Archive for March, 2008
March 18, 2008
Newfoundland – Presidential Ride
Once again sitting behind security in the Halifax airport, being informed of yet another delay in my quest to get home to see my girls. My internal battery is lower in my body than my mp3 player which is about to give up the ghost, the result of pulling five, non-stop, eighteen hour days in a row. Humber Valley Resort and the 2009 dealer conference were excellent. The weather and snow pack was stellar for riding and the smaller regional groups provided a more intimate atmosphere than our traditional national meetings.
I’ll hit the ‘high hard ones’ for you:
We prepared over 30 new snowmobiles for demo riding. At the end we had collectively accumulated approximately 15,000 km and burned nearly 3000 liters of fuel. Aside from a TORS issue on one of the prototypes, we experienced no failures or mechanical problems, not one. (there were a couple of pilot error issues but I won’t embarrass anyone on here 😉 .
The theme of our meetings was Go Snowmobiling, with several presentations from the varying department heads and speeches from our General Manager Peter Smallman-Tew and Tom Osugi (President) of YMCA
One great thing about our dealer conferences, we always leave room for some fun. Newfoundland was no exception as we ‘Screeched in‘ our dealers who then became honorary Newfoundlanders . Now for those of you who don’t know about this ancient ritual, it involves a large fish and some Newfie ‘Screech’ (a dark amber rum with a hit similar to gasoline). All this was set to a large buffet spread of local cuisine and an excellent band playing traditional Newfoundland / Maritime music… ‘Aarrrgg, Have you ever been to sea Billy?’
On a ‘personal best’ note- and we have to keep this just between us as everyone there believes I was working harder than a one legged man at a butt kickin’ contest– my boss, Mr Smallman-Tew grabbed me Saturday afternoon with a request to go for a little ‘churching’ which in our inner jargon means: time for a ride. Who am I to argue? We took off for a couple hours of cross country, boon-docking, finishing up atop a very steep hill overlooking ‘Old Man Pond’. Thanks Pete, I needed that!
Yamaha president, Mr. Kajikawa arrived in Newfoundland ready to ride and that we did. We suited up Friday morning and headed out under blue skies and sunshine. It became apparent to me that he wanted to ‘go’ within the first couple of clicks. I kept ‘wicking it up’ every few minutes until we were really booking and he stayed right on my snow-flap. We stopped several times to wait as the rest of the guys reeled us back in. It was during one of these stops, he informed me that he was the man in charge of the fledgling Yamaha snowmobile division back in the 60’s when we first entered the business, laughingly stating they used to call the early prototypes ‘submarines’. He commented twice on how impressed he was with the performance and controllability of our new 4-strokes.
The trail I had chosen was an ‘out and back’ which climbed over some stunning hillside vistas winding deep into the back-country where we had prearranged a little surprise at the turn-around with our guides Todd and Junior. They left early and broke a trail through a forest cut to set up camp in a gully, protecting our guests from the strong north winds. When we arrived, the boys had a hearty fire burning, kettle on the boil and a big pot of homemade soup and bread courtesy of Juniors wife. Mr Kajikawa enjoyed a hot cup of coffee trailside, with Yamaha USA president Mr. Adachi and I had a chance to get caught up with my old friend York Mizutani.
York made me laugh when he told me he reads this blog on a regular basis and that I tell too many stories about him. He referred in particular to the post where I told his ‘no power’, first snowmobile experience which ‘dnr’ and I took him on almost twenty years ago. He was quick to correct me that the machine he was riding was not a Phazer as I had indicated in the original post, it was in fact an Exciter which had caused his loss of power… York-san I stand corrected…those 38mm round slides were a real ‘bugger’ on the thumb!
Back on the trail, Mr Kajikawa sampled an Apex, a Vector LTX, a Nytro and a Phazer RTX. I have to tell you, I was truly impressed with his skill behind the bars. At one point I tried to grease him up a bit in front of the others, telling him how fast a rider he was. Without a moments hesitation he stated: ‘No! Not so fast… they are too slow’, indicating the others and laughing out loud. Spoken like a true snowmobiler!
I asked him what he thought of our trail conditions and his response provoked an interesting thought. He told me, when he was directly involved with snowmobiles many years ago, there were no trail systems. Since those days all of his riding has been in Japan, mostly at our test center in Shibetsu. Now I have ridden those test courses many times and I can tell you they are challenging but short, most not more than a few kilometers. He told me he kept waiting for the trail to come back on itself like the loops he was accustomed to but instead we kept traveling further and further away from home. The next question he asked is profound. Where exactly is the end of the trail?
‘Sir,’ I replied ‘I have been trying to find the end of the trail for the better part of my life…and still I have not found it.’
It was truly an honor to ride with the founder of the Yamaha snowmobile division. A gentleman who has risen to the apex of the Yamaha Motor Company but a man who still loves to ride and maintains a passion for our products, not unlike the rest of us.
While I’m on the subject of Newfoundland / Labrador and how great a place this is for sledders: I want to congratulate Morely and the boys from our dealership in Wabush / Labrador City on their win of the Cains Quest Cross Country race last week. Gerard Rumbolt and John Efford, both from Lab City crossed the finish line of the grueling event in first place on board their 144 inch tracked FX Nytro’s (sound familiar?). I’ll try to get a full update for you shortly.
March 12, 2008
Newfoundland Dealer Conference
D-day in Newfoundland.
I am back here- again- in anticipation of the arrival of our dealers who will see and ride the new sleds. Tomorrow is the official date of the release embargo which in some respects is anti-climatic after Supertrax mistakenly released about 300 copies of their spring issue containing much of the detail on our 09’s. Cool thing is however; we have a couple of things that didn’t make it into their rag to talk about. Nothing earth shattering but significant nonetheless. I’ll tell you in a few of days what I’m referring to as it might not creep into the forums all that fast.
I had a good chance to ride the new Nytro XTX today, as well as two other updated 09 Nytro models. This just might be the sled that will get my rear off the Apex but I’m still in the ‘courtin’ phase and quite infatuated with the sled. As you can see in this shot we were getting rather intimate this morning… the XTX wasn’t the only hot thing on the trail.
An old buddy and local bush-whacker, Todd, was enlisted as our guide and spiritual leader. He has the uncanny ability to sniff out lines through the bush where only a rabid fox would venture. It was somewhat unnerving, scratching about off-trail with three brand new ‘show’ sleds, in search for an illusive connector trail to take us away from the resort. All this to avoid the impending melt down of the plowed access roads. I was actually wishing for a Bravo at one point (well not really… but it certainly would have been a more prudent choice of boonie weapons). In the end, we finalized our route and enticed the local club to bring in their groomer tonight to carve out some snow banks and manicure our chosen route. Makes me wonder why we’re testing 15 inch bump sleds, but with the number of passes we intend to make, better to start off smooth…
I want to thank all of you Apex guys who took the time to complete the owners survey. I have received an excellent sample (several hundred) and your collective voice will certainly be part of the process of the Apex evolution. It was also quite interesting to see some of the ensuing comments about the questions. I tried hard to keep it real.
Bob Davis sent me his final Guinness record update today… the ODO says it all. I’ll let you know when the final adjudication is complete.
So wish me luck. Our first wave of dealers arrive tomorrow along with our VIP’s. So if you don’t ever hear from me again, it’s probably because I angered, lost or damaged our (Yamaha Motor Company) President who is flying in from Japan tomorrow to go for a ride…
Here is a last minute update from Greg and the Race team. finalsnocross-bir-press.doc
March 7, 2008
Apex/Attak Owners Survey
Folks, I have designed a survey specifically for the owners of Apex and Attak models. I am hoping you will click on the link and give me your honest answers to the questions. I will be analyzing your responses and presenting to our product planning and engineering people. If you own an Apex Mountain or MTX model please do not complete the survey. We will cover the specific needs of the mountain market in another separate survey to ensure both markets have their specialized needs defined.
If you do not currently own an Apex or Attak please do not click the link as you’ll skew our data.
Apex/Attak Owners Survey
Thanks in advance.
March 5, 2008
Racing – Blogging – Hondo
The More Things Change…
Before I start in on anything of significance to sled-heads, I thought I’d share what I consider to be an accomplishment worthy of a nod. Sled Talk is now officially one year old … Happy Anniversary to us.
Looking back a year; The concept of Yamaha participating in an open, online conversation with our customers is still met with many wary eyeballs. There were many doubts with regards to our ability to survive this long in the blogosphere. Well in the past year I have written 73 articles and approved 630 comments from readers. Of those, I have personally responded to over 95% and can count on one hand, the number of comments I could not approve and post. Also the readership has shown steady growth with above average metrics. This speaks volumes to the respect and appreciation the majority of you have for what we’re trying to do here.
It has not altogether been without some trial and tribulation as I have had to edit a couple of posts, explain a few comments and have asked myself- ‘what the heck am I doing this for?’ on more than one occasion. But every time I meet someone out on the trail or at an event and they tell me how much they appreciate the blog content or the fact Yamaha is acknowledging and participating in some of the ‘conversation’, I get re-connected and this project again, makes sense to me. Example: I bumped into Steve (a rider I’ve never met before) on his Apex at a gas stop last Saturday in the middle of ‘Buktu’ and damned if he didn’t figure out who I was in very short order and proceeded to cite his appreciation for the blog. Steve, I don’t know if you’re reading this, but thanks man, you made my day, (let me know how you like the new Qualipieces skags!)
Looking forward: Will any of our competitors join in the fun and start their own corporate blog? Will you still enjoy this site and continue visiting? Will I be here writing about our second anniversary this time next year? Hey, I don’t know but I do hope so…
Okay, You should remember Bob Davis, he’s the man challenging the current Guinness 60 day distance record with his RSVenture:
I turned 33,000 miles on RS Venture yesterday. Attached is a good photo of the ODO, and end of day mileage. My Guinness start mileage was 22,605. To date: I have ridden 10,561 miles for the Guinness record. The old existing record is 7,211 miles. I have 9 more riding days left for the 60 day record. I am hoping to reach 12,000 miles.
Great job Bob, hopefully I’ll get a chance to tip a Guiness or two with you when you make this official!
Race updates, lots to report so I’ll post some of the releases which have come across my desk over the last couple of weeks. Greg and the boys are steadily making progress and should be congratulated for these results.
Heres a couple shots from the I-500, possibly the last running of this ‘grandaddy’ event at this venue.
Remember we’re pulling the sheets off the rest of the 09 lineup next week March 13 at 4:00PM EST. I’ll let the dust settle and try to address some of your questions and comments here on Sled Talk, don’t forget the secret handshake. 🙂