The First Snowmobile With Air Shocks Goes Farther, Faster

Yamaha's air-shock snowmobile lets adventurers explore more territory

The 2010 snowmobile season, which begins this month, will see daredevils in places they couldn’t reach before: in deeper powder, on remote cliffs, squeezing between trees. That’s because the first full air-suspension sled swaps the usual heavy steel coils for air-filled shock absorbers, creating a smoother, 20-pounds-lighter machine. Riders can easily steer the FX Nytro MTX SE 162 with their weight, glide it nearly drag-free through powder, and unstick it from drifts.

Engineers from Yamaha and Fox Racing Shox developed a rear shock that holds enough air to support a snowmobile’s force yet still fits into the tight quarters near the tracks. They took a skinny air cylinder and tacked on a small external tank, boosting the volume by 30 percent but increasing the shock’s girth at only one end. Users can adjust the pressure inside with a simple bicycle-like pump, injecting more air for heavier riders or a stiffer, faster ride, and releasing air for lighter riders or a cushier ride. The result is more fun for more people, on trails or off.