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Archive for February, 2009

February 27, 2009

Jim Kedinger

A good friend announced his retirement from Yamaha recently. jim-eagle.jpgJim Kedinger has been with Yamaha Snowmobiles for thrity years plus, working closely with engineering and testing. I’ve known Jim for close to 20 of those years and only regret I was not around when he first came on board, fresh off the oval scene in the Yamaha sno-pro, hay days of the mid sevegroup.jpgnties.

I was looking for a shot of Jim in my files and came across a disc filled with images of a Yamaha reunion party which Jim organized a couple of years ago. This group shot of the original pioneers may conjure up a few ghosts for some. Names like Degener, Mike and Lynn Trapp, Muetz, Berkely, Hasegawa, Hayata, Bowers, Twork, Johnson and Ouimet to name some of this alumni. I am a sucker for this stuff having great respect for those that came before me. The bond that these guys maintain years later is testimony to the spirit of snowmobiling. Once its in the blood I don’t think you can ever leave it behind.

Anyway Jim has given a lot of his life to Yamaha snowmobiles, one of the rare few Gaijin who reported directly to our engineering department effectively becoming a factory employee. I for one am going to miss knowing he’s on the job. Maybe someday there will be another reunion for the surviving Yamaha snowmobile alumni. I’ll be the first to RSVP if I make the list. It would be great to challenge Jim to a game of b-darts which he is famous for (amongst other crazy things…) Happy trails cowboy, let Debbie know retirement is twice as much husband.. on half as much pay!!

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I have been in touch with my PassionYamaha pal Richard in Quebec. He is an avid photographer and shot some great pics at the recent Grand Prix in Valcourt (home of Skidoo) and the premier sled race weekend in Canada. Heres a link to his web-site where you’ll find pics of the races, he even got into the Yamaha Factory Racing trailer when Andre wasn’t looking (page 3)!

Seeing as how this post is a bit nostalgic. I have been working on another project that may ring a bell with some Yamaha dealers and old friends… I’ll give you a hint – TRIC-

I had some feedback from Brendan out in BC, not the first time I had heard his comment. If you are not new to Sled Talk you’ll know I generally high lite key words using bold text. I was taught that this technique is appreciated by people who skim through articles, looking for the gist of the content in this accelerated world of over-abundant information. Turns out some feel I am shouting while others find it distracting. What do you think? Should I continue to bold the key words or does this work better (it’s definitely faster!).

Still thinking about the Klim gear discussion from last week. I won’t have a chance to sled this weekend but I have a trip planned to Wisconsin to join in a proto test session soon. I will learn more about the Klim product there and answer what I can. Until then all I can do is sharpen the ice scratchers and dance… (too fat to fly)

Cheers cr

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Posted @ 4:33 pm in Yamaha People and Communication   

February 23, 2009

Klim Aboard!

Christmas came early for CR on Friday!

Sue slipped by my office late in the day and asked if I was going snowmobiling over the weekend. Quick look out the window at the falling snow followed by one of those ‘is the pope catholic?’ glances and voila… I had a complete set of the new Yamaha KLIM riding gear dropped on my desk for testing and evaluation.

I have been familiar with KLIM gear (pronounced CLIMB) for a number of years, noting many riders sporting the brand when I’ve visited the mountains. It struck me as being quite functional and understated especially in comparison with the ‘flashy’ – ‘you-wanna-race’ stuff, proudly worn by many of us flat-landers. I remember my first exposure to Reima / Gore clothing when I was in Europe testing, years ago. I was impressed and came home with a suit (still wear it) but it took several years to catch on over here and now seems to have run its course.

I think KLIM is the next great trend to emerge in hi-tech sno-mo gear. I had some doubt as to whether it would be warm enough for eastern lake running considering the company has specialized in mountain riding in the past. For anyone who has not been stuck multiple times in 10 meters of snow at 8,000 feet or thrown every ounce of their body weight into counterbalancing a screaming sled as it tries to claw its way to a high-side while a trenching a bank turn… lets just say you can bust a serious sweat, even in sub-zero temperatures. That’s where KLIM lives and rules, at least until now.

It was with some trepidation that I left my trusty gear in a pile in the basement and headed north with the new KLIMATE Goretex suit,  gloves and boots. Thinking this light-weight jacket / bib outfit was not going to be as warm as the heavy Reima stuff that I default to in the cold. I added a couple of extra layers for insurance and headed out early Saturday morning at minus 20. I had grabbed a Nytro for the weekend and Crane Lake beckoned. I rode standing up for the first ten minutes running full out for the most part waiting for the air leaks to show and … nothing. Nice!!

Okay, I head over to the ‘duck marsh’ behind Kitty Island with its frozen mounds and sinkholes that form a fun little playground. After hitting it for a few laps I began to feel the sweat on my back. I had too many layers on. Back to the cottage, emerging now with only a dry T-shirt on under the jacket. Full throttle, still warm on the lake and comfy out on the trail. I am impressed! The bibs are like light pajamas –really warm, light pajamas– The zippers are trick and fully water proof, the uppers are thin and comfy, the lower legs are all reinforced and designed to accept a knee brace (yeah, it could happen to you to), the boots are awesome and I finally found a pair of gloves to replace the Gordini gauntlets that have been a mainstay in my gear bag for years.

I don’t mean to go off like an advertorial here but I think most of you who’ve been on my blog know I don’t use this platform for direct marketing purposes. I showed the KLIM gear to all my riding buddies up at the lake and without exception they all agreed it was great looking stuff. I had to keep a close eye on my gloves as I could tell Mr. Holmes had developed a pronounced attraction towards them…

It’s not often you’ll find branded products like Gore-Tex,  Windstopper, Thinsulate, Tafetta, Tricot, Kevlar, Coolmax and Qwik Dry included in a single suit as is the case with KLIM. This stuff is clearly top shelf with regards to quality and workmanship. It’s also very obvious that it has been designed and tested by hard core riders. KLIM has teamed up with Yamaha as their only OE partner to co-brand and distribute their premium  gear. Personally I think it is a really nice fit. Both brands represent the highest quality and technology in their given product lines.

If it’s time for some new riding gear, you should give KLIM a serious look. I suggest generic black simply because its going to be in your gear bag for a very very long time! Anybody else have any experience with KLIM? I met one fellow on an Mountain Cat this weekend (coming off of Georgian Bay??) who was wearing KLIM. I asked him how he liked it and he said great, except he had no fly in his bibs. I was quick to point out mine! Turns out his suit was 5 years old (looked brand new) and I was thinking afterwards, perhaps he mistakenly purchased a ladies bib… I did mention he was riding a Cat didn’t I? 😉

This just in at the time of posting… a quick update on the factory snocross teams Valcourt debut: round-6-isoc-yamaha-factory-racing-press-release.doc

Cheers  cr

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Posted @ 4:31 pm in Accessory Stuff   

February 11, 2009

2010 Backlash – Market Crash

On this rare occasion, I am going to disregard my own ‘terms of use’ and shove my arm in the fire. There is an old saying ‘don’t shoot the messenger’, but just in case… it’s been a slice!

I had intended on posting a blog right on top of the new model launch yesterday but I had a couple of problemals-group-photo.jpgs. The first is kind of lame, but true. I rode just over 840 km on the weekend to take part in the ALS / Ride for John (Snowtrax) and my old fingers (not to mention most of my upper body) was not responding well to neural input.

The second problem, is all the scathing comments  I’ve been reading on Totallyamaha, some of which were directed at me personally. I realized the controversy regarding our 2010 line, (which I had anticipated and alluded to on this blog), was more intense than first thought. (Heck, some are even dis’ing Bunny!)

One reason I paused in reflection was SledFreaks challenge to me on TY… Oh you will see my name on his blog… I can’t wait for him to try and defend this insult of a lineup.’

Now I really don’t think he meant the lineup is insulting,  so much as what is missing from it is insulting. Most of the disappointment I felt from reading the forums is focused on the Apex and the expectations (and hype) for more power, performance, technology etc.

SF, In all honesty… I have no defense. It occurred to me, just like you, I am also disappointed (have been for a long time). You see, I am also a die-hard Apex rider and I also want a new sled. The only difference is, I learned some time ago, we would not be releasing it this year (not to say we won’t eventually) and I guess I sort of  got over it. Trust me when I tell you I did voice my sentiments internally, in spite of our efforts it was just not possible. But to quote an old ad: ‘we will serve no wine before its time…’ arguably it is time but I cannot share all the background concerning the rationale (some of our competitor’s also visit this blog regularly)

I take a lot of solace from knowledge gained from industry research and web metrics. I know for every one comment I receive online there are upwards to three hundred people who read, consider and draw their own varied conclusions. Many of these folks are not as ‘hard-core’ or extreme when it comes to their sleds. We have sold a good number of Vectors and the new model is really quite impressive and IMHO is now the best choice hands down, for the majority of trail riders. It’s unfortunate it has to live in the shadow of the four cylinder but I will save my Vector comments for another day. Same goes for the Air Nytro.

The other big topic question in several of the comments here and over on TY is to do with pricing and the Canadian v.s. USA imbalance. As I have said before, this is an area beyond my expertise.

I will say on the subject of economics, I am also very disappointed. I am disappointed that the greed of money lenders in the USA was permitted to go so far unchecked. I am disappointed that the ‘system’ has failed so miserably and on such a huge scale as to cause a global financial melt-down. I really can’t fathom the depth of impact which this is having around the world, meanwhile we continue to invest in foreign policies (or policing) at what cost? I am disappointed that the Yen has remained so strong against our currency and disappointed with the cards my company has been dealt within this whole mess.

The net result should come as no great surprise. We have been faced with some significant challenges over the last few months and this is reflected in our price increase. I certainly understand the frustrations heard in many of your comments and ask the same from you regarding my inability to debate the subject.

I am however thankful of a few things. I am thankful that Canada has been spared much of the impact of this recession (so far). I am thankful that our engineers continue to deliver significant improvements to our products, even when faced with severe cut-backs and losses in Japan. I am thankful that I still have a job, a sled and the health (still thinking of you Big John!) to enjoy it.

In closing, I am waiting with baited breath, to see what March will bring when our competitors announce their new models, pricing and programs. It is always difficult to be the first in… If you believe history repeats then you should believe that Yamaha will do whatever we must do to remain competitive.

Cheers  cr

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Posted @ 1:48 pm in Industry News,Opinions and Insights   

February 4, 2009

Pre 2010 Launch

Man, things sure heat up around here when it  comes to new product launch time… I seem to have an abundance of unrelated  topics to share and very little time to be creative. So- I figure I may as well ‘shotgun‘ today’s post and let you pick and choose the subjects that interest you:

Competition Stuff, X-Games report from the US boyz, you have likely heard but here is the official word.

winter-x-games-yamaha-factory-racing-press-release-v1-wil.doc

USCC cross country racing, believe it or not Yamaha Phazers have carved a nice little niche in the sport class, here’s the media release.

uscc-ada-race-report.doc

Our old friend Yuji Nakazawa, has found his form back at home and is currently atop the SX standings:

nagano-results-020109.ppt

Mechanical Stuff

Here are a couple of pics from under the hood of the worlds fastest snowmobile… I was thinking what a great ad it would make to get Hondo and his world record mileage sled togther with G-force and their world speed record sled. I see a simple caption, something to the effect of: What does the worlds fastest snowmobile have in common with the worlds most reliable snowmobile? Yamaha engines!

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This supercharged G-Force Apex has a potential of over 500 hp, the view from the cockpit is somewhat intimidating. The large central tank contains ice water for engine cooling, the tank on the right side is water used specifically for the liquid-cooled, inter-cooler, then flows over the exhaust system, exiting via a water jacketed exhaust pipe (makes for a cool looking vapor cloud out the back). Some long travel MTB shocks up front for a comfy inch or two of suspension, The steering is achieved using cables like an old style F-I boat… The tank on the left running board hold the fuel (100% alcohol) and the one you can barely see up front holds the oil. They lost an engine to this at one point due to the extreme acceleration duration which forced the oil  into the back of the tank causing the front mount oil pick-up to suck air… doh!

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I have seen this fluid primary clutch before that Gilles is helping bring to the next level. There are  pistons in each of the cylindrical chambers which are oil filled. Under centrifugal force the pistons force the oil into another chamber through tunable passageways causing the shieve to close. Note the schrader valve: the top of the main chamber uses air pressure to replace the primary spring to return the shieve, forcing the oil back into the the piston cylinders. It is infinitely adjustable by varying the amounts of air and oil. It also is not limited (durability) by RPM like a conventional clutch, which in our case, could negate the need for a reduction gear. They have developed a very cool feature with a hydraulic, remote control which allows the driver to hold the clutch shift on the line regardless of RPM, can you spell ‘holeshot’… boggles the mind!

I had mentioned that Gilles has developed a clutch spec for the Nytro which in his words is clutched ‘similar to a 2-stroke’. Our OE clutch spec is intentional delivering a very hard hit for the purpose of bump timing and lofting the front end over obstacles . He has discovered- for the guys running around on the groomed trails– that lowering the shift RPM, keeping the engine in the fat part of the torque curve allows for superior trail manners with increased fuel economy. He has machined his own fly weights which shift out sooner than stock and keeps the engine working, they have re calibrated the secondary and applied a little magic, the end result has more than a few Quebec trail burners smiling.

When Gilles was explaining his tuning theory for the Nytro, I was reminded of the old ‘wind-shield wiper’ analogy. This is where the tach and speedo needles advance at the same rate, kinda like a couple of windshield wipers, as opposed to a narrow power band engine (2-stroke) that ideally should tach out to the optimum max RPM then drag the speedo needle up to speed. I wagged my index fingers to demonstrate and Gilles gave me a big grin…’nough said.

Looking to tame the beast, putting more power to the trail with no loss to top performance? Give Gagne Lessard a call, don’t be shy they have English speaking staff… what I’m hearing is all good! cheers cr

New Stuff

My friends over on Totallyamaha have probably seen the latest ‘teaser’ but in case you don’t know… Johnny is back (and thank the powers that be… so is Bunny). I would have posted this sooner but I just stumbled out from the mushroom patch 😉

The embargo date for the 2010 sleds is Feb 10 at 12:00 noon EST. We will have all the specs up on our web-sites and after the dust settles, I’ll add my .25 to the controversy.Yes you read that correct. I anticipate that we will have controversy after reading all the conjecture on what we are about to unveil… I do hope the 300hp turbo Apex rumor won’t disappoint too many if it doesn’t happen…  😉  cheers  cr

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Posted @ 9:39 am in Accessory Stuff,Competition and Racing,Industry News,Opinions and Insights