Archive for April, 2008
April 23, 2008
SRX Development Story
SRX Development Story: Part 1
I’ll preface the following by saying I’m splitting this development story into several installments. I have dug up quite a few related documents and will scan them then scatter amongst the pages to add some funk. For example here’s a little history for you- history-remaster.pdf– I am relying on memory here and apologize if some things don’t ‘gist’ 100% with your own recollection. I’d be happy to post your comments or any additional information. I hope you enjoy the read as much as I am enjoying the writing. It’s stirring up a lot of old memories for me.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I think it’s important to remember where we were living back in 95/96. We had been a good two years in developing our light-weight Pro-Action leading arm chassis (code name OMD) and new 3 cylinder, single pipe engine. Ole Hayata, was head of engineering and had done an amazing job to deliver us nine new models in the die-cast, chassis platform, in time for the 97 model year. It was during this same time period, our competitors took their next step in sled evolution with the release of the 600 triple / triples -three cylinder-three pipe rockets- based largely on ISR Formula 3 racings, popularity of the day. The F111 Skidoo, ZRT 600 Cat and XCR600SP Polaris set a new benchmark for displacement performance and were gunning for top speed honors against the bigger sleds of the day.
Apparently we needed a triple-triple, 600 version of our new SX. And so it was we set out for Japan to convince engineering to shoehorn some pipes into a sleeved down package. Well it didn’t take very long to discover the SX 700 engine would not survive our bench tests using triple pipes. Further more the body shape and die-cast bulkhead sub-frame of the OMD did not allow the required clearance for proper air management and cooling, given the real estate required for the tangle of pipes. It could not be done. I clearly remember my old friend Gary from Prince George Yamaha calling me shortly after the release of the SX 700 to quiz me about triple pipes before he took on the Canadian distribution of one of the leading after market exhaust brands.
‘Don’t do it’, I advised, ‘The engine will grenade. If you push it, the crank won’t live…’ Man- was that bad advice, but as it turned out Gary didn’t listen to me and went on to help modify hundreds of 700 triples in mountain chassis with many running reliably to this day.
We did our homework with YMC and decided our next machine would have an all new 600cc 3 into 3 engine. It was also decided to build a 700 variation for a no holds barred assault on the muscle sled segment. The Vmax4 engine was stuck with a TSS chassis and had been max’d out at 800cc (small pun intended). We set the target for OMH to be the lightest (500lbs), fastest top speed and quickest accelerating muscle sled on the market. We had witnessed the 500 class (representing the greatest sales volumes), evolve into the 600’s and it didn’t take a duck hunter to figure out the 700 class was where we should be aiming.
A bright young engineer (and notorious after-hours disturber) was given his first kick at ‘project leader’. The parting gift of Mr. Hayata who was moving on from snowmobile group to motorcycle development came in the form of Masayasu Saito. Masa-san understood very well the competitive mentality as well as the snowmobile lifestyle. When he was a young buck, he purchased a Phazer in Japan and traveled north every weekend to ride it (and chase girls). I had known him for many years as a field testing engineer and durability rider previous to that. He was a great choice to head up the OMH project which would eventually come to market in 1998 as the SRX 600 / 700.
SRX would establish many firsts for Yamaha. For starters the clay modeling and wire frame work was performed in the USA to reduce some cost and speed up development. I was asked to travel down to the GKDI offices in Torrance CA where we worked closely with the designers on the shape and dynamics of the new machines. Prototypes were built based on the SX chassis and targets were established using the SX 600 plus ZRT in the 600 category and SX 700 plus Mach 1 in the 700 niche. We decided to build a modified version of the lower 8-inch SX chassis to house the new power-plants, because the sled was intended to handle better than any lake racer before it. Initial testing results were quite promising.
The SRX would be our final two-stroke snowmobile development project and it seems quite fitting it would crown 30 years of Yamaha in the sno-mo biz and mark the one millionth sled to run off our lines japan-media-remaster.pdf … more to follow.
April 16, 2008
New Duties – Nytro Fuel Capacity
It was one busy week for me at the office. I returned from Revelstoke all set to wind down the sled season and shift gears into some new research projects and planning for next year. Last Wednesday started off like any other day with a hot ‘cuppa Joe‘ and a long column of e-mail, when Pete (my boss) stepped into my office and pushed the door shut. Deep breath- ‘whats up?’….
…Lots! We implemented some internal organizational restructuring to better meet the needs of our rapidly changing business environment. Some jobs were modified, some posts were altered and some new positions have opened up. I won’t get into the details of the changes suffice to say they are quite pro-active and positive in response to our growing business. In the end I have assumed some additional responsibilities and been challenged to manage a new division with a focus on motorsports product planning and development. Change is good! I am not clear at the moment, on how this will play out over the next few months but I am committed to keep the blog alive with regular updates and new content of interest to snowmobiler’s from a Yamaha perspective.
Currently we are working hard to maintain our line-up, developing updates and new accessories to further enhance our snowmobiles performance and customer satisfaction. I will confirm as much of this as possible moving forward. For example the new Nytro XT-X will have some nice customizing options. It appears an accessory, 1.75in track is in the works and our gas caddy system is improved to work with the new tunnel. I have seen samples of some other very cool new accessories Tom and Terry are working on which will add both function and ‘bling’ to your ride. While on this topic, I received a sample of the Nytro trail tank from Creation Composites and I’m very impressed with the appearance, workmanship and design that has gone into this 39 liter after-market, replacement part…
I decided to stay on board the Apex next season, then waffled a bit in Newfoundland after riding the XT-X. I drifted back to the Apex at my cottage in Ontario during a little lakeside meditation . Well after riding the new XT-X again and seeing the pending 3-cylinder accessories, I am near about ready to pull the trigger on riding a Nytro next year. Yep, I’m thinking I may have finally fallen off the 4-cylinder band wagon. Did I mention ‘change is good’?
The new Venture GT is getting rave reviews from the demo ride ‘test pilots’. The accessories guys are busy on this one as well. We already have a sturdy rack and luggage system designed for it. Another note for the new Venture, the Canadian (and European) versions get a special re-enforced rear bumper which includes a four point hitch plate for towing.
Jon and Pete are currently in Japan and have taken a lot of data with them to discuss our future direction as well as current issues with our engineers. I am told the snow is not holding up so well in Shibetsu but they will be riding some early, new model prototypes and a couple of variation models. I will have more on that later.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the blog over the off-season. I do have some ideas for entertaining content and will seed things with update information as it becomes available. Also if you have any ideas which you would like to see addressed here please let me know and I’ll do my best to fulfill your requests. On another note, I have been invited to sit in on a panel of -ahem -‘experts’, at an upcoming social media business conference being held in Toronto. My subject focus is on the topic of corporate blogging and the things I have learned hosting Sled Talk with you all. Hmmmm- you never know, perhaps some of our competitors will have a rep or two in the audience 😉 Did I mention ‘change is good?’
April 8, 2008
Spring SX Finals
…must come to an end
Early Sunday afternoon, I found myself standing at the foot of the Horseshoe Valley Ski Resort / CSRA snowcross track watching the vintage sleds challenge the ‘bunny hill’. The mercury was over 15C (60F) under clear blue skies, awesome conditions to spectate the final races of the season. Greg Marier and the Yamaha Factory Race team were on site and both Martin and Taylor had placed very well in all their qualifying runs. The Pro-open main was set to go off later in the day so I had to entertain myself cheering for the only other Yamaha on the track. An old black Enticer 340 that was dicing it out with a cherry red Rupp in the vintage class, (the ET won by the way 😉 )…
I met several Sled Talk ‘bloggers’ at both the Big4 spring show in Barrie and last weekends snowmobile race. I was reminded-amongst other things- of my obligation to write the SRX development story which currently resides as a stack of old documents in my ‘to-do’ basket. It’s clear to me in talking with many you, we are coming off a long snow season and most have had the opportunity to rack up some serious miles on their sleds. We have a lot of new potential customers looking at Yamaha now, after one too many expensive engine repairs or, riding days lost. Many of our existing customers are considering a new sled if not this season, then next and everyone is considering what maintenance and parts are required before putting the sled away for summer storage… This all helps to preserve snowmobiling in a healthy state going into next winter.
Total industry snowmobile sales in Canada are up over last season and the pipe line of non-current models has been largely depleted. The mountain segment has shown the most growth, which now represents almost a quarter of all the sleds sold in Canada. Yamaha Motor Canada also attained growth within this market and we still retain our market share position of second (next to Skidoo). The sales of trail permits are reported up in the key provinces and it appears snowmobile related, serious injury (and death) is in decline. This is especially good news considering the extra miles and hours spent by everyone on the snow this year.
…So here I am 100 feet in front of the start line with my daughter perched on my shoulders. Two blue sleds are in the front row and the flag is about to drop for the Pro Open final. Braaaap, a blur into the first corner and Taylor exits in first place for a strong drive up the long ski hill face with Hayden in second and Martin on the other Nytro in third. It looked good for Taylor until a bad line at the half way point saw Hayden slip by and hang on for the win with Steve a couple seconds behind. I snapped this shot of Taylor and Martin making a Hayden sandwich at the start finish line. It was really cool to see (and hear) the power of 4-strokes going up the mountain. I spoke with Greg at length today as they are staying on at Horseshoe for a few extra days of testing in preparation for next years snowcross assault. He’s already getting pumped for next year. It was apparent to me, standing in the crowd, how big an impact these two sleds are having on the spectators, especially when they are running stronger with each outing. Perhaps winning isn’t everything-yeah I know… but it sure is exciting to be in the hunt.
Jon and Pete are attending important meetings in Japan and a bunch of interesting events are happening around me, here at Yamaha but that’ll all have to wait until next week. Until then, if you are getting out for another rip as the snow melts, I envy you. But I have lawns to rake and tires that need air not to mention the makings of a ‘winter boiler’ that’s demanding some serious ‘cardio’.
Heres a couple of last minute race reports out of YMUS
April 1, 2008
What goes up…
I flew home last night from Kelowna with yet another head full of memories after two days atop Boulder mountain. The spring Yamafest in Revelstoke has evolved into a model event for us organized by our western region team. For those who have been visiting Sled Talk for awhile, you might remember last years post ‘Revelstoke Report‘. Well this year was more of the same. We hosted a dinner meeting on Thursday night at the Hillcrest for all our western dealers with an early rise Friday to head up the mountain for the day.
Team YMCA was first on-site in the morning getting set up, prior to our dealers arrival for the demo rides. Nothing like a frozen fritter at 5000 feet to jump-start your day eh. It’s a fact, Pete and Jon will seldom pass-up a gooey dog-nut… wet-nap anyone?
Living down the road in Vernon BC during the 70’s and 80’s, I often made my way to Revy to play on Boulder and Frisbee Ridge. Back then Revelstoke was a red-neck, railroad town stuck in the middle of the Rockies and virtually unknown to snowmobilers outside of the interior. Then along came Peterson Productions and the original extreme sled film ‘Snow Motion: The Art Of Sledding‘ (circa 1990) featuring Waldy Pietrowski and Kevin Fleming, both local Revy boys, who defined their steep and deep carving style on film for all to see, establishing a new sled culture in the process. With the release of Snow Motion 2, Revelstoke was recognized by the snowmobiling world, as a sled-head Mecca of sorts, similar to Vancouver’s North Shore for mountain bikers, Walton for the aspiring motocrosser or Port Dover for the big twins set…
In town, things have changed, a lot. A new ski hill boasts the most vertical in the country drawing in bus loads of tourists. The morning air is whipped by the sound of helicopters lifting skiers to remote alpine jump-offs, a white washed moment from Apocalypse Now. The restaurant and hotel scene is buzzing with foreign language, high end fare and ‘Speedo’s’ are a common sight in the hot-tubs (gag)… You don’t want to know what the property values have done. In a way, its a little frightening as snowmobilers are being more restricted and the price of admission is going up in the face of all the outside money pouring into the area driving up the cost of accommodation. We should all be thankful for the work of the Revelstoke Snowmobile Association and the volunteers that are dealing with the politics and growth to protect sledding in the area.
Gone are the days of being the only tracks on the hill but its all good. We must have had over 300 snowmobiles on Boulder during the customer appreciation demo rides Saturday, the majority of them Yamaha 4-strokes, many turbo-charged and customized with a plethora of trickery. Chad Rebec (CR racing) showed up with his 174 inch Apex turbo complete with Ti front end. His tunnel and suspension products were very prominent on many of the local sleds.
I smiled when I saw a Vernon family arrive riding ‘his and hers‘ turbo’s each with a child on board. Their two little girls were having a ball hanging on and ‘hanging off’ with mom and dad. My grin grew a little larger when I spotted the Sled Necks crew capturing some tricks on camera with pro rider, Brett Turcotte. For those of you keeping count this is the first yellow sled to appear in Sled Talk… tah-dah, credit where credits due, this guy can ride! My grin became a jaw dropper when I witnessed Mike Irmen ride his sled down several thousand feet of near vertical slope on his first (failed) attempt at a new chute, which he conquered on his second run claiming another ‘first ascent’ with his Alpine Turbo Nytro. He gets the honor of naming the new chute which runs right next to one aptly called- ‘The Monster’. Generally when a rider ‘sticks’ a sled on one of these impossible climbs, a helicopter will be brought in to lift it down to safety, which according to big Dean from Alpine, is cheap at $400 compared to the cost of repair when it rolls over 50 times to the bottom… makes sense to me!
I was really pleased to meet several people who read this blog regularly, some like the Burdick’s, (shown here) traveled up from the states for the party. One of our dealers (Yukon Yamaha) traveled all the way from Whitehorse (over 26 hours straight) just to join us. Jason, Gary, Brett; hats off guys, that’s commitment. And it wouldn’t have been a western Yamaha event without Gordon Aulenback from GA Checkpoint representing the ‘old guard’, Gordy I gotta get me one of those lids, you’re still ‘stylin’ man! While I’m on the subject of commitment, there is a gentleman who is very active within the Revelstoke snowmobile club and BCSF. He is well known for flippin’ his famous Boulder Burgers up at the chalet. What many don’t realize is that Herb Shaede (thats Herbie seen here on the tongs) has raised over $50,000 for local charities selling his $5.00 mountain-top burgers to hungry sledders over the past few years. Cheers Herbie, and don’t hold back the onions!
Getting back to the big iron, Randy let me take a spin on his latest creation, an MC Xpress Turbo Nytro with Timbersled rear skid, giant Simmons snowboard flexi-skis and the standard CR racing parts and tunnel. At only 280 horsepower I figured this sled would have taken a back seat to Randy’s other ride, an Apex turbo monster with significantly more jam. Both he and Mike Irmen told me their Apex’s have been collecting dust since they dialed in the Nytro’s. In fact Randy has put over 4000 km (thats a lot for a mountain sled) on his Nytro this season compared to only 400 hundred on the Apex. When asked why, he said it was ‘just more fun to ride’. Mike on the other hand, said pound for pound his Nytro’s are laying it down more than last years boosted, methanol injected and nitrous enhanced 4-cylinder. Now let me qualify a couple of things, Randy’s definition of ‘fun’ on a snowmobile and what both he, Mike and a small handful of other elite riders do with these things cannot be expressed in words beyond ‘calculated insanity’ punctuated with solid brass…er, well you know. I also got to try out the latest Powder Lites turbo Nytro which featured the new plastic skid from AD Boivin. Much thanks to Ryan for putting me on Daves sled when he wasn’t looking! So what other cool things did we have to play on? Well how about a gaggle of these scooters being distributed by Alpine Motorsports. I watched several of our resident ‘dirt squirrels’ jump aboard these kitted motocrossers and settle immediately into the ride like they had been running them all season. They work amazingly well!
It was fun to hear the reaction of people getting off the new Venture who likely never have had the chance to ride a ‘sofa’ before (not very common in the mountains). It was an acclaimed sleeper and a joy to ride in the bumps. We had the short track Nytro’s and XT-X there as well which also generated a lot of discussion and a few raised eyebrows. All in all it was an excellent time and I really want to thank our hosts, the Snowmobile Revelstoke Society and all the locals who put up with us pounding out their hill. Jon and I finished up with a Red Bull and a stretch before joining all our customers who had attended the demo-rides, for dinner and drinks at the Yamaha sponsored ‘customer appreciation’ back at the Hillcrest. The highlight of the evening was watching all the video and pics captured by Veedy for his upcoming Boost 3, due out this fall. Unfortunately I had to head back home to work but left Jon on the mountain with our man ‘Randy Swenson'(seen here with shot-gunner, Andy White) to do a little R@D after the fact… It’s always fun following Randy (windshields aren’t all that expensive to replace!) cheers cr