January 20, 2014
Waitin’ for the Bus
Last week on the heels of the now infamous Polar Vortex we suffered through the more traditional ‘January melt-down’. I spent the weekend at the cottage watching the water dripping off the roof, the lake completely un-ridable (apparently that is not a word) with the mercury slowly climbing towards +8C. Thankfully it was short lived and temps dropped back below zero creating an incredible hard base as it began to snow.
I have to fly out tomorrow to MSP to meet with the magazine guys. Par for the course, the weatherman is messing with my plans, announcing another big change in the forecast. Get this, a second Polar Vortex is rising up from the Arctic set on paralyzing air traffic. That’s two in a row! They say this Vortex is not going to be as brutal as the last so those of us over 12 might wish to refer to it as a ‘cold snap’. I know the ground crews for Air Canada will all be huddling around the airport Tim Horton’s, refusing to work because its cold outside and not ‘safe’. I just know I’m going to get screwed on this deal!
We had a board of directors meeting here last week and it afforded a great opportunity to get our chief corporate guys out on the snow. Rumor has it some serious miles were racked up by the crew, running out of Quebec City. Somehow they neglected to bring along the most senior of senior snowmobilers on the payroll, but that said I think they had plenty of fun without me.
I am wondering if anyone reading this blog, rides a Vector LTX and likes to ride it hard on less than perfect trails? If you are that person and are interested to help Yamaha test out some new bits, drop me a comment and tell my why you da guy!
Sorry I am going to cut my ramblings short today as I’m being pulled in three directions and have a lot of prep to complete before heading to the ‘bus’ depot.
Posted @ 3:49 pm in Yamaha Insights
January 7, 2014
Happy New Year Folks!
First off, I gotta say in my over 60 years of stomping around the north I have never, ever, heard of an Polar Vortex so you can imagine my surprise when the weatherman hit me with that one. Must be climate change or global warming creating this freak of nature – with freezing temperatures and snowfall accumulating daily – You know though, in the old days, before this age of sensational media, we used to refer to this phenomena differently. We called it winter.
I have been hanging out at my cottage since returning from our R&D center just before Christmas. We’ve had tons of snow (thanks to that nasty Vortex I presume) but the lakes weren’t safe and the groomers weren’t grooming so I left the Apex back and turned attention to my latest acquisition – a cherry little Enticer 300. Now the ET 300 is not the best powder sled, so I reserved much of the trail breaking duties for the more capable Bravo Transporter. What a hoot I had on both. Fur helmet, goggles, knee on the seat, cold hands and no fear of ripping the front suspension out of a multi-thousand dollar chassis. I had forgotten just how much fun could be had, going anywhere white, with 30hp at the thumb.
That all changed last weekend when I dragged the Apex out.
The dance card is rapidly filling up and I really don’t know where or what all I will be doing in the next few weeks. I need to visit Arctic Cats facility in Thief River to confirm a few things and there is a media ‘sneek peek’ planned this month for the 2015 lineup. Also Waconia will feature pure Yamaha and Yamaha powered vintage sleds this year during the Jan 25/26 ‘ride in’ which would be great to attend. Check out this cool, replica Bender Terminator built by Bill Code of Carleton Place Marine. I have to travel end of the month to West Yellowstone for a conference then out to BC for meetings in Valemount and Revelstoke (with some time on the slopes I hope). On top of that I will need to attend at least two testing / planning meetings in the US and Japan.
I have been checking various sources for information and feedback on the current models reputation and performance Generally I would say we are looking pretty darn good so far. This winter, fingers crossed, is going to see a lot of quality miles put on our snowmobiles. That said, we know there are a few gremlins showing up in some units and our guys are hard at work to get things resolved quickly as we move forward. The agreement we have with Arctic Cat is being put to the test as we learn more about each other. How we function within the market, how we react and communicate and most importantly, how we adjust to each others internal systems and procedures relative to parts and service.
Those of you that are tired of me writing about performance dampers need to click the back button now or open a new tab and be gone ’cause I am going to give a quick update on what I learned just before Christmas.
We had a test using nine sleds. 3 Apex, one without PD 2 with (XTX and shortie), 3 Vectors, one w/o PD 2 with (LTX and shortie) and 3 Ventures, one w/o PD and 2 with (TF and GT). We had nine evaluators with varying experience.
We rode each group of machines on the same course swapping every lap and rotating groups as we finished. We pushed the Apex hard at higher speeds, brought it down a couple of notches for the Vector and shifted to cruise on the Venture. Jon and I went back to the Vectors at the end of the test and rode them closer to the Apex speed, just because… and I am glad we did.
I won’t go into all the fine points but concluded: the harder you push your limits the more you will feel the benefit of the PD. The interesting thing here is we had some very ‘new’ riders whose limits or ‘comfort zones’ were quite different than mine. When I rode at their speed I didn’t feel much if any advantage, but they did. They rode all the snowmobiles without trying to ‘position’ them to a market segment, they just simply went for a ride.
I did rate the PD equipped Apex as a 4.5 out of 5 (where the baseline version is a 3) in rough corners. I am confident that anyone with basic sledding skills would get the same feeling. Probably a 10 to 15% improvement in handling at the upper range of your comfort level. It would cost a lot of time and money to get that kind of improvement by playing around with shocks, geometry and frames. I am thinking racing levels here. What I learned was, you really need to go back and forth a couple of times from a PD to stock sled to ‘get it’ and ‘get it’ you will. Subtle stuff but its the real deal.
Enjoy the Vortex! cheers cr