First Ride! 2020 Polaris KHAOS
Not many riders have had the chance to throw a leg over the pre-production 2020 Polaris KHAOS sleds, so of course we jumped at the opportunity, which was thankfully provided by Polaris. It was pure fluke that the ride was scheduled to take place near our hometown of Golden, British Columbia with local Polaris dealer Mountain Motorsports playing host. Polaris Regional Sales Manager Brett Jensen was on hand to share technical insight on the new unit, and Polaris athlete Chris Brown was there to test the capability of the machine.
Being late spring on the tail end of a hot and dry spell, we knew that the snow would not be very soft, deep or inviting. As expected, the snow in the alpine was mostly hard, with just a skiff of fresh snow—not exactly ideal conditions for “pushing it” or analyzing the handling characteristics of a new machine in a wide variety of conditions. But the small group assembled for the day was keen to make the most of it and do our best to learn how the new sled feels on snow, and in particular, how the Polaris RMK KHAOS differs from the Polaris PRO-RMK.
Our group of a half-dozen riders took turns aboard the new sled and collectively built an impression of the 2020 Polaris KHAOS.
2020 Polaris KHAOS First Ride
While Mountain Sledder already revealed the specification of the 2020 Polaris RMK KHAOS back in March, it’s worthwhile within this content to reiterate what changes have been made to the RMK platform to qualify the KHAOS for a new model designation.
KHAOS Rear Suspension
The geometry of the rear suspension is quite different from the PRO-RMK. The torque arm is a different length and the rails use a slightly steeper profile. These seeming small changes create the need for a longer front track shock, and a longer, dual limiter strap is used as well. Combined, these changes account for the difference in the KHAOS riding experience.
These changes impact the handling in a few ways.
First of all, we experienced that the Polaris KHAOS is very easy to tip on edge, even from a standstill. That is not to say that it feels more unstable when riding per se, but just that it’s just very effortless to tip over and can easily be done with one hand on flat ground. Consequently, initiating tight turns and sidehills with the KHAOS feels notably easier than on a PRO-RMK.
What’s also easier is lofting the skis. The Polaris PRO-RMK as we all know is like a surgical tool when it comes to traversing across a slope. It feels very stable and predictable, and part of that is a result of planted skis and limited transfer. That “RMK” feeling isn’t lost on the KHAOS. It still holds a sidehill very well and has that predictability, just with perhaps a touch less stability. But what’s gained is a feeling of lightness and power. The KHAOS still wants to go up, but you can power the skis into the air a little more which ultimately provides a more playful feeling.
Walker Evans Velocity Shocks
The Polaris KHAOS uses Walker Evans Velocity shocks, which are the most advanced shocks Polaris has ever featured on a production sled. But they’ve already been proven in both hillclimb and snocross competition.
Standing next to the machine inspecting the Velocity shocks, it quickly becomes apparent that the bypass that connects the remote reservoir to the main shock body is unconventionally located at the bottom of the remote. The benefits of this “upside-down” approach are more travel and optimized dampening and rebound, with less oil.
The Walker Evans Velocity shocks also prominently feature adjustability dials for both high and low speed bumps. The red knob adjusts the high speed bumps, which can be tuned first across eight clicks. The inner, black knob is then fine-tuned for low speed hits, and can be adjusted across 12 clicks.
The riding group made a number of different adjustments to the shocks settings throughout the day to experiment in the challenging and changing snow conditions. In general, the shocks did feel very plush all-round. Ultimately, the way a rider will adjust their own shocks is an individualized choice. But the key here is that the Velocity shocks allow for a very wide range of adjustability across all four shocks placements—in the front and at both points in the rear suspension. This will allow the amount of transfer and ski pressure of the Polaris KHAOS to be further adjusted by fine-tuning the front and rear track shocks settings.
Interestingly, the riders collectively agreed that the Polaris KHAOS somehow felt lighter than its PRO-RMK equivalent—one rider suggested by perhaps as much as 30 lb! In fact, the Polaris 850 RMK KHAOS 155 x 3″ actually weighs five pounds more (196 kg/433 lb) than the equivalent specification PRO-RMK (194 kg/428 lb). That says a lot about how the handling and additional transfer provides a feeling of power and fun.
In addition to “feeling lighter”, the Polaris KHAOS rides like a slightly more fun version of its PRO-RMK sibling, in our experience. The platform stays very true to the RMK handling, but just makes it a little easier to ride and a little more playful. It climbs well and it still stays glued to a sidehill, but offers a little more liveliness all-round.
And the sleeper benefit is the premium shocks package. It’s tough to get a feel for an unfamiliar set of shocks without taking the time to experiment and fine-tune, but the key is the wide range of adjustability for riders who want to really dial in their performance and handling. For those who just want to set it and forget it, they feel very nice right out of the box.