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Archive for March, 2007

March 31, 2007

Revelstoke Report

Well I had a great time on Boulder Mtn. today. I met our Yamaha Canada president, Tom Osugi along with the president of the entire Motorsports division from Japan Nobi Shiriashi, at the Kelowna airport. We headed for the Hillcrest Hotel in Revelstoke to hook up with all our dealers from western Canada.Randy and the RTX

This morning we all scratched up the mountain for a day of demo riding the new sleds and a few extra ‘treats’. It was so cool to see the chalet surrounded by close to a hundred sleds with practically all of them Yamaha and 80% turbo-charged. The smell of race gas and Herbs famous Boulder Burgers permeating the air.

Our presidents arrived mid morning in a Jet Ranger helicopter supplied by Selkirk. 7.jpg They hopped out of the chopper and onto a couple of Apex Mountains… nice! I had breakfast with an old friend, Gordy from GA Checkpoint in Vancouver. He basically told me the big turbo Apex sleds were just too much machine for many of his customers and he had really hoped we would have powered up the Phazer instead of working with the 3 cylinder. He felt the ease of handling and confidence inspired by the PZ ride with more power would be the ticket. 2.jpg

I ran into him on the mountain later in the day after he rode the Nytro. He didn’t have to say a thing, the grin on his face said it all. His only comment was “I can work with this for sure”.

I was really impressed with Mike Irmen’s Sled running out of Alpine Motorsports. 6.jpg He’s pushing well over three hundred horse-power before they squirt methanol into the system to cool the charge (good for another 60 or so ponies plus he has an ingenious nitrous injection system that opens based on throttle position and shuts off at a predetermined boost pressure helping the turbo to spool up and adding another 60 horse. Mike and a few of the local boys put on a show for us climbing some huge narrow, near-vertical chutes. The extreme ride DVD’s capture the essence but theres nothing like watching them in person. I can only say I am glad I am old and mortal. I saw at least four sleds almost make the crest only to loop out and roll several thousand feet back down. Evidently the snow conditions were very loose and unpredictable.

Randy tells me where they were playing the only machines to ever make the accent are 4-stroke Yamaha turbos, now having seen the iron and the engineering guys like Alpine and Chad Rebec (CR Racing) CR are bringing to the table I know why…

revy-hi.jpgI’m off to Hokaido Japan in the morning where we are going to review our market information then discuss and test ride some future models for 09 and onwards. I will try to keep on top of the blog while I’m there and will post some pics when we’re done.

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Posted @ 1:35 am in Yamaha Insights   

March 28, 2007

twin peaks

In the late eighties I was in Japan with Tim Chelli (our national service manager at the time) attempting to steer product planning in a new direction. If I recall correctly, Yamaha had about 16 sleds in our lineup built using 10 completely different chassis. The then market leader Polaris had over 30 models based on only a couple of chassis. We had spent hours designing a stack of ‘overhead transparencies’ with manually colored panels to create a ‘hi-tech’ presentation. When it came time for us to give our product plan ideas, I methodically ‘built’ a wide variety of models based on one chassis dropping overlays of tracks, seats, engines and body work. Next I showed, point form descriptions of each models features and positioning then concluded with a sales volume forecast. Immediately upon completion a senior manager charged with product planning disdainfully looked at me and asked very simply; ‘Where’s your data? (more…)

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Posted @ 3:03 pm in Yamaha Insights   

March 26, 2007

Nytro Video from Snow Shoot

The annual ‘Snow Shoot‘ was held in Grand Lake Colorado this year. The spirit of the event is to give the main stream, sled media a chance to get together with all the manufacturer’s in one location. They are given the opportunity to ride and photograph the new sleds and gather their thoughts for their next issues. We all take turns ‘wining and dinning’ the attendants and there are always opportunities made for the engineers and staff to try the ‘other guys‘ sleds. All in all a good exchange of information mixed with a lot of fun.

I have to apologize for the audio on this clip, Jon shot it with his pocket ‘point and shoot’ and the wind got the better of the mic.
AJ Lester from Supertrax Intl is Marks son and a pro-level snowcross racer here in Canada… If you are having a hard time hearing him, he really liked the Nytro 🙂 cr

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Posted @ 11:00 am in Yamaha Insights   

March 23, 2007

More Nytro Video clips

We have a new Nytro vid clip on our web-site. The ‘steady-cam’ POV gives and interesting perspective to the ride.
I got an update from Jon, who’s down at ‘Snowshoot‘ in Colorado. Sounds like the Nytro is still turning heads especially now after the magazine guys got to run all the new sleds under the same conditions and back to back. It appears some ‘best new 08‘ opinions have changed in our favor. 😉

I asked Jon to get me some pics and vids covering some of the ‘off-the record‘ stuff on the QT… He will be back in town over the weekend and I’ll post what I can for you on Monday.

This clip is obviously ‘bought and paid for’ but there’s no BS lines attached… (we won’t count Jon’s youthful exuberance!)… enjoy.

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Posted @ 3:13 pm in Yamaha Insights   

March 21, 2007

You can only have two

There is a nebulous world called marketing, existing somewhere between engineering and sales. In sales there are no limits to a product development strategy, save the almighty dollar. On the other hand, engineering must balance sales demands with what can feasibly be mass produced, while surfing the wave of ever-evolving technology. How marketing deals with the results is another post entirely. A case in point:

In 1992 we were working on our answer to the Indy 500 twin which back then, was the benchmark for industry sales.
We planned to release the Vmax 500 in 1993 hot on the heels of the Vmax4 but had to delay one year (that’s another story!) during which time our friends in Roseau raised the bar with the release of another new sled the XLT consequently moving the market center to 600cc. We needed to counter quickly and the Vmax 600 was hurriedly born from a bored-out version of the 500, problem was it wasn’t a triple and the crank pitch wasn’t intended to feed a 600 (read: transfer volume). I remember attending a meeting in Japan. I suggested we should jump ahead of everyone and build a 700 twin with a new dedicated crank-shaft design using an old duck hunting analogy to describe the logic.
A senior engineer was quick to point out; a 700cc twin cylinder, 2-stroke would not be reliable or efficient. The piston diameter and resulting flame front was simply too great to control combustion given any reasonable amount of compression. It simply could not be done. Within a few months everybody but Yamaha produced a 700 twin, and the game was on. Doh!
So what happened? Was engineering wrong? Simple answer, the rules changed. Technology had pushed the barrier. Digital ignition allowed spark timing to be mapped in 3D, FI was applied and stronger, lighter alloy components combined with advanced engineering; all of a sudden bigger twins became a reality.
Funny thing however, we never did develop one larger than 600cc. hmmmmm.

And so I learned; there is a fine line separating performance from durability and our engineers will not cross it. Not if it means sacrificing the latter. I also learned new technology is always in the offing and for a price, technology will move the line closer to performance.

Now, I’m really big into two wheels. I’m not going to digress into my motorcycle background or my years of competitive bicycling suffice to say I have seen how technology applied to weight reduction and component design can totally lead a sport. It’s all about strength, weight and cost. Here is an interesting formula that may help put in perspective where I am going here.
LIGHT / STRONG / CHEAP… you can pick any two but you cannot have them all.
In cycling we don’t talk about weight reduction in terms of pounds, its grams. The difference between my full suspension XC mountain bike at a svelte 23.5 pounds and a 30+ pound pig of a big box store full suspension rig is about $5000 (please don’t tell my wife!). That’s right, I spent 5 large to drop 7 pounds and change off my bicycle. Why, because I want it to be strong as well as light.

Okay, here we are back at the snowmobile planning meeting, pounding the table over the ‘hot potato’ issue of weight reduction. It’s the one area where 4-strokes have a disadvantage over the modern 2-strokes and the marketing teams know it. Based on today’s technology the two stroke engine will always be lighter than a four stroke engine, period. There I said it. Will it be a hundred pounds lighter? Will it be fifty pounds lighter? No, I doubt it. Actually if you equate the number of cylinders to be equal we wouldn’t even have a topic worthy of discussion.
The rest of the sleds are on equal terms.
Any manufacturer including Yamaha can shave grams off the chassis, drive and suspension. The only real tangible difference is in engine weight.
Weight reductions are realized by analyzing every nut and bolt with every component then applying as much technology as you can afford, to make it lighter. The line between durability and performance is still there. If we take short-cuts, if we step over that line without paying for the technology we gamble on losing reliability.
Could Yamaha build a sub 400 pound / 150hp 4-stroke snowmobile with the reliability you expect from us? ‘Darn Tootin!’. Could we retail it anywhere close to a current models price? Sorry Johnny, that’s not realistic.
Our engineers have made significant inroads reducing weight while balancing cost with reliability and we continue to so. But I for one, do not want to cross the line in the quest to have the best print specifications. Not at your expense.
So there you have it. Light, strong and affordable; you can pick any two you like!

Have you got a comment or another point of view? I would like to hear it. CR

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Posted @ 1:27 pm in Yamaha Insights   

March 19, 2007

Nytro / Apex Video comments

It has been really interesting reading the comments resulting from my little video clip of the two 08 sleds running heads up down Lac L’eau Claire. The subjects of lighter weight, aerodynamics, horsepower and calibration (gearing) are all being kicked around on different forums (especially TY) as a result. I could write a separate post about each one of these and as a matter of fact, I do believe I will!

In the interim I would like to reconfirm what some of you have already said. This was a long way down the lake. It could have been more than 600 meters. The Nytro can holeshot with the best of them. Snow conditions were soft and did not provide a lot of traction. The pilots may have reacted differently to the conditions (there were some good sized bumps out there).
We had fun, the sleds worked great and performed within my expectations. I did not see anyone get off the Nytro without a big grin on their face.

Its also been interesting to note many of the comments I would like to address have not been posted here and that’s cool. I can find all kinds of good subject matter on the forums but don’t forget you are more than welcome to toss your ideas around on this blog as well, I’ll try to address as many as I can.
In case you are just tuning in heres the link to the race on YouTube.

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Posted @ 10:49 am in Yamaha Insights   

March 18, 2007

40th Swag for your Tale

I received some good news this week. An old friend of mine is moving from Japan to the US to oversee our testing group located in Minocqua WI. This got me to thinking about the first time I met the man and the many encounters we have had since, consequently leading me to the following idea.
We are putting together the spring edition of Horizons magazine. I would like to add some stories to honor our 40th snowmobile anniversary.

So here’s the deal. Try to think back to your first entertaining encounter with a Yamaha sled, an interesting person or an unusual event connected to an old Yammie. Post your story here on Sled Talk by clicking on comments (see the Faq). If we publish your story in Horizons, I’ll dig into the genuine YPA Swag bag and send you some cool 40th gear.

I’ll go first. Getting back to my old friend moving to testing, we first met out in BC. We were to confirm some high altitude settings and investigate some service issues (note: we don’t call them problems. lol)
A hand full of factory engineers and two of us from the Vancouver office started up a logging road towards Powder Mountain located between Squamish and Whistler. The forestry road ended at a small alpine lake. In order to gain access to the riding area, we needed to cross the lake and climb up a long steep ‘grape-vine’ ravine to get above the tree line. It had been snowing heavily all night and was still white out. I stayed back on my 87 Exciter but when we hit the lake I felt ‘overflow‘ sucking me in so I got on it hard and passed a couple of sleds and started climbing up through the trees. There were sleds stuck everywhere, I kept climbing finally punching through the last track and broke trail to the top. No one else was coming behind me then I heard it. One more machine made it up, the brand new proto-type Ovation buzzed up beside me with this young engineer, grinning ear to ear holding onto the bars. I’m thinking, of all the sleds we had with us the little 340 would have been the last one I figured to make that climb. I asked him should we go back down and start digging out sleds. He’s says ‘no way, they must learn’, so there we sat, ‘swapping lies’ for the better part of an hour. Turns out he had real love for snowmobiles. He actually owned his own machine in Japan (a rarity) where he kept it up in Hokaido and spent his weekends poaching trail, partying and chasing girls.

This was the beginning of my friendship with Masayasu Saitou, which we tested in fine fashion later that night in Whistler village, draining their sake supply. He worked his way up through engineering from durability rider right through to project leader of SRX. Yep, he was the guy behind big blue. The four-stroke revolution saw Saito transfer from testing engineer to product planning. He had a good understanding of the Canadian and European markets and pushed hard for models and variations to help us, namely the RS VentureTF and new VK Professional.

So it’s with great pleasure I welcome back Saitou-san to North America, it will be good to have him at the helm.
What’s your story? Please give it some thought and drop me a ‘comment‘.

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Posted @ 9:25 am in Yamaha Insights   

March 14, 2007

Video: Apex Races FX Nytro

I’ve seen some interesting discussion on the performance potential of Nytro versus Apex and thought some of you might find this clip entertaining. We were in Quebec last week doing demo rides with our dealers At the end of each trail session we stopped on the lake to let them ‘play’, resulting in lots of impromptu races.
Now before you get all analytical on me, this was not a very scientific test. Just some guys goofing on the lake. After a few runs however the results didn’t change that much. Check it out…

The Nytro launches with authority whether it’s a rolling start between 50 to 100kph or heads up from stopped. I think with a little clutching and suspension work, it will also show well on the grass. That kinda instant torque is pretty hard to beat for the hole shot. As most folks already know, the Nytro is geared for corner to corner acceleration and quick transfer in the bumps. For the record this stretch was around 600 meters so neither sled was up to top speed. The temp was above 0’c and was a little bumpy, especially after we got done with it!

And for those of you who are extremely observant, you are correct, those were different sleds in each of the runs, two different Nytro’s running two different Apex’s with different Yamaha dealers piloting each of them. One last thing, it appears the ‘dream’o’meter’ has had a reality check on the Nytro. The numbers appear pretty tight. If you happen to drop by your Yamaha dealer, in the next few days, ask them how they enjoyed Quebec! cheers.

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Posted @ 8:50 am in Yamaha Insights   

March 13, 2007

Ultimate Quebec 2-Up’er

Here’s what happens when a Yamaha engineer gets to play ‘Pimp My Ride‘.
LCD navigation and information center with a programmable ‘smart key’ type ignition.
Carbon fiber tunnel deck and seat base (note the straight flow muffler)
Those sweet wide groomed trails can handle the horse-power, think cams, head-work, hot ignition, headers, the ‘works’
HID projection deer-seekers
Carbon knuckles and some works piggy-back air shocks to top it off.
I wonder how a 2-up class would go over in cross-country racing?
What do you think of this sled?

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Posted @ 9:22 am in Yamaha Insights   

March 11, 2007

Bump Sled Meets Groomed Trail

I’ve had a great time here in Quebec.
Friday morning, Jon and I woke up to blue skies with minus 14 degree temps and a freshly groomed trail… Gid’y’up!! Weapons of choice: 08 Apex L-TX GT 40th (Ohlins all around) and Nytro RTX 40th. It didn’t take us very long before settling into a nice high speed rhythm session. We traded machines every half hour or so, tweaked the suspension a bit and hammered a couple hundred clicks in short order.
Funny thing, I was trying to think of a good word to describe the Nytro, all I kept thinking was;’ jack-rabbit’. Throttle response, steering, transfer, all very quick. I could do the ‘IMHO’ review thing here but there are lots of good demo ride impressions on Totallyamaha. The one question that keeps going through my mind however: Is the Nytro going to be my personal sled next year?
The Nytro RTX is a serious bump sled. It feels light, really light and the more ‘English’ I throw at it the more it responds. The Apex is an awesome open trail carver, fast, smooth and predictable it can make stutter and medium size bumps all but disappear at any speed.
I like following the groomer, I like railing corners and I love getting into that zone where the ride becomes seamless flow. I don’t like three foot whoop-de-doos and I don’t have to ride miles of kicked out bush trails. ‘Ditch banging’ is something I only have to suffer for 10 minutes to get onto the big lake where I can use as much horsepower as I care to squeeze. I really dig my Apex ‘barefoot-shorty’. I am mortal.
Now on the other hand, there’s my riding partner Jon Blaicher. His favorite sled has been the Attak with the pre-load wound up and RA on max. He goes out of his way to hunt down the ‘fast-talking guys’ in the rough and more often than not makes his points stick, standing up. Talent, youth and ‘big cojones’ go a long way when you want to play that game and Jon’s got all three going on. Neither of us are very heavy or really tall but I’ll be riding a different sled than him next year.

The Nytro is a perfect compliment to our 4-stroke line-up and fills an important niche.
One even the most serious ride forward, oil burning Morgan fans should check out before ruling out a ‘heavy’ 4-stroke.

What’s my point in all this? Buy the sled (not the sizzle) that’s right for you. Read the reviews, talk to your pals but in the end ask yourself how you really intend to ride, what are the average conditions and what part of the riding experience puts the biggest smile on your face.

Here are a couple of tidbits in closing:

The new Nytro will launch with the Apex from stopped or rolling and stay right with it up to about 140 kph after that the Apex starts finger walking it and checks out on top (as it should)

Practically every sled in our line has undergone significant suspension recalibration.
The new Vector has a lower engine mounting location in the Apex chassis than the 4-cylinder, gets my vote for ‘sleeper sled’ of the year.

The ride character between the Nytro RTX and the Nytro is very noticeable the latter having more forgiving trail manners (and a windshield).

Engine braking on the Nytro is still very much there, the control system is quite subtle mostly affecting the initial transfer and only if you really chop the throttle.

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Posted @ 5:54 pm in Yamaha Insights