Some folks told Henry Ford he was a lunatic. Others thought Thomas Edison had lost his marbles. Inventors who challenge the norms are often ridiculed, so when many snowmobilers looked at the Wesll Inc. front end design at the Novi, Michigan, Snowmobile USA Show in last weekend and shook their heads, inventor Wes Melcher didn’t flinch.
“A lot of people have come over and taken a long look, then they run their hand along the bottom of the ski and walk away saying, ‘That will never work,’” said Melcher.
The design engineer from Arizona unveiled new snowmobile designs in Michigan that he said could forever change the way snowmobiles handle, in powder and on the trail.
The system relies on a high-tech electronic and hydraulic system that takes feedback from a control box located on the top of the steering post, right under the handlebars, to dramatically tilt and extend the front suspension of the snowmobile, using more hydraulics and unique linkages. The system causes the sled to lean and dive into corners by up to a 35 degree angle and offers 24 inches of suspension travel, he said.
What’s more, the Wesll system uses 5-foot long carbon fiber skis that have titanium edges running down both sides – there are no carbide runners or, for that matter, even any keel on the tabletop-flat skis. Instead, the skis tilt at dramatic angles when the front suspension dives, and the edge of the ski carves – like a downhill skier uses the edges of his or her skis to turn.
“You can’t think of this in terms of snowmobiles,” Melcher said of his design. “You’ve got to think motorcycles; you’ve got to think skis.”
The key, according to Melcher, is the lean of the vehicle, and the fact that it overcomes the physics that normally cause a three- or four-wheeled vehicle to lean to the outside of a turn. “You’ve got to accept an incoming load and not transfer it to the center of the vehicle,” he explained in a followup phone conversation.
Obviously very proud of his design, Melcher claimed that “these no scenario in which this system doesn’t work better than the designs that are out there now” meaning hard trails, soft trails, backcountry riding, sidehilling, jumping and landing, etc. He had previously designed an ATV with a leaning system – click here to see the video of that vehicle in action – but has now turned his attention to the snow market.
Even though he was showing the design at a consumer snowmobile show, the inventor says he has no intentions of building and marketing the product as an aftermarket product, or of designing his own line of snowmobiles. Instead, Melcher is trying to catch the eyes of the snowmobile manufacturers to buy and implement his ideas. Ultimately, he doesn’t want to sell it to one snowmobile factory but rather license it to all four.
The design frankly left us with more questions than answers. Melcher said he’ll let the snowmobile media and snowmobile manufacturer officials test his design this winter. Watch snowgoer.com – if we get to take a pull, we’ll tell you about it there.