We play this game all the time off-trail, or even on trail… you or your riding partner(s) challenge each other to either make it through something very technical off-trail… learn a jump before your sibling… get through a long, gnarly, mogul filled twisty section of trail and not be two miles behind the one in front… or many other fun scenarios. That’s a big part of the greatness of snowmobiling is the challenge, fun, and good times with your friends and family.Four new sleds allow many opportunities for both on and off-trail fun that others don’t. We spent a pile of days on the new Polaris Matryx 850 Switchback Assault 146-incher, Ski-Doo Backcountry X 850 146, Riot 8000 standard 146, and Yamaha Sidewinder XTX LE 146. They are four of the most wanted sleds on the crossover side of the market for 2021.
Matryx Assault improves on a great thing we’ve loved the Switchback Assault for a decade… yes, a decade! It doesn’t seem possible that this sled has been out there that long, but we remember well riding the 144 tipped up rail 800 for the first time and being impressed. The new 146-inch Matryx version with the Patriot 850 (twin 840cc liquid Cleanfire 2-stroke) is the newest iteration, and it did not disappoint. We’ve discussed already the extra mobility the Matryx platform affords riders, and this was developed on the race side with Polaris engineers, using the lessons learned in reducing fatigue and really tying the rider’s reactions in with the sled’s abilities. This added maneuverability is of great importance for those folks that ride a lot of trail miles, but also revel in hitting the powder and ticking through the trees off-trail.On the trail, this sled gives you incredible acceleration and hooks up like you would expect a longer-tracked sled to do. For MANY years, the Assault platform provided less rolling resistance than even the shorter 137 and 129-inch sleds, especially through 85mph. This was proven at many Shootouts and sanctioned drag races across the North America. We believe this new model will surprise even the most die-hard trail and lake-racers with not only acceleration but top end. In our early season testing, it was first out of the hole of all four sleds in this article, repeatedly, with different riders, in the exact same conditions. The aluminum and carbon fiber chassis sled shaved some weight in several areas and provides one of, if not the best power-to-weight ratios of any similar sled on the market, at only 476 lbs. dry weight. A decent mid-height windshield, optimized for wind flow, (like the rest of the sled that utilized computational fluid dynamics for warmth and wind flow) all helps the rider feel comfortable in many conditions. On and off-trail riders alike will approve of the 3-inch narrower area at the knees, and 4.8-inch narrower at the console. Watch a snocross racer, or a good off-trail rider, and you will notice small (and large) movements around the sled to change direction and attitude. All these movements add up over a day of riding, and little things like being able to throw a knee up a bit farther, or drop a shoulder and move the sled, make riding more fun and less work.
The Polaris IFS front end and IGX 146 rear skid work in tandem to provide amazing cornering, versatile transfer, and top-notch mogul-mellowing. Walker Evans 2-inch diameter Velocity shocks upfront and in the rear, with a WE C/A shock in the center provide the cushin’ for pushin’ through the corners and for rough landings. You got three 15-inch wide options of tracks on this Snowcheck sled as well, including a Cobra 1.35-inch lug, an Ice Storm with the built-in small traction studs on the end of the 1.6-inch lugs, or a Cobra Crossover with 2-inch lugs. The last is new this year and has clips on every window for trail durability, and the base of the lug is ‘stiffer with flexible tip sections’. Many 50/50 riders prefer a 2-inch lug, but the issue in the past has been durability on long trail sections, especially at higher speeds. We are excited to see how this new one holds up in a long-term test.
Three things that all the Matryx VR1  sleds have new this year are the 7S digital display, Nightblade LED headlight, and Smartwamer handlebar heating system. This is the top of the tech food chain as far as displays go on production sleds. We talked a lot about it in a former article, but the touch screen GPS enabled display has Bluetooth, USB, maps, tons of gauge setting options, and more at your fingertips. The Nightblade is a 6-projector, precision lighting system that helps you see wider, farther, and with better ‘white’ clarity. As someone who does not see at night as well as I used to, this is of the utmost importance. The Smartwarmers are basically a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ option. They allow you to set your desired temperature, and the bars/thumb will stay that temp, regardless of changing conditions, and they build heat more quickly than standard bar warmers. Folks whose hands get cold or have restricted blood flow to their hands due to conditions like Raynaud’s disease or previous bad frostbite will love these. We were half serious when we asked the engineers at Polaris when we will finally see that heated brake lever!
P.S. Check out all the options for the Polaris lock and ride flex system, and the 2-up seat, as these options will make a sled like this extremely versatile in just minutes. BOX OUT Rider Comments Polaris really raised the bar this year with the new Matryx platform, though they didn’t apply the new chassis to the mountain sleds. We did have the opportunity to test this machine on and off-trail like it was intended, and I must say, it didn’t disappoint. The fit, trim, finish on these sleds is second to none, and there are lots of cool hidden gems or ‘Easter eggs’. The Switchback Assault is now boasting a beefy set of Walker Evans Velocity shocks that can truly take a hit, and they rebound like Dennis Rodman. This, along with ride command on a 7-inch LED touch screen, helps make the 2021 Assault 146 by far the best equipped, most fun, ditch-bangin snowmobile I’ve ever thrown my leg over.–Jordan Hammack does cool powder tricks.