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Archive for February, 2008

February 28, 2008

Newfoundland Pre-ride – Scout

Riding on the West coast of the East coast… huh?

Absolutely stunning day here in Montreal as I gaze out the plate glass windows of the Maple Leaf Lounge deep behind airport security. I wish I was outside! I had an incredible day of riding yesterday near Deer Lake in Newfoundland. Things have changed there quite a bit since my last visit. There are now groomed trails for one thing. The country side is breathtaking and the potential to ride off trail — cross country is as good as it gets. I really must get back here sometime on my own ticket and do some real exploring.

We are hosting our 2009 model snowmobile dealer meeting in this area mid-March and I was asked to attend a pre-eventimg_1464.JPG inspection of the facilities and trails with our president, Tom Osugi and two of his assistants, Todd Ozawa and Vic Ikuta. The facility we are using is unique compared to anything I have ever seen. Humber Valley Resort is built on a steep hillside around a top rated golf course. They have built over 200 luxury Villas with the smallest being larger than my house! Some of these joints are over 7000 sq feet… Most of their tourist business comes from Ireland (it’s closer to Cornerbrook than Calgary is.) The sled trail runs right out of the parking lot and up into the Gros Morne National Park.

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We will be dividing our dealerships into three regions for this event and they will rotate in, starting with Quebec then the Maritimes and finish with the Ontario / Manitoba / Saskatchewan dealers . This will allow us manageable groups for demo riding and ‘one on one’ opportunities to communicate with everyone. Newfoundland is truly a treasure for snowmobilers and the people are exceptionally warm and friendly. I highly recommend it as a sled tour destination and you can ride there well into April if not May, not meaning for this to sound like a travel brochure but I’m impressed. Ask your dealer what he thinks when they get home.

On top of everything else- Mr Kajikawa the President of Yamaha Motor Company (global) is flying in from Japan to go for a snowmobile ride with us and check out our dealer meeting before heading down to the USA to take in a WPSA race and the US 09 product launch. I have the honor of taking Mr. Kajikawa for a sled tour along with Mr Adachi (Yamaha USA president) and an old friend, York Mizutani who is now in charge of sales… no pressure whatsoever!

When we finish up in Newfoundland, the trucks will be loaded and a select handful of us will fly out to Revelstoke to ride with our western dealers and talk sleds at the annual Yamafest on Boulder Mountain… remember last years story, got boost? I will try to post some updates on my travels with a few pics and links over the next three weeks. Please bare with me if I am not right on top of the comments… But ‘I be gone riding!’  cheers  cr

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Posted @ 5:07 pm in Travel and Events   

February 13, 2008

Hondo’s Guinness World Record

‘I been runnin, and runnin and runnin’ … Forest Gump

It’s been crazy busy in the office this week in the wake of the Nytro XTX announcement. I believe I had the most comments ever to a blog post with ‘Bye and Bye Lord Bye and Bye’ and I’d like to thank everyone for their input. You had a lot of questions for me and I plan to address as many as I can. … But not today.

I had a very interesting chat with one of our customers this morning and what I heard and understand from our conversation left quite an impression on me, so I thought I’d share it with you. Bob Davis (aka: hondo); is a US Marine helicopter and post maintenance test pilot, retired. More importantly to this story, he is a ‘sled head‘ worthy of our aspirations. He purchased an 05 RS Venture fresh off the line (one of those mystical, ‘to be avoided at all costs’- ‘first year’ sleds) and has proceeded to rack up nearly 50,000 km on it. In the process his military background and discipline has been exemplified in the extraordinary detail in which he has documented his experience, maintenance history and relationship with his Yamaha.

I first heard of Bob through a certain ‘Mr. Sled’ who some of you may recognize from Totallyamaha. His thoughts were directed to a growing thread in a remote corner of his web-site– one which he felt may be of interest to me and the rest of us here at Yamaha. Well Tom… ‘darn tootin’ we’re interested (RIP). It seems Bob has set his sites this year on breaking the Guiness world record for the number of miles put on a snowmobile in 60 days, a better than average season for most of us. He started riding late (January 11) but is on track to not just break the record but shatter it.

So why am I telling you all this? Well for one thing we have been talking about the durability and extended duty cycle of our 4-stroke snowmobile engines since we launched the RX-1 but frankly we don’t get to see that many with the big miles on them. Especially one with so much supporting information, so well recorded. When Bob busts the Guinness record (and I for one-believe he will), we will have a pretty sweet segue into a topic often mimicked but seldom matched by certain of our competitors. So far Bob’s engine has not been apart for anything aside from routine maintenance. More importantly, I intend to relay Bob’s info to our service and engineering people for study.

What impressed me the most about this story is the man himself. He is as much concerned that someone will take his information and use it to help improve future products as he is focused on the 200 miles per day he is attempting to average over a three month period. To the latter, I must admit I harbor some envy. I don’t know too many guys that get to ride that much and can only hope I have ‘the salt’ when I finally get the time (not to mention an extremely understanding family).

I have written a couple of previous posts about whether we listen and react to our customers ‘on-line’ conversations. I have even gone as far as to suggest, good information presented with proper back-up, in language that is honest and not too aggressive gives guys like me some serious ammo with which to input our engineers. Check out what Bob is doing over on Totallyamaha. My hats off to you sir! And if any of you have any words of encouragement towards his efforts or record breaking attempt please feel free to drop him a comment either here on the blog or over on his TY thread. I’ll be sure to let you all know how he makes out (fingers crossed!).

BTW. I have booked a ‘mental health day’ tomorrow and me, myself and I are are heading out to get as many miles on our freshly covered trails as I can in one day, in honor of hondo’s mission, it’s the least I can do! 😉 cheers cr

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Posted @ 4:35 pm in Travel and Events,Yamaha People and Communication   

February 8, 2008

Nytro XTX Launch

Well it’s been an interesting week. I finally made it home from Minocqua after an unplanned vacation in Minneapolis, 25cm of snow in Toronto closed the airport. And so it was, the Mall of America; a chicken wing sampling of local cuisine and cultural experience. I kinda felt sorry for those young ladies in their summery orange and white uniforms working in such drafty conditions, brrrrr 😉 Anyway, glad to be home and getting caught up.

There were lots of mixed reactions to the introduction of the new Nytro XT-X on the forums and I had to smile thinking back to last April when I as much as said we would build this snowmobile in my post “Careful What You Ask For’ and sprinkled some more hints in the ensuing comments . What you should know is the sled was originally planned to launch as a 2010 model with the possibility of a longer and/or deeper lug track (amongst other things). The overwhelming response we heard on the new Nytro was ‘wheres the 136’er?’ So it was decided to push the XT-X development to hit 09 and design it to be more trail-able than some of the other sleds in this class… more cross-country than cross-dresser.

The tipped up rails and Ripsaw track, along with the clickers and second generation front suspension all came to be, based on your feedback. No its not a 136 inch but it does offer everything you asked for and then some, but the proof is in the pudding. I have not had a chance to ride it yet but Jon has and I asked him to hit me with an e-mail describing his saddle time. After reading it I asked him if he was trying to ‘spin it up’ but he assures me his enthusiastic report was from the heart and he really did like the sled a lot.

I’ll be quite honest here when I say; personally I wish we had not ‘hyped-up’ the unveiling of the new sled in advance, it leaves far too much to the imagination. Whoa, new engines, new chassis, turbo-chargers, laser guided suspension…oh the suspense!

I think it would have been very cool to have quietly put the info up on the corporate web-sites with some good photos and specs and simply said; ‘You asked for it …Well here it is’ then sit back and let the web do its thing. Take this with a grain of salt as my marketing ideas are generally non-conventional at best and there are still a lot of people that want the head to head comparisons with all the ‘glitz’ traditional marketing can offer. Me? I prefer to hear it from a trusted friend, so here’s what Jon had to say. my-first-xtx-ride.doc.

While I’m at it I might as well say we haven’t built any of these sleds yet, pre-production is a few weeks away and production, a few months. Will there be any updates or changes to what we currently know? I would say thats highly likely. The season is still young and we are constantly gathering market information and uploading to YMC. The testing team is still really busy and the race team is still racing, (where do you think the camber /caster geometry change came from anyway?). Our sleds will continue to improve every year and you will continue to beat on us to improve… ‘may the circle be unbroken.’

cheers cr

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Posted @ 6:17 pm in Opinions and Insights,Travel and Events   

February 6, 2008

Minocqua Test Center Visit

Oh the joys of winter air travel. I started out this morning with a ‘mechanical’ flight cancellation, now having made it to Minneapolis, my next flight is delayed indefinitely due to weather at home. I’m ecstatic that it’s snowing but singing the ‘You’re not going home today blues’ at the same time.

Richard and I flew down here to our Wisconsin test center for some meetings to discussfeb08-015.jpg future accessories development after which we wanted to squeeze in a ride. I had mentioned a couple of posts ago that Jon had returned from Minocqua with some interesting results after testing the 09 models. One in particular had failed to hit all its targets and red flags were going up. As it turns out, our engineers scrambled to make some changes and I was asked to re-evaluate the sled (but not offered any explanation of what had been done). We set out with a baseline ‘comparison’ sled and the updated test mule. I was quite happy to report at the end of the session, the new machine is now acceptable in terms of comparison in the areas of concern and does several things much better than the current model… mission accomplished.

You have probably read about the unveiling of a new 2009 this Friday and I can confirm much of what is being said. We will be introducing one new model from the 09 line-up and I’ll set up a blog post to launch at the same time with an explanation of the model and how it relates to what many have requested. I’ll also give you some ride impressions and a bit of the background on the unit. I have not had a chance to review what is going to be posted on the corporate web-sites and what the media are planning to say. (note: all the key players including one very special webmaster 😉 have had a chance to pull the trigger on the sled) If you are interested check back on Friday 02/08 and I’ll see if I can give you some personal insight on the sled.

I also sat down with Masa Saito to spit-ball the SRX development story which I promised Carl. We definitely stirred up some ghosts, had a few laughs and I have a full page of notes to start my tale. Unfortunately, we didn’t swap lies over a bottle of sake as I first thought would be the case but at least I got some ideas and my head doesn’t hurt so bad.

 

I recall one comment on Totallyamaha regarding Yuji’s recent snocross win at Eagle River, where they said it was a good thing he won because the ‘Yamaha Brass’ was there. I discovered his win was something far more significant and one worthy of a Sled Talk post. What really happened was my good friend Jimmy Kedinger had planned a special party around the Eagle River event. He had attempted this on two previous occasions but this year it finally came together. There was a lot more than Yamaha ‘brass’ in attendance.

I think Yamaha ‘gold’ would be more appropriate. Jim’s Eagle River party was a reunion of Yamaha snowmobile development people. But not just anybody, the VIP list covered all the founders of Yamaha snowmobile division and the key people who were involved in establishing the products and brand from our early beginnings in the 60’s right through the 70’s and 80’s, including the racers, testers, product managers and yes the brass who traveled all the way from Japan just for the occasion. They were all at Eagle River to reminisce and celebrate their time together with Yamaha. I am going to get some of the photos and vid clips to post here along with a few of the memories. The very cool thing to me is that Yuji was able to put his Yamaha in the winners circle in front of all this reunited royalty from our glory days. I can only imagine the buzz that went through that VIP box.. These are the same guys that were cheering on Trapp and his factory racer at the same track over 30 years ago, oh! did I mention he was also at the party? Very cool ‘cowboy’!! Stay tuned… cheers cr

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Posted @ 5:50 pm in Travel and Events,Yamaha People and Communication   

February 1, 2008

Doo 4-Stroke – SX Racing

Never a dull moment..

Well there’s lots of things going on this week, I barely know where to start. I guess the first thing I should doo is welcome our friends at Skidoo to the world of 4-strokes. Their new Vector level 1200 triple should cover the bases for them much better than their previous attempt with the V-twin which never went mainstream. It will be interesting to see how they market 4-strokes against their own 2-stroke message from the past few seasons. Timing is everything I guess.

A new battle has reared its head in Quebec with some special interest groups lobbying to ban snowmobiles from all provincial parks. It appears the science they used to present their argument to government is based on a very old and poorly researched study (from the seventies) with no consideration for the advances made in technology and changes in snowmobile operation. It’s hard enough when we have issues based on real problems to deal with but it gets extremely aggravating when we have to defend ourselves against conjecture and untruths. We will be supporting the Quebec snowmobile federation in engaging this new attack head on.

I had a chance to get caught up with Greg Marier yesterday after he returned with the race team from X-Games:

So Greg, great run at X games. What do you think about the results? “Well, a fourth place finish against the top racers in the world was great, but the way the sled was running and how strong Steve looked, I was hoping the race would run a little longer. Steve was on the top of his game and looked to need just a few more laps to make it to a podium finish. We did show that Yamaha is a contender in sno-cross.”

I have had a question from ‘welterracer ‘ wondering about the power of the race sleds, what can you tell us?
“Depending on our race engine spec and the dyno, I estimate we can make 10-15 more hp than the stock FXNytro. That should put the engine power at around 145hp – But we don’t race dynos – Real power is what you can find in the field, what you can clutch for and get that power put down on the snow. It is different game where the 2-strokes are dealing with a narrow powerband and have to tune for the ‘correct’ pipe temperature; with our 4-stroke, the racer hits the throttle and lays down the torque.

Based on watching at the races, I feel we have enough power to cover the 2-stroke competition, and our power advantage shows up in the holeshot and the drive out of the corners. And to get our power to the snow, we have a lot of data acquisition on board the sleds that has helped us to use our 4-stroke power for greater acceleration.”

Can we talk about the data acquisition you mentioned or is that hush-hush? “No, not at all. We can monitor engine RPM, throttle position, driven clutch RPM, GPS actual speed and sled position, track speed, shock stroke, air, water and drive belt temperature. But when we are racing the main focus is on throttle position, engine RPM and track speed.”

So what is the biggest challenge for the team looking forward? “Hey – Sno-cross racing at the National level will always deliver tough challenges, every race weekend is full of them. Considering that Yamaha also choose to race a 4-stroke meant that many people counted us as ‘non-competitive’ right off the bat. However, thanks to our 4-stroke power and the Camoplast-designed tracks, we’re getting great hole-shot performance. This season, the sled is also working very good in the technical ‘rhythm’ sections, which is a direct result of working closely with the guys from FOX, who have been great to have on board as a new sponsor. What we are really honing in now is on the cornering speed and handling. That’s where I feel we have the most left to gain. One thing that has really come together is how well the team is functioning as a unit. All the guys are really working well together.”

What about the weight of the 4-stroke – is that a major challenge? “Everyone may think ‘lighter is better’ but the first thing a race sled needs is durability, then power, then handling. While we will always be working to get the sled lighter, we cannot sacrifice function or durability just to make a minimum weight. Watching the season so far, the brand that claims to be the ‘lightest’ does not look to be the best overall on the track.”

How about Cory, Jimmy and the new Speed & Style event? “Cory had very little time (having just recovered from injuries), but he hit the ramps to learn some new tricks. He has had some experience with the extreme stuff and really rose to the occasion, He looked especially good through the whoops where some of the guys were having a lot of difficulty. It really is unfortunate he drew LaVallee to compete against in the first round. I give him huge cudos for his efforts. Jimmy is also coming back after some very painful injuries and missed the finals in Freestyle by one spot. It does appear ESPN is putting increased emphasis on the Style events than the snocross race but I guess that’s showbiz.”

Well its snowing like crazy here and we’re shutting down early, dang-it, I guess I’ll have to go home for a ride!!  cheers  cr

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Posted @ 2:02 pm in Competition and Racing,Industry News