Riding the Wave
Here we are, twenty years later and Yamaha is still selling 4-stroke snowmobiles. The whole 4-stroke wave started for them with their 2003 introduction of the mighty RX-1, which means the 2022 model year is their twentieth of offering high-performance 4-stroke snowmobiles. Yet, with each passing year they introduce more 2-stroke powered sleds. While 4-stroke sleds are here to stay, 2-stroke sleds remain in high demand as well. To remain competitive you must offer both.
Yamaha is the last of the manufacturers to release their 2022 new model information. They’re so late they missed the print version of SnowTech Magazine which mailed to subscribers on March 3rd. Yamaha did not allow us to talk about their 2022 models until March 9th, so here we go!
Like the entire outdoor recreation industry, 2020 was a strong year for Yamaha snowmobile sales simply due to everyone wanting to get outside and get away from the health rules and regulations that were being imposed upon them. While the snowmobile industry saw strong growth of 19%, Yamaha outpaced this and actually saw a 22% increase in product sales. This could be due to them having the most loyal customers, or it could be due to their strong product image and name. Their inventory is now at a record lows, as their 2019 model year inventory correction strategy combined with strong sell through this season has positioned Yamaha healthy and strong. Resale values of used Yamaha models have been incredibly high, a reflection of the demand and low supply.
For the 2022 model year we will see an incremental increase in production. Yamaha has been really tight on their build numbers as many dealers have not been able to get anywhere near the units they would like. So yes, Yamaha will be building more sleds for next year to replenish dealer inventories and meet consumer demand, but they will not be loading up the dealers nor will they allow dealers to load up on units. If anything they will be shifting from a defensive posture to an offensive posture with a growth mindset.
What kind of new products do we get from Yamaha for 2022? Well, as you might have guessed, Yamaha is pretty well connected to the model offerings from their build-partner (via mutual supply agreement) Arctic Cat. And as most of you already know, Arctic Cat is still in the recovery mode with new product development really being held down and held back, whatever we want to call it. New technology is down to a trickle. The biggest news last year from the two brands was the introduction of the single-cylinder Blast & SX Venom models, and then Yamaha introducing their branded versions of 2-stroke mountain sleds.
For 2022 we see the introduction of Electronic Power Steering (EPS) on some, not all, of the Sidewinder models. Basically, the Sidewinder GT models (L-TX & S-TX) get the EPS. Yamaha was the first to introduce EPS to both the sled and ATV markets, so they are quite capable of doing this well. It not only reduces the steering effort (makes the sled feel lighter) but also allows the use of more aggressive ski & carbide combinations for more responsive handling, but without the typical increase in steering effort. This alone makes machines so equipped handle better and hold their line with greater precision. The other huge benefit from having the power-assist steering is how the system resists, or counters, abrupt force impacts. Things that would tweak the handlebars in your hands, these impacts are greatly minimized and counteracted. Riders always comment on how blown away they are at how smooth the handling response becomes, which is very welcome when we’re talking about a heavier turbocharged machine.
Past the introduction of the EPS there isn’t much else for new and different technology for 2022. We see some new models and many refinements, but not much else. Sorry. Instead, Yamaha has spent their time and effort at working to refine and give their sleds a more premium feeling.
As for bold new graphics, 2022 SE models are offered in Jet Blue with Ice Orange accents; GT models are Ink Blue with Regal Gold accents; LE models are Frost Silver with Yamaha Racing Blue accents, and the SRX in Retro White/Red/Gold – a flashy retro graphics and coloration package based on the 1977 SRX race sled.
One new model is an expansion of the 2-stroke deep snow mountain sleds in the form of the 2022 Mountain Max 154” SL, or Super Light, a lighter version of the single-beam deep snow sled. How much lighter? We’re told 20 pounds lighter as it sheds the electric start and has a shorter seat, tank and heat exchanger. This sled is aimed at those riding in tighter spaces and doing more jumping. Many Yamaha riders were hoping to see a twin rail rear suspension mountain sled for 2022 instead of more single rail machines, as not everyone is enamored with the single-beam design or the characteristics and ride quality of the design. Options are good, and perhaps Yamaha would consider coming back with a twin rail rear suspension? We believe it would be worth the effort and they would be rewarded with demand. All of the Mountain Max 2-stroke models get a new clutching package with new primary and secondary clutches, designed and built by Arctic Cat.
One of the more notable changes for 2022 is found on the Sidewinder LTX LE with an upgraded shock package. Yamaha learned the center shock specification was not stout enough with the standard HPG 1.5” body center shock, so this is now a piggy-back QS3 with Kashima coating to provide greater bump capacity for this model. Up front we now find piggy-back QS3-R shocks with Kashima coating, and a 2″ QS3-R Kashima coated shock in the rear.
You will find one model gone from the 2022 line-up; the Sidewinder B-TX LE 153”. Other than that all 2021 model have returned for 2022. The Sidewinder L-TX GT has been replaced by the L-TX GT EPS; the Sidewinder S-TX GT has also been replaced by a new EPS version; new models include the new Super Light Mountain Max LE 154” SL; and a new Transporter Lite 2 Up based on the single-cylinder 400cc 2-stroke SX Venom platform. One SR Viper remains like last year, the SR Viper L-TX GT. Three Japan-built sleds return, we now have seven Sidewinder variations, four single-cylinder 400cc 2-strokes, four 800cc 2-strokes along with the SnoScoot and SRX 120.
We admit, we were expecting more from both Yamaha and Arctic Cat this season. Yes, big wheels turn slowly, but they must have been caught off guard by the high demand of last season and just can’t react that quickly. Let’s all be happy they’re still in the game, but the competition is getting so far ahead of (both of) them that brand loyalists are starting to jump ship. The clock is ticking.
2022 New Technology
Yamaha introduced EPS for snowmobiles in 2011 pioneering the innovative technology that both reduces steering effort and increases steering precision. The newest generation reduces weight by over 3lbs and incorporates a brushless DC motor.
The new generation of variable assist EPS utilizes a magnetic torque sensor to measure steering input based on torsion or “Twist” of the steering post resulting from handlebar input and ski resistance. The integrated control module signals the brushless servo-motor to assist the steering through its powered worm gear drive.
The EPS system also provides engine RPM and vehicle speed data to the control module which calibrates for increased assistance at lower speeds and then tapers off as the vehicle accelerates giving a more balanced, natural feel or connection to the terrain.
When the skis encounter an abrupt force against the steering input, the torque sensor alerts the control module to apply additional assistance to counteract or resist the negative input. This effectively reduces steering effort required while enhancing predictability for greater rider comfort and less fatigue.