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Archive for November, 2010

November 26, 2010

Track Studding

I recently posted a survey on Totallyamaha and  Sled Talk to gather some information on the long standing practice of snowmobiler’s adding traction devices to their machines, or more simply put… track studding. I was able to conclude several interesting points which brings me to today’s topic which I will submit as a ‘tech-tip’ for anyone who is considering the addition of studs to a new Yamaha.

First off the disclaimer: Yamaha does not recommend or endorse the addition or modification of our snowmobiles with regards to studs. Why? It’s simple, studs have been known to rip out and cause damage to the machine. I read many accounts within the survey  confirming heat exchanger penetration, resulting in the loss of the engine coolant. This generally causes the headlight to stop  working if one isn’t paying close attention to all the flashing lights on the dash and that funny, sweet odor of boiling glycol. Of course, if we endorsed the use of studs and something went sideways, it would be our fault and we’d be entertaining warranty requests to repair engines that went down through no fault of their own. We have no alternative than to say: No, don’t doo it!

Now if you were to chose to ignore this advice and add some studs to your track, there is something else you should consider. The heat exchangers are not your only concern. The exhaust system is exposed on our four strokes to aid in cooling. The chance of a random stud tearing out and causing damage is not really a ‘biggy’ but it occurs to me that we have added something new to the equation – extrovert drivers.

No, I am not referring to some of the more charming riders type A personalities here. In older models, track tension was pretty easy to monitor. If the track was run out of spec (loose) it would ‘ratchet’ due to the rubber track drive lugs (involutes) slipping against the force of the drive sprocket. Studded machines needed to run pretty tight tracks to keep them hooked up to the drivers which helped keep those sharp little bits in the belt away from the expensive little bits up inside the tunnel.

The advent of the extrovert has benefited both performance efficiency and assisted in reducing track noise, its a good thing but the self-policing need to keep a taught track full of nails is now gone out the window. Think about that rubber band under your butt for a moment At top lake speed it is trying desperately to become a circle from the centrifugal force. It is also being stretched on one end by the drive system and retracts towards the other in reaction, causing some really cool wave patterns within its radius of travel. Now add a few pounds of steel to the middle and you have a recipe for some serious distortion and deflection.

I don’t want to tell you what the new one piece titanium exhaust system which includes the EXUP valve is worth because you may have a son or daughter in university but I will tell you this. You don’t want to discover it’s scratched up because you forgot to adjust the track before heading out to the radar runs on Big Boost Lake.

Personally I don’t stud my machine but I think if I did, I would pay very close attention to the length of stud that I chose and I would also keep a very watchful eye on my track tension and underside of my tunnel, keeping everything adjusted to the tighter side of the recommended spec. I also figure that a good tuner, upon reflection will pull off the seat (which by the way is far easier on the 2011 Apex than previous models) and give some thought to maximizing the clearances and effectiveness of the tunnel protectors etc. The adage of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure applies.

As of today we have some significant snow on the ground, Jon just sent these numbers around:45 cm in Winnipeg, 38 cm in Northern Quebec, 40 cm in norther Ontario and 150 cm in certain areas of BC.

Here’s what it looks like now compared to Dec 1 last year, fingers crossed we are in for a good run this season.

In closing I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends, with any luck you’ll be able to work off some of that turkey before Christmas.

Cheers   cr

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Posted @ 3:41 pm in Tech Talk   

November 18, 2010


Well it appears some of you enjoyed the old pics I posted last week. I am a real sucker for nostalgia but more to the point I am a bit worried that so much of our history is slowly sifting through the cracks of time. All the Yamaha snowmobile pioneers have passed the retirement threshold and there aren’t many of us left in the company who have drawn from their first hand knowledge and experience of those days. I do have a meager collection of old photos and film clips that I consider treasures- they need to be archived for the future.

Hans mentioned in a comment that no one ever shows the original red SS440 it’s always the silver and blue… well Hans this ones for you. The gentleman standing with the SR proto and SS is, I believe, Canadian race driver Roy Wall.

I think one of the most famous sleds of Yamaha legend is the factory Sno Pro racer that debuted in Eagle River back in 74/75. The SSR440 entered the open pro class against a field of sleds with twice the displacement… cages were rattled and history made.

Here’s a shot of the first factory SSR before it was crated up and shipped to North America. Low Slung, I think this is the sled you refereed to in last weeks comments, hard to say if that’s a carbon fiber hood but I wouldn’t doubt it.

So how heavy was this sled you ask? Check out the pic of a very young Gordy Muetz hoisting it up by the ears, the engineer doesn’t look too impressed 🙂

It’s that time of year when I start cruising the forums looking for topics from people  fortunate enough to be riding and dropping comments on the new sleds. This year I have a little more reason to surf aside from idle curiosity, all because of our Apex portal Yournextsled.com

We launched Yournextsled last spring as a repository to drop in all the comments and rich media we could find on the web from people that had a chance to test ride the new EPS Apex’. We intentionally did not go ‘corporate’ on the site and left out any sugar coated ad messages and marketing stuff, keeping it real with riders speaking about their thoughts on the sled. I did do a video blog on the development background and Jon did a walk-around to cover the technical bits but that’s it. The rest are unedited bites of conversation taken from the forums, media, events and various web-sites.

Now we are trying to update the site with new content based on people riding their own production sleds in the real world. If that is you, please hit the link and let us all know what you think. I still stand by my statement that EPS works so well that our competitors must react and adopt the technology as quick as they can. I also figure they will deny the need until they have it ready to go (kinda like they did with performance 4-stroke engines). Time will tell.

On another note, every year around this time Jon and I arm wrestle over what sleds we will be riding in the coming season and why. Jon has generally ended up on the newest model in the line up with a Phazer 3 years ago to a Nytro XTX, then it was a new Vector last year and this year…? Myself on the other hand, let go my 2-season Warrior turbo ride to hop on board a 121 Apex in 06, in 07 another 121 Apex in 08 another 121 Apex, 09 …yep, last year yes, again. Admittedly, I came really close to riding an FI Vector last season and a Nytro the year before, but the 4 cylinder perched on a 121 inch mono-shock is a combination that I have come to love. So what have I chosen to ride this year – drum roll please – a 144 torsion skid Apex XTX.

This is a big deal for me because I have always found the shorter track sleds easier to handle and more nimble on the trail (for my style and conditions). Where it all changed was when I rode the XTX in Wisconsin year before last. The EPS combined with the tipped up rails felt like a shorty and then some. The additional traction and stroke’y feeling rear skid left me in denial but after riding it some more last spring and after stewing on it all summer, I have joined the ranks of the cross-dressing crowd (not to say the Apex is a true cross-over) but I do feel obligated to try to get it stuck once in a while  😉  cheers  cr

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Posted @ 3:00 pm in Sled History and Links   

November 11, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story

Didn’t have much time this week to pen any words but I have been asked to find the file I did for the introduction of the RX-1 and stumbled across a bunch of old memories. I hope I can drum up a ghost or two for you… enjoy:

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Posted @ 3:52 pm in Sled History and Links   

November 5, 2010

Avalanche – Best Oil?

Last season was a bad one for avalanche tragedy. There were many reports in the news of snowmobiler’s, skiers and other back-country enthusiasts getting caught out in slides. Yamaha Canada has been a big supporter of the Canadian Avalanche Center and their partner training programs, focused on educating riders on avalanche safety. For the last several years we were the only manufacturer involved but after last years turn of events it is good to see Skidoo starting to get on board.

It is no fluke that Yamaha has long stood behind the CAC avalanche education programs. Most of our western staff members are pretty hard-core when it comes to riding. They walk the walk and have a lot of first hand experience when it comes to mountain extremes. I’d like to recognize Randy Swenson our western region manager, for his involvement and ongoing commitment to rider safety. In case you don’t recognize Randy’s name, you can check out some of his skillful achievements on the Team Thunderstruck web-site where he has nailed several first ascents and was captured on film as seen on this YouTube teaser clip:

If you are planning on taking a trip west or are fortunate to call yourself a local you really do need to considering taking some formal training, if not for yourself, for your riding buddies. You can’t get what you need from a condensed ‘introductory seminar’ …that’ll just give you enough knowledge to make you over-confident and dangerous. Here’s a media release with the 411 from Randy’s experience. Yamaha Avalanche Release

I was reading the comments over on TY this morning and noticed a thread on what oil is appropriate for use in a Yammie 4-stroke. I have spent a lot of time lately researching this subject and preparing educational material for our web-site and technical Yamalube support. Here’s an excerpt where I have tried to offer some rationale to choosing the right type of oil for any motorsports engine regardless of its base blend (mineral or synthetic). I am sure you all have an opinion on this one but I have discovered some compelling information that has led me to write this:

“Trying to find a definitive answer to the old question – ‘Who makes the best motor oil?’ – is much like listening to a political candidate’s debate, so many opinions you just don’t know what to believe.

In the good old days things were simple. Fuel contained lead with very few additional chemicals and could be depended upon to offer stable performance with long shelf life. Engine oils were also basic and all you needed to decide was what thickness or ‘viscosity’ you needed based on the season and what brand sponsored your favorite TV show.

The rising costs of gasoline in the eighties triggered a response from the auto makers in engineering cars to be more fuel efficient. ‘Land yachts’ made way for lighter weight, more aerodynamic designs powered by highly-efficient, computerized engines which demanded newer, more specialized fuels and oils. On the heels of this new technology came additional requirements, stemming from modern environmental awareness. Government regulators around the world received mandates to legislate lower tail-pipe emissions putting even greater responsibility on the shoulders of the engine makers along with the petroleum industry.

Today’s engine oils are far more specialized than they were in the past. Petroleum engineers have developed new blends and additives to increase fuel efficiency.  Special friction modifiers sometimes called ‘friction reducers’ are combined with low viscosity base oil to gain greater fuel mileage in cars. It’s all about the average fuel consumption claims, highway/city in the brochures and frequency of visits to the pumps. In addition to this, car oil formulations have reduced phosphorous (a traditional wear inhibitor) to help protect the new emissions systems that use catalytic converters. Motorsports engines are designed quite differently than car motors, to meet the specific performance demands within each product group. They do not like ‘friction reduced’ oils and require additional additives to protect against wear and extreme pressures not found in most car oils.

To develop certified automobile oil, engineers need only consider the basic moving engine parts: crank-shaft, pistons, cams etc. Transmissions, clutches, torque converters and starters are all external components working outside of the engine cases. They are not a consideration when formulating a friction reducing motor oil. Not so with motorsports engines. Depending on the product, the engine oil will also have to lubricate the transmission, clutch and can impact the starter clutch, gear reduction system, Sprague clutch and other components not found in car engines.

Add to this, many motorsports engines are very high performance some running at well over 10,000 RPM for long periods of time. Others are air-cooled, producing massive torque and high temperature at very low rpm while others run in extreme, hostile environments like water, dust and salt which can accelerate corrosion and wear far beyond that of the family mini-van.

Unlike the automobile industry, motorsports (which includes motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and recreational marine products) collectively represent only a small fragment of the internal combustion engine market. It costs the big oil companies a lot of money to develop, test and certify motor oils for different applications and the truth is; the bulk of the oil available today is not created, tested or certified for use in motorsports products. The small potential sales volume is prohibitive to development. With that said, retailers still love to sell you car oil for your Yamaha even if it could prove harmful to certain components or not deliver the best performance over the long haul. Oil is oil, its just business, right? Wrong.

These days it is more important than ever to understand the benefits of using lubricants designed specifically for your engine. Yamaha has been in the oil business for a long time being one of the first manufacturers to brand and market specialty lubricants dedicated to the specific needs of motorsports products. Yamalube will protect the internal components from premature wear, pitting and corrosion while delivering maximum engine performance through the complete power train. This comes as a result of Yamaha engineers working directly with leading petroleum industry experts in the formulation and testing of each Yamalube product using high-performance Yamaha engines in real world simulations.

Regardless of what your experience has been in the past, the new age of automotive specialization is upon us and the car oil you have grown to trust over the years could very well lead to deteriorated performance or expensive repairs in the future. You own one of the world’s finest engines, it deserves the best. Yamalube.

Tip: read the label; if it uses the words ‘friction reduced’ or ‘friction modified’ don’t put it in your Yamaha.”

I’d like to learn more about what your thoughts are on engine oils and lubes and I plan on putting together an on line survey to gather some data. I also have some information directly pertaining to our snowmobile engine requirements which I’ll share in another post.

I would like to ask your help with this one. I have a brief survey which will help us better understand a market issue. It won’t take you more than a couple of minutes. Please click here if you are a real snowmobiler.

Cheers  cr

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Posted @ 9:42 am in Opinions and Insights,Tech Talk