roller to keep the sheaves from separating and hindering the back-shift worked very well with little tuning.

  8. I have just ordered a Team Tied to try on my 14 6-RR for next season. I guess we will see what Cat put on the 15 sleds come fall. I still wish the 4000-RR was in the actual race chassis like the 500SnoPro it’s replacing…….just saying…..


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