Archive for the 'Sled Development' Category
April 15, 2016
There is a little confusion surrounding the difference between the Sidewinder R-TX 129 LE and L-TX 137 LE models in the rear skid frame area.
Last year the 129 LE mirrored the Arctic Cat ‘RR’ which included some heavy duty bits in the skid, bigger cross-shafts, beefy rails etc. Along with special geometry and premium shocks calibrated with a distinct lean towards racing.
Based on market feedback, it was decided to calibrate the ‘RR’ model with a more ‘real world’ approach. The sled offers more bump compliance for longer days in the saddle, yet still maintains a high level of durability. The skid frame design, geometry and components are now common to all the other models. The shock calibration reflects its aggressive positioning but is not as harsh as last years setting.
This set-up has been carried over from the 129 LE to the 137 LE. The only difference in components is relative to track length. In case you wonder, the Arctic Cat RR models reflect the same direction.
I confirmed the question regarding tunnel protectors on the Sidewinder. None of the sleds come with tunnel protectors. However the new tunnel strip heat exchangers have been designed to serve double duty as the protectors. You only need to add three short aluminum pieces to the rear most cooler and you’re good to go.
Hope this helps, remember the sleds we have in the field are not final with some components mocked up from last years parts bin.
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.
First 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 existing 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.
February 11, 2014
Time to Pin It
I’m writing this post from Valemount BC, smack dab in the middle of the mountains between Edmonton and Prince George. This morning we lifted the embargo on the new sleds and I just finished reading the thread on Totallyamaha along with a bunch of magazine reviews. As usual the comments are all over the map, from good to bad to worse. Thought I would take a minute to offer my take on the 2015’s.
Mountain sleds – yes – If there was one area we have been suffering, it is in the mountains and deep powder back-country riding areas. We watched our market share decrease in the mountains going back before the recession and it was with trepidation that we launched the Viper last year without an M-TX version for our dealers. Mountain models make up over 30% of total sales and we were not in the game. The Nytro mountain made for a good platform to modify and in the hands of a good rider, performed some magic but for the average guy who wasn’t looking for a 300 hp assault weapon – there were better choices.
When we looked at the Viper platform for mountain it was pretty clear that we needed to do more than simply add a long track and narrow it up. The Pro Climb frame brought some good features into the mix with dedicated mountain tunnel and steering layouts but is was still designed around a 2 stroke engine. We took the extra year in development for chassis modifications focused on the targets of agility, balance and manoeuvrability akin to the lighter competition.
Our engineers collaborated with the mountain specialists at Arctic Cat and Fox to figure out the best ways to manage the additional weight of the 4-stroke in terms of balance and handling. We also brought in some of the best riding talent on snow to help in the evaluation and testing, Guys like Randy, Chris Brown, Chad and TJ have had significant input on the sleds. The cherry on top was the addition of boost that was achieved working closely with MPI, our official supplier.
We now have a line up of mountain machines that have narrowed the gap dramatically to the 2-stroke world both in terms of weight and handling, add to that the availability of consistent high horsepower at altitude and we are back in the game, big time. Lots of stuff we didn’t talk about like special ECU program and clutch calibration for response; analysis and consequent weight reduction in many small areas like fasteners and materials, all add to the equation. I am heading out this afternoon for a ride with Randy and Chris to see how it’s all worked out first hand.
The LE models are another departure for us. Traditionally we would only have used BNG and paint to create an LE. Not this time. Each LE has a spec change along with the brilliant ( love it or hate it) color scheme . The L-TX gets a 1.75 track in a more trail able package, the X-TX gets the mountain chassis with a 2.25 lug and wide trail stance as a pure cross over. The R-TX gets a whole lot of Tucker influenced suspension and a choice of tracks, while the M-TX gets a premium FOX front shock package.
The coil over, gassers have been coined DX models as having the heated seat, tall windshield and additional storage makes them ‘ deluxe’ compared to the SE line.
The S-TX is a groomed trail cross-over with an optional 2-up seat and storage system (think cross – tour).
This leaves the pure Yamaha models built in Japan virtually unchanged and I know this comes as a great disappointment to many. To those who have called it a sign of Yamaha becoming only an engine supplier to AC and the demise of the brand. I am saying sorry but you are wrong. MY 2014 was very successful for us and we have completed the line with the addition of mountain and crossover for 2015. We are having a great winter in the Midwest and eastern provinces which bodes well for next fall. We have done what we needed to do and are are back in black, making some profit in snowmobile. All these things will factor highly in how much the mother ship is willing to invest and how quickly, in future R and D towards more pure Yamaha product, along with the engine supply to AC.
We are looking forward, up the trail as we exit the second corner and get on the gas.
September 6, 2013
Bad Vibes – Part Deux
First I gotta say thanks for keeping an open mind regarding the chassis damper system. I was prepared for a bit of ‘flaming’ and what I have received so far are positive, intelligent comments and questions, which I’ll try to answer in this post.
Mr. T wanted to know if the snowmobile application would be in pairs and the answer is yes, in all applications.
The sled I rode in Shibetsu was an Apex as shown here but we have not made any decision on what, when or even if we will go to production with this. (I for one, recommend we do)
Another related query was if the damper system would have as much effect if a different engine was used, the example being our cross plane R1 design. When I posed this question it was explained that the damper system has basically the same amount of impact regardless of the application. In other words if it improved an 800 2-smoke by X%, it would also improve a CP1000 4-stroke by X% – a flexy chassis by the same X% as the most rigid chassis. The one thing I found really interesting; it is thought the overall impact (the real X% value) will be greater on a snowmobile than on a car, where a lot of effort has already gone into control of the elements and the conditions of operation are far more consistent.
Of course the ‘biggy’ to many is weight. We pulled a damper off and hit the scales, the complete system mounted should come in under one Kg, (that’s about the equivalent to your morning constitution). In this case I think it would be worth every ounce.
My first comment upon getting off the Apex, was it felt like there was some kind of gyroscopic effect being applied. The sled settled down, feeling less nervous and more stable right from the first pull on the trigger but more on riding impressions later…
For those guys going to Haydays, we will have the system available as part of a ‘future technology’ display, you may want to take a closer look and go for a pint (or two) to discuss afterwards. 😉 Unfortunately I can’t be there this year but the weather looks good and there’s lots of ‘buzz’ out there, have fun!
August 20, 2013
Well I had two good weeks with family at the cottage, been back for two days and already the time off seems a distant memory. In my absence, quite a bit has transpired. I will be heading for the airport tomorrow to meet with one of our most senior engineers and learn more about some new technology I sampled last spring in Japan.
We have decided to apply the system to snowmobiles and I have been asked to develop the information foundation for communications purposes. We don’t plan to have this in production for at least another year but in a real change from the norm, we will be testing it in the market this winter without the regular veils of secrecy that surround most prototype projects.
I have always wanted to offer some new development information on Sled Talk before going mainstream within regular communications but have always been thwarted by official embargo dates and the evil eye of our internal protocols. This time, I believe I’ll have the opportunity to offer a ‘you heard it here first’ story, before seeing it on our web-sites or in the media…
So what is this new technology you wonder? Well it is interesting, controversial and somewhat hard to describe. That said, it definitely works according to my ‘bun-o-meter’. I intend to elaborate early in September, once I have the opportunity to really gain the understanding of how and why it functions as it does. So it’s off to the airport I go. Stay tuned!
Posted @ 10:56 am in Sled Development
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 .
And so it was, the SX Viper became a highly refined variation of the SXr. The new engine proved to be 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.
The 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 hope you enjoyed this little series. If Saito comes up with any more details 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.
August 5, 2009
Viper Story: Part 3
Before I jump into the next part of the Viper story, there are a couple of news bits I’d like to share with you. First our very own Randy Swenson has been recognized as mountain rider of the year for his performance in Thunderstruck 7, (link to see the new trailer for TS8), which also received the Oscar for extreme snowmobile film of the year. Congrats guys!
And for the go fast crew, it is official, Gilles Gagne and his G-Force / Lamtrac team have been officilally accepted by the Bonneville promoters and world sanctioning body, the FIM to challenge the world speed record with their blown Apex streamliner during speed week on the salt, September 20-26, Wendover Utah. He is silently hoping to break the motorcyle record of over 300 mph!
… The monoshock performance became the main focus for the ‘what’s next’ debate. Engineering finally concluded that the ill fated ‘boinger’ could not be massaged into an acceptable component leaving us with only one option, use the Pro-Action plus system. The domino’s started to fall in sequence. Without the long travel mono-shock the unequal length, rack-steer, front end plans died on the vine and next thing we knew our baby had morphed into an SXr chassis / suspension with a lightened up SRX motor. A long way from the original ‘all-new’ concept.
None of this helped to hit our weight targets which would have seen the Viper coming in significantly less than the SXr700 but how could it when it used the same chassis and suspension? The suspension eyeball was still aimed at a big bump / ditch banger target. The original testing criteria for the monoshock system was set to run a section of 3-3.5 foot bumps spaced at 20 to 40 inch intervals running a steady 35 to 45 mph…sitting down! The gentleman from sales who was adamant about this is no longer employed by Yamaha so I can say this… buddy you were outa your gourd!
I have learned when speaking with many sledders, the moguls they describe are often scaled similar to their manhood, where the three foot bumps they’ve been riding all day are really a foot and a half at best. Regardless, once a target has been established we don’t mess with it and when the monshock went away the ProAction really had its work cut out for it.
We had several years of tweaking the Pro Action system and as we all know, there is no magic setting to offer a plush ride and still resist serious hits. It was explained to me once that the first 8 inches of suspension stroke was fairly progressive but became linear towards the latter part of the travel then digressive as it fell through itself at the end. Think of it this way, riding through a series of 1-2 foot stutter bumps with the suspension stroking under ten inches, life is pretty good, staying flat and plush, that’s progressive. Now bomb down a smooth hill with a g-out at the base pushing the skid deep into the stroke and hit a small frozen pine cone, suddenly it bottoms hard and unexpectedly, loosening up your back fillings and sending that unmistakable tingle up your spine (that’s the digressive part.) ouch!
It was this severe bottoming that could break stuff and in the case of a bump sled, needed to be addressed.
Whenever the spring rate was stiff enough to limit the bottom out, ride comfort suffered. Engineering was reluctant to use multi-rate springs and position compensating valving and Kayaba had certain limitations to settings if there was a chance of bending the damper rods. In the end the short center shock received some very stiff compression damping and the stiffest spring we had. The ride wasn’t plush but it could take a pretty good hit. But, as fate would have it, someone made a change to the front shock spec after final testing / pre-production sign-off and before production. I have not been able to find out exactly who or why but the first production units started showing cracks in the hoods, which after investigation, was credited to over damped front shocks. Instead of the small bump energy being absorbed, the shock remained rigid and all the rattling went into the chassis. At the same time the stiff front end was being kicked up by the bumps which were now coming into the center shock farther back and effecting the coupling point making the already stiff rear end even less compliant…
In the next segment I’ll focus not so much on what we had intended to build but what we brought to market and how we positioned it. I spoke to Masa Saito (seen in this Alaskan fishing trip photo) earlier this week and he promised to dig up some development stuff when he is at factory later this month. I have some interesting documents from the research and marketing side to sprinkle in. cheers cr
Posted @ 2:56 pm in Sled Development
July 27, 2009
Viper Story Part 2
Before I start this post I want to thank everyone for your comments on part one, your interest has motivated me to spend a bit more time on this and go into some additional detail, good way to wait for snow, if nothing else. 😉
The time I spent on the mono shocked SXr really opened my eyes to where we were heading. I have to tell you a funny thing that happened to me with it:
I was attending the annual ‘Snow Shoot’ where all the OE ‘s get together with the vertical media to demo ride and hob-knob with all the latest offerings. We were in St. Donat Quebec that year and I had brought my machine, keeping it carefully hidden away from the cameras and inquisitive journalists. One afternoon I snuck away from my duties and headed up the trail into the park (Mt Tremblant) to get some saddle time on the mono-shock. I decided to turnaround at a remote watering hole that was advertising poutine and Labatt 50 (and no I didn’t). I sat down at a table where I could keep and eye on my sled while I warmed up.
As I was waiting for my bill a large group of Americans were walking out (yes you do have an accent 😉 ) and one of them spotted the blue sled off to the side. Next thing I knew, two guys were snappng pictures, one of them laying down with his head in the skid frame. By the time I got outside the hood was open and a group of guys were huddled around. I pulled on my lid as I approached, key in hand. ‘Hey is this your sled?’
… In my best French I responded that I did not understand English, dropped the shroud, pulled the string and took off back to the hotel… I spent the next two weeks searching the web (Totallyamaha and HCS) to see if the photos got posted or linked, luckily, they did not. I most certainly did not want to have to explain how the proto suspension got leaked on my watch…
Prior to St. Donat, I found myself on a jet heading up to Alaska for the OMC joint test in Paxson, where we would evaluate the sled after it’s several weeks of testing and calibration. I was totally prepared to whine about how stiff and heavy the sled felt (assumed) based on my experience with the SXr. I was shocked when I discovered the prototype was a marshmallow. What felt like transfer initially, turned out to be sag and when hitting the bumps it demonstrated bottoming and pitching which I concluded- again based on my SXr mono experience- must have been because I was letting up on the gas trying to time the hits. I remember taking the next run holding the throttle open, standing up and expecting it to eat the abuse. Second bump in and my feet were three feet in the air as I looked down at the headlight. I was flapping like a flag on the end of the handle bars. Luckily I didn’t break anything and returned the sled to Rick (the suspension guy) with out saying a word. I needed to candidly speak to our testing manager Jim Kedinger (whom I always trusted for his honesty and respected his candor), was it me or the OMC? … it flat out sucked!
What followed was not pretty. During the wrap up meeting we were shown the engineering targets for weight, handling , comfort, acceleration, top speed etc., mapped against our evaluations sheets. We had not achieved any of them and when drilling down, clearly we were heading in the wrong direction with only top speed being close to acceptable.
It is always difficult to walk into a situation where a group of people have been working hard on something for months and your position is to confirm what they likely already know, but are hoping is not as bad or apparent to a fresh set of eyes. Jimmy and I put a pretty good dent in the beer cooler that night. Turns out they had tried multiple calibration settings to get OMC in the ball park but nothing seemed to work to get transfer with any kind of acceptable suspension function. Consequently we couldn’t dial in the ride / handling and acceleration was suffering making the new engine appear less powerful than the SX700. There was a lot of frustration and for the second time only in my career, we were faced with postponing the impending release of a new mainstream model.
YMC was most upset with the first failure and the questions soon followed. The suspension calibration tech (an American) returned to Minnesota and quit his job, not sure if it was because of a woman or the mono-shock results, but he was gone like yesterday. We needed some damage control applied to the product plan.
I learned with the Vmax500, which had been postponed from 93 to 94, that the cancellation of new models for the upcoming season opens the door for some ‘bolt-on’ upgrades and maintenance to the existing line. The Exciter SX was a good example, if only we could have built that in 88 and not waited three years. This is something our competitors excel at but I find the Japanese don’t quite get it. The North American builders can slap on some shocks, skis and a handle bar riser during their lunch break and end up spin-marketing the best new machine since the second coming of you know who…
I found this worksheet in my files that was used to spit-ball some thoughts for the continuous SXr models going into 2001 and salvage of the OMC. OMC Worksheet. In the end we grabbed the headlight and a grease zerk then did our best… here is the basic material we used for the 2001 dealer presentations 01 SMB.
Meanwhile it was back to the drawing boards.
…to be continued
Posted @ 1:51 pm in Sled Development
July 21, 2009
Snake Eyes: The Viper Story
This multi-part post is dedicated to Yammerhead, who first called BS on my SRX story titled the “Last Two Smoke’… 😉
The SX Viper, code named OMC started it’s development in 1999 with a target launch for model year 2001. We were looking to fill the void between the SXr and SRX with a highly capable ‘bump-sled’ for the American market which would also offer great agility and handling on our groomed trails.
The SRX had hit us a home run in the top performance field taking on all comers including the T-Cats and emerging big twin 800’s from Skidoo and Polaris. What we needed to do was update the aging SXr with some fresh styling, new suspension and more power with emphasis on the suspension. YMUS research led planning to chase the holy grail of mid-west snowmobiles: the ultimate big bump sled, (something that we always struggle with here in Canada, but more on that later). We proposed the idea of an 800 twin but engineering convinced us a hi-tech triple would yield equal or better power with greater reliability and efficiency. It was around this time that the advanced group was investigating the potential of 4-stroke power and so it was decided to evolve our SRX engine base into a lightweight, single pipe trail burner.
My old pal Masa Saitou was appointed ‘project leader’ for OMC based on the success of his most recent sled, the SRX. Aggressive targets were set for both engine and chassis as engineering began the minus prototype development. Meanwhile the design team at GKDI in California were fast tracking the body and styling. One of the most exciting developments came in the form of an all new rear skid frame that had a large single gas-shock with a floating coupling-point between the two arms. The ‘mono shock’ made its debut on the prototype Viper but would never make it to production on a 2-stroke sled…
Yamaha USA had reentered the snowcross game racing modified SXr’s in the pro open class under the guise of product development (sound familiar?). Gordy Muetz took on the challenge of building and managing the team which was run out of our short lived Minneapolis based snowmobile headquarters with support from Minocqua and factory. Ron Ruzewski (click on ‘Race Team’) was the engineer who designed the new front suspension and chassis working closely with YMC engineers. By the time things were race ready, Ron had come up with a ‘race kit’ which was adaptable to the SXr and pointed squarely at the new SXViper. A small number of these kits were made available to supported race teams. 0u58a suspension
I could not resist the temptation to build my own project sled in 2000 with Ron’s help, based on the SXr with triple ‘Power Inc’ pipes to make the equivalent hp target of the Viper. It incorporated the early mono shock and long travel front end with rack steering and a smattering of other goodies, (roller secondary, tunnel reinforcements and special one-off, Yokohama track to name a few).
It’s important to add this to the story because it has a lot of bearing on what was to come for the Viper. There was a lot to like about my mod sled but one characteristic emerged rapidly in the form of weight transfer (or lack there-of). Chris Vincent was racing a very similar sled in the pro ranks and the shock package we had was about as plush as a fire hydrant. The sled would only work well when held WFO. There was no timing the bumps and blipping the throttle for lift. It was a ‘mash fest’ only- if you lifted at speed you’d auger in- and if you ever watched Vincent muscle his way around a snowcross course you know what I mean. We finally had a true big-bump sled, the question was who the heck would want to ride it like that in the real world.
…to be continued
Posted @ 11:06 am in Sled Development
June 19, 2009
Global Testing Sites
We are hosting some ‘new dealer’ orientation sessions this week where each department presents information on how things function around here, giving our newest dealers a better idea of who to contact and how we do business. I was reviewing my material and was struck by one of the topics which I thought would be of interest to some of you.
Snowmobile testing is a part of the job I have always been intrigued with. As a matter of fact it had a lot to do with my application for the product manager position years ago and resulting move from god’s country (BC) to Ontario (perhaps not the smartest lifestyle choice but definitely my best career decision ever).
Testing has added quite a few stamps to my passports over the years, not to mention many memories and introduced me to some remote parts of the globe I would never have experienced otherwise. Often I have taken extra time to explore the culture and countryside while there and have not one single regret.
Our Japan testing base is located on the northern island of Hokkaido. This is ‘foothill terrain’, very hilly and steep. Yamaha required a long smooth straight trail for top speed and acceleration runs. The solution was to bull-doze and back fill tons of real estate to create a strip worthy of a 747… Leave it up to our engineers to come with this! Here’s a shot taken of the first Venture GT FI prototype in development. The good looking squid checking out the ergo’s is our infamous product manager, Jon Blaicher.
Just a little bit south of our Shibetsu test center is another island that features some very unique terrain (and individuals). The southern island of New Zealand offers up winter in July. Yamaha gained access to a facility used by Toyota as a ‘proving ground’ for their vehicles along with some of their vendors (tire companies etc.) It was here that I trekked to validate the new 4-stroke Venture Lite. I remember arriving after close to 30 hours of non-stop travel, jumping in a rental car (jet lagged) and setting forth through the streets of Queenstown which by the way has no traffic lights, just round-about’s at the busy intersections. To make matters more interesting the steering wheel on the right and driving on the left with no co pilot or clear idea where the heck I was going. The valleys leading up to Wanaka are flanked by some of the gnarliest hills I have ever seen and it is easy to understand why they chose this area to film the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. One thing struck me as absolutely awesome. The legal system in New Zealand prevents land owners from being held liable (sued) by anyone who happens to get hurt on their property. You want to bungy jump off my bridge? You want to build some trails with jumps and skinnies? No worries mate, good on you. Man would that be refreshing to have over here!
Jumping across the planet, pretty much kitty-corner to Wanaka sits Walles, a mainstay for Yamaha testing in Scandanavia and birth place of many of our utility based sleds: Enticers, Bravos and of course, Vikings. I won’t tellyou the story of the VK 3 test I attended there a few years ago (there are actually several good ones) suffice to say it included some Reindeer bits, guns, Laplanders, headlights and blonde locals, all good! In this shot, Norwegian good-ole-boy Ole-Johan Haga, project leader Karl Ishima and myself working on the Viking Porfessional prototype.
No snowmobile testing discussion would be complete without mentioning Alaska. I have more stories about Paxson than all the rest put togther. This highway juntion lodge out along the Alaskan pipe line has hosted Yamaha testing for many, many years. We didn’t always have much snow to work with but it was always cold. Makes one wonder how our J-hook bar-grip warmers ever made production 😉 . Testing up here normally starts in early November and goes on until things freeze up back in Wisconsin around Christmas time. In this shot you can see the first prototype of the Apex shadowed by Paxson mountain, makes me think of playing pin-ball through a Caribou herd just looking at it.