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March 30, 2016

I Didn’t See A Thing

A post caught my eye today on the TY forums. ‘Is it the End for EPS?‘ I was eager to see what was being said on the subject as I’m on record as being a big fan of power steering on snowmobiles. The authors logic was pretty simple – with more and more of our sport sleds coming out of the TRF factory, he wondered if Yamaha has given up on the technology as it’s not integrated into the newest Sidewinders. I was just getting into the discussion when things got a little sideways (re off-topic) as another poster claimed no one inside of the ‘big four’ bother to spend time on consumer forums and if they did, would never do anything about what they read. Really? For the record, the latest trend in corporate social engagement is to have dedicated social media monitoring in place, which can take the form of agencies or internal departments with people and soft-ware focused on what is being brandished about on-line; in related chat rooms and forums. They seldom to never engage but they report to management, anything that may send up a red flag. It’s also my understanding that the motor sports industry is no exception to the rule. Anyway, the convo eventually got back to the pros and cons of EPS which segues well to today’s content.

EPSFirst let’s review the basics of the EPS system. It is electronic and therefore controlled by the ECU. The ECU itself needs to be designed with EPS as a functional component so this is not a simple add-on. The ECU is responsible for adjusting the amount of steering assist based on speed and operating conditions. It pulls power away as speed increases so it is not (as far as the Yamaha system is concerned) a linear assist. On the mechanical side, the power assist is generally applied to the steering shaft through a worm gear system. What some people don’t understand is this works not only to lower the steering effort, it also isolates a lot of unwanted feedback into the handle bars as the skis bite and break on uneven surfaces. EPS doesn’t just lower the steering effort, it reduces the wrestling match of constantly having to correct for inconsistent traction. End of the day the old elbows have enough left to hoist a couple over a nice dinner without reminding you of the last 400 clicks.

Ideally, EPS is best fitted to a new design but that really wasn’t the case with the Apex and Vector. We found a way to place the unit in existingSidewinderHoodoff chassis’ then went about developing the electronics (ECU, wiring harness etc) along with the required shafts and linkage. I am a big believer in EPS on snowmobiles and it seems I am not the only one. I can see ‘gram savers’ rolling their eyeballs and deep snow boon docking is about the last place where I would spend a dime on EPS. That said, I’m willing to bet some of the ‘weight weeny’ naysayers may have cause to pause and reflect given the opportunity to try it in their chosen environment. Where EPS really shines is on the trail. The problem is, you need to live with EPS for a while before you really ‘get it’. Its a bit of a hard sell when the benefit is measured against added weight, added development costs (time included) and a higher retail price tag.

I don’t think EPS is dead by any means. However it will take a bit more time and understanding at various levels before we see it on more models. It would be a really tight squeeze on the current Sidwewinder considering all the additional plumbing it includes and the Viper would need to have a completely new ECU design which is a huge undertaking. It’s a no brainer that chassis updates along with power-trains and suspension are in a constant state of evolution and future designs will see change. Whenever the opportunity is presented you can bet there will be at least one old fart at the table with his hand in the air for EPS.

cheers cr

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Posted @ 8:38 am in Sled Development,Tech Talk   

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11 Responses to “I Didn’t See A Thing”

  1. John says:

    One of the things I missed when I switched to a Viper from my Apex was the power steering. The Viper is not hard to steer, nor was the Apex, but the isolation from ruts and kick-back was the best benefit for me after a long saddlebag day.
    Worth every penny and worked flawlessly.

  2. Mr T. says:

    I’m with you on the EPS option. I was worried when we bought the 2012 Vector for the wife. She was coming off a 2001 Phazer. I knew the sled would ride better, but would handaling be a problem for her, because of the weight? I would say 150 to 200lbs heavier..? Well I knew we made the right decision when after riding 5 miles on her maiden voyage we came to a stop. She turns around and looks at me with this huge smile, my worrys were over! She then let her sister inlaw ride it, who’s a polaris rider. Her comment was if she could put the engine and the EPS in her 2015 pro S switchback she would have the perfect snowmobile! The wife put on 1700 miles this year and not one complaint of being tired and sore! EPS on all snowmobiles? Hell yes!!!!

  3. Gary says:

    I loved EPS on my Apex, that is, until it stopped working altogether. Did you know what the replacement cost for a power steering actuator is? $1500CDN. That’s insane.

    I couldn’t fathom spending that much and found a used unit for less than half that. Unfortunately, the replacement unit only lasted me the season and then it bit the biscuit again. Maybe I was just unlucky, but another $600 for a used unit and I finished the season with power steering. That’s 3 actuators in just under 18000km.

    Yamaha should really make these units serviceable (ie. torque sensor), not treat them as a replaceable unit. I loved the power steering when it worked, but it was the final straw for me and I traded my Apex in for another sled.

    Personally, power steering is not a necessity, but a luxury. I must say that the Apex was a bear to turn without it. I can see power steering continue to be incorporated in Yamaha’s future lineup, more towards touring sleds, but if a sled can be engineered to be more balanced, power steering is not needed.

  4. Viper S says:

    Unfortunately recently viewed the Sidewinder and Viper at our Sneak Peak earlier this month. After viewing and speaking with current owners of Vipers, I don’t know how those sleds could handle anything more in those cramped engine quarters! I’ve really rethought a purchase of a newer Viper because of this… I may always stay on Blue, because I’ve understood, liked and believed all I’ve owned. I may be old, but most all of what I’ve ridden by Yamaha, has been much more servicable… Just sayin’
    Viper S

  5. Bob says:

    Sorry, but I see EPS as a band aid solution. Instead, engineers should strive for better materials, design and ergonomics and ultimately a lighter and more responsive vehicle.

    Most real road race cars don’t have eps in favour of better road feel, lighter weight and simplicity. A snowmobile is no different.

    Interesting comment, using your analogy I wouldn’t apply EPS to Tucker Hibberts open sleds as they are real race snowmobiles. I also wouldn’t want to take Tuckers open sled for a 300 mile trail ride, (well ok, maybe once). So on a pure road-race car, I agree – but what about premium sports cars? I believe even the most exotic still employ EPS (or hydraulic) within state-of-the-art performance designs, even the ones costing 7 digits, EPS isn’t a band-aid, its a valuable comfort feature… cheers cr

  6. Wes says:

    Hi Chris,

    I personally love EPS on my 2016 Apex XTX and will never go back. On a different topic, have you heard any discussion in regards to recalibrating or replacing the rear Singleshot skid? I loved the ride, but I blew out two shocks in one day and now my dealer tells me the shock is on backorder at least until June. Guess it will be a lowrider in storage. Any insight would be appreciated.



  7. Beyerman says:

    Most likely all the same arguments were heard against power steering when it was first used on many other vehicles going back many decades. Now they all have it.
    Heck, even many lawn tractors have it.
    We also heard it when Yamaha and Honda introduced it on ATV,s. Now the majority of owners say they will never go back.
    It is only a matter of time before we see it on competing sled makers.
    Also, I’m not buying Bob’s comments in regards to the logic that it makes more sense to just make the vehicle lighter.
    Will Ford drop power steering on its pickup truck since it just shed the weight of a snowmobile? Do pigs fly?

  8. Roger says:

    After Trail Running a 2008 Apex for 15,000 km and switching over to a 2013 Apex with EPS and riding 4,000km just this season alone there is no question the EPS is a necessity if you’re going to push the daily mileage. You can increase the carbides upfront and still have arms to spare. I’d trade weight anytime to be able to ride one handed and wipe freezing rain from a visor. You won’t know you love it until you don’t have it anymore. Apex’s are amazing sleds but the Sidewinder is calling my name – EPS or not it’s time.

  9. Anthony says:

    Totally agree with you Chris. EPS is a great feature. Hope it stays

  10. Mark Lawson says:

    Thanks for confirming that Yamaha is watching Chris. That means a ton to the members on TY and other forums!

    As we spoke of before and in that thread, I am a firm believer in EPS and will have my eye out for the next model with it. I hope I didn’t take your comments here out of context on TY. It was hard to get across that there are folks within Yamaha that still love it too. And our comments were about the only thing that would convince them that you are listening.

    Keep up the great work. I am looking forward to Sneak Peek in Fargo next week!

  11. snoguzzler says:

    EPS is a great addition. You don’t know its there until you try a sled without it.

    🙂 🙂 cr

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