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Archive for November, 2011

November 30, 2011

Good Grapes

I have seen a few threads discussing some of our new accessories mostly wondering when they will be available. I thought I’d try to shed a little light on whats be going on in the back-ground.

TRIC Ice Scratchers. Last year we introduced these flexible cable scratchers based on a version that has been sold by Yamaha in Europe for a number of years. What appeared to be quite simple on the surface turned out to be rather complex in the application. We made some running changes to reduce the amount of deflection in the cable which yielded satisfactory performance in the intended conditions.  We still had deflection issues when the cables were operated at higher speeds or with too much pre-load. Over the summer we investigated multiple improvement ideas with our supplier and in the end, went with a fairly simple upgrade. We have added a ‘damper’ in the form of a hi-impact plastic tube to the cable and changed the crimp on the Babbitt to allow more radius. While we were at it, we standardized the hole size to accept common studs for greater selection and easier maintenance. We will be recommending the cable be taken out of play when not required (simply loosen the bolt and raise them up off the snow) and continue to advise against operation at sustained high speeds. The production has started and we will be shipping out well before Christmas.

The new Tuner, dual keel skis. These babies were tested last year and the design was approved. Production samples were received this fall and had to go through another round of approval which, after some minor delays, appears to have the green light. Production, if it hasn’t already commenced, will very shortly. The Tuner carbides come from another supplier and they are on-track for delivery. The catch in all this is the number of skis per week produced will be under 100 pieces, so it will take a bit of time to fulfill all the orders but we should be well on our way by Christmas.

The Yamaha Dupont super sliders. The impregnation of the Vespel chips into the hyfax material has presented a unique challenge for our supplier. Early samples were not able to meet our satisfaction and some tweaks to the new manufacturing process were required. The latest samples are looking really good and production is ramping up. Our supplier is even planning to add a shift to turn the orders around faster and these should be hitting our dealerships soon as well.

More good news, the Oil-Lite bushing kits for the front ends are arriving, we just need to get the installation instructions confirmed and they’re a go. Another decision was just made to offer a body kit for the FX Nytro that contains bright’ red-armor’ dipped side panels and hood. If you aren’t familiar with this, the plastic water dipping process has been used on our special edition ATV’s and the ‘red-armor’ was the most popular. The pricing looks like it will be quite reasonable and the quantities are limited so if you have banged up your sled or just want the custom look, you might keep an eye out for this one. I’ll post some more details when available.

Finally (and this is arriving this week), we have the tether actuated, roll-over switch which will cut-off the oil tank breather to avoid the loss of oil in the event you part ways with the sled during a bank turn or failed high-mark maneuver., not that that would ever happen to you 😉 …

I know this all sounds like a lot of hurry up and wait but it is never as simple as it seems on the surface. Prime time for new product announcements is September; fall trade shows, Hay Days, media events etc. afford the best opportunity to show and tell before the snow flies. We decided to roll the dice and announce our plans while still in the final phases of testing and production approvals. I know some guys are chomping at the bit to receive some of this stuff now that they know its coming but I think it is more important that we get it right. I forget the vintner who used the tag ‘we will serve no wine before it’s time’.

cheers cr

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Posted @ 1:47 pm in Accessory Stuff   

November 22, 2011

The Root of the Disease

The Yamaha brand trademark has some very tight controls governing its use. We have a VI (visual identity) manual the size of an encyclopedia and a whole department at YMC assigned to enforcing the detailed policies. There are occasions when we will license other companies to use our trademark on certain products, provided they compliment the brand and don’t conflict with our sales.  I thought I would point out a couple of these licensed items which may be of particular interest this time of year for folks who might have a kid in the family.

Strider bikes is marketing a cool ‘pedal-less’ bike for kids 18 months to 5 years. I read once in Bicycle magazine that the best way to teach a kid how to ride is ‘lose the pedals’ and let them coast down a safe grassy hill. It’s how I taught my daughter and it worked like a charm. Now my only concern is keeping ahead of her on the race course. The Strider bike takes it to the next level. Check out the clip. These are being sold through Yamaha dealerships in Canada and the USA, just in time for the holiday season.

Another licensed product closer to my snowmobiling heart is the Snow Bike by Sport

Dimension. These are bright blue, three point kids sleighs (think GT Racer) with styling cues taken from the FX Nytro. Right now they are only available in the US at Costco stores (not on-line) and retail for $49.95. We are not able to distribute them in Canada but I have seen some people talking about them on-line and some nice folks are making them available on E-bay for over $100… hmmm.

Now I should disclaim my references to these toys. I am not suggesting you purchase one,  after-all if a kid was to fall off a bicycle or a toboggan they might get hurt and some hot-shot lawyer would surely pin it on me. It is much better if you wait until they are sixteen and buy them a real FX Nytro or maybe an R1, that would be okay. 😉 cheers cr

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Posted @ 1:40 pm in Accessory Stuff   

November 18, 2011

Are You Ready?

Woke up to a few inches of fresh pow on the lawn this morning and understand there’s a bunch more at the cottage… hmmm maybe a short burst on the old PZ tomorrow.

Speaking of powder, Randy Swenson does a good job of keeping things in perspective. Check out this vid clip he posted from last weekends ride at Revelstoke. You gotta remember there is no base this time of year and the rocks are all too  easy to find. Still this looks like a great way to start the season.

Wade sent me an update from the south 48. They have the Yamaha Snowmobiles Facebook page up and running. Sounds like they have some big plans in store for the site with lots of tech tips, giveaways, pictures, vid clips,  links and more. This will be the best place to find the most up-to-date race reports from the hill climbs and cross country teams and if I know Wade, he’ll even try to get some industry inside info past the corporate watchdogs and onto your screen.

I received some pretty interesting comments and a couple of emails from some old friends after I posted the 20 Minute Workout last week. It’s good to know I am not alone in my desire for a comfortable sled that can get ‘er done with the best of them in the real world. If I wanted to beat the hell out of myself I’d go back to racing motocross. Tom nailed it when he said some are forgetting the essence of getting away from it all with friends and family on reliable vehicles that are simply fun to ride… and he’s from Wisconsin 😉

Every year I say this so here it goes. The early season conditions combined with the exuberance spawned from dreaming of ‘the ride’ all summer can be a dangerous mix. Take it easy on your first outings. Let the groomers pack a base and know what your riding on. I hate reading about someone smoking a parked vehicle or running into a closed gate close to home and only half prepared. If you were paying attention to Randy in the video, this is the same guy who has several first ascents in the record books and he is riding about as slow as he could go without getting stuck… it’s called experience, it’s also called smart.  Cheers  cr

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Posted @ 2:30 pm in Yamaha Insights   

November 14, 2011

The Twenty Minute Work-Out

I just read this media release on the trail permit fee hike in Michigan:
Michigan snowmobilers will face higher trail fees this season. The state has raised the price for a season permit to $45, from $35 last year.
The fee will remain $45 through the 2015 snowmobile season. A state law signed in 2008 provided for the incremental increase in snowmobile trail fees, which support maintenance and grooming of the state’s snowmobile trail network.
“We have strong relationships with our partners in the snowmobile community,” Jim Radabaugh, section manager for the DNR’s Recreation and Trails Program in the Forest Management Division, told the Niles Daily Star. “It is because of our partnership with 68 snowmobile trail sponsors that Michigan is able to offer over 6,400 miles of designated, groomed and signed trails.”
The fee hike is to keep up with rising trail maintenance and preservation costs.

It reminds me of an ongoing conversation we have in product planning. ‘Where you ride is everything about how you ride (and what you ride). ‘ Our testing center is located in the backwoods of Wisconsin and when we have gotten hot and heavy about riding styles and needs, the Wisconsin boys are all about stiff suspension, small gas tanks, tall bars and no windshields.

Scratching deeper into the subject, it was made quite clear that these guys see riding as twenty minutes hard bursts followed by destination stops. When I think about the trail systems in the mid-west, it is hard to ride more than half an hour without  hitting a town or resort. Then I think about Ontario and Quebec with a trail system collectively approaching 50,000 miles. Many a trail requires a full tank of gas just to make it to the next (and only) pit stop. And most rides are measured by the tank-full, not the ‘next place’.

Getting back to the permit hike in Michigan, I think about the states population and the relatively meager distance; 6,400 miles of trail to maintain, still 45 bucks is a bargain compared to the 200$ plus permits up here. With so many more machines on the mid-west trails, I can see them getting pretty whopped out and riders gravitating to shorter more intense rides than what I may enjoy in central Ontario. With the smoother, wider trails and longer distances between stops, suspension tends to get a little more plush, the fuel range becomes more important along with the wind protection and seated comfort.

We have a rather extensive menu of riding conditions to select from when designing a new sled. It is becoming increasingly difficult to come up with a one size fits all machine to master every trail. Thankfully a lot can be done with bolt-on engineering whether at a manufacturers level or by the end user. I think at the end of the day the vast majority of us get an ear to ear grin when we have first track behind the groomer and ‘own the trail’ for miles without seeing another machine. Compare that to the last hundred miles back to the truck on a Sunday afternoon, endless two foot craters and sleds bouncing all around you… I get what the boys mean when they say, in their world, snowmobile rides only last 20 minutes at a time. In my world I’d call that a ‘moto’ and then gladly pay my three digit permit fee to go riding, non stop between tanks.

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Posted @ 4:03 pm in Opinions and Insights,Yamaha Insights   

November 9, 2011

No Honor Among Thieves

Looking over some of the recent comments and I noticed a question from Justin, wondering why I went back to a 128 over the XTX Apex. First, I think the track length is completely a matter of personal choice and objective considering the riding conditions you’re in most of the time.

I enjoyed the 144 last year but I was  compromising a bit of  cornering speed resulting from the balance front to rear; read under-steer or ‘push’ if you will. On the flip side the stroke feeling, function and acceleration were all excellent I have had every model year of Apex / RX-1 under me since 03 including Warrior and XTX along with every shock package except for the 128inch and FOX Mega-Float soooo this year its, the SE. We have a 2011 model that was painted up to look like a 12 for the trade show circuit, has my name all over it. Plan to run stock with the addition of a set of Kirk’s HID lights, some Tuner skis and a tank bag.

Rob Powers made an interesting comment the other day regarding the EPS Apex being as close to perfect as a sled can be. This was in reference to having all the ‘bugs’ out of it, he makes a good point. The updated mono skid is holding together, the drive train, (clutch / belt) has amazing durability, the engine is an absolute hammer when it come to reliability. Issues like  hyfax wear, bushing slop, exhaust system, idler wheels etc have all been addressed. Even the flippin handlebar heaters work.!Yeah its heavy when compared to some ‘disposable’ sleds, but for trail cruising, I could care less. What I didn’t say in my first post, is I intend to purchase this one as a ‘keeper’ if all works out to plan. Will update as the season unfolds.

Speaking of ‘bugs’, Has anyone paid any notice to the latest ad campaign from Skidoo? I don’t think many guys will even pick up on the fact but it sure sticks in my throat. If you have read any sled rags in the last four years, you have seen our ‘Yamaha Advantage’ ads where we draw attention to the durability of our engines, the low cost of operation, resale value etc. Pretty boring stuff compared to what the other guys produce but we felt it best to maintain the high road in advertising and speak strictly to our strengths.

Well it must’ve struck a chord with the spin doctors at skidoo, who have abandoned their ‘we’re the best — the rest’ ads in favor of (drum roll please) the ‘Skidoo Advantage’… Whaaat’s with that? You going to paint the Rev’s blue next? Good advertising account managers must be hard to come by in these days of cut-backs. Then again maybe someone proposed a campaign of confusion and mixed messages to negate what we have been pointing out for years as Yamaha strengths,  to trick consumers into drinking the yellow Kewl-aid. I said it before and I’ll say it again, modern consumers aren’t stupid (especially Yamaha owners). IMHO their campaign is a direct rip-off designed to sabotage a strong, QDR message from Yamaha which was delivered in an honest, transparent (albeit boring) fashion. Don’t mean to rant but right or wrong it’s an insult to my intelligence, nicely done boys!

cheers  cr


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Posted @ 11:16 am in Opinions and Insights