Timbersled Snow BikeCross: From Setup to Race
Getting the holeshot
Here's the view from the start line at the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier in Elk River, Minnesota. Getting the hole shot from the start will be as critical as it is in Snowmobile SnoCross racing, but X Games sport organizer Joe Duncan says there should also be plenty of opportunities for passing on the X Games course.
How it's done
Harris Huizenga, 17, may be a junior in high school and the youngest in the field for the X Games debut of Snow BikeCross racing, but he's also a podium favorite. He won the opening round of the 2016-2017 International Series of Champions (ISOC) Snow Bike series and is the current points leader. He made the top-four cut at the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier at ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota in December to secure a spot in the field in Aspen, and will be bringing a Kawasaki 450 with a Timbersled System snow bike conversion kit. He says he's not intimidated by competing against X Games veterans in the field like Ronnie Renner, Jackson Strong and Ronnie Faisst. "There are some straight-up dirt bike legends coming to Aspen to give Snow BikeCross racing a shot. My plan is to be the kid nobody ever heard of who comes in and shows them all how it's done."
Snow bike conversion kits like Harris Huizenga's 2017 Timbersled Limited Edition 120 (shown here, with Fox Zero QS3r shocks available only in the LE model) replace the front and back wheels of a traditional dirt bike with a front ski and an adjustable pivoting long arm rear suspension snow track. Huizenga, whose family owns the Full Throttle Motorsports dealership in Bismarck, North Dakota, and now specializes in snow bike kits, will bring his dad Jeremy Huizenga to Aspen as his mechanic.
ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota has a long history as a training ground for some of the biggest names in X Games SnoCross. In December, ERX hosted the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier and the opening round of the new AMA Championship Snow Bike Series, the first time in its 92-year history that the American Motorcyclist Association sanctioned an event with no wheels.
Nolan Heppner, 20, is an amateur motocross racer who secured his trip to Aspen with a win at the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier in December at ERX Motor Park, where he lead by 2.133 seconds on this 2017 Yamaha YZ 450 bike with a Timbersled snow bike system.
All of his strengths
Jake Scott jumps to the new X Games Snow BikeCross discipline in 2017 after four years in the SnoCross field. A former protege of Levi LaVallee, Scott won the ISOC Pro Lite championship title in 2013 then bumped up to the Pro Open class the same year he made the SnoCross Final as an X Games rookie. In 2016 he made earning a motocross pro license a priority, and says snow bikes play to all of his strengths. Case in point: he finished second behind Nolan Heppner at the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier, where the top four riders received automatic X Games invitations. Scott rides a 2017 KTM SXF 450 with a Timbersled 120 LE snow bike system.
Rounding a corner
Colton Davis rounding a corner at the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier in December. He made it to the final but crashed out and didn't finish.
In addition to hosting the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier, the ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota has been a training ground in recent months for many of the athletes in the Snow BikeCross field, including X Games Moto X veterans Ronnie Faisst and Axell Hodges, and X Games Enduro X veterans Colton Haaker and Alfredo Gomez.
Quick learning curve
Mick Olson working the whoops at the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier. Longtime dirt bike riders say snow bikes take a little getting used to, but have a pretty quick learning curve.
Inside the bubble
Harris Huizenga, right, and Keith Curtis battling at the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier. Huizenga finished fourth, just inside the bubble to make the top-four cut for X Games Aspen 2017.
Who says these Millennial kids have no work ethic? "In practice I like to be the first and last one on the track," says Harris Huizenga, 17. He is one of 18 teenagers invited to compete in Aspen. And, like Elias Ishoel (18, SnoCross), Kelly Sildaru (14, Women's Ski Slopestyle and Big Air), Hailey Langland (16, Women's Snowboard Slopestyle and Big Air), Red Gerard (16, Men's Snowboard Slopestyle), and Ayumu Hirano (18, Men's Snowboard SuperPipe), Huizenga will be a serious gold medal contender.
Snow bike convert
X Games Moto X veteran Ronnie Faisst (center) racing neck-and-neck with Kirk Haws (left) and Colton Sturm (right) at ERX Motor Park. Faisst will be riding a Husqvarna 450 with a Timbersled SX 120 snow bike system in Aspen. Faisst still prefers the sun and sand around his home in Murrieta, California but says he's a snow bike convert and expects to be a contender in Aspen. "I think it's going to be a competitive class. It's the kind of thing a good dirt bike rider can adapt to pretty quickly and the snow bikes are super fun to ride: if I lived where it snowed a lot, I'd keep a snow bike set up all the time."
Preferred by experts
Snow bike racer Kevin Rookstool's Timbersled SX 120 snow bike system on display in the paddock at ERX Motor Park. The SX 120 is a race-specific model with a convex track that is slightly narrower (10.5-inch) than other snow bike conversion kits, and is preferred by expert dirt bike riders. It also features custom valved FOX ZERO QS3-R (Quick Switch 3-position) shocks for adjustable rebound settings.
Man to beat
Nolan Heppner, right, could be the man to beat in Aspen. He won the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier in December.
Racers battling it out at the X Games Snow BikeCross qualifier. The course there was relatively flat and timid. In Aspen, the Snow BikeCross course will partially overlap with the SnoCross course and is expected to have several large jump sections.
Transitioning to new races
Close-up of Jake Scott's 2017 KTM SXF 450 and Timbersled 120 LE snow bike system. Scott is one of three X Games SnoCross veterans making the transition to the new Snow BikeCross discipline in Aspen, joined by Cody Thomsen and Darrin Mees.
Tough race to come
Brock Hoyer, an early pioneer in the backcountry snow bike freeriding scene and a favorite to win in Aspen, says he's been impressed by how fast other riders have picked it up in the year since the X Games Snow BikeCross event was first announced. Hoyer was one of the initial invitees and hasn't competed yet this season, but says he's been watching recent results closely. "The whole selling point of snow bike kits is that it's an easy transition for dirt bike riders, and we're going to have some of the greatest dirt bike riders of all time out there," he says. "I'm expecting a tough race."
Eating snow dust
Jake Scott sending it in Elk River, Minnesota. The former X Games SnoCross competitor says he's thrilled to be part of the new X Games discipline of Snow BikeCross instead of getting trounced by Tucker Hibbert, who will attempt a record 10th consecutive win in SnoCross in Aspen. "I feel like a strong background in both motocross and snocross is key, and I'm hoping to prove I'm uniquely qualified for it: the goal is the gold and it's going to be fun to be out of the shadow of Tucker Hibbert, in a field where I feel like I could actually win instead of eating snow dust. This race is going to be wide open, and that makes it exciting."
Making the switch
Snow bike systems have been popular with dirt bike riders, who say they're more nimble than traditional snowmobiles. They're also appealing because they turn dirt bikes into year-round machines and eliminate the need to buy a second vehicle. "The cool thing is that this sport is bringing in motocross, freestyle, and endurocross riders as well as the snowmobile guys," says Reagan Sieg, whose freeriding videos have helped fuel interest in the sport. Sieg was among the initial list of X Games invitees and has helped some of the other athletes make the switch to snow bikes. "It's a pretty easy thing to get on a snow bike and ride it if you have a dirt bike racing background."