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Archive for January, 2012

January 31, 2012

‘Wake’ Me Up…

What a great weekend. My daughter finally had the chance to break-in her new (restored) Bravo and I had a blast watching her. I seldom got to relax for more than a couple of hours without a ‘can we go for a ride to the marina?’… Truth be known, she wasn’t the only one burning gas in the little 250, I was reliving the good old days in style – forgot how cool it is to lean out and have the sled heel over like a well trained retriever – on a  one lung’er cookie sheet. I found it somewhat ironic when Rob from J&B Cycle up in Timmins called me this  morning wanting nothing more than to lament the demise of the Bravo and tell me about a kind of wake they are planning as their dealership has sold literally hundreds of the BR’s over the years. I wish I could tell you we were going to pull the sheets off a cheap little replacement this spring but it ain’t gonna happen.

There has been a lot of speculation on what the industry is going to announce for new product in the next few weeks. I can’t confirm or deny any of the rumors (well I could but I’d upset far too many people who take these things quite seriously). I remember some of our best new product releases over the years, the Vmax 4 was a major Hollywood production, the Pro-action chassis featuring the 700 triple was a splendid event, held in the Laurentians where we took over the ski hill at Chateaux Chantecler running the units up the hill under a sky filled with fireworks, then there was the RX-1 -, one of my all-time favorite launches – by the time we were done with the theatrics we had at least one of our dealers in tears, (seriously!).

For the MY 2013 product, we are planning to announce one new variant model to our dealers next week and pull the trigger on the complete line-up in early March (2nd) with a web launch at which time we will hit the road for a series of dealer meetings across the country. I will have some comments at that time to throw out here and as always, it will be interesting to hear your thoughts and talk to our dealers. I wonder if this seasons snow conditions are not going to cause some manufacturers to take a second look at current inventory levels and re-consider their MY13 plans. There is no arguing the fact that La Nina, solar flares, bovine flatulence and over 50 years of industrial consumption may be reeking havoc on our winters but then I look at the Ukraine setting record low temps along with crazy high snowfall levels and wonder if it is all just a nasty fluke. I prefer to choose the latter. Right now I just want it to get cold outside and maybe, just maybe drop a little lube for our big ride next week… cheers  cr

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Posted @ 2:42 pm in Opinions and Insights   

January 25, 2012

Its My Ball and you Can’t…

Just got the email from ‘Red’ regarding the Alcan 200 point to point race up in the panhandle. Once again the boys from Yukon Yamaha won with their turbo Apex maintaining an average speed of 119mph in near white-out conditions (yikes!). This marks the fourth year in a row that this race has been won by an Apex but the all time speed record average (121mph) set by an SRX still stands. I would think some blue skies and a bit of packed snow will see a bigger number from the mighty 4’s if ever mother natures lets them run full out. Congrats to the Whitehorse crew, awesome job!

While on the racing topic. Its no big secret that Yamaha USA is supporting some FX Nytro’s to compete in the USCC cross country circuit. Pine Lake saw some good results for Yamaha (and of course some protests from the other manufacturers). It is my understanding that the original rules allowed for certain ‘kit’ parts to be installed to production sleds in order to be competitive and durable under the rigors of full out racing. Kits had to have a minimum build of 50 and be commercially available. Well the boys in our advanced engineering group in the USA  had a little time on their hands and developed some slick mods for the FX chassis a couple of years ago which have evolved into a cross country race  ‘kit’. Contrary to some opinion the kits are not identical to the original skunk works design but for all intent and purpose they perform the same function. As with anything this limited, there have been a few bugs but they are being ironed out one at a time.

The basics of the kit is comprised of essentially a complete front clip (A-arms, spindles, sway bars the whole enchilada). You also get a 128 inch track which requires relocation of the rear skid and a large capacity fuel tank. The end result yields a chassis with improved high speed ‘manners’, read into that what you will. Now I anticipate a few questions arising from this post so let me jump ahead a bit. No it is not going to be a production model in 2013. Is it planned to be a production model ever? … certainly not in its present form. Can I purchase one? Sure, the part number is SMA-XCRAC-KT-OO and the retail price is (you might want to sit down for a minute)  US$ 8,284.00.

Needless to say as soon as the sled showed some potential, red flags went up in a couple of the other camps and as of yesterday the ruling committee was hearing from the stakeholders on whether we will be allowed to continue to run our heavy four-strokes against the lightweights 2-smokes with our suspension kits installed. It seems one manufacturer in particular is quite worried about Yamaha getting in the game but they seem to have a bug up their butt about a lot of things in the industry these days. The rules evidently have been modified recently and it was just confirmed to me that Yamaha is being tossed from the production classes. It’s interesting to note that one of our competitors sells a race specific chassis for the production class and the owner has to come up with their own engine, that’s okay. The other guys are running limited build, dedicated race machines in the stock classes, no problems there. Yamaha was bolting a front end onto a full production sled (a heavy 4-stroke at that) and gets tossed, go figure. Rules are rules, spirit and intent aside, the decision didn’t go our way. Too bad because win loose or draw I think having all four manufacturers in the game would put on a better show for the fans. Guess I’ll have to root for team green as the underdog now 😉

Finally I have the privilege of hosting an ‘on-snow’ meeting for our snowmobile service and accessory development team. The guys will be flying up from the US on the 6th and I have blocked rooms at a top secret location just south of Parry Sound for a good ride and some meetings. I rode some of the local area trails around there last weekend and things were surprisingly good. Speaking of that, I was on board my new ride. I had to decide between two good ones this year, the 128 SE or the XTX. I chose the SE, added an Ice Attack, some Trackers and HID’s so far so good, no regrets leaving the XTX to another man but I know I’ll miss her somewhere down the trail especially if things get really rough or steep and deep. Soft side up.

cheers  cr

 

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Posted @ 3:06 pm in Competition and Racing   

January 18, 2012

Winter Has Arrived

Well here I sit in the Quebec City airport. It is a raging blizzard outside and my flight has been delayed another 3 hours… but if it means more snow, I won’t complain! We had an excellent ride yesterday, departing at the foot of Mont St Anne, parelleling the north shore of the St Lawrence all the way to Pointe Au Pic on trans Quebec 3. The trails could not have been any better, groomed pool table smooth with a good base and minus 6 with six Apex’s and a Vector hauling the mail. The ride itself was focused on a special guest. Knobby Shirashi, the general manager of our RV division and commander in chief of all things snowmobile at Yamaha. He was in town to say goodbye after over 40 years with the company. What more could we do in his honor than go for a good pull on some of the worlds finest trails (besides it was his request).

Knobby was involved very early on with snowmobile, as a young engineer he worked for six years with the sno pro team in the 70’s. We had a good laugh when he told us the story of the race rig breaking down on the prairies. Appears they had the trailer hooked onto a tow truck, Bob Work was in the cab with Roy Wall and the driver, Knobby was forced to ride it out in the trailer. They stopped at one point at the side of the road to take care of a little business. Then the rig drove off accidentally leaving one young engineer zipping up  in a light windbreaker at minus 30, in a cloud of snow dust. Some time later, resemebling an icicle, he was picked up by the RCMP who rescued him and set out in pursuit of the race team but they would not let him ride in the trailer anymore as it is illegal, but I digress.

As much as Knobby has supported our snowmobile since the launch of the RX-1, his work on ATV goes right back to the beginning with the Tri-Moto, he had influence on all the Bears and was lead on the Raptor development. I should say that Knobby is passing the torch and I am looking forward to meeting his replacement. I hope to see him out on our trails yet this winter.

Our trip started off with an evening at the ice hotel. I have heard of this place for years but never had the chance to visit, if you are ever in the hood, its worth a stop but be sure to wear your sled gear… brrrr. The ride was uneventlful except for one minor mishap which shall remain my secret as I like my job and tend to avoid bad career moves whenever possible ;-). I would like to make a shout out to Steeve and Francois our Quebec contingent for putting together all the logistics and our dealers Collette Sport and SM Sport for supplying the machines, they were very well set-up and ran perfect in fact my Apex had over 10000km and felt better than out of the box new. If you are ever in need of a rental sled in La Belle Province I would recommend either of these dealers. We were also treated to some excellent service by Andre who shadowed us in his posh rig making sure we had transportation options at all times. As you may have guessed, I was rather spoiled over the last couple of days but then again its not every day that a piece of our history as big as Knobby retires. Thank you Knobby-san for everything you have given to snowmobile, you have been a very good leader.

I will refresh this post with some pictures and links if I ever get home…  cheers cr

 

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Posted @ 9:37 am in Travel and Events   

January 6, 2012

I Need to Ride

Happy New Year to you. I hope you have snow falling close to home and wish you cold weather until spring 😉

Back in the office three days and already the holiday season seems like ions ago. Everything in the snowmobile side is ramping up towards our 2013 model year launch on March 2nd. I am fortunate enough to have been invited to attend a ride on the 17th in Quebec. The general manager in charge of the complete RV group at factory has announced his retirement and while he is here on his final tour of duty, we are going to put together a good ride out of Quebec City. I’ll be sure to take some pics to post here and give you a little back ground on him some of which goes back to the early 70’s and the factory Sno-Pro race team.

There is another item, tentatively on my agenda, which I am looking forward to. I have tried to put this ride together for several years now but have been most unsuccessful in making it happen. As it sits today, the core snowmobile development team for North America will get together north of Toronto to ride, compare notes and ride some more. The concept of getting our brain trust together to actually ride like most of you would on a good weekend, never seems to materialize. When we do get together the agendas are formal and tight. The riding component often takes place on closed course ‘testing’ areas and joint tests are often held in the late spring on crappy snow conditions. This time I want to get the team together in peak riding season and saddlebag a couple of 500 km days then compare notes. This should be another good story for the blog come February.

On another note, a friend of mine just introduced me to Geocaching, which I am starting to get into. I found myself out in a local forest earlier this week with a flashlight and a GPS crawling around in the bush like a dumb-a$$ kid… way fun! I can see downloading some co ordinates into the GPS before setting out on the trail to add another element to a snowmobile adventure. I was really surprised by how many caches are out there to find.

Don’t know about you but I am dying to get on the sled. I took a quick pull on my daughters Bravo which was a restoration project for dad over the holidays and I couldn’t stop grinning for an hour. I figure the Apex will have a slightly more dramatic effect on me 😉  Think snow!!  cheers  cr

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Posted @ 2:36 pm in Travel and Events