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Archive for February, 2011

February 24, 2011

Valcourt GP

I am grateful for the many comments on my last post. It supports my thinking that a hole is  opening up in the market for less powerful, less expensive snowmobiles. I am curious how many experienced sled heads would consider taking a backwards step with regards to the performance levels of their current machines. And I wonder what we could do to bolster  the fun factor in a smaller machine in the absence of the arm stretching pull and ballistic top end of todays sleds in order to attract you. Then there is the subject of new riders, family riders and returning riders.  I have drafted up a survey to help answer some of my questions and will get it posted after a few more tweaks.

In the news,  the Grand Prix of Valcourt held last weekend, experienced a nasty storm in the form of Team G-Force. Many of you will remember G-Force for the world record setting slip-streamer created by Gilles Gagne, principal of Gagne Lessard Sport (Yamaha) in Quebec. If that doesn’t ring a bell Gilles is also the invenotr of the Yamcharger blower for the Apex and Nytro. It wasn’t a huge surprise that they ran away with top honors at the drag races but things got really interesting when they won the ATV races on the ice-ovals as part of the main program.

 

Heres the visual. Valcourt is home base for BRP and the race track is actually part of the factory testing facilities. The whole town is employed by team yellow in one way or another. The passion of the French for motor-sports is unparalleled and the Valcourt Grand Prix is an exciting event with packed stands and non stop action. G-Force entered a YZF450 quad with pilot Marc Antoine Auger. He was lined up against home town favourite Richard Pelchat on his factory CanAm. 5 laps into the 10 lap main, Auger stuffed the CanAm and made it stick with Pelchat finishing 5 lengths back at the checkered. I am told the crowd went completely silent, even the announcer failed to recognize what happened. The trophy presentation was done on the QT and rumor has it there were some tears in the beers being consumed in the yellow VIP booth. Congratulations Gilles, I hope you got out of town unscathed!!!!

We are scrambling to have everything in order for our 2012 sled introduction this Monday. I am going to be up north with Mr Yanagi and Mr. Kato presidents of YMC and YMUS respectively, riding during what now appears to be an impending, rainy melt-down. I am crossing my fingers that the weather forecasters are a bit off and we duck the bullet. I wouldn’t mind so much if things are mild but it will really suck if it’s raining. I want these gentlemen to get a good taste of what snowmobiling in northern Ontario is all about. cheers cr

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Posted @ 12:00 pm in Competition and Racing   

February 11, 2011

Are We a Dying Breed?

One of our guys here, aside from being a handsome young buck, is quite an accomplished moto-crosser but a complete newbie when it comes to sleds. He recently had a chance to put on some quality miles and took the time to pen his thoughts and experience. Apex Ride

This got me to thinking about what it must be like for someone who has not grown up with snowmobiles to step out the door and onto the latest technology and in the process skipping all the fun most of us had bouncing around on leaf sprung cookie sheets with a drooling Tillotson belching raw fuel into our crotch while we struggled to control 40 ponies worth of top performance.

I was speaking with Rob Powers,  Yamaha USA product manager, just the other day about the aging snowmobile demographic and what it will take to attract new people to our sport. The fact that our latest breed of snowmobiles has ticked the performance level (and the cost of entry) into the far end of the feasibility scale opens the door for something new in the lower horsepower, lower cost arena. The questions I have is just what could that be and would we sell any?

The Phazer was supposed to get all the snowboard kids jazzed about sledding as they shed their baggies for camo bibs

and strapped the futuristic snowmobile to the roof racks of their moms Volvo to hit the gravel pits and ditch lines. What was the name of that Supertramp tune… Dreamer? Fool On the Hill? … something like that. Guess we forgot about the Inviter and it’s overwhelming success in bringing new people to the sport, mind you I wish I had a dime for every ‘you guys need to bring back the Snowscoot’ comment I get.

What we did attract was a younger demographic for the most part but generally one that has grown up in a snowmobiling family and more often than not, intended to spend most of their time riding on the trails, (didn’t see that one comin 😉 . My point here is I still think there is a big hole in not only our line up but the whole industry, for a new machine, albeit with a more traditional approach to what we know and do. I don’t think it needs to have lake burning horsepower, 2 feet of suspension stroke and a  price tag in Richard Branson’s league. But what does it need to deliver fun, excitement and at the same time value and attractive ease of use?

I have an idea or two, as I think you do as well. Getting back to my chat with Rob, I kinda volunteered to put together a little survey on the subject which I am going to try to get done early next week and post here and on TY to collect your thoughts and suggestions.

The sledding conditions are looking good right across the country and we are starting to see some incremental growth in the industry. January registrations are up and much of the non-current product on the market is finally selling through. These are all healthy signs of a recovery (albeit a slow one).

I am getting some reports of a lot of overflow on many of the lakes around here effecting the portages and making the lake running sketchy. Try to stay on the staked trails and be careful, lot of guys getting stuck in the slush. Also don’t forget to clear that mush out of the skid or pound it out in the morning to avoid suspension damage… cheers  cr

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Posted @ 2:37 pm in Opinions and Insights   

February 7, 2011

Exercise and Snowmobiling

If you read my ramblings regularly you may recall an article I posted from ISMA regarding the health benefits of snowmobiling. It only makes sense that getting outside and muscling a sled around for a few hours is a heck of a lot better for the body than sitting in front of the tube with a bowl of chips and a barley pop. Well I thought I would apply a little science to the equation with something I have never seen done before on a snowmobiler.

I made a promise to myself last fall to get back into shape for mountain bike racing (old farts class) . To make sure I stayed with it and maximize my results, I hired a training coach with a six month commitment to start. Paul uses a fairly hi-tech approach to the prescribed work-outs and cross training utilizing computer software and different measuring devices including heart rate and GPS. I have established, amongst other things, my maximum heart-rate, my lactate balance point and MAF (max aerobic function), giving me a very good baseline reference of my general fitness. Given most of my exercises are performed at a percentage of maximum heart rate, I decided to strap on my monitor and go for a snowmobile ride to see what kind of work out I was really getting.

I ran for a three hour session around the Huntsville / Bracebridge area over a wide selection of terrain, some tight twisty bush trails, some cooking groomed stuff, a few sections of nasty road scratching and a smoking run on Lake of Bays after a lunch stop at the new Bush Company in Dwight (which I would highly recommend if you are in the area). My heart rate never broke a hundred the whole ride. To put this in perspective a good fat burning range for me in an  endurance zone is 70-75% max or 122-125 BPM. At that level I am not breathing very hard (can carry on a conversation easily) and provided I eat and drink, can go on like the Eveready Bunny. Tempo or near lactate threshold for me is 80-83% max anything over that it is only a matter of time before I blow (generally under a couple of hours).

I figure snowmobile trail riding (at least on an EPS equipped Yamaha) calls for an output around 60% of maximum at best. I will burn a few calories at that level but certainly not enough to justify a bacon cheese-burger and side of fries. Nobody is going to get skinny riding a sled. I get about the same heart rate going to get the mail. On the plus side there is definitely some anaerobic benefits in strength  and exertion but with the EPS sled most of that is gained from standing up in the bumps and to peer around corners and over hills. Funny thing, one of the highest reading I got was when I reached the end of the staked trail on Lake of Bays, I had held the sled WFO for a few minutes and recall running into a bunch of junk, overflow and slush as I was coming off the gas, heart-rate spiked due to adrenaline…

So there you have it. Snowmobiling offers many great health benefits: stress management, fresh air some muscular exertion and some excitement. Cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance cannot be ranked highly amongst them, for that you’ll need to ride a much older sled or take up snowcross. Disappointed? I didn’t think so.

Cheers cr

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Posted @ 12:52 pm in Opinions and Insights,Yamaha Insights