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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   

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5 Responses to “The Twenty Minute Work-Out”

  1. pat the rat says:

    i must say that yamaha is building a sled for northern ontario,no doubt about it,there is no need for a ditch banger sled here,and you don’t see that many,we have highways for trails,now these highways cost money and at $200 a permit in ontario,for me its a bargain also,every weekend we log on roughly 500 km ,all winter long,yamaha sleds are perfect for me,reliability comes first when heading out for long distances
    happy trails

  2. Yellowknife says:

    What’s a groomed trail? Just kidding. I’m just jealous and I miss them. Many of my friends in Yellowknife have never set tracks on one. I grew up on them so naturally I love them. Here it’s thousands of lakes so close to one another that you’re not on a piece of land in between them longer than 3 or 4 minutes, and that chunk of land is usually bull riding terrain, then you hit the open lake and throttle is your friend. It can be cold, open and windy. Next on the snowmobile trip list for me has to be Quebec. Never been on their trails before.

    P.S. we’ve got enough ice now to ride the lakes, we could use more snow.


  3. Richard hotte says:

    Yellowknife , i give you an invitation to came with us to ride with Pat the Rat around Abitibi Québec and Northern Ontario some (airplane) sled trails. Sledders Paradise !!!!!! ;o)

  4. trailcruzer says:

    Boy…I don’t know where to start and I’m at work 🙂 so I can’t take tooo much time.

    I live and ride mainly in northern Wisconsin and the UP. I also volunteer to drive groomers in two clubs in my area. After reading about how the Minocqua Yami guys think the typical rider rides in a day, I think they need to spend more time in “real world” snowmobiling than being surrounded by themselves and other who will likely just agree with them.
    In my 60,000 odd miles of riding, my feeling is that the vast majority (not all mind you!) of riders in my area don’t ride 20 minutes then stop. Many will ride for an hour or two (or more) then stop. They are out riding for the relaxation etc not to ride snocross style to see who can get from point A to B faster.
    Give them sleds with shocks that give a plush ride out of the crate, windshields and front body shapes that block the wind, handlebar warmers that work and the like.
    Stiff shocks, low/no windshields, swiss cheese fronts that don’t block the wind, handwarmers that don’t work….sure there are buyer for those types of sleds, but it’s a smaller market niche….IMO
    Yamaha makes the best 4S engine in the industry by far. So assuming that Yamaha is committed to the snowmobile market (but I don’t know what your goals are), take your #1 engine technology and make sled(s) that will appeal to the masses, not just dyed in the wool Yamaha owners.
    Email me if you’re like and edit at will. I enjoy reading your blog!

    Nicely put TCruzer, guess it comes down to the sizzle or the steak for many… cheers cr

  5. Yellowknife says:

    Richard, i’m heading to your website and firing you off an email!

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