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December 7, 2007

Is Lighter Really Righter?

…Batteries Not Included!!

Rod made an interesting comment on my last post ’50 Extra Pounds of What’, specifically regarding the point on weight and quality (QDR). I did discuss some of this in an older post, ‘You Can Only Have Two’ but Rod puts an intriguing spin on it:

I think Yamaha should do an about face and make a big deal on weight…. Yamaha wonโ€™t compromise, if I may, QDR to save weight. You canโ€™t have one without the other and keep your costs competitive with the competition because expensive exotic materials would have to be used. No one in the business doubts Yamahaโ€™s quality, durability and reliability not to mention fit and finish. I think its time Yamaha starts using the weight issue to their advantage and advertise their sleds are heavier because they wont sacrifice quality, durability and reliability to save on weight.

It would be an interesting exercise but I think the message may fall on a lot of deaf ears. Unless you actually spend some time getting really intimate with the mechanical aspects of a Yamaha and have a certain level of experience and understanding. Much of the engineering and build quality will go unappreciated. Marketing 101 still maintains we (consumers), purchase on emotion more-so than logic, consequently savvy marketers push the sizzle not the steak. I won’t point any fingers because we are all guilty. But I recently spotted an interesting article from www. trendwatching which struck me with the possibility things might be changing.

The annual Old Forge Shootout and Snodeo is going down this weekend which always makes for some internet chatter. I am curious to see how the only sleds with ‘electric start’ do when they pull them out of the box and bolt the boards on. I always wince when they take these brand new machines with nary a minute of break-in time and run WOT for the radar gun. The 4-strokes especially, as the break-in time makes such a big difference in top speed and power. Should be some numbers out shortly…

Update: here’s the official report (I am biting my tongue)ย 

We lost a good guy from our planning team this week. Jake Komatsu has been heading up our product planning on the factory side for the better part of two years. He’s a young guy with lots of passion and enthusiasm who loves snowmobiles. His wife has incurred some serious health problems and needs to move back to her home town which is a long way from Iwata. Jake has resigned to be with her… you will be missed Jake-san.

In closing, I received an official OFSC communication today stating some of the Ontario trail system is signed, groomed and officially open for riding this weekend. Please check their web-site for details and wherever you live, don’t poach trails or ride where you’ll give us all a black eye… cheers cr

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6 Responses to “Is Lighter Really Righter?”

  1. Northener says:

    Hello Chris. Great blog you’ve got here!

    As most know Yamaha’s quality are usually second to none, but serviceability is just plain crazy! The shrouds are getting so complicated, just a simple task takes 2 or 3 times as long as it should do. Just take the new Vector (as this is what I ride), how are you supposed to check the plugs if you happens to foul them? To say you never have to since it’s a 4-stroke just doesen’t cut it. It will take you 30 min.+ to get to them. I would like to see someone new to this sport try just to get to them. In a warm garage it’s fine, but out in the cold with all the small connectors to fiddle with??? WOW! Nuts.

    IMO it’s way to over-complicated. Why not use a normal hood??? With two easy to take off sidepanels??? And sidepanels which goes all the way down, so one doesen’t have to unscrew several small screws easily lost in the snow? It seems like it’s a motorcycle camoflaged to be a snowmobile, with all the fiddly small bits.

    Just take the instruction manual. It says to brush off snow from the intake-filter if it’s been left out in a storm. HOW would you do this in -20 to -30 degrees celcius, in the dark? I would like to see who can get the headlight off and on, to get to the air-filter! And without losing the small clips/nuts, which holds the headlight on? Has this even been tried out in the cold by people besides Yammie-techs??? I’ll bet just the mounting for the headlight is as heavy as a normal hood with the headlight mounted in it (even with the extra length of the wires), so it can’t be a weight-issue why it’s designed like this?

    I can understand it’s focus on design, but it seems no, or very little, attention has been on function besides the mecanical parts (engine, clutches, gearbox and such)? It would be even lighter with fewer parts, not to mention a whole lot fewer screws and fasteners thereby. And that’s just the shroud…

    I’m sorry if this wasn’t what you were looking for when it comes to comments, but I felt it needed to be said… As a Yammie-rider on and off for the last 10+ years, this is my biggest grief with these sleds today. Without the 120-engine, I wouldn’t even had considered buying the Vector, but that engine is a home-run! Greatest engine since the SRX 700 was discontinued!

    Oh, as a sidenote, since I mentioned the SRX… What was up with having to remove one (or was it two) of the pipes to get to the gearbox-dipstick! WOW! LOL

    And would you please put the 120 in the Venture Multipurpose, where it has belonged all the time, and make it 151″ like the Venture TF… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Excellent comments NORTHENER… you want my honest answer … I don’t have one. Right now I am thinking you work for our service department ๐Ÿ˜› You missed my favorite gripe, especially on the RX-1 / Apex .. oil filter access as that cannot be argued, it definitely needs to be accessed on occasion. I kinda miss the days when four bolts later the engine was on the bench… rest assured I will pass along your words of wisdom… now go enjoy your sled, including all the high quality fasteners you’ll get to fiddle with… cheers cr

  2. Bakemono says:

    I agree with Northerner. I love the job that Yamaha is doing, but your engineers need to SERIOUSLY consider the poor guy who has to maintain and repair these sleds.
    About the thought of, “is lighter really lighter”, I think it would be wise for Yamaha to point out their superior quality and reliability. What good is a 400-pound sled that falls apart and is in the shop getting repaired all the time? I’d gladly take a heavier sled that is more reliable over a lighter sled that is less reliable. IMO, too much emphasis is put on weight. Ive ridden RX-1s, Apexs, Vectors, Phazers and FX Nytros and IMO when you are riding them, they don’t feel any heavier than a 600 2-stroke sled.

    Thanks B, for the record, I agree with you completely and will try to offer some background re design complexity in an upcoming post.

  3. Stephan Drake says:

    Hi Chris,

    This is a personal note as opposed to a comment posting- I apologize for using the comment format as a connection tool.

    First off, I would like to complement you on a great blog- a true model for creating community and brand!

    In 2005, I headed up a project called The Powder Road- a media project about skiing and open road travel- specifically featuring Yamaha four-stroke snowmobiles. It became a book and website (www.powderroad.com). The book received critical acclaim, international distribution and media exposure, and the website was nominated for a Webby award. We made a point of promoting clean snowmobile technology to the ski community (my own company, for example, donates 1% gross sales to environmental NPO’s.) and featured Yamaha not only on the back cover of the book, but textually, in PR interviews etc.- the exposure was enough to move the message into mass market media reviews.

    Based on The Powder Road, we hoped to build a relationship with Yamaha to help promote Yamaha sleds to skiers and snowboarders, and to help assuage part of our operating budget. Coming from the ski industry, we had a hard time making connections through Yamaha USA, and finally, almost a year after release, and right on the cusp of a second project, came into contact with Rob Powers. He had seen the book, and had said that Yamaha would have supported the project with snowmobiles if the timing had been earlier, but pledged to continue to support future projects.

    Since then, the trail has run cold, and getting in touch with Rob has been a bit of a struggle. I am wondering if based on your coarse review of the past and future projects, and given that you too see the potential for a good symbiotic branding partnership, if you would be willing to help by putting me in touch with the right person at Yamaha who would be receptive to our vision of crossover into the ski/snowboard market. Based on Yamaha’s ad buys in snowsports media, especially on the Canadian side, it appears that Yamaha is conscious of the market opportunity.

    I truly believe we have and can continue sell Yamaha snowmobiles to the growing backcountry ski market, and help Yamaha hone and communicate the message effectively. I have come into personal contact with no less than five random people met a parties who have told me that they bought a snowmobile as result of reading The Powder Road, so when you consider the international distribution and reach of the project, we know Yamaha has experience a boost on some level in this niche market.

    We are currently working on a new blog that is starting here: http://blogs.dpsskis.com/articles/index.php?weblog_id=12600, a second book titled North/South, which is all about the highest level of snowmobile skiing on the glacial highways near Haines Alaska, and an accompanying HD film. Our crew contains two of the best photographers in the ski industry, the most styling skiers, a love for what we do, and a 100% commitment to using clean snowmobiles and our legs as ski lifts.

    We are not asking for much, just a small level of assistance with product. We don’t make anything on these projects as they are capital intensive, but truly believe in them, and enjoy the lifestyle, creativity, and approach them with intense passion and commitment. Any support will be translated right back into the machines- specifically into boost ๐Ÿ˜‰ To ski what we want to ski, it means climbing on deep snow days, often riding 2-up… unfortunately with stock machines whole days can turn into trail breaking exercises that make one wish for a helicopter.

    I really appreciate your time in reading this and congratulations on the great work you have done on your blog. I hope there’s the opportunity to work together in the future in some capacity.

    Stephan Drake

    Please let me know if you would like to check out any formal project proposals, additional media, etc.


    Hello Stephan, we have been watching and intrigued by the prospect of back country skiers and boarders employing sleds to gain further access. We have dabbled in some of the cross promotions and are always willing to entertain a professional win/win proposal. I had one interesting email from a boarder who purchased one of our sleds for access purposes, he ended up hanging up the board, installing a turbo and challenging some ascents on slopes he would never have considered going down! One of our star riders, Randy Swenson, has a long history of downhill competition, now its all up…Thinking, you better be careful you don’t hurt the ski / board industry by introducing too many people to the excitement and challenge of mountain snowmobiling ๐Ÿ˜›

    On the contact side of things, Rob P has taken on a new challenge at YMUS and the marketing duties have been handed over to Wade West. You can reach him using the same e mail extension and numbers you would have had for Rob. I would be happy to forward your proposal to our marketing manager, Tim Kennedy. You could forward hard copy to my attention here in Canada. Thanks for your support of my blog project, I’ll add a link to yours… cheers cr

  4. Ron Demofsky says:

    I was thinking about buying a new 2007 Phazer GT. Seductive price. However, I have read about several issues about ice build-up in the tunnel, and snow plugged rads that heat up and require stopping to cool down. I haven’t ridden a sled for many years, and don’t want issues when I do ride. I am now thinking about an Apex LTX. Beautiful sled with no issues that I have heard about.
    I would appreciate some feed back.


    Hey Ron, the O7 Phazers do exhibit the issues you refer to. We have announced counter measures under warranty to deal with the majority of them. A fan kit is available for the rad which helps a lot. There are side panels for the tunnel / seat to help with ice build up. Many people cover up the hole in the tunnel (which we cannot endorse), that said I haven’t heard of any problems reported relating to same. there are a few more updates for the 07’s available depending where you live, and how you ride, your dealer can discuss the details with you… If you are looking to the Apex LTX and are a trail rider, I don’t believe there is a better sled on the market for all day comfort matched by an amazing engine with unrivaled reliability and we do have all the bugs out of it. There is a bit of a learning curve mostly throttle control but once you wire that, in my opinion the Apex is the best trail sled out there. I choose Apex over any other sled in our line (or anyone else’s)… But it is a big sled with big power, the Phazer is more agile and a lot of fun in the twisties. End of the day it will depend a lot on where and how you like to ride… cheers

  5. favarcat says:

    The Apex/Attak are great sleds, but they lightened them up in some areas that have hurt the reliability,durability of the sled. The exhaust donuts and y-pipes attached to the motor is a major weak point of the sleds. They WILL wear out and cause the paper thin y-pipes to break. Anywhere from 3,500 to 6,500 miles. A major expense and every year maintenance issue if you like to put miles on. This was not the place to use paper thin titanium y-pipes to try and save weight. You would never notice a couple extra pounds in the center of the sled here. I wish Yamaha would address this issue. Great sled besides this. Thanks,Bruce.

    Hmmm that’s a new one on me Bruce, I seem to remember there was a bellows change on the Apex from RX-1 but I thought it was to improve durability… I’ll forward your comment on to service… cheers cr

  6. favarcat says:

    We took 3 Apex/Attaks apart and the gaskets were all wore out. 2 of the sleds need y-pipes. $318 each plus $50 for gaskets.

    A yearly maintenance issue with these sleds if you put miles on them.

    Yamaha has a problem here with these sleds. I’m just trying to make them aware of the problem.

    Thanks favarcat, It appears the exhaust system on the 08 models has changed somewhat, including a new rubber mounted bracket to support the y-pipes. Not sure what the reasoning is or if the parts sub to older models. I’m guessing the pipes are ‘loading’ the manifold area causing wear to the gaskets and flex cracking. Might be worth a look if you have cause to repair one in the future. Maybe a small fabricated support could relieve stress loads on the manifold, (just a thought)… cheers cr

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