The Importance of Suspension for Serious Snowmobile Riders
By Cole Bangert
Suspension is a crucial part of the setup for more aggressive and advanced snowmobile riders. It changes the entire feel of the machine. Over the past several years, I’ve been spoiled by Fox Racing Shocks and have learned why great suspension makes a world of difference.
Correct suspension settings allow a rider to approach any terrain far more aggressively. With proper suspension, the sled becomes more predictable. This affects the proper ride height, weight distribution, and rebound and compression rates.
Stock suspension on most snowmobiles tends to be soft. Soft suspension creates an unsettled feeling in the sled. It can feel somewhat unstable at high speeds and unpredictable in changing snow densities. When encountering unforeseen obstacles or firm snow layers, a rider will “slap” the bottom of the suspension. This is an awful feeling. It’s a resounding slapping noise that can be heard over the motor. The result is not good. It hurts your wrists, ankles, sled, and confidence.
Aftermarket suspension, especially Fox, will not increase the amount of suspension travel you get on a snowmobile, but is infinitely more tunable. You can set it up correctly for your particular ride weight, style and terrain.
The “spring rate” is what holds you and the sled off the ground. Traditional springs are steel or titanium. Most vehicles on the road have same thing, steel springs holding the weight of the car. Most Fox Shocks for snowmobiles have an air spring. There is a pressurized air chamber holding the weight up. This offers a different feel from steel and is also highly adjustable. With nothing more than a pocket size pump, changes can easily be made on the fly.
The next point of consideration is damping. To understand damping, picture a pogo stick. When compressed, it rebounds and flings you right back up in the air. Not something you want to happen in suspension. Damping is what slows the compression and rebound so the reaction of the shock is manageable.
Damping is also adjustable. It can be as easy as using a clicker knob on the outside of the shock. There are typically high and low speed adjusters for compression and rebound. This is often confusing for riders, so here is a simple way to decipher high speed versus low speed damping:
Low speed damping is your body weight. This includes anything you are doing to the shock by pushing down with your body weight, like compressions on the face of a jump. The speed of your shock compressing and rebounding is quite slow on these.
High-speed damping comes from the ground up. This might be a square edge bump that you hit at a fast rate of speed. Your shock compression and rebound speed are very fast and abrupt. You need faster rebound on this type of obstacle because there may be multiple obstacles right after one another. If your rebound is too slow, your shock will not recover to full length before the next hit. This causes the suspension to “pack up” and operate on the bottom of the stroke, which is not a good feeling.
Good suspension is a must for any semi serious to serious snowmobile rider. It changes the game, changes how and where you will ride. It’s a major confidence booster, and confidence is everything in a rider.
For more information on snowmobile rides and the other adventures we offer near Vail, Colorado, please explore the rest of our website at SageOutdoorAdventures.com or call us at 970-476-3700.