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March 28, 2007

twin peaks

In the late eighties I was in Japan with Tim Chelli (our national service manager at the time) attempting to steer product planning in a new direction. If I recall correctly, Yamaha had about 16 sleds in our lineup built using 10 completely different chassis. The then market leader Polaris had over 30 models based on only a couple of chassis. We had spent hours designing a stack of ‘overhead transparencies’ with manually colored panels to create a ‘hi-tech’ presentation. When it came time for us to give our product plan ideas, I methodically ‘built’ a wide variety of models based on one chassis dropping overlays of tracks, seats, engines and body work. Next I showed, point form descriptions of each models features and positioning then concluded with a sales volume forecast. Immediately upon completion a senior manager charged with product planning disdainfully looked at me and asked very simply; ‘Where’s your data?

‘Data’? …man, was I blindsided. It never occurred to me that I might be called upon to provide research and analysis for an idea which seemed so much common sense (at least to me). I was crushed to the point where I briefly considered packing it in a running for the airport.

Almost ten years later we released the Pro-Action system (trailing-arm chassis) using three, then four engines in one frame to create a whole line-up of sport and touring sleds which essentially carried us into the beginning of the current 4-stroke generation.

Nowadays snowmobiles have become very specialized. Heck it wasn’t that long ago all we to do to build a mountain sled was stretch the track and slap some ski-skins on it. Not any more! Visualize if you will, a tall standing triangle. This is the traditional model used for positioning discussions. At the ‘peak’ sits the ‘flagship’, the highest cost, highest performing model in the line. Beneath it will be a layer of some variants, beneath the second layer is a third with more models but using smaller engines and spreading out into more market niche’s and so it goes until you have completed your line-up. Now you can draw circles and add bubbles to model groups indicating the rider’s demographics and needs with creative titles like ‘rough trail expert’, ‘groomed trail veteran’ my favorite going back a few years was ‘beer belly bubba’… I always disliked this part of the exercise, having to place riders in ‘buckets’ or ‘silos’ to quantify what they do with their sleds. I could never find a bucket for myself as I could see me living in several if not all of them.

For the past few years we have adopted a new design model we like to refer to as ‘Twin Peaks’. This has been in progress for the better part of five years but only now can you see how it is taking form.

Visualize two elongated triangles standing side by side. The first represents the Apex – Vector models (Made to ride sitting down, but very easy to stand) focused on the long distance trail rider looking for the ultimate in comfort, handling and performance on groomed trails. The second triangle contains the Phazer / FX Nytro models (made to ride standing up, but can sit down). These “FX” models are specifically targeted for the riders that enjoy the challenge of attacking the bumps and riding a very responsive sled in the rough stuff.

Major product planning decisions like ergonomics, styling, suspension type, fuel tank size, calibration direction etc. are made with the targeted primary user in mind. Either design can cover a wide range of trail conditions which the rider may encounter on an all-day ride – but the snowmobile’s “sweet spot” (where each sled performs the best) is geared for very different riding conditions that give each type of rider the most enjoyment. We believe this type of targeted performance will help increase overall customer satisfaction.

The “one-chassis fits all” model being used by our competition relies on a single chassis design to cover the majority of all customers needs. They change the engines, suspension packages, track length and appearance in order to expand sales. While this may be efficient for the design engineers, it makes it significantly harder on the calibration engineers when they try to satisfy a specific-use customer.
There is a lot of compromise required to cover a wide range of use with only one chassis and when the basic design is compromised too much, the “sweet spot” is lost entirely.Our “twin peaks” design direction now offers a true chassis choice. Riders really need to consider ‘where they live’ in the big picture and base their buying decisions on what type of riding “sweet spot” they desire most.

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21 Responses to “twin peaks”

  1. jmp2204 totallyamaha/hcs says:

    thats great that yamaha does this, pleasing both the tral riders(myself) and the bunp riders.I can’t wait to try out the nytro(fx)! Although i don’t think i will be for me(i could be wrong) it looks and sounds like it’s blast to ride….i’m into the more high speed cornering thing than bump ability……I am however very glad to see yammy bring out a potential rev stomper(lol).Could yamaha be making a big brother for the nytro?like a nytro 170?Yamaha is again setting the standard with the apex and the nytro

  2. John says:

    In theory, one chassis fits all leaves you with a machine that does an average job no matter what situation you find yourself in. Is average all the time not better than poor half of the time?

    In a perfect world we’d all own an Apex as well as a FX model; choosing the one that best suits the day. But in the real world most of us have to compromise with one snowmobile that can fit both roles. The twin peaks methodology seems to open some confusion as to which chassis best fits the in-between role. Which chassis would you recommend for someone who wants a sled that can ride the groomed trails (sitting down) one day and hit the back country (standing up) the next?

    John, I believe you have zeroed in on my point. With only one chassis its a relatively simple choice of track length, motor and shocks but with two completely different chassis, things do get more confusing especially if you live between the two ‘sweet spots’ as many of us do. The beauty is; now you have a choice between two distinct rides and within these primary or core models are additional packages re: standards, RTX’s, GT’s etc… it should be easier to find a combination to better suit your style and terrain with less compromise but it really depends on the individual. Only you can make that decision.

  3. NytroFever says:

    *Where’s Your Data”? Heheheh
    I too have heard that comment.
    I work QC in a Japanese Company myself, I believe the saying is “Without Data, You are Just Another Associate with an Opinion”
    I am glad to hear that this mantra is carried all throughout Japanese Manufacturing.
    Quality is something I or anyone else should never doubt when it comes to Yamaha Products.
    In regards to the *niche* market or *specialized* machines… 136″ Track!!

    Thanks Fever-san… what skid frame (mono / twin shock) should be holding up that 136’er for which you desire???

  4. George says:

    I was wondering what direction Yamaha was going when they introduced the FX chassie. It looked like they would be fasing out the Apex chassie in just a couple years, after what you just said it looks like both chassies will be around for a while. Now the decision is, which one will I buy! I am a two to three hundred mile a day trail rider mostly in Wisconsin and the UP. I have demo rided the Apex and the Attack for quite a few miles on trails, I also did a small demo on the phaser, Nitro and the Nitro RTX. I liked all of them, however you can definitly feel the weight difference between the two chassies. So the question is, would the Nitro or Nitro RTX be a good long distance trail sled that can handle all types of trails, or should I wait till they take about forty pounds off the Apex?
    Thanks for your reply.

  5. Chris says:

    That is great we now have two chassis to choose from my concern that there is a few of us that live in between the peaks and designing a sled for the peaks leave us out. Some of us need a chassis that can ride half way up one side then half way up the other, as it is now we have to modify to make this happen. I hope there a chance that maybe there are plans for three peaks or at least a hill?

  6. Todd Shearer says:

    A platform for the type of riding that you do versus a platform for you to ride. That is a huge difference and quite frankly encouraging news from Yamaha. I like the fact that Yamaha realizes that I can’t wear sneakers to work at the office or steel mill and that if I am going to run a marathon, my penny loafers may not be the best choice of shoes. One, does not fit all. It never has and never will. Who doesn’t chuckle when you see that “One Size Fits all” label. Thanks for the behind the scenes look at Yamaha’s thought process. After reading your posts on this blog, it is more obvious than ever that Yamaha is going down their own path, not following anybody. They are not lost or just trying to get back on the beaten down trail that everybody else in on. They they know where they are going, and what they are trying to achieve with each model they introduce.

    What’s next? It sure would be nice for Yamaha to make a sled for my 9 year old. How about a phazer with 35-40 HP for $3500, with just the basics with cool colors and graphics?

  7. David says:

    Hey !

    I’ve been reading through your new site (blog) regarding the new 08 Yamaha sleds, and I gotta say, I’m very impressed with the fact that you guys are making an effort to answer questions online, on a public site, that guys like me have to ask, good job man ! Now, I have a question to ask about the new FX Nytro RTX that could help me decide to either switch over from the Rev to the FX Nytro RTX, or choose the 08 Rev XP. First off, I suffered a bad motorcycle accident back in September of 05, long story short, left leg has a titanium rod through the tibia, and I lost my right leg below the knee, missed out on the entire 05/06 snowmobile season, and was totally bummed out that winter, but I’m making up for it this year ! I have a total of 3800 km’s of riding in this season so far, and from what I hear, I’ve impressed quite a few riding buddies to say the least ! I’m an aggressive rider, I like to hit drifts and bumps and bust through powder and get air, did quite a bit of that today actually, but the Rev is getting uncomfortable for me now that I have a prosthetic, too much bend in the knee while sitting is making for a rough day towards the end. My girlfriend bought herself a new Phazer FX this year, awesome little sled, very comfortable with amazing power and torque, really fun to ride, I just wished it had a bigger lug track like a 1.5″ Intense Powder and a bit more power, otherwise, incredible ! Now there’s the new FX Nytro RTX, sounds perfect for me, but I may not get a chance to actually see one here in NS in person and sit on one before next year, and I’d really like to spring order a new sled for next year. So, what I’m asking you is would you say the new FX Nytro RTX would be an all around better sled for me considering my concerns ? Keep in mind I still do quite a bit of stand up riding, but when getting from one trail to the next, everyone likes to be able to just sit down and take a break and just cruise and enjoy the scenery. I really find the new Phazer riding position makes for perfect sitting to standing transitions, and the sitting position doesn’t have an uncomfortable amount of leg bend, it’s very comfortable actually, so I’m hoping that the new FX Nytro RTX would feel similar. Can you give me your impressions on the sled with respect to my concerns ? It would probably help make my decision a lot easier, and I’d really appreciate the response !

    Thanks, and keep up the good work with the site !


    …Hey Dave, first let me give you a huge `CUDOS` for getting back on the horse…
    I spoke with Jon regarding your questions and we both agree the Nytro ergos are as good if not better than Phazer for transition, sitting to standing… I haven`t had a chance to ride on the new XP platform (Jon has however) and it doesn`t apppear to be any easier to stand up than your current REV, it should offer a bit more flexible ride position but so does the FX Nytro. (Note: we had a close eye upon the REV layout when we developed the Nytro).
    The throttle response may surprise you. It is all over the 150+ hp Apex out of the hole and the pre-production models have been dyno`d in access of 134 hp. My best advice to you is; do not cut short the standard model when compared to the RTX. The base model Nytro is a superior trail-sled to the RTX based on a softer (more practical) suspension setting for all around riding. The RTX is one stiff SOB, which is fine if the majority of riding is being done on very nasty trails, standing up at speed… the base model Nytro has better anti-bottoming than anything else in our line-up (aside from the RTX version) and by virtue of the suspension settings, has superior small (stutter) bump compliance than the RTX (read: comfort in the bumps). Bonus… it costs less and has better wind protection. The fuel tank only holds 28 liters at best and under ideal conditions yields a 120 miles per full tank (just wanted you to be aware of that). Personally I think you would be quite happy with the layout and mobility offered by the FX Nytro platform and generally speaking, the 4-stroke will give you the edge when it comes to reliability and overall cost of operation. I hope you get a chance to check one out in person before you have to decide, after all is said, I think you should give carefull attention to the base model FX Nytro over the RTX or XP. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to address your concerns. If I can be of any help, please let me know. I am writing this from my hotel in Japan and may not be able to respond as quickly as usual. cheers cr

  8. David says:

    Thanks for the quick response Chris ! I am hoping to be able to attend the upcoming snowmobile show in NB next week, and if so, I’ll definitely take your advice and give both FX Nytro models a good going over.(however, I still believe I’m gonna need the RTX ^^^^ lol !) I’ll keep in touch…


  9. SpyderRx1 says:

    I, along with MANY others,

    want an ’08 136″ Nytro!


    Thanks Spyder, We discussed this model in detail yesterday here in Japan, I even brought up the current poll on the TY site where the guys are voting on 136 / 144 and lug heights (Nytro track kits). There won’t be one for 08 (it’s a done deal) but we hear you all loud and clear. cr

  10. SpyderRx1 says:

    I/we appreciate your answer (even though it wasn’t what I had hoped for). Please don’t let this die, keep after it!!!

  11. George says:

    After reading what you told Dave I think the base Nitro is my choice. Could you tell me this, does the Nitro handle as good as an Apex on nicely groomed trails and can the rear suspension be set soft enough to handle the small stutter bumps comparable to the monoshock. Thanks for your reply!
    P.S. Dave your an inspiration, keep rockin!

    George, IMHO the APex is a superior groomed trail sled when it comes to handling and the mono-shock is still the best choice for ‘make the bumps go away’ ride comfort in the stutters, definitely stay away from RTX if you have a priority on groomed trails, The FX standard will offer enough adjustment to be a good all-rounder …is it a better groomed trail sled than the APex? NO, Not in my opinion. cheers

  12. Scott says:

    Hi Chris,
    I got your name off the TY4stroke forum and am very impressed with your blog. I wrote you two weeks ago with my concerns about the size of the FX Nytro tank and was pleased to see your prompt reply.

    Your “Twin Peaks” article was most interesting. I can now see why the Nytro has a small tank. I fall outside of the two elongated triangles and need a big tank because I’m going to cross country race the new Nytro next season. I hope you can convince Yamaha to provide a limited production run of 500 large tanks so I will be able to comply with the rules and race my new Nytro in the stock class. I’m sure that you guys will completely sell out of the large tanks just because there are a large number of riders who want extended range with their new Nytros. TY had recently had a poll about large tanks and the majoriy wanted a larger tank.

    I’m used to getting 130-150 miles per tank out of my Vector for aggressive riding. It will be very hard becoming accustom to getting less milage per tank. I will gladly add more wet weight to my new Nytro to gain more range!

    …Scott, I don’t know what we can do at this time regarding your request. We did discuss the issue of fuel capacity in the current Nytro and engineering understands our request for greater capacity. We need to enlist our accessory development team to address for this years models. Before we try to develop an Enduro tank for XC racing, we would need to confirm the sanctioning body regulations (ISR?) and also investigate product liability issues. There has been a lot of attention put on fuel tanks this year due to new EPA regulations. The % of fuel evaporation through the plastic has caused us to change both material properties and thickness of our fuel tanks to comply. Much research will be required before a decision is made to produce an optional tank. Will keep you posted. Thanks cr

  13. SpyderRx1 says:

    Not sure if this is appropriate so I’ll leave it up to the sites administrator: Copied from Hardcore Sledder Nytro forum:

    “We are looking for more feedback on this tank issue. We have been asked to develop an oversized tank for the new Nytro. We make the tank for the AC SnoPro 440. Please let us know what you capacities you want: more fuel capacity in the tank you would like and how much is too much. We want to make an educated decision before investing in the development. Thanks.

    Creation Composites, LLC

    … Spyder, thank you for the heads up on this. I believe there will be a market for an optional tank. The answer as to the size of this market will ultimately be determined by the cost of the optional parts and acceptance of the OE fuel range (ideally we’re told is 170km). I will forward this to our parts and accessories development people to follow-up. I would be happy to share some demographic and logistical information with any after market company wanting to develop a product to assist in fulfilling niche markets and ultimately, our customers satisfaction. cheers cr

  14. Turbocat says:

    Hi Chris,

    I understand the need to reduce wet weights on sleds, however there is a fine line where the useful range of a sled becomes a major issue for some.
    We have an ’07 Phazer FX that has a 30 litre tank and the range is 175 kms in hardpack / drifted powder conditions. I see in the ’08 specs. the tank size has been reduced to 26.7 litres, reducing range to 155 kms in the same conditions.
    We also have an ’07 Venture Lite with a 36 litre tank and a range of 210 kms in the same conditions. The’08 specs on the Venture Lite show the tank as 32.9 litres, reducing the range to about 190 kms in the same conditions. Did the tank size actually change on these 2 models or did someone screw up on the U.S. to Metric or Cdn. gallon conversion in 2007 or 2008 specs.?

    Now to the issue of the 28 litre tank on the Nytro. I have ordered an RTX 40th and am also concerned about the useful range. I ride in the same conditions as Dave (above)and gas is not readily available at all times. The 28 litres is 7.4 U.S. gallons, but only 6.14 Cdn. gallons. At 16.5 miles per Cdn. gal. (which is what we get on the Phazer and the Venture Lite) which may or may not be the case on the Nytro, the range is 162 kms. / 101 miles.
    With more power comes more throttle use and
    reduced range. Throw in busting 4-5 ft. drifts and powder riding and your range drops some more. Riding in our area is made up of a combination of driftbusting,flat out trail riding both on groomed and rough trails and boondocking, with some air time thrown in.

    With this concern in mind I was the one who contacted Seth at Creation Composites about the feasibility of an aftermaket larger capacity tank.

    The current TY poll (185 voters) shows 71% of respondents would like a 10 – 12 gal tank on some Nytros. 12% said they like it the way it is, and 16% said they don’t care and are buying the Nytro.
    Changing the tank to 10 U.S. gals. would add approx. 16 lbs in fuel weight, plus the added weight of the larger tank.
    There is a lot of confusion created by the difference in U.S. gallons vs litres vs Cdn.( Imperial) gallons. 1 U.S. gal. = 3.785 litres, whereas 1 Cdn. gal. = 4.546 litres.
    The 10 U.S. gal. tank = 8.32 Cdn. gal.,or 37.82 litres, and at the same mileage as the Phazer (16.5)optimistically,the range is 137.28 miles or 219.6 kms., which IMHO is adequate.

    Please address and discuss this with your accessory development people so that there are no disappointments on an otherwise potentially best all around sled.

    One other question, is there a 12 volt accessory outlet on the Nytro FX and RTX models?

    I would also like to compliment Yamaha in taking the bold step of addressing customer concerns in a public forum such as this. This further underscores the reasons for many jumping ship to Yamaha.

    Thank you.

    Hey Turbo, been off-line for a few days. I think the best way to cover your questions is in a new dedicated post. Stay tuned… cr..

  15. Murray Donovan says:

    Just ordered a Nitro RTX. The 135hp version. Wish it has the trunk space of the Apex I’m loosing and I liked the extra range the Apex had. Can’t take chances with your life and I needed something that ate bumps instead of throwing half them back at you. I like riding hard off trail on rivers and lakes around here plus on trails. I’m in New Brunswick Canada and wished for a 136″ as well. I know the Apex suited my needs pretty well but I could still feel that weight and wanted to go lighter plus I just wanted a new sled. HeHe

    Murray, we are making some real good progress on both storage and fuel range for Nytro, unfortunately it will have to come as an accessory. I just looked at a proposed saddle bag system which is designed around holding a couple of 4 liter gas containers. It can serve as storage, fuel or both (and looks very good styled into the lines of the sled and carried low on the running board level). I’ll be posting an update on the blog as soon as we confirm. There are a couple of other ideas being worked on as well. Hope you enjoy your Nytro.. cr

  16. Turbocat says:

    Update July 30th,

    Creation Composites posted on HCS July 21st, under Nytro Poll that they are working on a 2+ US Gal additional capacity tank for the Nytro. Available sometime in the ’07-’08 season.Way to go Seth.


    TC, I spoke with Seth about this project a couple of months ago. Based on his location (in the USA) we felt it would be best if he could work with Yamaha USA assistance in the form of access to a Nytro for measurement and study, which has been the case. I believe Jon has been in touch with Seth of late, sounds like progress is being made. Thx for the update. cr

  17. Murray Donovan says:

    C.R., That proposed saddle bag system sounds like something I and a lot of others would invest in. One think I found interesting is how its now Skidoo and Yamaha blogging it out on the Web Sites. Skidoo dropped some serious weight to be a contender for sled of the year next year against Nitro. The thing that made up my mind is my Apex I now have. I feel like its brand new even though I have two winters on it now. If it was a Skidoo statistics can guarentee an engine rebuild would be on tap sometime during the 08 season. This was the main factor. Two was I hate two stroke oil now I’ve had an Apex. Three was resale value! Four was I never creased a belt in two years on my Apex and I hold it WFO for extended periods on the river system here. The four stroke is vibration free compared to the two stroke. Five was I have had Yamaha bikes since I had my 175 endruo back in was it really 1974? HeHe Well my dad bought it for me.

  18. Mitch Rezansoff says:

    I have to say I am very disappointed in how Yamaha is dealing with the issue of the suspension performance with the Apex line.
    When introduced the Apex was advertised by Yamaha as a rough trail performer.
    The message has since changed to focus on groom trail.
    It should read pavement.
    Having purchased a 2006 Apex GT with 2400 kms used this fall it has become extremely apparent that this is a snowmobile (though expensive)that has no universal use what so ever. To make the statement that one should own “two” snowmobiles to afford rider style flexibility is ludicrous.
    Yamaha has to address the suspension issue directly.
    Admit that the mono susupension design is flawed. Current shock and spring valve set up will not accomodate any riders in North America.
    My experience with feedback from different racing associations using Yamaha snowmobiles continues to reinforce a common theme. Yamaha is not able to address the suspension failure issues.
    Regardless of the model, suspension set up, shock revalve, and springs the mono suspension is continuing to fail.
    I am not a racer, nor extreme rider.
    The sled I replaced had less problems over 7500 miles than I have had with this Yamaha in 800 miles over 2 months.
    I give credit where credit is due. The matter of the handle bars (heat) was addressed in a swift and owner friendly manner.
    I do not see the same solution happening with the overall suspension issues.
    I should not have to return to a dealer for repairs after every 300 miles. This is insane.
    The claims of susperior quality from Yamaha is yet to be proven in my mind.
    Retails that do not admit the issue or deny are providing a disservice.
    Customer service is what differentiates companies from competitors.
    Dealing and resolving problems in an effective seamless manner is what creates longterm loyalty.

    Hey Mitch, I am sorry to read of your dissatisfaction with your Apex. Personally I really like the mono-shock suspension and I know I am not alone with this opinion. I have had nothing but good luck with them. I have played around with set-up on occasion but IMHO it is an excellent trail suspension for bump compliance. I can see where our marketing messages could be misleading in hindsight, we had the Apex RTX and RS Nytro as ‘bump sleds’ prior to the FX Nytro and they were positioned accordingly. The Apex evolved from the RX-1 has always been a trail sled however. I assume you have a good knowledge of the history of your sled considering you purchased it used and have experienced a lot of problems in short order. Hopefully it wasn’t neglected or abused prior to your ownership. We have been working on improving our suspension settings every year and 2009 is no exception. I do hope you get things sorted with your sled to your satisfaction, our dealers are there and trained to help. cheers cr

  19. paul says:

    Hi CR, Your doing a great job getting information out to snowmobile enthusiasts
    I have recently purchased a Phazer GT for my wife. I am riding my wife’s Phazer more than my Apex gt. The Phazer handles tight twisty trails here in Muskoka unlike any snowmobile I have ever ridden. I love my apex, I just didn’t think I would love the phazer more for tight trail riding. I have had my wife’s snowmobile in for the five technical bulletins. Yamaha stood behind their product nicely. My Apex is a great snowmobile for riding where there are wide open places like Northern Ontario where there are lots of lakes for high speed runs. As far as the suspension on the Apex GT I love the adjustable handlebar settings. I must say though, if your having problems with the rear shock try adjusting the rebound damping. I had to spend a bit of time getting that middle balance between comfort and harshness. I think I am out 6 clicks out from maximum. Yamaha keep building great snowmobiles and great snowmobilers will keep changing over to your product.
    PS I drove the new 2009 Skidoo proto-types at Deerhurst 9 days ago. They are only getting 120 HP. out of a 1200cc engine. Lots of torque but no wide open rush that an Apex or a FX Nytro has.
    Qu. What is the best runner for the apex?
    I have only 96 studs and I am thinking about the dooly’s from Woody’s any help will be thankful.

    Cheers and enjoy this wonderful winter

    Hey Paul, thanks for the comment. Regarding ski runners, the correct answer is the Duallies (because we sell them), they work quite well in a wide range of conditions. But personally I prefer the single bar Qualipiece with the built-in corrector plate which are made in Quebec (they require a hole to be drilled in the ski). They are available through many of our dealers… but I didn’t recommend them OK! cheers cr

  20. ryan says:

    what is the diferance between 08 and 07 ntro mtx’s…need answers quick…..thanks

  21. Bruce Williams says:

    I am looking for the rebuild specifications for all the shock absorbers on 2 different sleds:

    2006 Yamaha Rage

    2003 Yamaha Viper

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