Snowmobile Carbide Runners 101 - Learn from Brad Hulings - 2 time World Sno Pro Champion and Hall of Fame Inductee.
What Riders are Pro-File Carbide Runners for?
Pro-File runners are designed for experienced riders who are looking for better steering control in a wider range of trail conditions. Pro-File runners arched keel is the best method to significantly improve steering control with the least amount of muscle effort from the rider. If you are looking for less steering effort than factory runners our runners are not for you. If you have tried all the other high performance runners and you’re looking for runners that steer easier & friendlier down the trail plus have great steering control Pro-File runners are for you.
How do Snowmobile Runners Work?
Snowmobile ski runners, wear bars, skegs are commonly overlooked by snowmobiler’s that think “CARBIDES” are what steers the sled. Actually the length & depth of the runner are what steers the machine in most trail conditions we ride in. The carbide section is primarily a more durable wear surface and the sharp edge which is occasionally helpful on an icy surface. While typical snowmobiler’s call them “carbides” that is not the proper name and not what they are called by the snowmobile manufacturers, they are called ski runners. Since many snowmobilers’ have no idea what a ski runner is we also call them “carbides” for our sales materials but we call them “runners” at the shop.
There are two basic types of ski runners. First is Factory installed runners which are best suited to beginner or less aggressive riders that want very easy steering.
Second are Aftermarket High Performance runners which are designed for experienced riders who want more steering control or ski grip for more aggressive riding style and who are able to muscle up the extra steering effort.
Typical factory runners are made with 3/8” square or rounded steel rods bent to fit the ski. The runner normally bends to match the shape of the ski when it’s installed. Usually there are 3” to 4” of sharp carbide which are about 1/2” below the ski or depth into the snow at the carbide sections. Sharp angle carbide sections in the runner improve the steering control on an icy surface when new & sharp but are also the primary wear surface. Experienced Factory test riders decide what runners best fit the needs of beginner or average snowmobile riders on their brand of machines. Usually these are the easiest steering runners you can buy and may be what fits your riding style best.
Aftermarket High Performance runners are usually 1/2” rounded or aggressively shaped steel rods that are 5/8” below ski or depth into the snow at the sharp carbide sections. The stronger rods which vary in bend shape may cause the ski to bend to fit the runner when installed. This can have a negative effect on the steering feel to the rider. Adding length to the sharp carbide section is the most popular way other runner builder’s rate their products performance, more carbide equals better steering. Unfortunately, the length of the carbide on the runner is also the primary wear surface on the ground. Remember seeing brown snow trails? Guess what you’re riding in, “SNIRT”. What about going to the gas station on the road? The runners take a beating in those conditions and we ride on them often. Sharp carbide edge sections are the first thing to wear out and it doesn’t take very long. Once the sharp edge is gone most runners loose steering control very quickly since they rely on the sharp carbide sections to do the steering.
The only way to significantly improve the steering control or ski grip on a snowmobile is to increase the length & depth the runner is into the snow. The common solution is to increase the length of the carbide sections on the runner as done by other High Performance runner manufacturers. The down side is highly increased effort from the rider to steer & control the sled and loss of steering control when the sharp carbide edge is worn away or dull. Any runners that are longer & deeper into the snow will steer harder, that’s just the way it is.
How are Pro-File Snowmobile Runners Manufactured?
Pro-File ski runners are designed with a totally new concept visually & functionally. We start by using computer aided design “CAD” technology to accurately measure the shape of a brand new ski. Next we build the runner model to fit that ski surface exactly. Pro-File Runners are designed not to bend or flex, this keeps the ski & runner always at the desired shape or profile for optimum steering performance in all conditions.
Next we design the “Keel” profile to fit the machine. Pro-File runners arched keel shapes are deeper into the snow at the center and less into the snow at the ends than bent rod runners. This unique design allows the center of the runner to penetrate deeper into the snow for improved steering control. Tapering off the ends of the runners allow the skis to turn easier with less muscle effort by the rider. Pro-File keels are also wider across the runner face with square corners which allows the runner body to do more steering than the carbide section. This unique feature greatly improves steering control in loose snow trail conditions.
Pro-File runners are carbon steel with 6” of sharp carbide at center of the ski. This length of carbide provides long mileage life to the runners and good steering on icy trails. Even after the sharp edge of carbides is gone there is very little loss of steering control because the runner body is steering the sled, not the sharp carbide edge.
Our unique design & manufacturing process also allows us to reshape the keel profile to correct drivability issues like Darting or Over steering. Darting happens when the runners follow groves in the trail from other sleds. Over steering happens when the skis turn by themselves with no effort from the rider. Both conditions are very uncomfortable for the rider. Pro-File runners are test driven and reshaped until the runners perform properly on the machines they were designed for. Testing & tuning is done by experienced snowmobile riders who know how trail sleds should drive for long distance trail riding in a wide variety of trail conditions.
As you can see this process is much more involved than bending a steel rod to fit a ski. The cost of Pro-File runners reflects the added value to our customers both in performance and comfort after a long day on the trail. You can’t drive a Corvette on a Cruze budget.
Changing Riding Conditions
Trail surface snow conditions greatly effect how a snowmobile drives. In loose snow steering effort is easy & skis have less grip than when snow has melted and refrozen to a hard pack surface. This is why riding hard pack trails in the morning is usually different than softer loose snow on a sunny afternoon. Pro-File runners are designed & tested to drive better than our competition in both of these conditions.
Occasionally a warm usually rainy day will melt the snow then refreeze overnight into an icy top layer with a soft under layer. This condition makes steering the sled much more difficult and erratic. Usually this only lasts for a few hours in the morning but when it stays cold & cloudy all day & the trail stays frozen it can take the fun out of riding. The only way to significantly adjust the machine for this condition is to reduce the amount of runner in the snow. Changing back to the 3/8” factory runners may be the best solution for some riders to ride comfortably in these conditions.
Getting Accurate Information from a Credible Source
The bottom line on buying snowmobile ski runners is to know what you are looking for or get good advice from someone who rides like you. The most common mistake snowmobiler’s make buying runners is thinking more carbide is better, IT’S USUALLY NOT. Always drive your sled with factory runners before you change them to something more aggressive so you know which ones YOU like best.
Importance of Proper Sled Set Up and Tuning
Suspension tuning and ski alignment also affect the drivability of the machine. Pro-File runners are designed & tested on stock snowmobiles with factory suspension settings front & rear as recommended for the weight of the rider. We strongly recommend the suspension, especially the rear suspension front arm limiter adjuster be reset to factory settings and ski alignment checked when Pro-File runners are installed.