It’s a well-known fact in the movie industry that every great storyline deserves a great sequel. Oftentimes, the best outcomes are the result of smaller, concise efforts tailored to specific strengths.
For model year 2019 Yamaha is introducing a low and fast lake-racing special with a familiar SRX name that is sure to get the go-fast crowd foaming at the mouth, plus is bringing the new Intelligent Quick Switch (iQS) interactive suspension system on select models.
At the same time, Big Blue is also making a concentrated effort to scale back its new model lineup production – from a total 34 models in 2018 to 12 – to react to an ever-changing snowmobiling market with high inventory levels driven by low-snow winters in key markets. The goal is to focus on handpicked models while allowing time for inventory levels at dealerships to dramatically decrease by creating scarcity.
Gone for 2019 are all Apex, Vector, Venture and Phazer snowmobiles; in fact, the only Yamaha-built Yamaha in the brand’s 2019 North American lineup is a utility machine. Also MIA for 2019 are all but one M-TX, B-TX and SXViper, and all Sidewinders with 129-inch tracks.
But don’t think that this is Yamaha’s first step toward leaving the snowmobile industry – company officials stressed that it has recently added to its staff at its Wisconsin-based snowmobile R&D center, on top of investments in Japan. (To see the new, 2019 snowmobiles from Arctic Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo, click on the brand names.)
SRX FULFILLS NEED FOR SPEED
Yamaha’s hero machine for model year 2019 carries a name that will likely sound familiar, and is sure to create a buzz.
The SRX brand has a glorious history. It was originally launched as a limited-build oval racing sled, but its initial first consumer iteration was as Yamaha’s first liquid-cooled trail sled in 1976 – a machine targeted at the go-fast crowd. After being replaced by the Vmax, the SRX badging returned for 1998 in the form of two super-impressive triple-piped triple sleds in the 600 or 700 class, with best-in-class handling and acceleration. But those SRX models soon disappeared as Yamaha shifted its focus toward four-stroke powerplants. The name was recently brought back for the youth-focused SRX 120, but that’s hardly part of the famed SRX lineage.
The new, third-generation, adult-sized SRX offers the serious kick-in-the-pants of its predecessors, and then some.
The Sidewinder SRX LE takes the Sidewinder platform to a new level – offering the go-really-really-fast crowd a machine with more speed and better handling. It will offer a unique suspension package of shocks and springs that will provide a lowered ride height that won’t compromise comfort. The suspension will also be adjustable on-the-fly with the push of a button (for more on that, read to the bottom of the article).
To gain speed on what’s already the sport’s fastest sled – a Yamaha insider told us the goal was adding 6 mph to the top end – Yamaha lowered the ride height by using new dual-rate springs on the ski suspension and on the front arm of the skid while also utilizing a new rear torsion spring. All of them have a lower preload rate but have the same force at the bottom of the shock stroke. Overall the drive shaft is now 1 inch closer to the ground.
To gain even more speed, the SRX will also utilize a track with shorter lugs – opting for a 15- by 137- by 1-inch RipSaw with a 2.86-inch pitch. The buyer of such a machine is quite likely to use studs, so they’ll get their traction elsewhere. Also, Yamaha added bogie wheels to the skid and replaced the rear tri-hub axle with a larger wheel set to reduce friction.
At the Rode Reports event in West Yellowstone, Montana, in early March our team was able to test a Sidewinder SRX LE, and it took less than three minutes to tell how much power it offered riders. Acceleration was immediate and you could feel the torque in your shoulders upon takeoff, and when the turbo kicked in its acceleration rate was blistering – in fact, it was hard to believe that the machine only had suspension and track changes; it felt like it had added boost. Handling around corners was effortless due in part to the lower ride height.
The new SRX also offers a new throttle lever design modeled around the Apex version, which riders raved about in the past, while the handlebar features new ergo-friendly controls and a new kill-switch.
The sled will clearly be marketed toward the lake racer focused on unmatched top speed and acceleration, with fluid, natural and flat cornering, and high confidence.
Sidewinder Options, Upgrades
The Sidewinder will be the model most present in Yamaha’s new stable, comprising eight of the total 12 models for 2019, and five of those ’Winders will be LE models only available through the brand’s Spring Power Surge order program. All will be powered by the smooth and fast turbocharged 998cc four-stroke triple that has made so many happy customers since it was introduced for model year 2017. They all sit in the SRV chassis and will be built at the Arctic Cat factory in Minnesota. For 2019 they all get new clutch calibrations to extend belt life, a new Hayes brake with the short lever that’s easier to reach, and new handlebar control switches that improve fit and finish.
Three 137-inch L-TX models return for 2019 – an LE, an SE and a DX – each with a new rear axle set replacing the Tri-Hub design.
Other than the SRX, the most upgraded Sidewinder for 2019 is the Sidewinder L-TX LE. It comes with the new, adjust-on-the-fly iQS shocks plus a new 1.6-inch Cobra track that is sure to get a better grip on- and off-trail. To match that, on this model only, Yamaha swapped out the gearing to a 24/50 set – gearing previously only used on 153-inch Sidewinder B-TX models – to provide sharper corner-to-corner acceleration. Other L-TX models stay at 21/41 gears. The LE models also come with a new tunnel bag and race height windshield, plus a heated seat and heated visor outlet. It also has a flashy paint job for 2019 – a mix of blue and hi vis yellow.
The full-season available, red-and-white Sidewinder L-TX SE also gets a new windshield, though it’s slightly taller. It rides on Fox 1.5 Zero RC coil-overs up front and HPG shocks in the skid. The more touring-focused Sidewinder L-TX DX comes with more on-board storage, a tall window, heated seat and its classy-cool black and grey color combo.
There are two crossover X-TX models for 2019 that ride on uncoupled rear suspensions for premium weight transfer plus a mountain strap on the handlebar. The spring-order Sidewinder X-TX LE is more off-trail focused and takes the place of last year’s X-TX SE 137, with a 40-inch front end, tipped-in mountain spindles, a new single-keel crossover ski that’s supposed to provide better flotation and the short mountain seat. It rides on the 141- by 1.75-inch Backcountry X in 2019, with new idler wheels in the skid frame and Fox QS3 shocks.
The full-season Sidewinder X-TX SE returns with its 42-inch, trail-oriented front end and 1.6-inch Cobra track. It gets Fox QS3 shocks for 2019 vs. the Fox FLOATs found here last year.
Yamaha’s two returning powder machines are the flatland-focused B-TX and the altitude-aimed M-TX 162. The Sidewinder B-TX LE is back with its 15- by 153- by 2.25-inch Power Claw track and 40-inch ski stance. It gets the same new single-keel crossover skis found on the X-TX LE, plus QS3 shocks. A second set of idler wheels was added to the skid, which should help with hyfax wear so the ice scratchers have been removed.
The mountain-focused Sidewinder M-TX 162 LE – with its 162-inch track with 3-inch lugs and 36-inch front end – will dawn new blue Deep Keel Mountain Skis to go along with a new hi-vis paint design and a new tunnel bag.
The four non-Sidewinders that return for 2019 include one SRViper, one utility beast and two smaller sleds.
The lone machine returning with Yamagha’s 1049cc naturally aspirated triple is the base-levek Viper L-TX with monotube aluminum shocks and the 15- by 137- by 1.25-inch RipSaw II track. It gets a new rear axle set but otherwise returns essentially unchanged, including having the old-style handlebar switches and brake.
The initial launch of the 200cc Snoscoot has widely been considered a success. And after a few changes to the sled for 2019 – including electric start that will now come standard, a longer pull-cord starter and a longer oil dipstick for easier maintenance – anticipation is high that the momentum will continue into the immediate future. The SRX 120 R will feature a new idler wheel design.
The only utility sled available from Yamaha – at least in North America – will be the unchanged VK540, though the brand will still have other utility models available in Europe and Russia.
New Shock Technology
If the announcement of its return wasn’t intriguing enough, Yamaha has also introduced its new interactive suspension system, dubbed the Fox iQS (Intelligent Quick Switch) that will equip the SRX LE as well as the Sidewinder L-TX LE.
Powered through Fox QS3 shocks on the front suspension and also the rear shock on the skid frame, a rider will now be able to switch suspension settings immediately by utilizing a simple switch on the left handlebar. Three modes – soft, medium and firm – allow a rider to customize an adventure around their own comfort, skill level and the terrain faced throughout any given ride. Arctic Cat will also utilize the technology in its iACT lineup.
The changes enabled by the iQS system are almost immediate and are very noticeable. Switching, for instance, from the soft to medium setting came in handy when we experienced changing trial conditions around West Yellowstone last week. The firm setting, though, is quite stiff and really would only come in handy when jumping far and landing hard.
Looking toward Yamaha’s future, VP of Yamaha Canada Peter Smallman-Tew stressed the need for Yamaha to boldly pare its lineup for 2019 to react to market conditions.
An estimated 34 percent of current “new sled” sales are non-current models, meaning new but at least one model year old, and that affects both new and used sled sales and pricing.
Going forward Yamaha insists its planned wide-scale shift in strategy toward a concentrated lineup will not be done on the backs of existing customers and brand loyalists, but instead through emerging as a product powerhouse with its new, condensed model lineups.
“For 2020 and beyond, we have got some exciting things happening, we’re on the gas but we’re taking a very rifle approach right now,” Smallman-Tew said. “When we target a market segment, we’re going to target a market segment that has the ability to grow.”
New Yamaha sleds will be scarce in 2019.
“If you want to buy a Yamaha, you’ve got to put the money down at the beginning of the year because when in-season comes, there’s not going to be a lot of product around,” Smallman-Tew said.