According to Frank Sinatra, if you want to conquer the lights of Broadway, you do it your own way. But that might not be the case if you’re looking to ride the snow-covered ridegelines of the Rockies. It’s here where a good day is measured in feet versus miles, and passionate enthusiasts and factory development teams continue to refine today’s mountain breed of snowmobiles to scale higher peaks and conquer deeper powder than ever before.
And just like Old Blue Eyes, Yamaha has had a penchant for doing things its own way over the course of 40-plus years of snowmobiling history. It was this vision to break the rules that led Yamaha to develop the original Phazer in 1984, which soon afterward propelled the brand to marketshare leadership. Over the years Yamaha has also followed other leaders, albeit begrudgingly, such as with the 1997 SX models featuring a traditional trailing arm front suspension.
So when we learned details of the 2010 FX Nytro MTX SE mountain sleds, we were surprised to see some familiar design characteristics mixed with a new, all-air rear suspension. While some of the changes from Hamamatsu, Japan, seem subtle on paper, they signal an effort toward a purpose-built mountain sled and perhaps a directional shift for Yamaha, which often builds for the average and not the extreme.
From the outset, the 2010 FX Nytro MTX appears similar to its predecessor. Built upon the FX Nytro chassis and featuring the same 130 hp Genesis triple four-stroke engine, the MTX version is stretched to accommodate one of two, all-new single-ply Camoplast tracks in 153- or 162-inch lengths. Both feature a 2.25-inch lug, 3-inch pitch and a softer rubber compound for more lift in powder.
But the more significant news is found inside the Camoplast rubber, in the form of a traditional skidframe — by today’s standards — with a unique twist. The lightweight skid is a conventional twin arm design with a rear drop link, but a pair of Fox FLOAT 2 shocks take on double duty in terms of both spring and damping. Being free of coil-over and torsion springs, the package is 13.5 pounds lighter than the control rod-coupled design it replaces, according to Yamaha. The track has a shallower attack angle for improved flotation and the ability to get on plane quicker in powder snow.
More new, deep-snow design elements are out back, including a shaved and tapered rear tunnel close off and narrow running boards. The increased angle and reduced material of the rear tunnel allows the MTX to discharge snow more easily, while the narrower running boards prevent the tunnel from hanging-up while reducing resistance during tip-in when carving powder.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Yamaha mountain breed of late has been the vehicle’s overall flick-ability in powder. No doubt the weight penalty of the four-stroke powerplant is a major contributor to this, but so, too, was the quirky handling attributes of the original FX chassis’ front suspension. Last year, the flatland Nytro models received an updated version of the suspension aptly named the FXG2, and now the MTX gets the same front-end treatment for 2010.
The FXG2 features revised camber that tips back the top of the spindle 4 degrees (essentially giving it a longer wheelbase), and the ski-mount in the spindle itself has been moved toward the rear. This combination delivers a softer steering feel with less twitch and a touch more predictability in off-camber, extreme downhill or rough conditions.
The MTX moving to a more trail-friendly ski width of 40.7-inches is a bit strange in the company of competitive brands and older Yamaha mountain sleds that have a narrower stance, but Yamaha points to increasingly more requests from mountain riders longing for a wider stance. FLOAT 2 shocks also take up residence in the front suspension, shaving off another 3 pounds compared to typical coil-over dampers.
Like nearly every Yamaha buggy for 2010, the MTX receives new lightweight rear axle wheels and idlers with replaceable bearings, and new grip warmers. The MTX 153 is available in traditional Yamaha blue, and its longer sibling comes in the same hue or optional tough-guy black.
A Shift For Blue
We rode the new MTX alongside a 2009 model at our annual Rode Reports test event in Grand Lake, Colorado, last spring. While we couldn’t prove Yamaha’s claim of dramatically improved climbing ability due to concrete-like snow conditions, we were able to drop into a few shade-covered tree lines to find untracked snow.
The increased width of the 2010 MTX is apparent almost immediately — in a good way and a bad way. Combined with the revised suspension geometry, the new MTX is more predictable and stable, especially while negotiating goat-paths through the trees and up the mountains.
The wider stance was also noticeable when the packed snow gave way to patches of shaded powder. The 2009 MTX rolled over more favorably with less effort than the 2010, but once the weight is rolled, it’s easy to hold the outboard ski in the air on the 2010. We also found the wider stance more difficult to hold a line while side-hilling or carving. The FLOAT 2 calibrations proved to be a good compromise, especially considering the multi-tasking these shocks are asked to do; they faired best in hard pack due to initial firmness.
The combination of a new single-ply track, stripped down skidframe and Fox shocks on all four corners equates to an overall weight loss of 24 pounds for the MTX 153 and 17 fewer pounds on the 162-inch model compared to last year’s 153. The smooth power delivery of the in-line triple four-stroke lays down power to the oversized Camoplast in a predictable linear fashion, and ergos — save for a seat bun that should be a few inches taller — are comfortable and neutral.
For Yamaha, the changes to the 2010 FX Nytro MTX represent a dramatic shift for the sometimes-conservative sled maker. Yamaha’s willingness to adapt the raw, and sometimes unrefined mountain-specific designs into its models could spell even better things to come for future Yamaha mountain sleds.