Imagine you have a sled with a rear suspension that does such a good job at isolating the rider from the bumps that you enjoy a â€œfatigueless rider experienceâ€. You will still have some aches at the end of a long day’s ride, but they won’t be in your lower back and legs. Instead, your upper body and arms will be what’s aching.
Over 15 years ago, FAST unveiled their M-10 rear suspension that introduced the world to suspension â€œcouplingâ€, where the suspension arms communicate with each other to control the rail angle through bumps, providing a significant improvement in rider comfort.
Now for 2007, TeamFAST is back at it with a vengeance. Once again, the difference you will experience will forever change your definition of a â€œroughâ€ trail. Their new AIRWAVE suspension will completely redefine your expectations of a rear suspension. This has to sound like an exaggeration, but this system simply devours the big stuff while at the same time purely adoring the trail stutters and chop. This includes positive incline bumps (above the trail surface), negative incline bumps (below the trail grade) and the infamous G-bumps (rounded out gulleys that render a speed-sensitive shock near useless). With the Airwave Suspension you approach a near total correction for G-outs, while at the same time providing near zero compromise for most trail stutters and bump conditions in general.
A rider can literally get on the roughest maintained trails he can find and just plain go without tiring because the new Airwave system has him so isolated from the terrain. On un-groomed trails you will have to keep your cool because the rear end is going to perform exceedingly well and the front suspension will often become the limiting factor. This may get a rider in trouble, particularly when it comes to cornering at the speeds this thing can go in the rough.
Air springs have been used in some form or another in various applications for a number of years now. It wasn’t until just recently that air springs started to see applications in snowmobile suspensions. Often, the benefit is the reduction of weight realized by the elimination of heavy, metal coil springs. In the case of suspensions, the anti-bottoming tendencies afforded by their non-linear force vs. displacement characteristics was too great to ignore, the potential too great.
Enter hard-core snowmobiler Jeff Zakowski. Zakowski is President of Airlink Performance, LLC. It all started when Zakowski wanted to improve the ride comfort of his dad’s sled after a grueling ride back in 1988. Being a truck driver, Zakowski had plenty of time to think about ways to better isolate a rider from the impacts of rough terrain.
Zakowski tells SnowTech, â€œIt was a seat out of an old Mack truck sitting in the corner of the garage that provided the inspiration. I came to realize that the air adjustable seats found throughout the heavy truck industry had small air springs in them, similar to what has been used on heavy truck suspensions with great success for years. These tiny air springs seemed to be of the right diameter and height to work in the rear skid of a snowmobile.
â€œIt was the spring of 1998 when my good friend Tony LaMotte and I decided to try an experiment in the garage. We removed the seat cushion and backrest of the truck seat so all that was left was a platform and suspension mechanism. We then proceeded to place various things on the platform to see how much weight the air spring could handle and at what air pressure. Amazingly, we didn’t find anything heavy enough to keep the air spring compressed. Eventually we placed an entire 520 pound snowmobile on top of the platform and it lifted it in the air. It was then that we realized that an air spring small enough to fit in the rear skid of a snowmobile should have the force necessary to carry the weight of a sled and a rider. We also surmised that it could have a range of adjustment well beyond that of anything currently on the market.â€
Fast forward to April 2005. Zakowski had approached Gerard Karpik and Team FAST to see if his patented technology had any place in the benchmark M-10 suspension, and they finally had their day in the field. After their initial test session, Karpik knew there were some inherent advantages to this new application of air spring technology.
TeamFAST then secured an exclusive agreement with Airlink Performance and hit the drawing boards hard. Since then, Karpik and his team have been working through the issues involved with integrating the patented Airlink technology into the M-10. They took the â€œdiamond in the roughâ€ concept and applied their suspension engineering expertise, prototyping developing and honing the package. Several months were spent detailing the coupling and damping relationships and logging hours in the field. They are now ready to share with you the fruits of their efforts; the 2007 â€œAIRWAVEâ€.
Take a close look at this suspension. Those familiar with the M-10 geometry will notice several things about the new Airwave Suspension. First off, the parallelogram is intact; the front and rear arms remain equal length.
Second, the ARC (Advanced Ride Control) geometry has been maintained over the shock in this new suspension with the falling rate proving necessary once again for proper damping control. Remember, a falling rate on the compression stroke means progressive rate on rebound stroke, providing a mechanical advantage to the kickback control. There is no need for the FRA (Full Range Adjuster) as the shock leverage ratio is no longer adjustable; its lower mount shaft is fixed to the center support beam. Your primary adjustment is now the air pressure. Depending on the unit, this is accomplished via a small hand pump or with an on-board compressor.
You’ll also notice the air spring itself resides in the general area where the rear track shock used to be, as the shock is now offset slightly. Though it may not be readily apparent, the actual leverage ratio of the air spring is very different than that of the shock, being fairly linear – notice the different upper mounting points.
When it comes to mechanical advantage over bump energy the AIRWAVE package is a terrifically efficient device. At full compression the air spring compresses from 11.5â€ down to approximately 3.6â€in length, or just 31% its original length. For comparison, a typical sled rear shock is compressed from 17â€ down to 11.25â€, or approximately 66% its extended length. As you can clearly see, when it comes to mechanical advantage over bump the air spring is much more efficient device when packaged in this manner.
Many components are beefed up to handle the added stresses from the increased energy absorption, like the very light billet rear arm that is beefed up in the coupler area.
Only an air spring in the rear, not the front arm? Not to worry, as soon as the arms couple then they’re both under the control of the air spring, swinging as a linked parallelogram, sharing shock damping and spring rate characteristics.
The strength of the Airwave is not only the capability to go through bumps in near total isolation, but the fact the â€œperformance windowâ€ of the design is incredibly wide. For the most part, once the suspension is calibrated for a rider weight, it will work well through small bumps at lower speeds and big bumps at higher speeds. We’re talking bandwidth like never before.
The beauty of the design is the integration of an air spring and its progressive rate. The further the suspension compresses, the more exponential the rate of increase, making the suspension very difficult to bottom at full travel. And at the same time, you don’t get much of any feedback through the stutter bumps.
For 2007, FAST will be offering the Airwave technology in three different packages;
Either you will own an Airwave or somebody you ride with will. Whichever it is, don’t let the guy with the Airwave lead when the trails get rough, or you’ll never see him again.
To order your own Airwave, to learn if it is compatible with your snowmobile, or to arrange an installation time and location contact TeamFAST at 218-744-2101 or visit www.TeamFAST.com for the latest information on the next â€œCosmic Leapâ€ in snowmobiling.
AIRWAVE / GOLD –
This is a complete suspension intended for the â€œPure Sport Riderâ€. The system is light and cost effective and comes with a hand pump for air spring pressure adjustments. The rider will define his calibration simply by matching the static air pressure to his style of riding and weight. With the final calibration FAST has achieved, seldom will you need to change the settings. With the breadth of the performance envelope, the flexibility achieved through the static air pressure setting will give you all of the capability you will need. There is very little steel on this suspension, with the majority of components being machined from billet construction. The system can also be easily be upgraded to AIRWAVE DIAMOND on most sled models.
Suspension Weight – 53.6 pounds
Suspension Cost — $1675
AIRWAVE / DIAMOND –
This is intended for the â€œPure Sport Riderâ€ as well, but includes an on-board air supply (small compressor and required electronics). This allows for on-the-fly adjustments to the air spring pressure and increases the load capacity of the system.
Suspension Weight – 56.8 lb.
Suspension Cost — $ (Call for quote)
AIRWAVE / DIAMOND M10 Upgrade Kit –
An important objective of TeamFAST over the years has been to not leave their loyal customers behind. This kit is intended for the thousands of current and future users of M-10s and includes the thousands of original equipment Polaris M-10s.
This kit includes the on-board compressor unit and required electronics, and can be used to upgrade most any M-10 to Airwave technology. It does add a few pounds to an M-10, but the end result will be nothing short of miraculous.
Kit cost – $785