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August 13, 2009

Viper Story Part 4: The Finale

Thinking it might be time to wrap the ‘Snake Eyes’ saga. I jumped in my tin-boat after our regular Sunday rainstorm to bail it out . Third scoop of the bucket and a young water snake slithered out from under the fuel tank platform aggressively swimming directly at my writing hand, had to use a paddle to evict her… perhaps she was delivering a message .

AM1And so it was, the SX Viper became a highly refined variation of the SXr. The new engine proved to beRA extremely efficient and bullet proof. I’m not so sure the FAI (ram-air) feature was near the benefit we had hoped, although Saito still swears it makes a difference of three to four horsepower at  top speed. I remember how much attention was spent on the air management and layout, one example of the  level of detail that goes into a Yamaha can be seen in this sound hologram analysis: 0MC0717.

New Crank journal_3The engine was sneaky fast, not as hard hitting as the big twin 800’s but far smoother and more linear in it’s delivery. Although the horsepower numbers didn’t peak that high on the dyno, the torque was very ‘usable’ and ‘tractable’,  it ‘got ‘er done.’ More importanly (at least to Yamaha), very few ever ended up on the wrong end of the tow rope and we also set the bar for low fuel and oil consumption. I found this report on the competition which I wrote after ridng all the new stuff at the Snowshoot in Yellowstone, I think it was:              Snow Shoot 02

The Viper’s marketing had to be tweaked somewhat due to all the changes in the original plan. Several ‘creative briefs’ occurred. I found this marketing strategy document from the ad agency working on the Viper account. It is based on their market understanding after meeting and discussing with our people. Note the names have been changed to protect the innocent 😉 : 2002SXViperBlueStrategy . I can’t duck the bullet when it comes to marketing hype, I also found this letter I wrote, which was part of a direct mail campaign to Canadian owners of SXr’s and SRX following the release of the new Viper. Hey I only had to swallow hard once!     Snake Bit

The first season we had a lot of feedback regarding the ride comfort of the SX Viper. Most were pointed at the shocks and skid frame set-up while some questioned the seat firmness. This eventually led to some countermeasure specs and I remember taking off for a few days with my riding partner Mike Collins and Steve Brand from TekRiderto do some real world testing and evaluations.  Steve volunteered to do the trucking and we headed north after picking up the Supertrax Viper press sled which Mark and Kent had been struggling to dial in. I still remember the Supertrax article recommending everyone remove all pre-load from all four shocks as the ‘hot set-up’ for trail riding, it was that sled I wanted to try. We also had a base line stocker and one with the latest countermeasure spec from factory.  Steve wanted to have us test some of his latest TekVest products and he had acquired a set of the then ‘new’ Precision skis from Skidoo. Here’s my report from the archives. It dosen’t include the part where after breaking trail for many miles we all ran out of fuel. If it had not been for an abandoned Cat with a very tight engine and full tank of gas we’d of been in some serious doo-doo. Steve did the honors of sucking on the siphon hose and remarked how much better the premium fuel in the kitty tasted compared to the regular gype he had just sucked from Mikes sled to stay in the game. The way I saw it is; we made the Cat much lighter for the tow out, no worries, you are welcome…

Made me smile to review after this many years. I’ll let you read between the lines. After the report was written several of the items I referred to were addressed in different ways, including at least one lawsuit for Skidoo (we have been and still are, struggling to find a good ski / skag design that is not patent protected):   reportSXV02

The second year Viper’s had most of the wrinkles removed with improved suspension settings. We also came up with a controversial shock update kit for owners who found their 02’s too stiff. The rear heat exchanger was also addressed (originally left off to save weight and cost based on testing that indicated we could live without one). And then there was the ViperS complete with adjustable Ohlins front shocks and the Ripsaw track / deep keel ski cloned from the RX-1… what a difference, what a great sled! (not unlike the Exciter SX scenario), get it right and discontinue… d’oh!

So there you have it. What started out as a clean sheet of paper became a nicely evolved snowmobile based on many existing parts and refinements. It is my perception of this which led to my post entitled:  ‘The Last 2-Smoke’ which talked about the SRX being the final new 2-stroke developed by Yamaha before going full-on 4-stroke. It’s debatable whether the Viper is truly the last 2-stroke that Yamaha developed, just depends how you look at it. Matter of fact I understand that the Bravo is getting a clutch update next year, maybe that should qualify 😉

I hoMarch 07 092pe you enjoyed this little series. If Saito comes up with any more de10tails or images I’ll do an update down the road. Until then I must get back to finishing up my cottage and fending off snakes.

cheers  cr

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9 Responses to “Viper Story Part 4: The Finale”

  1. Ike says:

    Once again great reading.

    Can´t really understand the softening of the suspension… That is just not what we have here. But, in really flat gromed trails it just might be in order.


    Hey Ike, hopefully someday you will have the chance to ride our groomed trails in northern Ontario and Quebec. When the conditions are perfect you would be amazed at how far and how fast you can travel. If conditions were always like this there would be no Nytro or 14 inch sleds, we would be low and wide… or at the very least, plush. cr

  2. Low Slung says:

    Great saga,this kind of insight makes me wonder what is going through product planning right now?New chassis?New motor?How many cylinders?What color?By the way was the VENOM part of the plan at the same time of the VIPER release? and could we ever see a special release like the 1998 VMAX XTC-P with the 1 1/2 deep lug track on a 121 four-stroke right from the factory?

    I pushed hard for that XTCP and in hindsight, think we were too far ahead of the curve, it was a blast to ride off-trail but did not sell well enough to continue. The Venom was a compromise sled, dropping the Vmax engine into the Viper styling, required very little investment the intent was to purchase some time. We were already working at the RX 4-cylinder follow-up… the RS Vector, to replace the 2-stroke 600 mill category. cr

  3. scott says:

    The sled development stories are my favorite type of articles in the Sled Talk Blog. Thanks for the time and effort to dig up photos and share with the rest of us!

    I’d love to read about the development of the FX Nytro and early 80’s SRX/Vmax. The Phazer would also be a good story. I feel the latest Phazer has missed the mark a bit from the orginal ’84 model simply because that sled floated really well and really went over the snow. The 14″ wide track on the new one was a bad move, IMO.

    As far as Yamaha skis go, I’ve done my fair share of complaining about them, but, after lots of testing using other aftermarket skis, I’ve found they are predictable and forgiving on groomed or set up trails. The main issue I see is that the 5″ wide skis do not work in unpacked snow. They make the 4-strokes feel like they weigh another 100 lbs since they don’t float and knife in. Maybe the skis could be marketed a 5″ wide for trails, 6″ as a more general conditions ski and the 7″ wide for mountains and powder. I think 8″ wide skis would work even better for the mountains and powder.

    Hey Scott, good comments… we are currently working on a pretty cool accessory ski solution that may work very well in your back yard, stay tuned for announcement… cr

  4. parepadarappa says:

    Well, if you remember back in “ride straight” I left a comment that now after reading this one has me even more confused. I said

    “If you remember, you and I touched on the ski issue once before, having the stock shallow keels on my Sx-R and having Ski-Doo’s Precisions on my wife’s Viper ER (that came with it when we bought it). Well, obviously I don’t ride my wife’s sled very often, but this week I rode her sled into work, (a perk of living in the UP) and I don’t know how she rides that thing. I’m going to try some set up adjustments on it, but it pushes hard throught long sweepers and then on iced corners feels like it has so much ski pressure that it is extremely hard to turn the bars, to the point that I had problems with it. So in one breath, you would think that you would need more ski pressure to take away the push in the sweeper, but then it feels like too much ski pressure on the ice. I guess that I’m trying to back up your assessment, that maybe because these skis weren’t designed for this chassis, they just may not work right.”

    And now you are telling me that you thought that those were the way to go??? Maybe I should try one with the stock skis to see how bad it is in stock form, because if the prcisions made it better, then it mush have been REALLY bad in stock form.

    And since this is the apparent end to the Viper story, it begs the question, What’s next?


    Hey Ben, at the time I did really like the Precision, I went as far as purchasing a set of Simmons skis (remarkably similar) the following season which after spending more time over a wider range of conditions, caused me to change my mind. This was somewhat effected by the proliferation of the ski profile due to the large number of yellow sleds running around with the OE Precisions, causing the tracking and darting to increase. I ended up giving them to a buddy and going on to experiment with other solutions. Couple of things on your wife’s Viper. The mounting point of the ski (bolt hole) plus the rubber profile will have a bearing on steering effort and darting, as well as the suspension calibration but I think you know this well… cheers cr

  5. Mike says:

    Wonderful reading Chris! Thanks!


    No… thank you! comments like yours make it all worth while… cheers cr

  6. Brian welter says:

    Why does yamaha keep fighting so hard to try and fix the skis they have? Why not just buy skis from one of the manufactures.. Im sure they would love to work a deal and sell you 10,000 of them ..

    I remember when Polaris had a deal back in 2001 where you could custom build your sled when you ordered it.. You had a choice of a M-10 or a Edge (both rode better than anything yamaha had at the time by a long ways)

    Why doesnt yamaha do something like that.. Swallow there pride and just buy skis from someone else?

    Actually we have tried to acquire from others and still hit the wall. Most recently, we negotiated the use of a design that wasn’t properly protected in the first place. The lawyers looked at it and advised not to proceed. On another front we negotiated another deal and instead of a simple monetary transaction, they wanted us to release them from a patent infringement issue… it really is a b*tch! cr

  7. Yellowknife says:

    Wow. Nice work Chris. Lots of effort there, it took me a long time to read all the documents, it must have taken you a lot of time to set this stuff up. Much appreciated.


    Thanks YK, I know you spend a ton of time preparing content for the forums and have a huge following. Appreciate that you understand what goes into creating a worthy story! cheers cr

  8. Brian welter says:

    I know the reason why all the manufactures fight with the darting issue.. When you sell 10,000 sleds all with the same ski.. they all ride the same trails.. and because of that.. when going down the trail you end up riding in those same grooves causing your sled to dart or hunt..

    What they need is a ski wth infinitly adjustable ski stance and heal and toe adjustablilty to counter act for this..

    certainly a huge part of the factor but we may have a different solution… stay tuned… cr

  9. mark thurlow says:

    i bought a 2002 sxviper 700 burnt piston midel cyl what should i look for when replaceing it is this a common problem no hole in it just got hot on the edge thank you

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