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Hayes TrailTrac Unveiled

TrailTrac - more than just anti-lock brakes

The next evolution of braking... The boys at Hayes have introduced a new controlled braking system (think anti-lock brakes, but better) for sleds.
ABS in a sled? Yes!

Two years ago we toured the Hayes headquarters and R&D facility. This is where many of your favorite braking systems for sleds built by Polaris and Arctic Cat, as well as brake systems for side-by-sides, ATVs, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and BRP Spyders, are made.

In our story about that tour we said there might be more innovations on the horizon from Hayes, located just north of Milwaukee, Wis. We weren’t pulling your chain, and now you’re the first to know about it!

In the last few years the snowmobile world has seen the launch of RMC (radial master cylinder) technology on Cat’s new ProCross chassis, as well as advanced rotor designs, generation two radial piston calipers, and better brake systems for Cat and Polaris sleds. These are Hayes developed, tested, and proven. No surprise that more than a third of the 275 employees at its HQ are engineers.

What was the next logical step?

You guessed it, an anti-lock (engineers at Hayes call it “controlled”) braking system for your sled.

We have been privy to early development of this system for a couple years with some “super-secret handshake” test rides. But now, TrailTrac is about to be launched, officially.


Tech, tech, and more tech! - Among many other OEM and soon-to-be aftermarket technologies, Hayes is behind Cat’s RMC master cylinder technology (1) and several lightweight disc designs. (2) It also is the originator of light, stiff, performance air-cooled Polaris trail sled calipers (3) and even higher end liquid-cooled racing caliper applications (4).
Oh stop it!
What does TrailTrac do?

This first version of TrailTrac for snowmobiles (TrailTrac 1.0) focuses on controlling the braking experience by varying the pressure applied to stop the track when you grab a fistful of brake. Obviously decreasing stopping distance is desirable, as with cars, but more importantly to many riders is maintaining steering while braking.
Decreasing the fishtailing many people complain about on sleds, when coming to a hard stop or when braking around a corner, was a major design pre-requisite for TrailTrac. The system has most of the same components as a normal braking system with the addition of a computer (ECU), pump and motor, a speed sensor, brake switch and several valves and components. There also is a mode switch that lets you determine the amount of “assist” you desire. The three modes are touring, trail, and race.

In all, the system adds less than 5 lbs. to your sled. Unless your sled is batteryless, then a small power source must be added. The system uses Hayes’ certified “fill and bleed” process as well, allowing it to be shipped and delivered ready to install.
It’s important to note that TrailTrac is the first step in a fully integrated proven chassis technology development initiative for the powersports industry. Much of the additional vehicle controls relate to the SBS and ATV markets (think active stability control, similar to what is in high-end SUVs, working in concert with other systems like power-steering and suspension controls), but snowmobiles are high on the priority list as this is one of the vehicles to which Hayes directly attributes much of its success.

From a technical standpoint, there’s nothing like TrailTrac in the off-road motorsports market. It uses all of Hayes strengths in the powersports brake market including calipers, handlebar master cylinders, rear master cylinders, clutch controls (hydraulic and mechanical), rotors, and brake lines.

For you engineers, Hayes employs thermal modeling, structural FEA analysis, modal analysis, pad taper and more in developing products. TrailTrac is no different, and in addition to its own development and testing Hayes has been working closely with the schools and students who compete in the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge each year up at Michigan Tech in Houghton, Mich.

Hayes offered incentives to the teams of up and coming engineers to see who could incorporate TrailTrac in the best way on their sleds, and then worked closely with them to gather feedback. Hayes and one of its top suppliers (BWI Group) began working on this system back in 2004.

Unlike automotive ABS systems which are designed for more predictable surfaces (roads), the controlled braking of TrailTrac was designed for extreme, diverse and unpredictable surfaces (think icy, slushy, powder-filled, low snow, bumpy, off-camber, or many other extreme conditions we snowmobile in). Peter True, Hayes’ engineering manager of the powersports division) helped us understand TrailTrac better.

“Imagine how your anti-lock brakes work in your car, when any kind of wheel lock is undesirable. Now, think about how you ride a sled and you begin to realize that 2some ‘wheel lock’ or in the case of a sled ‘track lock’, is necessary, and actually desirable.”
Polaris is in cahoots with Hayes, but that is a good thing. Not only will the new TrailTrac be available for Polaris sleds, but you’ll see more systems available for Polaris ATVs and SBS units.
Does it work?
We wondered, but after riding a Polaris 600 Rush and a Yamaha Apex with TrailTrac last winter we knew it was a go.

The Rush worked well, but after a few miles on the Apex we knew something was amiss. After checking the brake pads we found the Hayes test pilots had been riding hard as the pads were nearly worn through! So, we couldn’t fully evaluate the system on the Apex. Hayes also now has the system plugged into a new Cat XF 1100 Turbo.

“Determining the right calibration is different for each sled and track type,” said Kurt Person Hayes’ vice president of product development. “A longer 141-inch track is going to respond differently than a shorter 121-inch machine. In addition, the mannerisms of the rider differ from high performance trail sled buyers to those buying a touring sled, or even a rental sled operator. We have to calibrate for this.”
Driving the Rush into a corner we first set up like we were going to do an aggressive brake-check and plant the skis and power through the corner. But the system has a learning curve. Since the track does not bind and come to a full stop in a situation like this you can’t drive it like a traditional aggressive trail sled with studs and big carbides. Instead, TrailTrac is much more stable and we found ourselves taking the corners more tightly and NOT having to aggressively brake-check beforehand because we could get the skis to stay down with less brake work. It was this ability to take the corners faster that was most impressive.

In addition to extra corner stability, TrailTrac’s stopping distances were better.If we just held onto the brake (not pumping it) we stopped shorter than with our other demo sleds without TrailTrac. However, most aggressive riders pump the brakes vigorously, and when we did our best with both a traditional system and TrailTrac side by side, the difference was not as great, but still better for TrailTrac.
Another benefit is the combination of throttle/brake response. When you hit the brakes, the system works through its brake pulses, but at any time if you hammer down on the throttle the clutch does not slam back in because you didn’t totally open and close the sheeves like you would have with a standard brake system.
We also asked how the system would work for say, snocrossers, or people jumping their sled big time.
Hayes’ True said, “In the purest sense brake control is possible with TrailTrac now. In the practical sense, we have had only positive feedback based on the weekend warrior-style jumping, not full-on snocross. More deliberate evaluation is on the radar this winter and we already have TrailTrac technology strategies proven in other segments that could be adapted to race sleds. One such strategy includes use of a longitudinally mounted accelerator and software to detect airborne events. As these events are detected, brake control could be inhibited to allow rider-direct control of the vehicle rotation (more shock, rotation). The final technical solution should, of course, be balanced with market segment needs/anticipated use, and cost.”

One final note, we discussed durability and the TrailTrac lifecycle with the Hayes guys and were happily surprised by their answers. ]

“We are looking at a minimum of around a 10-year or a 7,500-mile lifespan, so a longer lifespan than most sleds see,” said Lee Pfeil, project engineer for Hayes powersports group. This is the minimum so it will likely last much longer.

“The actuator was originally designed for a Harley Softtail, which takes more brake system pressure than a sled. So, if you can imagine the longevity and reliability, plus the extra capacity needed, the actuator is probably over-engineered for a sled, but that’s not a bad thing,” Lee said.
How to get it
Well, the short answer is, you can’t … at least not quite yet. But, the system is projected to be available for 2014 model year sleds. However, that timeframe could be moved up, or back, depending on testing and OEM orders, but this will be offered as a totally independent system, not necessarily OEM-approved.
Ultimately TrailTrac will be available as an aftermarket option and sold through a preferred line of dealerships. We are told it will cost less than $1,000 for a kit.
As of now it will be able to be retrofitted to all Rush/Pro-Ride Polaris sleds, all Cat ProCross sleds, and the Deltabox II chassis from Yamaha, including Apex and Vector. Ski-Doo availability is being tested now and will be available soon.
In essence, Hayes is bringing out a product that doesn’t exist yet, so the market may dictate where this system will be available, its cost, and who will be able to get their hands on it. But Hayes’ marketing plan is basically not to walk in the shadows anymore. So we’re sure you’ll see a lot more of Hayes and TrailTrac in the near future, whether it’s branded on sleds, in dealerships, or at trade shows.

For now, we just know it’s coming, it’s working, and it may change how we maneuver a snowmobile as much as big studs and big carbides changed the sled handling game.

In addition, TrailTrac is just the start of a family of products Hayes is unveiling for sleds, ATVs, UTVs and SBS machines. The goal is modular levels of systems for overall chassis management and control, including engine torque, brake control, track torque and more.

More info:
Watch an interview Senior Editor Mark Boncher did with the Hayes Brakes team on this product.
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