November 29, 2013
‘Tis The Season
I don’t want to jinx the deal so I am typing this with fingers crossed but winter has apparently arrived! There are now some trail systems officially open in the UP Michigan and Quebec, several local ski hills are planning on opening this weekend in my neck of the woods and Randy is hitting the slopes in Revy tomorrow. I am really hoping no one gets too far ahead of themselves and does something silly, after-all it is still only November. Think twice and ride safe, especially on these early outings…
Our test team has returned home for US Thanksgiving from Alaska where they successfully ran durability on the first batch of production machines. It is kinda nice to know someone has already logged on over 4,000km! By all accounts everything is proceeding according to plan. The sleds will be completely disassembled and inspected for signs of wear or malfunction, reports will be written and reviewed then steps taken as required in a continuous cycle of refinement. The next stage will see field engineering focus on the 2015 model line calibration and validation, this won’t stop until the last flake of snow has melted next spring.
For those who ride in the mountains or may be planning a first ascent this season, you should take a look at this article which I found in SnoWest magazine. Avalanche awareness has measurably increased and is having a positive effect on the safety of riders on the slopes but the danger still lurks. ISMA (our industry association) in conjunction with avalanche experts boiled down these five important points to take with you on every ride. Avalanche Safety for Snowmobilers.
I hope all of you in the USA are with you families this weekend, sharing in Thanksgiving.
Here is another peek at the animation we are working on to help explain the Performance Damper system. It won’t be long now and we’ll have some sleds to try with these magic sticks installed. Cheers cr
Posted @ 1:03 pm in Yamaha Insights
November 18, 2013
The Other Side of Sleddin’
I thought I would share a story of the past weekends adventures. It was all about snowmobiles but nothing to do with my job or this industry. I loaded up my Kodiak with fuel, chain saw, hand tools and set out with my daughter and a group of like minded individuals to brush out several miles of snowmobile trail en route to an old bridge that has linked our lake to the main trail system in years past.
The Six Star snowmobile club supplied a large lift of rough-hewn hemlock, which was all hand bombed on board and barged down the river to the waiting cribs. At one point we had over twenty people, packing lumber, tugging pry-bars, swinging hammers and wielding saws as the old bridge deck was slowly replaced. I didn’t know many of the people I was working with but the spirit and camaraderie we shared was clearly apparent in the conversations surrounding local sledding, grooming, our clubs, and the volunteers who make the trails happen – I worked my a$$ off and it felt really good!
The last spike was banged home right at dusk. ATV’s packed up, hands shaken with a few ‘see ya on the trails…’ My day ended with my family and some ‘new’ friends at the cottage, chicken wings, beers, a warm fire and some good conversation. This is a part of snowmobiling that has its own rewards. The sense of community and accomplishment that follows the effort of contributing to your local trails or riding area. I hope that you also have a chance to experience the kind of satisfaction that I know I will have every time I cross over that bridge this winter…
Posted @ 10:56 am in Opinions and Insights
November 11, 2013
Coming soon to a Trail Near You
Cold rain, snow squalls, commuting in darkness, indeed, we’re on the brink of winter. The doors on the big rigs are sealed and our testing crew, gear bags stuffed, en route to a remote area of Alaska where they’ll run durability on a fleet of production sleds to kick off the seasonal project development sequence.
Never to be left in the snow dust, our management team is spooling up with a flurry of meetings starting next week in our Lakeview office. Jon is off to the corp head office in Cali to pull double duty on future product discussions and MY16 color and graphics. I am going to stay back to keep the home fires burning but will dial in for a quick product plan update via a conference call.
I don’t know if its a past life spent racing dirt bikes or simply growing up in the mountains riding fan-cooled sleds light enough to pick up by the front bumper – multiple times a day – I am captivated by the MX conversion kits led by Timbersled and several others. I know there would be issues on the dedicated trails here in S-ON. But the power line corridors and dissecting abandoned logging roads beg for something like this. Light, agile and narrow with no plumbing to hook a stump or send you to the shop with crumpled clip and an empty wallet. I want one!
The trucks are rolling out of TRF with SR Vipers destined for dealerships all over North America. We had a little hiccup with the shipping dates but we’re now on the gas and sleds are being off-loaded at many dealerships as I write this.
While at the TO Snowmobile Show I met Louie. It was an interesting encounter. One that quickly led to a tire kicking session on a Frankenstein sled, fabricated in his man-cave from an aluminum cookie sheet with hand laid carbon fiber bits and glued on Pogo-sticks off a Tundra. A VK540 mill spinning a forward mounted ‘old school’ secondary layout providing thrust. A Newfie boon-docker if you will.
Turns out Louie wasn’t just into building eclectic bush-wackers , he hosts his own web-base TV show called ‘Powermods’ where he explores some of the after-market industries latest and greatest bolt-on engineering with a ‘how-to’ approach to building and testing some pretty cool stuff. It was only fair that I showed him some of our latest – captured off guard and off the cuff, here’s my spiel with Louie on the Performance Damper. It was fun watching the reaction of people trying to get their heads around the technology, Louie’s ‘awe c’mon’ was perfect. Now if that wasn’t enough, here’s a brief explanation on the Dupont Hyfax display.
November 1, 2013
Got a taste of the Performance Damper animation video we are working on so thought I would post it here ahead of the game. And only a day late for Halloween!
The quality is pretty lo-res compared to the master file but you’ll get the idea. We will have two more parts with an audio track in the final version.
Posted @ 2:07 pm in Yamaha Insights
October 28, 2013
I enjoyed the Toronto Snowmobile Show this year. It felt busy and upbeat to me, more-so than in previous years. I spent a couple of hours touring the floor with Masa and Sage Sawai, kicking tires, pointing out products, features and technologies that impact our business. It was interesting to observe their reactions. I noted some things I take for granted were eagerly viewed and others I tried to champion, were met with little exuberance.
We had a small display comprised of three rear suspension rails bolted together side by side. Two rails were off the same (used) skid-frame, the left one had production hy-fax and the right had a Dupont hyfax (impregnated with Vespel inserts). The third rail had a brand new stick of the Dupont in place. The used rails had just over 1100km of southern Ontario scratching on them and the difference between the material wear properties was blatantly obvious. The standard Hyfax showed significant wear ahead of the front idlers, with an uneven undulating pattern towards the rear. The Dupont stick showed almost no wear, remaining straight and flat along its entire length.
It was fun having this tool when trying to explain why someone would want to spend a C-note plus for a stick of plastic and a pleasure to announce it’s inclusion on the production units coming out of our Japan factory. To that point, the Japanese Dupont’s have less Vespel inserts than our accessory parts as they are quite labor intensive to produce.
The question was posed and the answer yes, we have prepared the Duponts with a T-cut specific to the SR Viper skid-frame which is common to many Arctic Cat models and AC will also be making available through their dealers. So-if you have any friends riding green that smell like burning garbage bags in the morning – we have the cure!
It was no dull surprise to read a thread on TY where a lot of Viper owners have received their accessories already. Now all they need is a sled to put them on. Good news is: a steady train of trucks are leaving TRF daily, loaded with Vipers and heading for a dealership near you. I noticed several guys are asking about the tracks on the Vipers. Ripsaw-2 / 2ply on the RTX / LTX and Cobra 1-ply / 3P on XTX SE. There is 9T extroverts on 129 / 137 – 8T extroverts on 141. The drive belt is shorter on SR compared to Apex / Vector (8DN) so you can’t interchange and I wouldn’t suggest you even consider for a spare unless its an emergency. It’ll fit but you’ll be driving around in 3rd gear so to speak…
Another question from the show… ECU calibration. The ECU is the same on Viper as it is in the 7000, horsepower output is identical. How it is put to the ground is another story. One that will be told on the snow. I’ll watch for any more scuttlebutt, ugly rumors or out and out horse-pucky and weigh-in when I can… cheers cr
October 11, 2013
Keepin it Simple… NOT
Been home over a week now and the jet-lag is about gone. It was smoking hot in Japan and a typhoon lingering at sea, kept things breezy and really humid. The snowmobile meetings went quite well but the agenda was unusual. I finished up the week attending some ATV / ROV planning sessions, but we’re here to talk sleds. I wasn’t there to work on any project specifically. It was more of an information /strategic session to clarify the roles and process of planning both at factory and in the market. I have been elected to represent snowmobile planning for North America as one entity, uniting Canada and the USA with one ‘voice’. We have some really good people involved in both companies and I am looking forward to seeing our snowmobile business evolve without borders.
I was writing my report in the hotel when I pondered the old marketing rule on the role of the ’4-P’s’ – the fundamentals required to sell: Price / Place / Product / Promotion. The lesson: Get them right and success will follow.
My how things have changed since college. If I was teaching marketing 101 to prepare students for the new world, I would be dearly tempted to coin the 4-P’s in the modern application as Policies – Procedures – Politics – Permissions! That little epiphany had me laughing out loud at my own wit. But to the point, nothing is simple any more. I know many of you wonder why we don’t just do the obvious when it comes to new model development. I think you would be blown away if you knew how complicated things become when put in the context of the new P’s. It is not as easy as you may think!
We hosted meetings here in Toronto this past week with our North American team; Cypress, Pleasant Prairie, Minocqua and Ontario all present. Our direction for snowmobile is quite clear all the way out to 2017 and it’s exciting to feel the synergies coming together within our new North American organization.
The fall trade shows are upon us with the Toronto Super Show in another week, followed closely by Novi Michigan at months end. I plan on hanging around the Yamaha booth to chat about all things snowmobile with a watchful eye on the Performance Damper Yamaha Performance Damper FINAL display. That said, I’ll most welcome any opportunities to do market research in the adult libations area in an effort to preserve both my back and voice. Hope to see you there!
September 19, 2013
Well, you asked!
I’m leaving for Japan this Sunday for a week. Lots of meetings planned for both snowmobile and wheeled vehicles. So I figured I should get a quick post off before proceeding through security
Some good comments and questions came in over the last few days. The MPI Viper turbo system shown at Haydays is a Stage 2 producing well over 200hp and available direct from MPI later this year. This kit will not be distributed by Yamaha and warranty policies apply the same as any after market modifications. MPI is still the supplier for our Nytro kits and we have a great working relationship with them. I expect to see more good things coming in the future.
Jamie was asking about the internals of the Performance Damper and Bob wanted to know a bit more about
function and stroke. The shock tube is fairly conventional with a piston connected to a damper rod. On one side of the piston there is oil backed with a nitrogen gas charge. On the other side of the piston, a negative spring pushes back against the gas charge which allows the pyramid stack (piston-valve) to react to very small, high frequency inputs (vibration).
Theoretically the piston could move up to 20mm but in reality it moves little more than 1mm with small deflections measured in microns. The are no pivot points involved in mounting. It connects directly to frame (location is not really critical), working to increase overall chassis viscosity.
Yellowknife mentioned he has felt no vibration in his Yamaha or buddies Polaris but the Ski-doo was a tingler… interesting! Scott mentioned that even though the technology is cool, it doesn’t make him want to run down to his Yamaha dealer and buy a new sled. Good point, we’re working on that one!
But – consider this: It may be of interest to someone who plans on keeping their sled and is looking for a good bolt-on that offers some very tangible improvements to the handling (… on any snowmobile). More on this later.
I will post the complete story with some testing info and pics when I return from overseas. We have plans to get these into the market for consumer evaluation -read demos- this season and are working on more assets to support our chassis damper claims. Proof is in the puddin’ they say!
Posted @ 11:14 am in Yamaha Insights
September 6, 2013
Bad Vibes – Part Deux
First I gotta say thanks for keeping an open mind regarding the chassis damper system. I was prepared for a bit of ‘flaming’ and what I have received so far are positive, intelligent comments and questions, which I’ll try to answer in this post.
Mr. T wanted to know if the snowmobile application would be in pairs and the answer is yes, in all applications.
The sled I rode in Shibetsu was an Apex as shown here but we have not made any decision on what, when or even if we will go to production with this. (I for one, recommend we do)
Another related query was if the damper system would have as much effect if a different engine was used, the example being our cross plane R1 design. When I posed this question it was explained that the damper system has basically the same amount of impact regardless of the application. In other words if it improved an 800 2-smoke by X%, it would also improve a CP1000 4-stroke by X% – a flexy chassis by the same X% as the most rigid chassis. The one thing I found really interesting; it is thought the overall impact (the real X% value) will be greater on a snowmobile than on a car, where a lot of effort has already gone into control of the elements and the conditions of operation are far more consistent.
Of course the ‘biggy’ to many is weight. We pulled a damper off and hit the scales, the complete system mounted should come in under one Kg, (that’s about the equivalent to your morning constitution). In this case I think it would be worth every ounce.
My first comment upon getting off the Apex, was it felt like there was some kind of gyroscopic effect being applied. The sled settled down, feeling less nervous and more stable right from the first pull on the trigger but more on riding impressions later…
For those guys going to Haydays, we will have the system available as part of a ‘future technology’ display, you may want to take a closer look and go for a pint (or two) to discuss afterwards. Unfortunately I can’t be there this year but the weather looks good and there’s lots of ‘buzz’ out there, have fun!
September 4, 2013
My trip to our Wisconsin R&D center went quite well. I promised I would post about some new technology being tested and then followed the comments over on TY, speculating what it might be. Folks looked to motorcycle, ATV and even Waverunner technologies having potential for transfer to snowmobile. (I especially liked the idea of composite Nano-technology applied to the frame). But interestingly, no one considered automotive technology. This caused me to reflect a bit on some of the outstanding engineering Yamaha has developed for the automotive industry over the years, engines, suspensions, electronics, robotics the list is quite lengthy. Funny thing is, the companies that have incorporated Yamaha technology into their vehicles seldom make mention of it with any connection to Yamaha, but I digress.
What I rode last spring has its roots in automobile and has been around for over a decade. No, it is not a ‘Game Changer’ (had to get that out of the way quickly) or quantum leap to leave your head spinning. Well maybe a little bit once you try to understand how it works
I don’t really know where to start so I figure I’ll lay out the concept for you to speculate and digest, then add some additional details in a following post or two. Here it goes…
It is commonly known that by increasing the stiffness or rigidity of a chassis, the handling can be improved much of which is due to the frame not acting as a ‘spring’, allowing the suspension to function as intended without compensating for chassis flex. However regardless of how stiff the frame becomes, there are still high frequency vibrations and energy resonating throughout the vehicle that have a significant effect on the handling, comfort and overall ‘feel’. Auto engineers have focused significant effort on ‘chassis damping’ to improve ride character, something not akin to snowmobile.
Yamaha developed and quietly marketed a very simple yet sophisticated damper system, consisting of a pair of highly specialized ‘shock absorbers’ (for lack of a better term), that when mounted laterally across the frame, one up front and one rear, negate most of the elements buzzing through-out the vehicle.
The ‘Performance Damper’, as it is called in the auto world is utilized on thousands of vehicles and most recently, a couple of snowmobiles. It is about now, I figure, you are sitting back, arms crossed and frowning at your computer screen. Cool. I did the same thing, then I rode the sled. Then I started researching with my buddy Google…
There is quite a bit to get your head around as I find much of the concept and benefits of chassis damping is near intangible, very hard to define and quantify. I expect I’ll start a bit of conversation here today and I plan to participate once I see some thought provoking comments.
No – I have not tossed out everything I have learned on the subject, not by a long shot, but there it is in a nutshell. We are testing the same damper system on our snowmobiles that has become widely accepted and applied on the auto side. Initial results are quite positive but without riding it yourself it is very easy to dismiss. As Donald (Odd-Ball) Sutherland said in the original MASH: ‘Hey – cut with the negative waves’ cheers cr
Posted @ 11:44 am in Yamaha Insights
August 20, 2013
Well I had two good weeks with family at the cottage, been back for two days and already the time off seems a distant memory. In my absence, quite a bit has transpired. I will be heading for the airport tomorrow to meet with one of our most senior engineers and learn more about some new technology I sampled last spring in Japan.
We have decided to apply the system to snowmobiles and I have been asked to develop the information foundation for communications purposes. We don’t plan to have this in production for at least another year but in a real change from the norm, we will be testing it in the market this winter without the regular veils of secrecy that surround most prototype projects.
I have always wanted to offer some new development information on Sled Talk before going mainstream within regular communications but have always been thwarted by official embargo dates and the evil eye of our internal protocols. This time, I believe I’ll have the opportunity to offer a ‘you heard it here first’ story, before seeing it on our web-sites or in the media…
So what is this new technology you wonder? Well it is interesting, controversial and somewhat hard to describe. That said, it definitely works according to my ‘bun-o-meter’. I intend to elaborate early in September, once I have the opportunity to really gain the understanding of how and why it functions as it does. So it’s off to the airport I go. Stay tuned!
Posted @ 10:56 am in Sled Development