Archive for the 'Sled Development' Category
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.
May 8, 2008
SRX Launch and Marketing Story
Well this week it’s time for me to come clean on some more SRX stuff. Lets start with the name. I was dead set against using SRX based on my experience with the infamous 1981 model debacle. For those who don’t know or may have heard the rumors. The 82 SRX production run (or Vmax as some would have it) was canceled in the name of damage control and to cannibalize the crankshafts for owners of the ill-fated 81′s. Reason being an unfortunate combination of clutch / crankcase assembly and carburetors doomed the TSS SRX to a life of broken crank-shafts. The name was dropped along with the engine and styling, to return as the first V-Max 540 in 1983.
I’m not particularly superstitious, but the thought of naming our new performance sled after the 81 cylinder grippin’ crank-eater seemed somewhat of a marketing Faux pas . But my thoughts didn’t matter because we could not seem to come up with a better name, plus the US guys seemed quite good with the SRX handle and so it was born. The irony in all of this came to light shortly after the first pre-pros hit the snow. Reports of a nasty vibration in the running boards trickled in, which spread quickly into the handle bars… uh-oh. -Long story short-… a welding booth was set up at the end of the crank assembly line and every new SRX crank was hand checked, trued if required and the end pin spot-welded before proceeding. As far as I know, this was the first (and only) time we had a production crank, welded at factory.
I had a good ‘I told you so…’ over some pints with Rit and Greg, but fortunately our crank woes of the 81 never manifested in the new SRX and the engine went on to prove itself quite bullet-proof.
Heres some random pics: From left,-the product development team from US, Europe and Canada, next- myself and Tim Nakano (Saito in the background), -the first prototype used for CG mock-up, and finaly-a 600 proto-engine in field testing:
I’ll put on my marketing hat for the next story. Spring 97, I was the ‘cover boy’ for all of the 98 SRX brochures. The shot was taken by none other than Dave Bush who is well known in the industry for his photography talents. I guarantee you have seen many of his shots in different power-sports magazines and brochures… but I digress.
May 1, 2008
SRX Development Story Pt2
SRX development part 2.
In this second installment on the SRX story I’ll touch on some of the features which we introduced on SRX. First we had to get clearance from the senior directors to proceed. Saito had to go before Hitoshi Nagayasu who was then second in command at YMC and running the snowmobile show. Saito told me he ‘sold’ the concept based on confidence alone. He had no data or test results to refer to, only belief and a deep desire to challenge our people to build the highest performing, production snowmobile ever offered by Yamaha. The magic number being 200hp / liter. It should be mentioned here that the job of the senior directors is not to measure how ‘cool’ a new product is. That is not the point at all. The project has to clearly make sense in dollars and return on investment. We amortize our tooling over two years of production and the model must be able to survive on its own merit. Good thing Nagayasu understood the importance of horsepower and had a warm spot for snowmobiles because he signed off and we were good to go into development. And so here we go…
We were not the first to have power-valves on a sled but we were the first to have electronically controlled, servo driven (instead of diaphragm / pressure actuated) slide valves. see the OW73 (TZ750) GP bike raced by the King. This offered a couple of advantages. One, the slide opening could be regulated based on engine demand and secondly a cleaning cycle was designed in to give the slides a full swipe at start-up to help keep the valves from gumming up. (Yeah I know, it was still a maintenance item especially on the early models).
Another new feature that helped give SRX legs was the introduction of RAM air. The testing data averaged out at 160kph an additional 6mq was achieved which translated into 3hp or 2 kph. This is a small increase but it’s the small details like this that helped put SRX into the top of its class. Saito also concentrated on air management with separate ducts to direct air-flow to help cool the crank shaft and brake rotor.
A new headlight was designed which Saito was quick to remind me also appeared on the Mercedes Benz SL500. Limited by standard DOT approved, 55/65 watt bulbs, the glass optics were designed to efficiently concentrate as much light as possible into the area needed most. I remember after first riding the SRX at night, the Vmax felt like it had a flashlight taped to the shroud.
The triple pipes were nestled into an all new die-cast bulkhead and an unsymmetrical hood. A hot debate between myself and Rit Lefrancois-acting product manager for YMUS at the time- ensued on this unique styling direction. He didn’t like it / I did. In the end the design proved better for engineering purposes and Canada’s vote sealed the deal. The body design moved to the wind tunnel to determine the best combination of wind protection and wind resistance. This was the first sled which Yamaha put a lot of effort into rider position as well as body shape to determine maximum performance.
To make it ‘pretty’, we decided to apply the Yamaha Racing Strobes against a bright Yamaha blue metallic paint scheme which has since become a stable color combo giving Yamaha a distinct recognition in the market. But heck most of you reading this bleed blue right? So you must know when it all started… I also remember some heated discussions trying to get a ‘Scotch-lite’ reflective graphic material for the strobe graphics but if i recall correctly we had to settle for a slightly less expensive version in the second go-round.
Yokohama rubber came to the table with an all new track belt for SRX, which worked pretty well. It was certainly more efficient than past efforts using a poly weave (opposed to the kevlar winding of the Ultrabloc) but in the end our volumes (combined with some durability issues) led us to a new vendor -Camoplast- which marked the end of Yokohama snowmobile track production.
Next week I’ll be back in the office and will start scanning some of the old docs and images I have collected so the next installment will be quite visual. I’ll also start penning some of the testing stories and insights on the final development and marketing. Stay tuned… cr
April 23, 2008
SRX Development Story
SRX Development Story: Part 1
I’ll preface the following by saying I’m splitting this development story into several installments. I have dug up quite a few related documents and will scan them then scatter amongst the pages to add some funk. For example here’s a little history for you- history-remaster.pdf- I am relying on memory here and apologize if some things don’t ‘gist’ 100% with your own recollection. I’d be happy to post your comments or any additional information. I hope you enjoy the read as much as I am enjoying the writing. It’s stirring up a lot of old memories for me.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I think it’s important to remember where we were living back in 95/96. We had been a good two years in developing our light-weight Pro-Action leading arm chassis (code name OMD) and new 3 cylinder, single pipe engine. Ole Hayata, was head of engineering and had done an amazing job to deliver us nine new models in the die-cast, chassis platform, in time for the 97 model year. It was during this same time period, our competitors took their next step in sled evolution with the release of the 600 triple / triples -three cylinder-three pipe rockets- based largely on ISR Formula 3 racings, popularity of the day. The F111 Skidoo, ZRT 600 Cat and XCR600SP Polaris set a new benchmark for displacement performance and were gunning for top speed honors against the bigger sleds of the day.
Apparently we needed a triple-triple, 600 version of our new SX. And so it was we set out for Japan to convince engineering to shoehorn some pipes into a sleeved down package. Well it didn’t take very long to discover the SX 700 engine would not survive our bench tests using triple pipes. Further more the body shape and die-cast bulkhead sub-frame of the OMD did not allow the required clearance for proper air management and cooling, given the real estate required for the tangle of pipes. It could not be done. I clearly remember my old friend Gary from Prince George Yamaha calling me shortly after the release of the SX 700 to quiz me about triple pipes before he took on the Canadian distribution of one of the leading after market exhaust brands.
‘Don’t do it’, I advised, ‘The engine will grenade. If you push it, the crank won’t live…’ Man- was that bad advice, but as it turned out Gary didn’t listen to me and went on to help modify hundreds of 700 triples in mountain chassis with many running reliably to this day.
We did our homework with YMC and decided our next machine would have an all new 600cc 3 into 3 engine. It was also decided to build a 700 variation for a no holds barred assault on the muscle sled segment. The Vmax4 engine was stuck with a TSS chassis and had been max’d out at 800cc (small pun intended). We set the target for OMH to be the lightest (500lbs), fastest top speed and quickest accelerating muscle sled on the market. We had witnessed the 500 class (representing the greatest sales volumes), evolve into the 600’s and it didn’t take a duck hunter to figure out the 700 class was where we should be aiming.
A bright young engineer (and notorious after-hours disturber) was given his first kick at ‘project leader’. The parting gift of Mr. Hayata who was moving on from snowmobile group to motorcycle development came in the form of Masayasu Saito. Masa-san understood very well the competitive mentality as well as the snowmobile lifestyle. When he was a young buck, he purchased a Phazer in Japan and traveled north every weekend to ride it (and chase girls). I had known him for many years as a field testing engineer and durability rider previous to that. He was a great choice to head up the OMH project which would eventually come to market in 1998 as the SRX 600 / 700.
SRX would establish many firsts for Yamaha. For starters the clay modeling and wire frame work was performed in the USA to reduce some cost and speed up development. I was asked to travel down to the GKDI offices in Torrance CA where we worked closely with the designers on the shape and dynamics of the new machines. Prototypes were built based on the SX chassis and targets were established using the SX 600 plus ZRT in the 600 category and SX 700 plus Mach 1 in the 700 niche. We decided to build a modified version of the lower 8-inch SX chassis to house the new power-plants, because the sled was intended to handle better than any lake racer before it. Initial testing results were quite promising.
The SRX would be our final two-stroke snowmobile development project and it seems quite fitting it would crown 30 years of Yamaha in the sno-mo biz and mark the one millionth sled to run off our lines japan-media-remaster.pdf … more to follow.
March 7, 2008
Apex/Attak Owners Survey
Folks, I have designed a survey specifically for the owners of Apex and Attak models. I am hoping you will click on the link and give me your honest answers to the questions. I will be analyzing your responses and presenting to our product planning and engineering people. If you own an Apex Mountain or MTX model please do not complete the survey. We will cover the specific needs of the mountain market in another separate survey to ensure both markets have their specialized needs defined.
If you do not currently own an Apex or Attak please do not click the link as you’ll skew our data.
Apex/Attak Owners Survey
Thanks in advance.
January 15, 2008
What’s A Pre-Production Sled
Trick or Treat!
Brian dropped an interesting comment yesterday, my response being the basis of this post. He is under the impression that our pre-production snowmobiles used for spring product launch / demo rides are factory massaged to run better than the forthcoming production units. And this is done intentionally in an effort to ‘trick’ everyone. First I would like to assure you there are no ‘tricks’ being pulled with regards to having ‘super-tuned’ demo sleds for pre-production testing. We go to huge lengths to try to get final or as close to final settings as we can. Sometimes things do change in production. Mostly in the area of QDR if something is appraised to be weak or potentially cause problems.
Pre-production units differ from prototypes as they are assembled on the production line using parts made from final tooling. YMC will run a small number of units prior to full production, which are carefully disassembled and inspected for anything out of spec. Some of the units will be field tested and others shipped to distributors for marketing purposes. In fact some of the units we have received over the years have come with the request ‘not to run-show-only’. I have personally made the decision to let people ride pre-pros knowing that they had poor suspension calibration or performance settings. But I have never been faced with knowingly using a pre-pro sled with performance enhancements for a formal demo ride.
I have heard comments from dealers, journalists (and some customers) over the years who rode a pre-pro in the spring and after riding the production model in-season, complain the spring unit had better performance or calibration. I think much of this comes from the controlled riding conditions we try to employ mixed with some excitement and the generally brief encounter with the unit. We try to give them a positive experience right down to accommodations and hospitality.
A good example, we introduced the FX Nytro to our dealers last spring in Quebec. The trails we used were groomed daily and they were mostly wide summer roads through a provincial park with a deep base, packed, smooth and fast. You could really use the horsepower. I had a couple of dealers call me this fall after scratching around on choppy, tight southern Ontario trails, complaining this was not the sled they road last spring… Yes it is!… it’s the conditions that have changed. Truth be known, we were quite concerned about the pre-pro Nytro handling last spring, the production models have actually improved. They are still very stiff in the suspension department, they have to be in order to take the big hits as well as they do. Can they be made better for specific riders and conditions… sure, with some knowledge and a bit of compromise. I am seeing many set-up ideas posted with reports of positive results, note; you need to be heads up as to what conditions and riding styles the authors are tuning for. There is no single spec that will do it for everyone everywhere…
We are currently planning the release of the the 2009 models. We have invited our dealers to a resort in Newfoundland to ride some pre-pro models. Well Jon just returned from a joint test in the US and reports one of the key models did not meet the suspension and handling targets. It was rated lower than the model it is slated to replace. Big problem!
I have confidence the testing engineers will nail the targets given another month of calibration. But-and here’s the rub- the preproduction units are being built this month. Our pre-pros will most likely include the poor calibration. Will we have some setting parts before our dealer meeting? It’s a toss of the coin. One thing is for sure, we will set the sleds up, best we can and the dealers will have a a chance to ride them. Will they change in production. I sure hope so. Will someone complain next fall that the pre-pro ran better than production? Ironically, I bet they will… Cheers cr