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Archive for February, 2015

February 27, 2015

2016 Thoughts

IMG_0397With the launch of the new 2016 models complete, I’ll focus this post on some of my personal findings and thoughts on the hardware side.

Thinking of the Viper line and what strikes me as notable (in no specific order)… The S-TX models – these two new models were spawned from last years 141 version. The 141, based on the X-TX cross-over had an uncoupled skid frame which favors off-trail, transfer character with some compromise to bump comfort and pitching. The positioning of the S-TX is more a hi-miler, long distance, performance touring ride. Last spring the AC Pantera 7000 came to light exhibiting some excellent features encased in a 2-up package. The Pro-tour chassis with coupled skid frame along with the longer track was adopted to create the new S-TX 146. What struck me immediately when riding this machine was the plush, planted ride at speed. It handles predictably and requires much less effort than one would think. Its a real ‘sleeper’ and I would consider this sled for my own if I had the time to ride the big miles where it would shine. The secondary gas tank increases fuel capacity significantly and the wind protection is excellent. All in, it is a better long distance weapon for the rider looking to put in the big miles.

The S-TX 137 strikes me as more of the ‘adventure bike’ approach, for more mature riders who like to really go the distance. Again the coupled skid but a bit shorter track and front Floats, giving it a bit sportier feel, it retains the same wind protection as the 146 and adds storage in the form of semi hard saddle bags and trunk. We also opted to run the 8-pocket rear bumper that accepts a bunch of good seating and storage options.

The M-TX sleds all got the new narrow stance and a new ski designed to maximize the evolved geometry. The objective was to make the sled more nimble and easier to throw into a carve, hold a side hill and fish-hook back uphill at will. The shape of the new spindles really help this by eliminating drag and controlling the ‘porpoising’ effect, keeping predictability high. The LE’s get the new 3 inch paddle track which I have heard a lot of good things about from our nose bleed crew. We thought it more logical to move last years X-TX LE with the 2.25 inch track to the M-TX family as it is based on the mountain chassis with vertical steering and unique 40 in stance. The M-TX 141 is a good choice for eastern boon dockers.

I quite like the performance and simplicity of the new Fox piggy back coil-over clicker shock. It has only three clicks of adjustment and is easy to turn the big knob with gloves on. The beauty is each click makes a significant change that I could clearly feel, so in application it will be really effective to dial-in to trail conditions without having to think or count clicks. Personally I still prefer a well set up coil spring over air up front for bump compliance, but that’s just me.

These shocks are used on the R-TX SE which brings me to another anomaly. I keep expecting the R-TX LE to rattle my fillings in the stutter bumps but thing is amazingly smooth and, I hesitate to say, comfortable. Jim explained to me that the 129in LE skid has low center shock tension so the bumps go through the front of the rail with the rear end taking most of the hit. Idea being to keep the sled more level in a cross country ‘ competition’ type environment, where riders are not ‘playing’ in the bumps. They need to carry speed and drive through the junk with as little pitching or kick back as possible. Whatever they have done, this sled is impressive. I also rode this model with the Performance Dampers installed and it was my pick of the litter for the day.

Tuner Ski – We have released a new version of the Tuner ski for the SE and LE trail sleds. It’s a bit lighter and shares a common axle, spacers and saddle rubber with the single keel green skis, our supplier can only produce a limited quantity for next season using the current tooling thus the application selection. Performance wise there is no difference between Gen2 and Gen3 models but one thing I have learned is carbide selection is key to any application. All our Tuners come with a basic carbide set. 2-inch inside and smooth bar outside. This combo gives the lightest steering feeling but has a tendency to ‘push’ or under-steer more in the corners. Aggressive riders should consider adding carbide. I have found the 6 inch square host on the inside and 4 inch round bar out is about perfect for my style. The steering requires a bit more effort and I get some lift when I set it hard but the sled carves well and holds the line much better on groomed. We call them ‘Tuners’ for good reason…

SingleShot – new mono shock rear skid-frames on Apex / Vector. This is a completely new rear suspension designed to drop weight and maintain track tension through its stroke. It uses the X-tra volume Fox air shock which is a bit smaller than the Mega-Float it replaces. My butt tells me the skid resists bottoming better than the old mono but may have a small compromise to small bump compliance. I think the air pressure is key and can dial the sled in to whatever you are looking for. The original mono had a tendency to extend in length near mid-stroke which added tension to the track. This energy is released near the end of the suspension stroke as the track tension actually pulled into the skid frame as it released through the tightest point causing a bit of a snap into the shock. The end result amplified the digressive nature of the suspension. I think this is one of the reasons the Mega Float worked so well to control bottoming, it ramps the spring rate up a lot towards the end of the stroke. The new skid addresses this quite nicely. Another limitation of the first mono design was track length, we could not exceed 136 inch but with the new layout we can go well over 144. Some have asked why no tipped rails on the long track mono? That is due to the fact the tipped rails would limit the stroke upon full compression. The straight rail allows maximum travel.

I’ll keep it to this for now as a first installment and see what questions may arise going forward. Our YCCT deserves some explanation as does the new VK10 Pro. Let me know what if you have anything specific to ask on what you see and I’ll do my best to answer.

cheers cr

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Posted @ 11:44 am in Yamaha Insights   

February 21, 2015

Opaque

Reading a comment that came in today from Scott, I was reminded of a post I had written a while back but never published. Not sure why not as it doesn’t read negative to me now, guess I’ll find out soon enough, here you go:

Day three holding down my desk, getting re-familiarized with imagethe office while digging down to the less urgent items buried in the in-basket. I’m staring at my computer screen hoping some brilliant idea will come to mind which I can elaborate upon for you without  second guessing myself and weighing the potential ramifications. This used to be pretty easy, sharing old sled development stories , passing along snippets of current events and carefully hinting at what was to be. Now a days, the rear view mirror isn’t providing me much more than a trail of snow dust and peering out the windshield I can only see up the trail a short distance.

I am continually reminded of things I have written, implications of new things to come, which have yet to make production. Some are projects still in the works, some are plans, delayed and some may have simply fallen into the abyss along with all good intent. There are reasons for everything; however explanations are not always possible. The thing that disturbs me most when reminded of past iterations – not realized –  is personal and somewhat selfish. It’s a fear for my own credibility, manifest in my desire to defend the integrity of the statement. Problem is, I often can’t without jeopardizing the greater plan . And it’s frustrating.

Its always a bonus and appreciated when one of you rises to my defense with a subjective counter or rebuttal to what some may perceive as a negative viewpoint, thus proving the notion that a credible blog will ‘self police’ without need of censorship. Hence I have published every pertinent comment ever posted here, regardless of how critical the intent appeared. I believe most of you having read my ramblings over the years, understand the best laid plans… well, you know. I truly hope you believe that what I have written here has always been in the spirit of transparency with complete respect for your intelligence and passion for Yamaha snowmobiles. But enough already, fact is, some of what I once thought was clear became opaque with time. It wasn’t my intention to mislead or blow smoke. I won’t revisit any particular examples now that would be pointless. You will just have to sit back with me and watch as the future unfolds knowing I am not all that far in front of you when it comes to my point of view.

… And now a word from our sponsors…

cheers cr

 

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Posted @ 12:47 pm in Yamaha Insights   

February 17, 2015

Now Boarding

imageSpent the whole long weekend in a battle with the elements. Minus 30 C average temps and many of my ‘seasonal’ neighbours showing up at the lake for family day had me feeling like a cross between a tow truck driver and mobile mechanical service. Gotta love people that run their sleds once or twice a year and don’t touch them otherwise…’it was running great last summer when I started it last’… Spare belt? Uh, no, don’t have one of them. But I pulled the spark plugs out and blew on them. My 800 2 stroke doesn’t have a recoil back-up… Whaaaat?

Weekend before, my old friend Steve Brand  dropped by on his SR imageViper. He was celebrating his 60th with a ride from his home in Minden ON to Thief River Fall MN to see his son Jeff who is now working for Arctic Cat as an engineer. The oriimageginal idea had Steve racing the I500 in the vintage (driver) class but that all changed when the race got cancelled due to no snow. Anyway we had a good visit and I rode out with him Sunday morning to point him in the direction of Sudbury. The latest update – Steve is still rolling after a week and a bit, scratching through the farmland south east of TRF. Our crew in Minocqua hosted him for a night and Jim V led him out of town, freshly serviced. I understand the sled was doing pretty good as well.

Today I am once again stuck in Chicago O’hare on my way to Minocqua, delayed flights. SNAFU. The annual ‘joint test’ is scheduled for tomorrow where we get together with far too many people, to ride a representative sampling of the MY 2016 spec sleds. We then do a ceremonial evaluation and round table discussion on the results. It’s a nice ‘feel good’ opportunity for some of the guys but the reality is the work is already done, the specs are decided and it is what it is. Not being negative as I am fully confident that the results will shine. I just don’t have the patience any more for the ‘dance’.

I really want to get out with Jon for a rip on his MPI equipped Turbo Viper. We are distributing a low boost trail version as an accessory and I haven’t been on one since the development phase. MPI had some issues with them in the mountains where they’d drop oil if laid over on the left side. That’s behind us now with an easy update to the plumbing. The next order of business is getting the best clutch and gear specs to take advantage of the extra power. There are lots of good reports coming in including some very positive words from the Supertrax crew who wrung one out for a few days, so I am looking forward to see the results first hand… If I ever get out of this airport!!!!    Cheers cr

 

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Posted @ 3:08 pm in Yamaha Insights   

February 9, 2015

Let Me Call A Friend

RickTo paraphrase the big guy on Pawn Stars; “one thing I’ve learned after 30 years in this business is: you never know whats going to walk through that door!”

I had diligently applied myself to writing a comparison article on our Yamaha sled engines for marketing. Several hours invested, produced the first draft. It wasn’t particularly easy trying to make sense of the interview I’d done with a brilliant young engineer. I had to communicate through a translator whose aptitude for the subject matter wasn’t necessarily on par with what was being said. Figured I was well advised to run it by a few of the guys for a proof read and so the email went out with the .pdf files attached to a simple request for input.

What returned was completely off-topic and rapidly evolved into what I could only describe as a  ‘love-in’ focused on a pretty amazing series of achievements by an even more amazing man. Nick Keller has been riding the wheels off his 2010 RS Vector GT since the winter of 2009 when he smashed the distance record for 60 days riding just under 20,000 miles. Nick still averages over 200 miles a day and applies much of his spare time to raising funds for the Keller Family Community Foundation to help support the battle against cancer.

Nick’s story has been told over the past few seasons in many of the mainstream snowmobile publications and a quick Google search produces a surprising number of articles. He is still riding the same Vector GT he started with in 2009. I remember being impressed when he hit the 50,000 mile mark a while back but I was completely astonished to learn he is rapidly approaching 100,000 miles. Folks that a big 1 with 5 zeros behind it!!

So here’s the deal. No one in product planning or engineering saw this one coming. The first call to action came through as ‘does anyone know if the odometer has a sixth digit beyond the decimal point?’ The question being, what will happen when the odometer rolls over the 99,999 miles mark. Nick has been dreaming of the day he will see that magic 100K, in all its digital splendor, displayed beneath the speedo. The answer back was not so encouraging. The significance is not lost on us how Nick will feel when the magical moment turns to naught and the odo resets itself to zero zero zero zero zero zero.

I have seen first hand, the talents of some of the members over on TY and I know there are some pretty smart guys that read this blog. Wondering if anyone has any good suggestions on how we could help preserve this ‘trophy gauge’ for Nick. Is there is a ‘hack’ or some way to re program the LCD display to record this feat? What other ways could we capture and preserve the moment? Anyone got anything?

Here’s a little blast from the past, you’ll have to tolerate the little snake oil ad but Meisha is always worth the wait 😉

 

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Posted @ 2:55 pm in Yamaha Insights