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March 25, 2010

Shibetsu Trip

Sitting in a hotel over looking the airport in Narita reflecting on what I have been through in the last four days. I got off the plane in Asahikawa just as a fairly significant snowstorm was receding. I have been in this area during the spring before but not seen snow like this. The base has to be still around three feet in the fields and deeper in the bush.

The first day in Shibetsu was spent riding. Typical spring conditions with tight frozen snow in the early part of the day slowing giving way under the bright sun to loose, sugary mush in the afternoon. We had approximately twenty different sleds parked on the edge of a large meadow and took turns hopping from one to another as they became available. The groomed test course, several km of serpentine trail around the perimeter of the speed course is always a blast and this was no exception. The guys had it groomed perfectly and after the requisite safety briefing we were turned loose to rip it as hard as we dared.

There is always a surprise or two from our engineering advanced group and I was not disappointed. ‘Chris-san, try this machine it has (fill in the blank with some hi-tech trickery) and tell me what you feel…’ Not everything was quite so cool but even trying existing models with different calibrations, track patterns ergonomics and assorted other tweeks is fun and enlightening.

I spent a bunch of time on the new Apex SE and it still blows me away, what a cool snowmobile. I was able to spend some time with Kai-san, our engine design leader and learned more on the many subtle refinements and background of the new engines development, there was an EXUP system on the bench which I was able to fondle, surprised at how little it weighs and how smoothly the valve operates.

Right now you are thinking, what else are we working on and I wish I could say but that will have to wait another time. Victor was here from Russia and I always find his information and stories of great interest. Turns out Russia got all our snow this year. It started dumping in November and is still going. They sell mostly wide track machines as there are no trails or groomers. He had us all laughing when he told of the riding style in the bush, how Viking is good for breaking trees with 5inch diameter trunks without serious damage, which turns out to be a big sales feature when compared to the more flimsy competition. They have no premium fuel and no environmental restrictions or very few restrictions of any description and total snowmobile industry sales have increased once again. I would really like to go there sometime to ride. It really sounds like an adventure where anything goes, if you have the notion.

my old friend Ole Haga (Norway) was there with Allen from the Netherlands who also had good things to report on a fairly snowy and successful winter season in Scandinavia. Unfortunately I had to report that we are coming out of the driest winter on record and total industry sales in Canada are down significantly over last year. All manufacturer’s are dealing with an inventory surplus, not the best situation considering the crappy economic climate.

I am not looking forward to the 13 hour plane ride that lays ahead today. I have another few hours to burn here in Tokyo so I’ll be on my way and update when I get home…
cheers cr

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14 Responses to “Shibetsu Trip”

  1. IveyRider says:

    I am glad some one is getting snow! I always leave my trailer with the good people at Antigo(WI)Yamaha in hopes for a March ride to coincide with my son’s spring break. No Luck! I had to make the sad snowless trip of shame last weeknd to fetch it for the season. Next year will be better. Adios El Nino!

    The ‘drive of shame’, I think you can take solace in the fact you were not alone… saw a lot of trailers heading south when I was in the UP… agreed, our friend el Nino can take hike!… cheers cr

  2. rightarm says:

    Great update CR sounds like the test track was alot of fun and great to hear the development continues at Yamaha Japan.Hope you got a chance to try the local cuisine and prehaps some entertainment as well.I personally don’t agree with the Viking breaking through 5 inch trees as a good selling point,but it sure seems Victor has a different point of view.Those 13 hour flights sure are draining,have a safe flight and look forward to more and prehaps some pics too.One other thing CR will you be at the Big 4 show at Downsview?

    sounds like experience talking there rightarm… not sure of my calendar but if at all possible I’d like to attend the Toronto Big4 show, make sure you track me down if you’re there…it would be my pleasure to meet you. cheers cr

  3. DNR says:

    The bitter sweet. One day from the the big chair in the living room, foot stool in place and reminisce. Hated those long flights, loved those new sleds and reacquaintences, hated the short winters, loved those long summers. And all along creating Legacy. Good job, cr. Kudos.

    Thanks Dougy, you probably understand better than anyone! cheers cr

  4. pat the rat says:

    hey cr,glad you got some riding time,specially in japan where those awesome sleds are built,i too cant beleive how well the new apex performed,should be a winner,aint this the worst march ever for ontario,glad i can fall back on my grizzly to ease the pain,but in all honesty,dont get me wrong,i love my grizz,but it feels so gutless after you’ve ridden 3500 miles on a sled on those awesome trails,cant wait for next season,on a different note,i was browsing the rhino section and noticed there is no 2010 line up,only 2009 and 2011,no more 450,is this typo error or just a slash in the product line,thanks,keep it up
    pat

    Thanks Pat, your Rhino observation is correct, we have decided not to introduce a 2010 model. Mostly due to inventory levels and production issues in the USA but this is only a temporary set back… As much as I enjoy putting around on my Kodiak, it’s like comparing a tractor to a Porsche when I think about the Apex… cheers cr

  5. Yellowknife says:

    So I picked the worst winter in history to ride in Ontario? Jeeperz. Last winter was amazing down there, so I was told. Since i’ve been back in YK the month of March has been unreal. The first 2 weeks were more than 15 degrees above normal. We were having end of April weather in the first two weeks of March. It destroyed the powder and created the springtime conditions you described above. There’s no snow on the roads anywhere and i’m already trailering to get to the lake. The past two weeks then dipped down to -35 C. From one extreme to the next, totally unpredictable. It made any tracked up snow as hard as cement and ice scratchers are a must. After a -30 ride yesterday morning it is supposed to rain this afternoon. Never seen it like this before.

    Hey Allen, bizarre winter glad we were able to hook up when we did for the most southern ride of your adventure… it was about as good as it got all winter… time to move on, next year could be the very opposite.

    cheers cr

  6. Bob White says:

    Having experienced both sleds, for rough or all around trail long-distance riding, would you prefer the Apex SE or XTX. I noticed that the specs. indicate 11.5″ of rear travel for the SE Vs 14.5 for the XTX.

    Thanks,
    Bob

    For what its worth Bob, I’ll be riding an XTX next year… key words ‘all around’… cheers cr

  7. scott says:

    Chris,
    So I’ve found myself spending a fair amount of time on Dootalk reading any ride report available on their new 600 ACE 4-stroke. I like the features of the Doo sleds with this motor a lot more than the Phazer with a 14″ wide track. I can see buying one of these for my daughter and then handing it down to my other two kids when they are old enough to ride it. Is Yamaha coming out with anything in this category? I’m going to give the ACE a year to see how it does, but after that I’ll be in the market.

    (I put these in separate paragraphs so it is easier to edit)
    Is Yamaha finally going to release an Ultramatic transmission equipped work/entry level sled? Or just something to compete with the 600 ACE?

    While I’m asking, the Nytro would certainly benefit from the XC kit that is in the works. If the factory would just produce 500 (or whatever the minimum # required to make them race legal) of these kits I can see the limited number of Yamaha racers still left around buying them. The rest could be sold through dealers to trail riders at a mark-up because even with the FX2 geometry, people are still looking for more stability. I get PM’s on TY asking me for set up info since guys are not happy with how their newer Nytros handle. Seems to me that offering the kit would be an inexpensive way of improving the Nytro.
    Cheers,
    Scott

    Hey Scott, I can’t comment on our future model development. The ACE motor makes perfect sense to me for Skidoo to discontinue their 550 fan as EPA tightens the noose. I believe its main purpose will be realized in the work sleds more-so than sport but will likely show up in some entry level models. It doesn’t really compare to Phazer which is based on YZF performance levels. We would need to build a much de-tuned, cost down engine to address the target market. Thanks for your comments, I will pass them along. cheers cr

  8. Low Slung says:

    Sounds like you had alot of fun riding the future of YAMAHA sleds,hope powersteering shows up on more models like the vector GT.Last week i was at my local yamaha dealer where reps for yamaha canada were there with an M9 ski to display.Great looking skis with a combination of light weight,well made and great price.But i have one question,can you adjust the ski-stance in the mount just like the stock mountain ski on the phazer MTX and old apex mountain?If this is possible it would just fit in my SNO-PRO trailer with a snowflake to spare on either side.

    Hey LS, sounds like you met Clad and Tim… To answer your question, yes, the skis require the use of the spacers from the current mountain ski (and VK) type mounting. The inside spacers can be moved to the outside to change the ski stance to more narrow or vice versa. Note this is not an official Yamaha recommended procedure but it happens to work. cheers cr

  9. Bob Hogg says:

    No snow???

    We moved to Port Carling area last Nov….3 weeks later.. 5′ of snow straight down…no wind…it never left…

    The 99 Phazer was going every day…hard…..it just keeps going…

    Hey..any chance on hearing more about …”many subtle refinements and background of the new engines development”

    “EXUP system on the bench”. Nice…

  10. Yellowknife says:

    Chris, if you get this in time, (and have time) do a quick write up on the best april fool’s joke you’ve had played on you or you’ve played on someone at Yamaha.

  11. Colin Brame says:

    Chris, I enjoy reading your blog, but I have a comment on an earlier post. It is about the MT9 ski, which I purchased and was finally able to test it this week. You can read the comments about it on TY-4stroke, or Snowest. I hope you get a chance to try them out and post your opinion. In mine, and 2 of my riding partners, both very knowledgable and very good riders, they are a very poor ski.I feel I wasted my time and money on them, and I seriously doubt Yamaha will keep them on the market very long.

  12. scott says:

    I to am wondering about the MT9 comments on TY. I’ve own some aftermarket parabolic skis and don’t think they work very predictably in deep snow. I recall Arctic Cat had some parabolic skis several years ago and they dropped them as well. I’m inclined to believe the skis are not working as well as was hoped.

    It would be interesting to learn how a product makes it to production if it does not work well in the real world. Perhaps the snow conditions at the test area were such that the problems did not show themselves?

  13. George says:

    Chris, We haven’t heard fron you in awhile, hope all is well and you are just taking a little time off from sled talk.

  14. snoguzzler says:

    Chris I sure hope your coming back. Its been a long time since your last update!


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