May 10, 2013
Almost time for a Break
I know, sorry. I have not posted in a long time.
The trip to YMC went well. There was sure a lot of snow left in Shibetsu! Typical spring conditions when we got there. Hyfax in the morning and mush in the afternoon, great riding none the less.
The engineers prepared some MY15 spec units for us along with a few ‘skunk-works’ projects which are always interesting and in a couple of cases, well outside of the box!
We reviewed our business results from the past season with no real big surprises. It’s really good to see the market beginning to strengthen and the progressive emergence of the Russian market is fascinating. The dust has settled on our MY14 model launch and overall the acceptance of the new direction set-forth in our supply agreement with Arctic Cat has been well accepted, judging by our customer deposits and dealer orders.
I was only home for a couple of weeks (long enough for my first bicycle race of the season) before heading down to West Yellowstone to join in some more testing and meetings and yes there is still lots of snow at 10,000 feet. Matter of fact this is the time of year where a select few pull out the big iron, pack a change of shorts and set forth to challenge some first ascents on the steepest chutes you can imagine. Check out this pic (courtesy of Team Thunderstruck) of Randy’s failed attempt last year, unbelievable – he is getting ready to try again!!
I expect to be travelling south again soon. We have June meetings scheduled in Kennesaw on the snowmobile accessories side and I anticipate a visit to TRF sooner than later. We are also in the midst of planning another big, new product launch in mid-June with wheels and props.
April was a personal milestone for me as I celebrated my 25th year here with Yamaha and it marks our 40th year as Yamaha Motor Canada. SMH – It sure doesn’t feel that long!
I will continue to check Sled Talk regularly for your comments and try to post some tid-bits as we get into summer. That said I hope to spend a lot of time at the cottage and behind the handlebars this summer but I’ll be back in earnest when the days begin to shorten… have a great summer! cheers cr
Posted @ 11:27 am in Yamaha Insights
March 13, 2013
Drip drip drip
Mother Nature sure hit the switch here on Sunday. I went for a good rip on Saturday morning, realizing the weather forecast didn’t favor the trails surviving for long. Monday comes along, the lakes are slush, the trail is mush and I’m pining for a bike ride. What a difference a couple of days can make!
On the business side, I’m hearing some positive comments regarding the new sleds market impact. The demo rides in the US have been going along well. I spoke to one of the guys yesterday who mentioned the north eastern demo leg is now complete and the sleds are being put on display in various dealerships. The most interesting point to me was over the combined mileage of several thousand (over a thousand per unit) we didn’t have any belt failures, chain-case issues or any other major failures. The cold starting was sometimes ‘finicky’ but we knew that going in.
I tried to answer and respond to a lot of the comments that have come in but there are a few that could use a dedicated post. I saw one comment several times both here and on the forums where it was taken from our dealer meeting that we have been working on the Vipers for a long time – not really. The reference was on the amount of time and work that went into the supply agreement with Arctic Cat. Each component (SRX 120, engine supply and SR Viper supply) required a separate contract. Each contract employed a team of lawyers and required several meetings and multiple reviews with revisions on top of revisions. The snowmobiles themselves fell victim to the process as certain touch points could not be executed until the contracts were finalized and in the end, it has been a scramble to bring the development forward as quickly as we have.
The questions of power and weight are out there and we really won’t know the accurate answers until production. The engine is identical to the Nytro long block but the EFI and electronics are controlled by an Arctic Cat developed ECU. The exhaust layout is also quite different being forward exiting. The Vipers use our YVXC clutches and 8DN 01 belt where the 7000 series Cats use Arctic’s pulleys and V-belt. There is definitely a different power character between the two siblings due to clutch calibration and certainly a big difference when compared to a Nytro. I can’t say much more to this as the sleds are still being tweaked and tested and will get nothing but better over the summer months.
Now I have to focus seriously over the next couple of weeks in preparation for a planned trip to our test center in northern Japan. The engineers have requested we bring our riding gear and the agenda is a wide open ball game at this point. Planes, trains and polite little automobiles… I’ll be hitting the P2A bike race jet-lagged
If you have a chance to squeeze in some more miles, go for it. It’ll all be over before you know it!
Posted @ 10:08 am in Yamaha Insights
February 28, 2013
Its a Tough Job But…
It has been only a week since we released the new Viper but it feels like a lot longer… We left Minneapolis last Thursday and drove up to Minocqua where we had a ‘joint test’ to ride the SRV’s and evaluate them as a group. We had a good morning as all the sleds were working pretty well and – long story short – we have signed off on the current spec. I have to say my favorite model was the SR Viper LTX SE in the conditions we rode, but they all had their strengths. We have a few minor bugs to deal with but overall I am really pleased with the progress.
Made it home for the weekend and some quality family time, spent Monday in the office then hit the road on Tuesday for Quebec. I have been in St. Donat for a couple of days now. There are ten of us here from Yamaha, five from the US and five from Canada. We had a really productive meeting yesterday as a big storm front descended on us dropping over a foot of fresh snow into the evening. The best part of this was knowing that we were going to ride today and I had two new Viper XTX’s on my trailer and a Nytro XTX in the truck!
Jay brought a Venture along with Blaichers Apex XTX and Francois showed up this morning with another Apex XTX, a Venture, Vector, Nytro XTX and Phazer MTX. I rolled out of my room around 7:ooam to find the Nytro covered in snow… game on!
We hit the trails this morning and rode up through Tremblant provincial park to a remote relais (watering hole french style) near St Michelle de Saints. I had the difficult assignment of being the trail boss, leading the group out onto the pristine park trail system on a groomed base, over summer highways with over a foot of fresh powder on top – and not a track on them (accept for a coyote and a couple of bunnies) – bummer!
I selected the Vector to ride up front and stopped every once in a while to let the guys switch up and rotate through the rest of the sleds. At one point, Pete swapped me the Vector for a Viper and I had a really good pull on it before letting it back into the mix. I am still smiling…
We made it back to base where we had left some bevy’s strategically buried in a snow bank for an excellent finish to an awesome day. The sleds are loaded – unscathed – and we will bid Quebec goodbye in the morning. I am now feeling really good about our new sleds and how everything has come together this past week. That said, I am quite looking forward to getting up to my cottage and decompressing for a few days. Its been a helluva ride, the last couple of weeks. Thanks to all of you who took the time to give me some comments and feedback, I have appreciated each and every one, good and bad. you guys are awesome!!!
Posted @ 6:32 pm in Yamaha Insights
February 20, 2013
‘Catz Out’a the Bag’
Well folks, this has to be one of the most speculated new product launches in our history. I met Tom G aka ‘Mr Sled’ last night, the owner of the Totallyamaha forums web-site who told me his server almost blew a gasket trying to handle all the people itching to post on the new stuff. I have followed the 2014 thread up to around the 130th page with a lot of mixed emotions, often reflecting on what I would write here today…
I remember what I first thought and how I felt when it was proposed that we enter into an agreement with our competition and I believe I have a very good understanding of what some of you are mulling over. I think it is really important to clarify what the fundamental arrangement is about.
This is not a merger, there have been no shares bought or sold and the management, policies and organizations of each company still stand alone. Yamaha and Arctic Cat have entered into a very specific ‘supply agreement’ contract. That’s it, no more, no less.
We (Yamaha) have a long term vision that embodies our product plan which includes new engines and models designed and manufactured at our factory in Japan. Todays announcement has not seen any of our model lines discontinued. We haven’t taken anything away, instead we have dropped 6 new models into the mix and you now have more choices than ever.
The SR Viper delivers our FX Nytro engine in a unique version of Cats newest chassis which is arguably the most advanced on the market today. Yes it is assembled in their Thief River Falls facility under rapidly evolving QA protocol that meets Yamaha global standards. To best understand the foundation for this supply agreement you have to look beyond the hardware to the actual business model. I will explain more about this in the coming weeks but for now I can summarize it by saying this is a business (and customer) win-win.
We both have our strengths and are eager to learn from each other. I would like to expand on what some of the opportunities I see for the future are, but that would only be speculation on my part. And you guys clearly don’t need my help to speculate . I am going to cut my post short and let you digest.
For now; know that we are committed to evolving and building a strong lineup of Yamaha original snowmobiles with new products coming every year going forward.
We are moving more manpower and resources into North America as we position ourselves to regain our fair share of the market. We have established a new NA snowmobile team combining our top guys in Canada and the US into a cohesive business unit. We have a new ‘friend’ in our quest but it is unknown how this will ultimately unfold. Today we can offer you the industries best engine in a damn fine chassis that handles and feels different than anything else in our stable. Is it better than an Apex, Vector or Nytro? Only you can answer that… It is a very cool sled with some excellent features and you have more choice. It’s all good! Cheers cr
Posted @ 9:30 am in Yamaha Insights
February 8, 2013
Year of the Snake
I’m not overly superstitious – don’t think twice about walking under a ladder or stepping on a crack but I must admit an idle fascination with the Chinese Zodiac. There’s something about the connection to the animal kingdom and the various similarities the ancient predictions draw from. Interestingly enough, February 10 marks the start of 2013 – the Year of the Snake.
The ancients say things can shift in a big way under the sign of the serpent and those born under the sign should move with caution and be prepared for change. The energy surrounding the snake can be quite positive or negative and overall, signifies steady progress when one applies discipline. Chinese wisdom says: a snake in the house is a good omen as your family won’t starve.
I was born in the year of the dragon and am more or less compatible with the snake as the Chinese believe the snake fell from the sky, an off-shoot of the dragon, which I will take as a positive spin for my year 2013. I find myself looking to resources like the Zodiac and Totallyamaha to help ground the energy surrounding the new model launch that happens every year around this time. After-all they are both filled with Zen knowledge and the predictions of the ancients
The TY thread on 2014 MY Yamaha has grown to over 55 pages and what a fantastic read for someone who has the complete inside POV. For the record Yamaha did not buy any shares in any of our competitors companies outside of KYB shock absorbers, which is kind of ironic when you consider Skidoo now buys their shocks from Yamaha.
Speaking of our pals in Valcourt, I had a weird one last weekend. I was heading down the lake on my kids Phazer when a fella on a red machine veered towards me waving his arms like crazy. As we came together he hops off and starts asking me directions to a local watering hole which as I tried to explain to him, wasn’t easy to find without knowing the lakes and portages. I happened to glance past him at his sled while he was riddling me with questions and had to interrupt - ‘er, uh, hey pal, your sled is on fire!’
I could see some healthy flames licking the engine through the shroud vents and told him to start packing snow into it while I tugged the string to move my machine. When I ran back to him he was acting stunned and kicking snow at it. I threw down and paddled as much snow into the hood as I could while he stood by and watched. More sleds started to arrive and when I realized they were all together and they started to pitch in, I bailed but not without a cruel dig. I asked him if the steaming sled had an E-tec engine (I had just read the formal recall bulletin on the potential fire hazard for all e-tecs). He informed it was not but the expression on the other three guys faces were priceless – they were all on e-tecs!
It is snowing like crazy here and I made the decision to head north to my cabin (and Apex) in lieu of south to the office and the insane gridlock that is surly happening while I write this. Don’t get me going on min-vans and all-season radials… There is a good foot of fresh snow waiting for me and I have the grand idea of strapping on the snowshoes and blazing a new portage trail to circumvent a temporary bridge that is the only way for us to connect to the trail system without a long detour around the river. Something fun about a toque, a chainsaw, a Bravo and a mission with a warm fire and pints waiting at days end.
Cell phone on stun, Stevie Ray Vaughn shredding in the truck, I’m going off-line for a couple of days, hope you get out to enjoy some fresh pow this weekend as well!
Posted @ 8:53 am in Yamaha Insights
January 31, 2013
Well I made it home (barely) after another sketchy trip into the USA. We were shooting some video for the 2014 product launch and just my luck, Tuesday was the melt-down in the mid-west, yielding mushy snow and drizzle on the lens. That said, I think we got some pretty decent footage and hopefully gave the editors something to work with.
While I was there I was reminded of a result that I was meaning to share. We have some brilliant young engineers working in our Wisconsin R&D facility. For the most part these guys could pretty much write their own ticket at a lot of companies but they have chosen Yamaha because they love sleds and want to be in this industry.
Jeff Stoxen has been with us for a good number of years and has had a huge hand in improving our suspension calibration as the 4-stroke sleds have evolved. I supposed I shouldn’t have been surprised when I stumbled across his name in the Eagle River Derby Vintage race results. I knew he dabbled around in snow-cross but wasn’t aware he liked to go fast and turn left. Congrats on your Eagle River victory Jeff! Your brother would be proud.
I had another reminder on the weekend which is kinda related to the topic of vintage, suspensions and Jeff. My old buddy ‘Beach Boy Dan’ spotted a used Apex LTX at McGregors and decided to add it to his stable. The sled has some big miles on it but has been well maintained and runs pretty sweet. How I know this is we went for a good ride and I traded sleds, giving him a chance to try my new Apex with EPS and a Megafloat. What a huge difference between the machines. I had forgotten just how much the chassis has evolved. And I also feel a bit sorry for Dan because now he wants to buy a new Apex and the honeymoon isn’t even over. He’s acting like a man who just got married for convenience and was then introduced to his soul-mate during the reception… sucks to be you buddy! LOL
Posted @ 1:31 pm in Yamaha Insights
January 25, 2013
Just Checking In
Been an interesting week. Started out with a morning flight to Minneapolis on Tuesday where I hooked up with the rest of the team and met up with the editors of the main stream sno-mo mags, web-sites and freelance content providers… the industries ‘media brain-trust’ if you will. This little soiree happens every year to give the various publishers and producers a chance to prepare articles and information in advance of any public release of new models in order to meet their dealines.
To make it easier on everyone involved, the manufacturers all have agreed to do a similar briefing at the same location within the same time period each year. I haven’t attended one of these in quite while and in hindsight I wish we had more time. There were people in the room I really wanted to meet and others I hadn’t seen in so long it would have been great to get caught up.
I am not going to drop any hints of who was there and what we discussed and there is no point to pumping any of your friends who may be ‘connected’ as all in attendance signed non-disclosure agreements. It is all a great big secret, which as my old grand-pappy always said – ‘two can keep a secret if one is dead’…so I am watching the web more closely than ever now
One thing occurred to me while reflecting on the day, as journalists and publicists the group at large should be quite pleased with our presentation. I know we gave them lots to write about and really, that’s what they came for. Mission accomplished!
Next on the agenda is another trip to the airport bright and early Monday morning en route to our Minocqua R&D center. Hoping it is not quite so dang cold next week and they get a bit more snow over the weekend. Not really ready for another whirl-wind trip but it looks like I better get used to it as things are not going to let up until March for me. At least there will be a days worth of riding involved on this go round.
So on that happy note… I hope you are planning a ride this weekend and the snow is falling. And for those of you in Yellowknife, maybe it will warm up above minus 40… SMH cheers cr
Posted @ 12:36 pm in Opinions and Insights
January 15, 2013
The price of admission
Now for something completely different. I have been immersed in a research project which really got me to thinking. Allow me to postulate.
IMHO there are basically only two kinds of snowmobiler’s. Those who need a snowmobile and those that want a snowmobile. Now you may argue that you need a snowmobile but by my definition, the ‘need’ owner has to gather fuel to heat his home, gather food for the family or needs to use his sled to make a living. It may be that a snowmobile is his only effective winter transportation next to a dog sled, you get the point. Now back to the ‘want a snowmobile’ person. That’s all the rest of us!
Given that we don’t need a sled, why do we want one? Well that’s easy enough, we want to be entertained and have fun (whatever that means to you). Now is where things get interesting. The survey asked what we get out of snowmobiling and applied a cluster analysis to plot out a whole lot of reasons into some kind of meaningful, axis based map.
Among the most common reasons people like snowmobiling, first and foremost is to simply be active out of doors in the winter. Some want to be ‘social’ and hang with family and friends, other enjoy the isolation found within their helmet and pursue long adventures, then there are those who are all about competing against others (and themselves). Many enjoy tinkering with the mechanical bits while others want to customize the look and bling their ride… Chance are we all have a certain level in common with each stereotype.
Digging deeper, it appears we are all seeking some form of gratification, knowing that what we do on our sleds will get the juices flowing. It’s exciting, challenging, sometimes scary but always fun. So when I tell you on average we all flip our machines every two to three years and often times the machine (especially these days) is in near perfect running condition – why? Because we are simply attracted to something new. It would be unfair to say we are bored after-all how can you be bored with a 1oo plus horsepower bolted to a 600lb cookie sheet.
Now comes a day in my life, trying to explain to someone who may not ride, just why we need more power, more suspension, more anything, when the real answer is…. we don’t…. WE WANT MORE and we are willing to pay for it, but it does not make sense. Not until you understand the psychological implications.
The industry as a whole has done a great job over the past 30 years of conditioning us to ‘want’ new machines by constantly raising the bar in technical increments. And we keep reaching for our wallets but is their a limit? What has been happening to all those used sleds? What about the next generation of used being traded off? What have we done to take care of those that really do need a snowmobile? How easy is it now for our kids to enter the game or people completely new to snowmobiling?
It is no secret we are an aging demographic who have been sledding for years and almost, without exception, got into it in the first place only because we grew up in a family that was focused outdoors and had snowmobiles or our neighbors / best friends did – but what about our kids?
I don’t expect this circle to be broken any time soon but I do wonder where we are going and in a sad way, I miss the old days when snowmobiling was so much simpler. It was just as much fun and a lot easier to share. Meanwhile I will continue to push for a 200 hp / 500+ lb machine and try to keep the cost under whats left of my mortgage! ;)
January 2, 2013
A belated best wishes to you for the New Year!
Today is my first day back at work since the 21st and man, could I use a swift kick-in-the-butt to shake off the ‘holidays’… on that subject, here is a little gift that I received from one of our guys. I have this perched in front of my monitor and it serves to keep me focused (well that is the intent), no further explanation required or forthcoming lol
I didn’t get much snowmobiling in over the holiday as the lakes aren’t tight and trails around the cabin aren’t yet open. On the bright side, I was able to get some trail time on the mountain bike (thank you Santa-me for the new, all carbon ride) and it is looking good for the season to go full green in the next few days. Reports out of Quebec are amazing with excellent snow conditions which spill into eastern Ontario.
Pete sent an encouraging email this morning. right now the whole country is below freezing and 99% snow covered. I can’t remember when was the last time the whole dang country
was experiencing winter. Not meaning to jinx the direction but this is very cool (pun intended).
The rest of this week will be spent getting ready for a meeting of the minds as we have several guests coming from YMC on Monday. We will be working on snowmobile planning all week and the idea is to get them out on the trails weekend after next.
We had a major internal announcement this morning which I thought I would share. YMCA, like YMUS, is essentially, a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha Motor Company. Since our companies inception in 1973, we have always had a Japanese president. Our corporate staff is comprised of both Japanese ATP’s (assistant to president) and Canadian VP’s, who lead the decision making protocol, responsible for the success of the company.
Well our current president, Mr. Hank Fujita has announced his return to Japan this month and his appointed successor is one of our current VP’s, Mr. Peter Hastings. Peter is the first Canadian president of Yamaha Motor Canada! This posting is both a sign of faith and trust from the mother ship and is another indication of new Yamaha corporate philosophy as we evolve to continue moving forward in the North American marketplace and around the globe. Congratulations Peter!
In closing, the OFSC circulated a media release from our provincial police which most certainly applies to all snowmobiler’s, regardless of where you live and ride. Again, I know you guys don’t require the lecture but here’s the blurb, as a wise man once said… you can teach a little common sense, but you can’t fix stupid! Be safe. OPP_OFSC BePrepared MR FINAL
November 28, 2012
Thinking we should all live in the mountains. I have been seeing some pretty exciting pics from friends who are fortunate enough to hold up in the west. Check out the November snow that DNR gets to play in. And the resulting oops of a random brain fart. Randy has also been hitting hard already in Rev’y.
Kinda makes you want to go play does it not?
I was reminded this morning of a little project I did last season and meant to pass along as a tip for anyone still running our older two stroke / trailing arm chassis. I mounted up a pair of the dual keel Tuner skis to my 2000 Phazer and was very pleased with the results. The steering effort was good, there was less push and much less darting. The mod was simple, all it took was a longer bolt (I used the standard A-arm spindle bolts PN 90105-10070) and scrounged up 4 flat washers with 10mm ID holes to shim between the saddle and spindle axle. The original ski rubbers were retained along with the mounting bolt nuts, (of course I used a fresh cotter pin ahem) and applied a gob of grease to the bolts. Now if I could just figure out how to mount a set on the Bravo…
Our brass is all overseas right now for some meetings with top management. This is an annual planning review with lots of big picture stuff covering all or our products. One item on the agenda is of particular interest to me and I think it will impact our snowmobile business in the coming months, but more on this later. Meanwhile we are sitting fingers crossed, waiting for the season to commence fully, with the hopes of open trails and renewed sales after last years dismal finish.
We had a nice dump of snow at home on the weekend and it wasn’t long before I saw sled tracks on the shoulder of the road leading off into some farm fields. I say it every time this year and knowing that I’m preaching to the choir but: Think twice before heading out on your machine. Wait for the trails to open and take extra care off-trail with the limited base this time of year… play safe!! cheers cr