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November 5, 2010

Avalanche – Best Oil?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers  cr

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

October 26, 2010


I got an e-mail this morning from an old pal living in So Cal. It had a link to an article in Cycle News featuring Ben Bostrom (Yamaha AMA Superbike pilot). Turns out Ben finished third in a field of 850 riders at the world mountain bike single speed championships in New Zealand. Single speed mtn bikes are really catching on with dedicated classes in cross county and endurance racing. Many incorporate the new large diameter 29 inch wheels but the biggest difference between a geared bike and the single speed is simplicity.

The single speeder doesn’t shift gears going up hill, instead he stands up and hammers, when things point the other way, he doesn’t up-shift to maintain cadence – he spins like a crazed hamster on a cage wheel for more speed. Bostrom, a motor head, besting this field is pretty amazing and speaks volumes of his physical conditioning, which leads me to another bit of information you might find interesting… snowmobilers are athletes!

No kidding, it’s true; burgers, bevy’s and bellies aside, medical studies have proven that sledding qualifies as an intense physical activity with prolonged periods of raised heart-rate requiring upper body strength and endurance. This is important stuff to know. You aren’t going out for a pull with the boys on the weekend, no sirree, you are heading out for an ‘exercise class’. A life enhancing work-out that is sure to increase your productivity, longevity, vitality and overall health. What loving spouse would not want their significant other to regularly partake in such a wonderfully fulfilling activity. Heck this should even justify postponing that bathroom reno in lieu of a new sled.

Here’s the official media release on your new found athleticism: PRESS RELEASE – 3 Motorized Rec Health Benefits.

A topic that is heating up (again) within the industry: the effect of ethanol fuel on motorsports and marine engines. The writing is on the wall and soon we will be running even greater percentages (E-20) alcohol in our sleds. I have been working on a lot of background research on automobile development opposed to motorsports with an eyeball fixed on the impact to fuel and oil. Think about it for a minute. Car marketers have had to address the demand for bragging rites at the pumps since the early eighties. The MPG data hi-way / city is the key to many new car sales. One of the main considerations given to increasing fuel mileage is reducing friction, be it air, ground or mechanically induced impedance.

Oil companies have worked hand in hand with auto engineers to come up with new motors that run on special lightweight oils full of friction reducing modifiers to get the best fuel range. On the other side of the coin we have the EPA sniffing tail pipes and busting new standards to ensure that what little fuel we do put through an engine is burned most efficiently. At the end of the day, all of this science and regulating is a direct result of automobile usage, not snowmobiles, bikes or weed-wackers. But – and this is a biggy – the gas and oil that is readily available to us is brewed only for cars with little or no consideration for the tiny percentage of high performance, specialty engines powering our boats, bikes and sleds.

I am convinced that the time has come to re evaluate the benefits of special fuel additives and motor-oils dedicated to motorsports specific applications. I will share some of what I have learned on this subject in another post if you like.

I received another ‘tid-bit’ that should be old news to Ontario snowmobiler’s but might be worth noting if you are planning a visit this winter. The OFSC has placed a guarantee on their early trail permit sales this year. If you buy before Dec 15 and we don’t receive sufficient snowfall ‘in-season’ for good trail riding, they will refund you dough! Buy now and save a few bucks, if the groomers can’t get out just north of town, you get your money back. Not bad.

Jon and I were just laughing about the post I wrote on ‘Reid Between the Lines’. The fact the magazines all exercise varying levels of ‘fairness’ in reporting so as not to upset any of the major players (read advertisers). The reason we were having a chuckle was my suggestion that we do an annual ‘buyers guide blog’ on the magazines. We could do some shoot-out comparisons of the different classes like: editorial horsepower, most article pages displaced by ads in the front half, heaviest cover versus lightest circulation. Maybe get all the publishers together for a weigh-in. First following a five course fiesta (the Supertrax formula) and again after a week of total body cleansing and purging including a round of caffeine enemas (using the BRP template). Don’t worry, it gets worse so I’d better quit now while I still have some friends left in the publishing biz 🙂

Cheers  cr

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Posted @ 2:57 pm in Opinions and Insights,Tech Talk   

October 20, 2010


I attended the Toronto Motorsports Show this past weekend and if nothing else it certainly got me to thinking about the upcoming season. We were there with a full corporate booth featuring several unique displays. Jon worked together with Wade and the boys in the States to build us an EPS simulator. My first reaction to the plan – why bother, everyone knows that EPS makes the steering effort easy and you won’t feel the cornering accuracy or isolation from the trail junk without a real ride – in short it’s just a gimmick. Boy was I wrong!

I watched the faces on several customers light up when they turned the Apex bars,  key- on / key-off. ‘Holy (expletive goes here), is that ever cool…’ Marty and Don from Snowmobiler TV set up their camera to catch a current Apex owner trying it out. His reaction was one of astonishment… next came his wife who smiled and  gave ‘the nod’. Grinning, he promptly informed me he had just received formal permission to trade up. Nice!

The other simulator which got plenty of attention featured our new HID headlight set-up. They were blinding even when surrounded by all the other bright lights in our booth. Take this one for whats it worth but after using the HIDs on my Apex towards the end of last season, I will not own another sled without adding them as an upgrade, they work that well. If you do a lot of night riding you owe it to yourself to check these out, ‘nough said.

So I started my day by surfing the forums, looking for any chatter resulting from the show. It was pretty quiet actually but I did stumble upon a couple of links which I thought I would share. First the STV guys have a cool interview with Blair Morgan on the ‘Go Riding’ site. It’s great to see him back in the saddle and hear his positive take on his life at present. There is another link to their blog where I found a cool video of the Miss Teen Canada contestants learning to ride ATV’s at Horseshoe Riding Adventures under the tutelage of Clinton Smout. I know this is Sled Talk but it’s always fun to see ‘newbies’ reactions when discovering motorsports, especially the young lady suffering from visual impairment. Good on you Clinton!

Over on Totallyamaha, the first post I spotted was Yamaha owners discussing the best way to polish their sleds as they prepare for the winter, yeah I know, there are lots of more technical things being discussed but it did cross my mind that having the top thread of the day focused on polishing instead of engine rebuilding wasn’t a bad thing.

I was checking out the magazine web-sites thinking their might be a reaction to what I wrote last week on ‘reading between the lines’. Instead I found a solid video review on the Apex by Supertrax. Mark is not one to sugar coat his comments (trust me on that!) so this one made me sit up and take notes. Then there was a short in the Read Valve column of Supertrax mag talking about the new PUSH turbo kit for the Nytro MTX. The author was quick to point out the press release didn’t mention availability in Canada.

I’ll confirm this by saying we are not going to distribute the PUSH turbo here this season. The reason being, is simple enough. The North American distributor for MCXpress turbo kits is located in British Columbia and has done an excellent job of marketing a similar low-boost product in Canada. They have a well established network of dealers who have pre-ordered kits and are currently selling and servicing them. This is not the same case in the USA and the potential for the PUSH system entering the mountain market there is quite good. From what I have seen and heard the PUSH turbo is a reliable, easily installed system that meets Yamaha quality standards and you can bet we will be watching this new introduction very closely.

Cheers cr

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Posted @ 2:47 pm in Accessory Stuff,Tech Talk   

March 8, 2010

Snowblower Spoof

Now that all the new sleds for 2011 have been announced and the excitement is melting away at the same rate as the snow on our local trails–it’s time to make one last announcement from Yamaha.

After the new Apex hit the trail and the on-line discussion took off, a few guys were quoted as saying there must be more. Another rocket that will roost the competition…

Well once again, you will see it here first. We have a high performance twin track snow machine coming to Canada in very limited numbers next fall. Much of the technology is focused on getting the most from the new 4-stroke engine using a hydrostatic drive and yes… power steering. Because of the limited production we are targeting only regions that get lots of snow. I am willing to go on record to say we are absolutely going to blow away our competition with this announcement… here’s a video clip that Bryan and Danny put together to give you the first scoop.

NOTE: you must go to Sled Talk to see video content if you are reading this from an email. cheers cr

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Posted @ 9:55 am in Tech Talk   

February 9, 2010

Apex XTX Answers

Just a brief update today. I received some info regarding Danes questions over on TY. Surprising as it may seem, the Apex XTX is faster than the SE or standard Apex. It blows it away up on top by a blistering 1.4 kph… that’s .87 mph for the metrically challenged.

The A-arms on the new Apex are the same as the 2010 (current arms) however the spindles and tie-rods are different, therefore your a-arm kit will work (that’s not to say Yamaha would ever endorse such a modification, don’t doo it).

Finally it appears that the torsion skid and extra track length on the XTX will add a whopping 9 pounds to the overall weight of the base model sled. Please don’t tell anyone over at Skidoo marketing or we will most assuredly be faced with another good reason why not to own another reliable Yamaha 😉

That’s it… keep an eye on ‘yournextsled’ for the latest poop from the web


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Posted @ 12:51 pm in Tech Talk   

February 5, 2010

Questions for CR

I arrived home last night after a whirlwind tour of Ontario. Our management team drew straws and set out to support our field staff by attending multiple dealer meetings, held across the country this week. The main reason we chose to do this is so we could ride the new sleds with our dealers.  I guess  going to some exotic place like Vegas or Hawaii for a business meeting has its advantages but there is nothing better than pulling on a helmet after a four hour presentation and seeing for yourself what we’re talking about. Then again, you had better be pretty confident in your product. And we are.

Dane started a thread on TY with some questions for me which I foolishly agreed to so here goes…

Are the Float 2’s up front able to adjust ride height without effecting stiffness? No, there are negative springs which push against the main air spring when fully extended helping small bump compliance but once the shaft moves into the main spring it falls out of play. If you reduce main air spring pressure for more sag (lower height) it will get softer.

Will the Mega Float fit older mono skids? YES and due to the response on TY I have asked Richard and Tom to look into the pricing and availability, hopefully we can get it into the catalog asap

Lots of talking on the horsepower. We have decided not to publish horsepower figures in our marketing specs any longer this will be seen in all Yamaha products outside of outboards. This was requested by factory for several good reasons. Will the actual power figures show up on dyno reports outside of our control? most certainly. The big story on the engine is torque and the EXUP system- how it is used to control the exhaust pulse that puts a real dent on the torque curve. We have had to compromise some of the engine tuning in the past to limit the mid-range torque drop which sacrificed some peak HP. With EXUP there is more torque right across the board with no dips and a slight increase in peak power in the neighborhood of 5%. The objective was to increase acceleration and throttle response corner to corner. Mission accomplished.

Sales programs have been released in Canada, not sure about the USA but you need to get the real scoop from a dealer. Simple math on the Canadian program shows some significant retail value but I am not going to interpret it here and I am not going to address the economics of Canada versus the USA. It is what it is and I am not in the position to comment. How about our new grip warmers?

Apex mountain was dropped primarily based on poor sales volumes. Its my understanding that most Apex mountain riders were doing extensive mods to their sleds to the point that a short track will suffice as a base model to which custom tunnels, skids and turbos put them over the top. It is widely accepted that the new Nytro MTX is a better machine ‘out of the box’ for altitude. I spoke with Randy S last week who told me this is a well kept secret in the Rockies but the reports coming in for the 2010 MTX SE are surprising many customers (and dealers) with how well it does work compared to the 09.

Why no Nytro XTX SE? Short answer, no manpower. We want to offer something more than just BNG (color and graphics) in an SE and under the current economics and workload we had no room on the plate. Stay tuned, as we are listening to you.

There was a typo in our specs re: Apex XTX ski stance C-C is 42.5 and has been corrected, all three models share the same stance.

Why no new Nytro sub-frame and EPS, again short answer is manpower. To redesign the sled to accept EPS is a big undertaking.

Ergos- The new seat height is approximately 2 inches taller, the bars are raised as well. I have heard plenty of shorter riders get of the sled and praise the seating position. Taller riders really like the ergos as their knees are more relaxed and those with the beer keg bellies (as opposed to six pack abs) will likely agree with Mark Lester who felt he wasn’t folded in half on the new sled.

Question on engine cooling. YES it has a larger rear exchanger with 30% more interface with the tunnel for additional heat sync, plus it maintains the rad and fan.

Fox Float maintenance is marginal compared to some other systems, we have had very few issues with the front floats and the new Mega Float shares the same design. It is sensitive to air pressure and calibrated to offer our best ride comfort settings, note it is not an RTX calibration, it offers excellent small bump compliance with very progressive rate to resist bottoming (IMHO it works awesome!)

Apex demo rides are VIP, we have sleds running all across North America (including east of Quebec) but your dealer will be deciding who gets the invite (hint hint).

Regarding engine RPM, the engine still peaks around 10,200 rpm and the gear reduction is still the same to lower clutch speed for greater durability, no belt issues with a Yamaha!

Still waiting for data on top speed difference between 144 and 128 / weight difference bewteen the two skids and tracks and A-arm compatibility with current.

The trail is increased by 15mm which does a lot to reduce ski lift. Prior, it was a compromise to keep the steering effort reasonable and no the lift was not due to engine location so much as geometry and yes I have ridden the lightweight 4-stroke of our competition which stays very flat as well. Problem is it feels like it has a ‘cinder block on each spindle’ and that is to quote a journalist who will remain unnamed to protect his livelihood (doubt you will be reading it anytime soon in his rag) 😉

There are quite a few new things that haven’t been disclosed: New 83gram clutch weights, 38mm header diameter, new lightweight, rare earth mag with significantly higher output, knock sensor, 39mm intake, new forged pistons, new intake cam, new hydraulic tensioner,  just to name a few

I would like to thank those of you who have taken the time to complete my survey on this blog. If you havn’t I would sure appreciate your feedback just click this link.

In closing, I did the following interview on the positioning of the new Apex which is on our new microsite yournextsled.com my first attempt at a ‘video blog’, if you are interested here it is…

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Posted @ 2:15 pm in Tech Talk   

January 8, 2010

Yamcharger Test

We were out on Lake Simcoe yesterday to do some photography and run a few tests on our sleds. My old friend Gordo was nice enough to let us use his property on the shores of Cookes Bay where we knew the ice was good and safe. I have been evaluating the little Yamcharger from G-Force which is a low boost supercharger  running directly off the crank that requires no engine modifications. I have been getting a lot of requests to post about my experience with it and what level of performance I’m  getting.

First off I have to remind you, that Yamaha does not endorse any modifications or accessories which have not been tested and approved by us. That said, we are always looking for new ideas and technologies which would explain why I am running a sled that would not be considered stock.

The conditions on the lake were not ideal as the limited snow pack was allowing significant track spin even at speed. This was the first time I was able to hold enough throttle to check RPM and discovered I need some more weight in the primary, The Yamcharged engine was running up towards 11,000rpm and if I wasn’t on the rev limiter I was darn close. The next step is to do some clutching which I believe will yield a bit more when I pull the numbers back down.

The comparison sled we used is a current Apex LTX (136in) and my sled is a 121. We ran from a rolling start and were still accelerating past the camera. The clip here is the best out of three runs, it really depended on which sled was hooking up but the Yamcharger clearly had an advantage given enough lake.

Does it make the extra 20 ponies, I sure think so. Just remember it takes a lot of horsepower to go just a little faster on the top when you factor in all the forces involved. So is it worth the bucks? Only you can decide, there is nothing wrong with the performance of a stock Apex but alas, I can hear Tim Allen grunting in the background.

Thinking about playing ‘hooky’ next Wednesday and going for a ride somewhere north of town, anybody want to hook up to try the Yamcharged Apex and do some trail riding?? Muskoka / Haliburtons. lemme know

cheers cr

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Posted @ 12:33 pm in Tech Talk   

October 27, 2009

Sled Start – Shock Builds -SnoScoot

I received an interesting belated comment to my post ‘Injection Is Cool But…’ from Angus (‘Doc’) regarding snowmobile 4-stroke operation in the extremes of the high Arctic. Rather coincidental, having just been on the phone with Kurt from SledStart. I am looking forward to trying out a SledStart on my Apex this season but not because I’m adverse to sledstartwalking outside to start my machine. I think this device could be a life saver in certain conditions as it has an auto function that will self start based on preset time or temperature. I have lived in regions where the mercury falls below minus 50 for days on end. You simply don’t turn off your engine for any length of time, if you do, good luck cranking it over (doesn’t matter what it is). This gizmo will fire up the engine when it gets cold and idle until heat-soaked when it will shut down until the block cools again… SledStart looks to be well built very well thought out.

On another subject, shock absorber maintenance is something that is often overlooked. oilUnder certain conditions, ice crystals (comprised of water, salt, dirt, etc.) can build up on the damper rods. Hit a good bump and the rod is knocked past the seals and will deposit it’s payload in the warm shock oil. Combine this with the constant cycling of the oil through the damping system and it doesn’ take too long for the oil to break down and become contaminated. Most of our shocks are rebuildable if you have both the know and parts. Our factory is only able to supply complete shock assemblies to us from the shock vendors which largely takes us (and our dealers) out of the loop for shock rebuilds. The good news for Canadians is there is an option. Factory Connection Canada located in Drummonville Quebec is now offering complete shock service for Ohlins, Fox, Soqi and KYB. They provide both retail and dealer sales. I’ve heard good reports on their service (they are the certified FOX warranty rebuild center). The recommended interval is every 5000km or less depending on use. Factory Connection is also available in the USA. You might be surprised at what a difference a clean fresh shock means to your ride.

While I’m endorsing some cool stuff outside of genuine Yamaha offerings, check ouphoto courtesy of Bullheadmotot Bullhead Motos site. They have specialized in SnoScoot and SnoSport restoration and mods. Pretty cool, I know one eight year old in particular that would absolutely love a pink (or maybe blue) one!

Jon and I have been kicking around some more ideas on how we could include some of our Sled Talk friends in  select development projects. It’s hard given two can only keep a secret when one is dead but I think I have an idea, we’ll call it the ‘YBTT’, y’all know how much we here at Yamaha like our acronyms!… stay tuned.

cheers  cr

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Posted @ 11:51 am in Accessory Stuff,Tech Talk   

June 29, 2009

ATV Track Kits

I have been working on a little project since last fall which just came to fruition last week. We have formed a partnership agreement with Camoplast, who you likely know,  is our snowmobile track supplier. We are now offering TRIC, track conversion kits for our Grizzly ATV’s. Okay, I know putting tracks on an ATV does not make it a sled but it does beg the question- what is it? and more importantly- where does it belong?Trk2

We all know, balloon tired ATV’s do not mix all that well with snowmobiles on the groomed trails, what with the speed and handling differences and all. But what happens when  tracks replace the wheels? First thing is the reduction in gear ratio (approximately 40%) which brings down the top speed significantly. Next the added traction and resulting loss of wheel spin adds a large measure of control and stability on loose snow.

I have spent some significant time on board the tracked Griz and am pretty comfortable with the thought that these machines can share the trail quite nicely with snowmobiles. I didn’t always think that way but with more testing experience I have changed my mind. It may become a bit more of an issue as more and more AIMG_2570TV’s get the rubber band treatment and start eyeballing some of the thousands of KM of snowmobile trails. Way I see it, if they were to purchase a trail pass and practice the same rules of the trail as snowmobiles, good enough but it will take a lot of convincing to ever get it past the federations and their insurers I would think.

Part of the durability testing we performed on our track kit was to sponsor a local snowmobile clubs grooming operation and our machine pulled an AFMI drag for the Six Star club during  most of the past season, replacing the trusty old VK 540 (and rusty old Skandic) that were in their fleet. Turns out the Grizzly made for a better grooming unit than the sleds for pulling, used way less fuel and never missed a beat.

Trk1The track kit has evolved a lot in the past five years. They are lighter, more durable and easier steering (especially with EPS) and ours is now suited for four season use, mud, snow rock, whatever you care to throw at it. Sporty ride? Absolutely not, but go anywhere you point it… yep. Easy enough to throw the wheels back on in the summer if you are running mostly trails and come winter, bolt up the tracks and continue to enjoy your investment year round. The traditional ‘Bravo’ customer may be well served to jump ship and become a year round ATV rider.

One thing the TRIC ATV will do that no sled can, is push a snow plow. The track system is perfect for pushing a blade through powder and a heck of a lot more fun than shoveling or holding onto a  Briggs and Straton vibrator while it covers you in snow spray.

Kits retail in Canada for $3850, added to the cost of a Grizzly, you are getting the whole deal for less than the price of a new performance sled. Apples and oranges for sure. You’ll never cover the ground like on a sled ( think 40 miles a day opposed to 400) but, for some, a serious consideration. So what are your thoughts? Should tracked vehicles be allowed on the snowmobile trails? Would you ever consider owning one? Just curious….

cheers cr

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Posted @ 1:54 pm in Accessory Stuff,Tech Talk   

January 22, 2009

Skis – Darting – Carbides

One of the most common product requests we have is, at first blush, a very simple one and one that I hear constantly from friends in the media as well as our dealers. When is Yamaha going to change the ski’s to something newer?

Good question. I will likely raise a couple of eyebrows for trying to address this but I think most of you will understand and appreciate that I am only offering another opinion to the ongoing conversation. Truth be known we have been working on a new ski, off and on for several years… still are. I won’t go into the details but one thing we face at every turn is patent frustrations. There are only so many things you can do to a ski (or carbide) and over the years most have been done and many patents filed. We are splitting hairs to find something that doesn’t come close to someones elses design. Funny thing however, I am not all that convinced we really need one!

Now I better explain that! From a marketing POV we absolutely need a new ski, simply because of all the negative comments I’ve heard and read both in print and on line. From a performance and handling POV, those who have experimented with some of the latest carbide runner designs will most likely concur with the following opinion:

2009_apex_l-tx-004_red.jpgIt is not the ski so much as the carbide runner that needs to be addressed.

In fact, our current ski has changed significantly, since its first inception in 1999. It has seen numerous updates and versions. We still have part numbers for the shallow keel (Vmax style) deep keel (ViperS / early RX-1) mid keel (Apex / Vector) saddle type (original), saddle-less (current), wide (TF / VK) and mountain. Within each of those categories there have been tweaks to keel angles as well as axle mounting locations.

Interesting side bar: Jon has been experimenting with our wide ski on his XTX after trying one at a joint test. He pulled the boards off an 09 Venture TF along with a set of piggy back Floats and bolted it all up. Low and behold the steering effort was terrible, making harder to maneuver but the darting is improved. Turns out the sled he rode in the US had VK skis, not TF skis which appear identical, hmmm, upon closer inspection the mounting hole is not the same (ahead of the VK Pro) consequently the TF boards are pulled back towards the snow-flap effectively changing everything. The lesson in this should be applied to any aftermarket or OE ski-swap. Has the chosen ski been developed for and tested on the sled in question? Slap on a set of Pilots designed for a different chassis and weight bias and expectations are what?

Before proceeding, I must drop in a little caveat: ‘Darting’ is characteristic of snowmobiling. All snowmobiles will exhibit darting under certain conditions, it is the nature of the beast when there are many sled tracks in packed snow.

If you are looking to reduce (eliminate) darting, dial in the amount of ‘push’ or under-steer and or improve predictability, these can all be achieved to a large degree by simply changing the carbide runners. You really don’t need to change the ski to make some significant alterations to the ride character. I am not saying you won’t get similar results from a new set of skis (however there are many types and levels) but the runner, IMHO is at the crux of the matter.

There is an interesting ‘poll’ thread on-going over on TY discussing the virtues of two particular carbide designs. I was able to relate as I began my ski experiments a long time ago. I will only go as far back as the first RX-1 deep-keel where I discovered I was not man enough to hang onto the bars of the beast using the stock set-up. That first year I upgraded the sway-bar to a 13 mill with the new links, changed to the mid-keel ski ( a gift from a friend in testing) and hooked up the rear end with a pre-pro RipSaw track, much better, but still ‘darty’, next came thicker host bar, more aggressive carbides,  more ski lift

The following year I moved to the Simmons ski which was working pretty good until I got behind a bunch of REV tracks which btw, seemed strikingly similar to the Simmons… gave them away to Tom and moved back to a mid-keel and duallies… Things got a lot smoother but a small top speed loss and a few missing chips had me thinking. Along comes the Apex (same ski) and more new players in the dual carbide game, tried a couple more designs then stumbled upon a new single skag out of Quebec which came highly recommended from some respected dealer friends (Irwin’s and Markham Mower) The Cobra Head by Qulaipiece offered some quantifiable benefits with its integrated ‘corrector’ (which I first remember seeing in UHMW form coming out of Quebec when everyone had steel skis, to reduce darting fifteen years ago). I have been running these for a couple of seasons until now, which after reading about the Snowtrackers in Supertrax and researching them, I decided to give a set a try. I am going to save my evaluation for another day but I will say I am impressed and quite satisfied with the handling traits. I have not felt any sled track any straighter than what I have experienced so far with these on my Apex. I am using the semi-aggressive Snowtracker but I still need to try the aggressive model for comparison. (many thanks to my friend Richard (Coyote) for hooking me up.)

Another thing that strikes me, the original corrector, (the plastic shim that was affixed to the front of many ski’s to reduce darting), came out of Quebec and currently (IMHO) the best hi-tech single skag carbides all have built in ‘correctors’ and also come out of Quebec. I conclude that the Quebec trail system which is ranked as one of the best in the world, has led the charge of anti-darting accessories as a result of the smooth, fast and snowy conditions which are their norm.Maybe this is just a Canadian thing but I don’t think so, it is just more prevelant on fast, smooth trails.

Most of the trails I have ridden in the mid-west are so tight and bumpy it’s hard to realize the level of darting because there is so much other stuff going on. My point is, not everyone will experience the same level of ‘darting’ based on the local conditions and perhaps the runner will not be so important to the overall handling. That said however I still maintain that any of our performance snowmobiles can benefit from a high-tech runner to some degree and the vast majority of owners do not need to change out the ski to achieve great handling.

I think of carbides much as I do tires. Most OE tires on cars and trucks are cheap versions that eventually get replaced with superior rubber to yield improved traction and handling. Like carbides, stock tires are a wearable part that will do the job but when it comes time to replace, most performance minded drivers will select something more suited to their conditions and preference.

Whenever I am asked what one thing would I recommend to dial in a Yamaha trail sled, assuming a good PDI (including ski alignment, 0-toe and suspension set-up), I always say a new set of carbide runners. Bake the stockers and try something new. It’s not a one size fits all formula, you have to do a little research considering all the conditions under which you ride , overall sled set-up and riding style. I am convinced the right carbide will negate the need for a new ski and enhance your overall experience and satisfaction.

Cheers  cr

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Posted @ 1:25 pm in Accessory Stuff,Opinions and Insights,Tech Talk