Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Still at little snow left

In theory I have 4 out of 5 snowmobiles in running condition so today I decided to get them all going and lined up. I started with the '71 Arctic Cat Panther (the Wankle Panther) and was delighted when it fired right up. In fact during a quick ride around the yard it went better than ever before. I'm kicking myself now for not taking this sled when I went riding a few weeks ago. Its relatively light and has a fairly long track, I think it would have handled the deep soft snow well.
Second was the '78 Arctic Cat Pantera, again an easy start and as usual I'm delighted with how the sled rides, this is definitely one of my all time favorite snowmobiles.
Next I tried the '79 Polaris Cobra. You might remember this one being a brat a few weeks ago, last night I pulled the plugs and had spark on both sides but something told me that just having spark was only part of the picture. Today that was proved out, while I have spark I don't think the PTO side is giving good fat spark like it should. After some farting around I got the machine to run but not well and it wouldn't pick up RPM. After running 30 seconds the MAG side cylinder is warm to the touch while the PTO side is cool. I predict some time with Deoxit in my future.

Finally I tried the '95 Ski Doo Grand Touring, I'd had this running back in October and then when we first got snow but it was sidelined from that first snow by holes in the exhaust. A long afternoon of welding fixed the exhaust but I temporarily lost interest in the sled being distracted by my vintage machines. Surprisingly this sled fired up with barely a touch of the key. One of my favorite things about Ski-Doos is the push/pull primer that makes getting them started a snap which is why I put one on the Wankle Panther.

I knew getting the sled started was only half the battle, as you can see in the picture it was still pretty well buried and after the fight with the Pantera I knew the Ski-Doo would be frozen to the ground. What I didn't realize is how BADLY it would be frozen to the ground. With the cooling and re-freezing cycles we've been having each of the skis is contained in a solid block of ice. I let the sled run and warm up while I grabbed a shovel and dug around some but finally gave up. I'll let nature do its work and thaw the skis out naturally.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Triumphant return!

After Saturday's difficulties and knowing there wasn't much time left I thought maybe I could head out early enough in the day so I could avoid the wet snow problem. Sunday I was up early and hit the snow around 9am. I was right, freezing temperatures the night before made a crust on top that looked real good.

The stupid Polaris wouldn't go, the left carb was leaking at the fuel line which I fixed with an added zip tie but then it seemed to have iffy spark. I left it and pulled the Pantera off the trailer, it started on the first pull and off we went. This is actually home territory for the Pantera, I bought it from the guy who owns the land here.

I found that the crust gave me just the advantage I needed and as long as I kept moving things were okay. It took a great deal of effort to stay balanced and while riding standing up seemed to offer and advantage I actually did best while sitting down. At first I just rode near the house but gradually got more adventurous until I was out on the big trails. The area near the house hadn't been ridden but people had walked the trail and packed down a nice path. I followed that down to a good turn around spot and returned just to make sure I could. I was nervous about the transition from my friend's land to the trails, theres a steep drop off and a mistake here would leave us stuck, stuck... The return went alright so I headed back out to the trails, this time I screwed up leaving and managed to stick the cat:

The hard crust was hiding powder underneath and ice under that, once you loose momentum its tough to get going again. I did managed to get loose with relatively little effort by following a trick I'd mostly forgotten. These old sleds have not much rear suspension and usually get hung up on the footboards. The trick to getting out is to stand and shift your weight side to side squashing the snow (in this case dry powder) out from under the boards, then inch forward and rock some more, then again. Finally with a blast of power I broke free.
Beyond where I'd turned before I found a track where a 4wheeler had ridden. It was much easier riding where he had already broken trail so I followed his tracks. Unfortunately the old Pantera is narrower than the 4wheeler so I was constantly being thrown side to side but as long as I kept the speed down it was never a real issue.
I was more concerned about walkers and dogs. The last thing I want to do is have an accident so I was looking way ahead and keeping my speed low. I was surprised how close I could get to people before they seemed to notice me, in most cases I saw them well before they saw me. Most dogs seem completely unconcerned by the sled, its like they know I don't want to bother them and they let me alone.

Anyway one trail I got on had particularly deep snow, the 4wheeler was clearly dragging its belly pan and while I really wanted to follow that particular trail through to go back to my friend's house, when I found the 4wheeler's turn around spot I figured I'd be smart to do the same.

On the way back to the house I found some areas I'd ridden over twice which were now packed down nicely and I could really make some speed over. This caught me when I headed into an area I'd only been over once and a particularly big bump caught me by surprise and tossed me completely off the machine. Fortunately as we parted ways I hit the kill switch and the sled stopped just a few yards from me. I'd been buffered by the snow and wasn't injured other than a small scrape. A good reminder to be careful out there!

By noon the weather had warmed considerably, the thermometer at home said 60 degrees although I suspect that was a bit optimistic. I could smell the heat of the Pantera's engine and while I was having a grand time I didn't want to push my luck. My friend helped me load the Cobra which would run but wasn't running well, I suspect one set of points isn't as clean as I'd like it to be which would explain somewhat the difficulties starting it. The Pantera was even somewhat reticent to start which is a sure sign of it being warm out so I knew I'd made a good choice.

In total I rode about 10 miles which for modern machines on a nice groomed trail is nothing but for an antique on a goat path is a big deal. We will definitely be back again next year, the area by my friend's house was recently logged and they've made a very nice area for sledding. I love blasting around a big field with friends so for sure next year I'll have my fleet of relics out there!

I promised and I did it!

I've been promising to hit the snow for some time now and I finally did. Was it a perfect day? Nope, not even close but I enjoyed myself and thats what matters.

Anyway Saturday dawned and after running a few errands I loaded up and headed for the land of little trails since I didn't have any registered sleds and wasn't about to pay to register any at this late date.

I arrived around noon and as I was alone I unloaded just the Polaris Cobra and got to work. I'd ridden this area last about 2 years ago and buried the big Ski-Doo in soft springtime snow so I was cautious. Interestingly this year I made it to EXACTLY the same spot:

You can just see the house in the background so I clearly didn't get far...

It was around 50 degrees and the snow had the consistency of mashed potatoes, it was sticky and deep. At low speeds I couldn't get the sled up on top and of course if I opened it up I'd have no reaction time. I used to ride this area a lot but there have been many changes since I did so I wanted to go slow for awhile. I finally managed to hump the machine around in a circle and get it extracted only to get stuck again and again everywhere I went.

So not exactly the exciting conclusion I'd hoped for but not a terrible day if I'm honest.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Good and good

So the snow-quester was a washout in DC but it hit north central MA pretty good. We got our 4-6 inches of wet sloppy snow. After work Friday I rushed home and fired up the mighty Polaris Cobra. It starts kind of hard so I'm guessing it needs a little more carb work but its good enough for now. I rode around the Pantera a little to pack down the snow then got that sled uncovered and started and into the garage where I pulled the carb AGAIN. I hate doing a job over again but I clearly hadn't done a good enough job last time. This time I remembered my carb cleaning rods and rodded out every jet. I found a big chunk of schmutz in one of them which was comforting. Its a little un-nerving when you clean and don't find anything obvious. With the carb reinstalled the sled fired right up and idled perfectly.

After having such success with the carb I replaced one of the hood hold down straps, it'd broken a couple years ago and when I ordered new points for the Cobra I noticed replacement straps and ordered a set. Surprisingly the bolt holding the broken strap came right out, I thought it would fight me.

The replacement strap is very tight, with any luck it will stretch a little. Because of that and because the other side isn't broken I left it alone, I'll keep the other strap in reserve.

The oatmeal like snow we've got is not great for the Pantera, its short track wants to dig and slip on the ice under the snow, the Cobra's long track rides up better than the Cat. That said you can better your sweet whatever I'm going to get out and ride, fresh snow this late in the season is a gift I'm not going to turn down. As soon as I post this I'm going to cut the old sticky hitch off my snowmobile trailer, run to the parts store and get some bolts for the replacement I'd bought before Christmas, with that installed I'll need to figure out how to load the sleds alone which is a challenge but I think I can use the snow bank to my advantage...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Almost went riding

So the plan on Sunday was to go for a ride. Then things got ugly...

The '78 Arctic Cat Pantera would start but it wouldn't idle and it was frozen to the ground, frozen HARD. The normal trick when you're only frozen down a little is to stand on the sled and tip it back and forth until it breaks free. That didn't work so I got out one of my ramp boards, thats an 8 foot 2x8" board, I braced the board under the grab handle on the rear of the sled and HEAVED, nothing...

So I gave up and went to the '79 Polaris Cobra, that started up pretty easy but quit. I'm pretty gun-shy with that sled since the pump leaked into the bottom end. After much farting around I got it going again. I think I've become too stingy with the choke, that sled needs to warm up for a minute with choke (which is actually a fuel enrichener) before its ready to go. With the Cobra running I was determined to get that Cat loose. I roped the Polaris to the Cat and PULLED.

The Cobra is a trooper and with its long track was really designed for work like this, its geared low and has great traction. Finally I managed to shift the Pantera forward about 3 feet, I thought it was free but what was actually happening was the rear of the track would free from the ground, the front was stuck way worse than the rear. With most of the track finally free I managed to use my ramp board to break the rest free. Unfortunately then the sled was stuck on the ice in its hole. Finally after much mucking about the Polaris was able to pull the Cat forward another couple feet to get it onto good snow and out.

After all that I had no energy to pull the carb off the Pantera one more time to get it right. Hopefully I'll be out of work Friday early enough to do the job, I didn't rod out each of the jets when I cleaned it last and I'd guess the pilot jet is plugged, should be no big deal to fix.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

2 Weeks away from snow!

What a time to get sent to California! Okay so there hasn't been any real new snow but a trip right after President's Day meant I spent a day doing laundry and packing when I should have been riding!
Anyway, I'm back. Theres still some snow, tomorrow with any luck I'll get a chance to get out and enjoy it.

In the mean time I've been watching the "Skidoods" on Youtube to keep my excitement high. Check 'em out, heres a sample from this season: