Archive for June, 2009
June 29, 2009
ATV Track Kits
I have been working on a little project since last fall which just came to fruition last week. We have formed a partnership agreement with Camoplast, who you likely know, is our snowmobile track supplier. We are now offering TRIC, track conversion kits for our Grizzly ATV’s. Okay, I know putting tracks on an ATV does not make it a sled but it does beg the question- what is it? and more importantly- where does it belong?
We all know, balloon tired ATV’s do not mix all that well with snowmobiles on the groomed trails, what with the speed and handling differences and all. But what happens when tracks replace the wheels? First thing is the reduction in gear ratio (approximately 40%) which brings down the top speed significantly. Next the added traction and resulting loss of wheel spin adds a large measure of control and stability on loose snow.
I have spent some significant time on board the tracked Griz and am pretty comfortable with the thought that these machines can share the trail quite nicely with snowmobiles. I didn’t always think that way but with more testing experience I have changed my mind. It may become a bit more of an issue as more and more ATV’s get the rubber band treatment and start eyeballing some of the thousands of KM of snowmobile trails. Way I see it, if they were to purchase a trail pass and practice the same rules of the trail as snowmobiles, good enough but it will take a lot of convincing to ever get it past the federations and their insurers I would think.
Part of the durability testing we performed on our track kit was to sponsor a local snowmobile clubs grooming operation and our machine pulled an AFMI drag for the Six Star club during most of the past season, replacing the trusty old VK 540 (and rusty old Skandic) that were in their fleet. Turns out the Grizzly made for a better grooming unit than the sleds for pulling, used way less fuel and never missed a beat.
The track kit has evolved a lot in the past five years. They are lighter, more durable and easier steering (especially with EPS) and ours is now suited for four season use, mud, snow rock, whatever you care to throw at it. Sporty ride? Absolutely not, but go anywhere you point it… yep. Easy enough to throw the wheels back on in the summer if you are running mostly trails and come winter, bolt up the tracks and continue to enjoy your investment year round. The traditional ‘Bravo’ customer may be well served to jump ship and become a year round ATV rider.
One thing the TRIC ATV will do that no sled can, is push a snow plow. The track system is perfect for pushing a blade through powder and a heck of a lot more fun than shoveling or holding onto a Briggs and Straton vibrator while it covers you in snow spray.
Kits retail in Canada for $3850, added to the cost of a Grizzly, you are getting the whole deal for less than the price of a new performance sled. Apples and oranges for sure. You’ll never cover the ground like on a sled ( think 40 miles a day opposed to 400) but, for some, a serious consideration. So what are your thoughts? Should tracked vehicles be allowed on the snowmobile trails? Would you ever consider owning one? Just curious….
June 19, 2009
Global Testing Sites
We are hosting some ‘new dealer’ orientation sessions this week where each department presents information on how things function around here, giving our newest dealers a better idea of who to contact and how we do business. I was reviewing my material and was struck by one of the topics which I thought would be of interest to some of you.
Snowmobile testing is a part of the job I have always been intrigued with. As a matter of fact it had a lot to do with my application for the product manager position years ago and resulting move from god’s country (BC) to Ontario (perhaps not the smartest lifestyle choice but definitely my best career decision ever).
Testing has added quite a few stamps to my passports over the years, not to mention many memories and introduced me to some remote parts of the globe I would never have experienced otherwise. Often I have taken extra time to explore the culture and countryside while there and have not one single regret.
Our Japan testing base is located on the northern island of Hokkaido. This is ‘foothill terrain’, very hilly and steep. Yamaha required a long smooth straight trail for top speed and acceleration runs. The solution was to bull-doze and back fill tons of real estate to create a strip worthy of a 747… Leave it up to our engineers to come with this! Here’s a shot taken of the first Venture GT FI prototype in development. The good looking squid checking out the ergo’s is our infamous product manager, Jon Blaicher.
Just a little bit south of our Shibetsu test center is another island that features some very unique terrain (and individuals). The southern island of New Zealand offers up winter in July. Yamaha gained access to a facility used by Toyota as a ‘proving ground’ for their vehicles along with some of their vendors (tire companies etc.) It was here that I trekked to validate the new 4-stroke Venture Lite. I remember arriving after close to 30 hours of non-stop travel, jumping in a rental car (jet lagged) and setting forth through the streets of Queenstown which by the way has no traffic lights, just round-about’s at the busy intersections. To make matters more interesting the steering wheel on the right and driving on the left with no co pilot or clear idea where the heck I was going. The valleys leading up to Wanaka are flanked by some of the gnarliest hills I have ever seen and it is easy to understand why they chose this area to film the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. One thing struck me as absolutely awesome. The legal system in New Zealand prevents land owners from being held liable (sued) by anyone who happens to get hurt on their property. You want to bungy jump off my bridge? You want to build some trails with jumps and skinnies? No worries mate, good on you. Man would that be refreshing to have over here!
Jumping across the planet, pretty much kitty-corner to Wanaka sits Walles, a mainstay for Yamaha testing in Scandanavia and birth place of many of our utility based sleds: Enticers, Bravos and of course, Vikings. I won’t tellyou the story of the VK 3 test I attended there a few years ago (there are actually several good ones) suffice to say it included some Reindeer bits, guns, Laplanders, headlights and blonde locals, all good! In this shot, Norwegian good-ole-boy Ole-Johan Haga, project leader Karl Ishima and myself working on the Viking Porfessional prototype.
No snowmobile testing discussion would be complete without mentioning Alaska. I have more stories about Paxson than all the rest put togther. This highway juntion lodge out along the Alaskan pipe line has hosted Yamaha testing for many, many years. We didn’t always have much snow to work with but it was always cold. Makes one wonder how our J-hook bar-grip warmers ever made production 😉 . Testing up here normally starts in early November and goes on until things freeze up back in Wisconsin around Christmas time. In this shot you can see the first prototype of the Apex shadowed by Paxson mountain, makes me think of playing pin-ball through a Caribou herd just looking at it.
June 2, 2009
Okay its June now and I think most of the guys out in BC have hung it up for the season. That’s not to say Yellowknife won’t manage to wreck something else before the final melt down 😉 . I always find it hard to write about sleds this time of year when I am focused on my bikes, boats and the lake. That said, I am happy to announce we have come to some conclusions on how we are going to work with our cousins in the USA over the summer and right into next season.
If things go according to plan I may be able to speak ahead of the traditional embargoes here on Sled Talk to some degree. I’ve always wanted to share more about our new model direction and development but without the blessing of the other distributors and factory, my hands are tied. I can’t expand much more at this point except to say I am cautiously optimistic, I may be able to give you folks the first official glimpse of our future right here.
On the accessories front we are working on some really cool items for snowmobile and ATV that I hope to be able to tell you about this month. ‘Supplier sourced’ is the latest internal buzz-word that’s getting lots of attention.