Lightweight Designs from NEXTECH
NEXTECH’s use of carbon fiber leads to creative new ideas for lighter weight sledding
Story by Jerry Bassett, Created Nov 20, 2008
NEXTECH Industries takes its snowmobiling extremely seriously. That’s why you’ll find this Sherwood Park, Alta., Canada, manufacturer offering super lightweight, carbon fiber snowmobile performance products.
The company claims that its carbon fiber products have greater tensile strength than any available metals, including titanium alloys, chrome-molly steel or aluminum. Since carbon fiber’s weight per volume is less than half that of aluminum and nearly four times lighter than titanium and it has a fatigue resistance surpassing any structural metals, NEXTECH uses the composite to create its lightweight front suspension arms and rear suspension components.
Fox Float Air Reservoir
The Fox Float Air Reservoir is one of the few non-carbon fiber products offered by NEXTECH. This readily available product with its reservoir concept allows the rider to more readily control air volume in the Fox Float shock and, with the built-in speed sensitive valving, prevent bottoming in extreme and aggressive riding, such as racing, serious ditch banging or mogul pounding. NEXTECH states that its Fox Float Air Reservoir allows the rider to custom tune his suspension’s performance to his weight and style of riding while utilizing more of the Fox Float’s capabilities.
States NEXTECH: “These reservoirs adjust to change the compression ratio of the shock.” They allow a higher starting air pressure for better handling and ride height while still allowing maximum travel from the Fox Float shock.
Each reservoir is constructed of lightweight, anodized aluminum and is designed to be installed on Fox Float shocks in about 15 minutes. The Fox Float Air Reservoir retails for US$149.95 each and can be ordered at NEXTECH’s online site at http://www.carbonsled.com/ or by telephone at 780-983-5389 or 780-991-9741.
Single Air Shock Suspension System
You’ll find this company offers a highly sophisticated product line, including its all-new, Single Air Shock Suspension System. This single shock rear suspension is claimed to utilize the best materials available and NEXTECH’s own unique geometry to provide a very light and durable long travel suspension.
The company states that its new suspension is very plush with unbelievable bottoming resistance. It is said to provide a large range of transfer adjustment.
When you peer at the design, you’ll note its use of a single ‘air’ shock. While the use of a singular shock removes weight, NEXTECH points out that weight reduction is a small side benefit in the design. The coupling system and geometry allows the full force of the shock to transfer to the front, rear or the entire skid as required. The company notes that one of the most common aftermarket suspension designs currently available uses two falling rate vertical shocks which results in reduced mechanical leverage at lower travel. The NEXTECH design, though more complex and expensive to produce, offers linear shock stroke and a high spike in shock force near the bottom of its travel to create a better ride.
The key feature of the Single Air Shock Suspension System is its coupling capability. As most snowmobilers know, coupling is not a new concept in sled suspension design.
States NEXTECH, “…We have been running coupled suspensions for years but did notice some drawbacks and room for improvement. All current coupled suspensions connect the front arm to rear arm through the rails, allowing for control of skid pitch, ski lift and ride.”
With a typical coupling system, one arm will travel by itself until engaging the couple block and then pulls or pushes the other arm, which takes a lot of force at the start. As the suspension travels further, the force from one arm to the other begins to get mechanically trapped. This is one reason a coupled suspension can prove hard to tune. There also is a limited range of adjustment on most systems to accommodate all riders.
“The mono shock coupling system transfers force between the two arms via a coupling bar providing no harsh engagement and a fully consistent sharing of force,” states NEXTECH. “This is the only suspension that can be fully coupled for a constant approach angle allowing for reduced trenching and unbelievable ski pressure even with the most powerful turbo sleds. Another key to this system is you can have far longer limiter strap settings than other systems to maintain travel required for big bumps. Since the suspension is so adjustable it can also be set for instant ski lift and transfer like a drag racer might require or even allowed to rocker free if many miles of sit down riding are desired. Basically this is the most universal suspension ever developed.”
The company states its goal is to build the best, which means all of the best parts and processes are used even if they are not the cheapest or easiest to produce.
“Carbon fiber is the biggest key to light and strong,” NEXTECH explains, “but we also use the best alloys including aircraft aluminum fasteners and shafts. Basically everything is the best including the special bushings, bolts and even the limiter straps, which are of an exotic material. This allows us to produce parts as light as powder specific pieces with racetrack reliability.”
The use of top materials helps explain why the new Single Air Shock Suspension System carries a suggested retail price of US$3,500.00. It is available for all sled makes and models from 121-inch to 163-inch tracks.