When I think of product development, my mind typically shifts to engineers focusing on a new holistic rider platform like the 2024 CATALYST. Speaking for myself, it’s easy to get caught up in those marketing launches, and sometimes the big flashy objects overshadow other really cool product R&D of smaller components if you don’t pay attention.
This scenario hit me square in the face after seeing the Tiger Slide Wear Strips in the 2024 Snow Accessory catalog. Curiosity peaked, I set out to see what I was staring at, which led me to some great insight from Guy Sibilleau (Mechanical Engineer IV) and Peder Erickson (Sr. Product Manager).
I truly wanted to find out WHAT STARTED THE PROCESS AT ARCTIC CAT TO DEVELOP A BETTER WEAR STRIP? So, I began the interview with that exact question.
After learning about these, Ill be adding a set to my ZR600 129 Catalyst this winter. -Kale
Guy Sibilleau: This dates back to 2003, I invented the Vespel high performance wear strip during my time with another manufacturer. Back then, I wanted to eliminate the need for bogie (idler) wheels on the rear suspension slide rails. In the late 60s, Arctic Cat’s Lowell Swenson and Roger Skime revolutionized skidframes by eliminating bogie wheels with the invention of the slide rail suspension, which every OEM utilizes today. On today’s late model snowmobiles, the sole purpose of bogie (idler) wheels is to reduce pressure between the track clips and the plastic wear strip in strategic locations. My goal was to make snowmobile rear suspensions bogie-less once again. Fast forward to 2016, I joined the Arctic Cat Snow Engineering team.
Peder Erickson: In 2019, after the launch of the revolutionary Alpha One single-beam rear suspension, we identified the opportunity for a new high performance wear strip. The Vespel wear strip is wider than the standard Arctic Cat 1.125” profile, making it incompatible with this key segment, so we set out to expand our range of fitment with this product. Improved knowledge and advances in material science since 2003 made it possible to incorporate several other changes to push performance boundaries.
WHAT WAS THAT PROCESS, WHAT DO TEST PARAMETERS LOOK LIKE, AND WHAT WAS THE DURATION OF TIME FROM CONCEPT TO PRODUCTION?
GS: I started working on the Arctic Cat high-performance wear strip in 2020. Early on in development, we conducted extreme durability testing to develop a baseline. The tests were performed in controlled, dry conditions on a paved track to test different varieties of high-performance plastics embedded into the wear strips.
Thermal imaging and other data collection methods were used to record temperatures of the track clips and wear strips over specific speeds and distances traveled. Once an insert material was chosen, design refinement continued to account for the various manufacturing processes involved. And finally, parts were put through durability testing in which machines equipped with the wear strips are exposed to as many real-world winter riding conditions as possible.
PE: After 3 years of conception, development, and proving the design met all our objectives, Tiger Slides high performance wear strips were launched as a MY2024 accessory.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REGULAR WEAR STRIP AND THESE? WHY SHOULD I BUY TIGER SLIDES?
PE: A conventional wear strip is made of 100% ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene. (UHMW-PE) This is a very durable, low-friction material on its own, but for tough snow conditions, high speeds, or lots of miles, some riders demand greater performance from their wear strips. To make these components last as long as possible, we need to lower their operating temperature by reducing the friction generated by the track clips as the track rotates. Tiger Slides use 60-degree molded inserts to extend the life of both the wear strip and the track by creating and absorbing less heat.
GS: A term used in tribology (the study and application of friction, lubrication, and wear principles) is limiting pressure velocity, or LPV. This factor represents a material’s ability to withstand contact pressure and sliding velocity. UHMW-PE has a very low LPV factor relative to a material like Vespel, which has a very high LPV factor. By incorporating inserts of a higher-LPV material, the track clips generate and transfer less heat on contact. Tiger Slides utilize inserts made of an advanced type of very high-LPV material which is more pliable than Vespel. This improves the durability of the inserts to withstand impacts and debris. Their 60-degree angled arrangement was also strategically chosen to increase effectiveness.
PE: We also wanted to give Tiger Slides a look that stands out to match their performance advantages. Each piece is molded with a custom blend of black and white UHMW that reminds me of the classic leopard print seat—Bold and distinctly Arctic Cat!
IN GENERAL, HOW CAN A CONSUMER GET MORE LIFE OUT OF THEIR WEAR STRIPS? WHAT’S AN AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY, GIVEN THE SNOWMOBILE IS RIDDEN IN NORMAL SNOW CONDITIONS?
GS: Simple things can be done to keep wear strips from wearing prematurely:
Keep the correct track tension—A track that is too tight, too loose, or misaligned can contribute to accelerated or unusual wear.
Maintain adequate ski pressure—Letting out the front limiter strap too much will result in high pressure at the curved part of the slide rail, concentrating the weight of the snowmobile in a smaller area and leading to uneven wear and shorter life.
The Tiger Slide high-performance wear strip lasts approximately 4 to 6 times longer than a conventional wear strip, subject to the individual riding habits and terrain conditions.
INSTALLATION – SAME, HARDER OR EASIER TO INSTALL?
GS: The installation process is the same. The difference is in the preparation of the wear strip for your specific snowmobile. The Tiger Slide high-performance wear strip is designed for a universal fit. It will accommodate 121” to 165” track length rear suspensions, and must be cut to length and chamfered as needed. A series of holes are pre-drilled for ease of preparation.
PE: Instructions are included to guide the user through setup. By using the old wear strip as a template, the process of replicating the features needed for any given model is simple and straightforward.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO INSTALL NEW WEAR STRIPS?
GS: The Arctic Cat-recommended method to replace wear strips is to remove the rear suspension assembly from the snowmobile. This allows the most room to work and gives the user a chance to inspect for other worn-out or broken parts and perform routine maintenance.
HOW FAR BACK WILL THE TIGER SLIDE WEAR STRIPS RETRO TO OTHER ARCTIC CAT MODELS? WILL THEY WORK ON OTHER BRANDS?
GS: The Tiger Slide high-performance wear strip will retrofit Arctic Cat rear suspensions as far back as 1995 equipped with 1.125”-wide profile wear strips.
Certain models use a wider 1.5” wear strip profile; Tiger Slides are not advised for these applications.
PE: The Tiger Slide high performance wear strip is also compatible with Yamaha models which share the 1.125”-wide T-slot profile wear strip.
WHEN WILL THEY BE AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE?
PE: Tiger Slides are available for order now (Part number 8639-422; sold individually) and orders will begin shipping early Fall 2023!