Kestrel and his Boosted Polaris Axys 155. Not sure a sled can get any sexier than this. Check this out for a comprehensive look at one of the best builds we’ve ever seen…
Don’t want to read? Cool. Just press play and let Kestrel walk you through his killer build for the 2017 season.
- Polaris RMK Axys Assault (snowcheck)
- 155 2.6” Track
- PIDD Gauge
- Polaris Tether Kit (why Polaris doesn’t include this as standard equipment is beyond me. EVERYONE should have a tether on their sled)
As to why I chose an Assault over the Pro, it boils down to the knowledge that I would be installing a turbo. While I admire Polaris in their efforts to shed weight, I do not trust either the Quickdrive belt drive system, or the lightweight RMK driveshaft under boost. Personally, I do not believe that a belt drive without a tensioning system is a good idea, nor do I like that gear changes are not possible (w/o aftermarket “kits”). I have full faith in the belt drive concept (see later in article), just not the OEM version under boost. As for the driveshaft, while the hydro-formed version may be slightly heavier, the glued/clamped hollow hexagonal model leaves a nagging doubt in my mind. Since I removed all stock suspension on this sled I won’t delve into the merits of the Assault shock package, but it is significant, and something to consider when buying a new Axys. All that said, I have now seen plenty of boosted sleds running the QD system and hex shaft without issue (see Jeff’s PB build). It obviously can be done successfully, it is just peace of mind for me.
To start, the first thing was to strip the sled down completely. Ok, in reality the first thing was to get parts coming. Body, Tank, Suspension, Clutching, Intake, Drivetrain and Exhaust were pulled off. When doing a build of this magnitude, starting from a bare platform allows you to put things together in order and with attention to detail. Essentially, there was a tunnel/bulkhead and motor on the lift in my shop. Here are the parts and upgrades that were installed, and there justification.
Front Suspension consisted of a 39” set of Alternative Impact Arms, paired with Fox Float 3 Evol RC2 shocks. The Alternative Impact arms are my choice for one simple reason, properly designed sacrificial links. Ok, maybe “simple” wasn’t the proper description but let me explain. Alt Impact uses threaded rod ends on both upper and lower arms. When installed and set up properly, these will bend or shear on impact, and leave the actual arm undamaged. I carry an extra rod end with me, and have on two occasions, replaced and continued to ride, where I would otherwise be limping back to the truck, and waiting on a new arm to be shipped. A little more up front than a set of some other brands ($515 per set), but well worth it in the long run. The shocks need no explanation, they’re that awesome.
Rear Suspension is a turnkey skid from KMOD, with a Raptor shock package. I will be writing a separate review of this soon, but briefly, KMOD builds a coupled skid that performs very well (especially under boost), and is extremely tough. While there are some options to make the stock skid semi-coupled, to work with boost Skinz Arc, K.I.S.S., etc.) there is nothing that compares to a full skid that is setup properly with shock tuning, heavy duty rails, and adjustable coupling. The other big part of this is how KMOD is represented. The owner, Kevin is always quick to answer (or call back) and provide help or advice on setup and tuning. He is one of the handful of guys in the snowmobile aftermarket parts industry that we all hope to deal with. Oddly enough, that is a common trend in a lot of the parts and equipment that went on this sled. To me, quality of product is very crucial, but quality of service and support are nearly as important. Once I find a well-built part that performs, and has someone like Kevin behind it, I tend to stick with it year after year.
Power. Again, sticking with what works and how it is backed, Boondocker was my obvious choice for the turbo. This marks my 10th season on a Boondocker turbo sled, and have yet to be disappointed. Pete Hilmer and Jared Sessions at BD have always taken care of getting me a top-notch kit with exactly the options I want, and helped get it running absolutely crisp. I wrote a review of last years setup, and the ’17 version has some excellent refinements that build off of that. Look for a separate detailed write-up of this kit as well, but needless to say it is impressive. Response, reliability, and big smooth power, is what shows up in the boxes. As last year, I again went with the GT Tuner kit (no intercooler, but adjustable fuel box). I typically run 8-10psi of boost, but the ability to adjust on the fly, and tweak my fuel numbers to dial in performance to the point of precision is important to me. Maybe I should let go and switch to the Sidekick, but unfortunately I am too neurotic and anal-retentive to do so just yet.
Handling and Performance: One of my complaints with Polaris is the ridiculous half-a$$ attempt at anti-ratchet drivers. The 3 driver, center drive design seems like a long way to go, for something accomplished much easier. Just produce the sleds with true OEM antiracthet drivers from the factory, and life is good. Until then, I will continue to add Avid AR drivers to my sleds. I never have to worry about track ratchet, drivers spinning on the shaft, damaging the track, or running the track at absurd tightness as per spec. These are necessity with boost in my opinion.
Another complaint I have is how much slop the steering post acquires, after just a few rides. The plastic bushing blocks Polaris uses are in need of a serious upgrade. The solution is OFT Racing’s aluminum blocks, with Oillite bushings. These will not only tighten up the play in your post, but they’re pretty to look at also.
SLP Intake Vents. Adding a bit more surface area to the intake plenum is rarely a bad call. Especially when running a turbo. Additionally, on super deep days, there is less restriction from snow sitting on the cowling.
RSI Bars. While I am most definitely not a proponent of the current trend of putting your bars as absolutely low as possible, my sled came with the high version of the Pro Tapers and it was too much. I opted for a set of RSI 5 ½” Riser bars. To compliment them, I used their Hi-Power heater elements, and Billet Throttle Block. I will restrain myself from going on a tangent, but please people; you are not all the same size as Chris Burandt, Dan Adams, or Brett Rasmussen. Find a bar/riser that fits your size, height and riding style. Just because these guys have their bars an inch and a half above the hood, doesn’t mean you need to.
Skinz Protective Gear Airframe boards are a must for me on any sled. The advantages are obvious, and they just plain work. I also like that they add some much needed rigidity to the Polaris tunnel. Skinz has been making great products for years now, and I have been using them for just as long. The folks there are excellent to deal with, and provide excellent support to their customers as well. I also added a Skinz headlight delete to my sled. You may ask why, as the OEM light doesn’t weigh much now that they’ve gone to LED. As I don’t ride at night (and if I am forced to on a recovery mission or the like, I use a Frankensled helmet light), the value of added venting directly over the motor and intake/charge system is much more valuable to me on a boosted sled.
SCS Unlimited provided cosmetics. A vinyl wrap is a great way to personalize your sled, and make it stand out from the pack. I need to thank my wife here, as she continues to be the primary wrap installer, and has done multiple wraps for my sleds over the years. This wrap proved to be one of the more problematic ones we have installed. Adhesion issues, delamination and brittleness in the cold while riding have plagued the graphics on this sled. Jeff also experienced some of these issues so we contacted SCS immediately. After providing some further description and pictures of the issues we experienced, they were quick to agree that there was a legitimate issue (likely a bad batch of the vinyl material). New wraps were printed and shipped to us free of charge. End of the day, they backed their product, and our sleds look sharp!
Storage is a big factor on sleds but often overlooked. I see a lot of guys struggling with poorly designed or placed bags, or carrying way too much gear in their packs. I try to stay as minimal as possible, but extra gloves, goggles, tools, cameras, and food do take up some room. My two favorite bags for the Axys are; the Skinz/NXT LVL windshield bag, and the Sled Solutions underseat bag. The windshield bag is great for me, as it replaces the windshield and unusable hood compartment. As I have yet to not crack the windshield on an Axys, this resolves that problem. It also drops down in the hood compartment, to provide a (semi) heated space for goggles or spare camera batteries. Plus everything is right in front of you and easy to access. The Sled Solutions bag is super functional with a surprising amount of room. A main center compartment, plus two side compartment wing pockets allow you to carry everything you should need. Another nice feature is that it comes with a molded plastic tray that goes in the bottom of the bag, and insures nothing gets wet. Additionally, Paul (the owner of Sled Solutions) is a great dude, and can take care of whatever you need for sledding.
Although it is not currently on the sled yet, I am planning to add a TKI CNC belt drive to replace the chaincase. “But wait…..you said you didn’t like the belt drive at the beginning…..” Not true, if you read my comment, I said I dislike the Quickdrive system, in that it has no tensioner, or ability to change gear ratio. I absolutely believe in the strength of a properly built belt drive, and the benefits of its loss in rotating mass. TKI makes an extremely well built kit, which offers a solution to both of those complaints. Furthermore, Tom Kobza of TKI is another one of those guys that falls in the category I put Kevin of KMOD in. Extremely helpful, not just before and during the sale, but as much or more so after. I have run his products previously on Polaris sleds, and these are a very noticeable upgrade. When I had an issue (due to a tweaked bulkhead and later a failed Polaris driveshaft bolt), he went out of his way to figure out and help resolve my problems. Even going as far as to call Gates on his own time, and send me replacement parts free of charge. A little goes a long way, and Tom goes a very long way to insure his clients are happy. Once installed, I will also be doing a write-up/review piece on the drive. Along with the suspension and turbo kit, the belt drive is one of the components on this sled I am most excited about.
So there it is, my super sweet 2017 sled build. The sled absolutely rips, and handles incredibly. With some forethought into your build, you end up with pieces that work together and compliment each other. At the end of the day, that should be your goal. Unfortunately, I run into a lot of riders that have purchased random “upgrades” sporadically, and cannot figure out why their sled doesn’t run or handle well. Think about what you want out of your sled, and pair accordingly.