November 21, 2014
I’m sure you all well aware of the early lake effect snow we have been receiving in the east. What a way to kick off winter, especially following the season we had last year. Snowmobile sales in general are up over last year at this time, for the whole industry. Our numbers are particularly good, some of that is due to late production of our SRV models last fall but interest in the Viper remains strong. The early snowfall in the mid west is also a blessing for our development team. The Minocqua crew have been packing their test course and have got an early start on durability and validation. Considering the amount of work they have ahead of them this year, it is a real bonus.
MQRD not only is responsible for the model testing, they also play a major role in our accessories development. Everything from Tuner skis to Dupont hy-fax have gone through their rigorous development programs. Brings me to another point I’d like to drop in here and yes, it is a bit of a solicitation but sometimes I feel our marketing guys really need the help 😉
The Dupont Hyfax, even though its a little pricey, has proven itself to be an extremely good product with a lot of value. Not only does it improve the lifespan of normal UHMW hyfax dramatically, especially in adverse conditions, it also increases top speed and fuel economy by reducing friction. I am confident to write this having seen so many positive results and comments coming back from the riders who are using the product now for multiple seasons. We have received quite a few requests from our dealers for more application options of the slippery stix and decided to cut some for Skidoo and Polaris rails. Currently we have two versions available, both are cut to 49 inches length and will fit most late model short tracks of MXz / Rev / GSX and IQ / Rush / Indy skid frames. the same T-cut applies to many of the older rails as well. Thinking about it, you probably don’t want to give your competitive brand buddies a good tip to gain more performance but on the other hand, Christmas is coming and its the season to give…
I am packing my bags for an overseas trip departure next week for what I thought would be my first sled ride of the season. Now it looks like this weekend at the cottage is going to require a bunch of trail breaking (and shoveling) with rumors of 18 inches to 2 feet of white stuff on the ground. A bunch of us have to make our way to a club maintained bridge to install a span which is removed during the summer for boating. Generally we would use ATV’s but this year it will be snowmobiles. What a great problem to have! Our club president is planning to host a shore lunch afterwards, featuring buffalo chicken sandwiches. For the record, they are really just regular chicken sandwiches, only with 9 feet of snow on them…
Posted @ 11:47 am in Yamaha Insights
November 14, 2014
Whole Lotta’ Shakin’ Goin On!
It has been a very busy week with our North American Snowmobile Team Yamaha (aka NASTY) assembled here in Toronto for two full days of meetings and discussion. Our agenda covered a wide variety of topics as each group leader reviewed the issues and progress of their respected projects. This team is comprised of 6 working groups, essentially responsible for service, accessories (sales, marketing and development), product planning, testing and development (R&D), unit sales (dealer development and distibution), unit marketing and communication. Each group is led by a manger selected from the pooled resources of both YMCA and YMUS. Sprinkle in some Japanese ATP’s (assistant to the president) and some VP’s, engineers and YMC guys. This ‘collective’ which also includes some of the key players from each group, is quite unique within the whole Yamaha organization. We definitely are not; ‘business as usual’.
We have been pushing the boundaries of the more traditional processes and common practice of the Yamaha culture to improve our snowmobile business. At the same time, removing the borders between Canada and the USA has proven effective in reducing many redundancies saving us time and money as we become more efficient. The synergy of the group improves with every one of these meetings as we continue to gain traction moving towards our targets. Of course much of our discussion revolves around the work and responsibilities on the Arctic Cat relationship. I spent a lot of time reviewing our development process in detail and communications with my counter-parts in TRF, highlighting the advances made over the past year as we approach the introduction of the MY16 snowmobiles.
On a more personal note, something I find really too coincidental if not altogether ‘freaky’ has emerged between myself and my counterpart in TRF. Mike has been assigned the ‘point person’ for Yamaha at Arctic Cat, he has worked at AC for close to 30 years. He knows the manufacturing side extremely well. I was brought in to work along side our point person from factory (Tony) to assist in the model specifications and communication between the two companies.
The first time I had lunch with Mike, I discovered he was a ‘runner’ and had been competing for may years at a fairly high level (think the big marathons). Those that know me, know I have a great love for cycling and still train to compete in various mountain bike races – Well we clicked – The conversation shifted straight to training programs, heart rate max, threshold and lactic testing, age cats and other miscellaneous parallels between the two disciplines. The other guys at the table were shaking their heads as the two ‘old guys’ went off on a tangent. By the end of the conversation we discovered our ages were within two years (me being the younger for a change) and we even shared the same birthday!
They say as you age, your heart-rate drops a beat per year. Mike has a VO Max HR of 170 bpm, mine is 172. Our lactate balance points are pretty much identical along with our endurance. Basically, all the BS and science aside, we are both in pretty good shape for a couple of 60 something, old farts. Well on my last trip to TRF, Mike was walking me out past the assembly line. I don’t know how we got on the topic, but he informed me he was a musician and had played professionally for 30 years having started way back in the early 70’s. I stopped, looked him in the eye and said ‘drummer’?, he answered ‘yes’, bewildered. I then went on to say I also have a long history in music and had played professionally during the 70’s and 80’s right up until I took the job with Yamaha and my travel schedules prevented me from committing to a band. And what did I play? Yep, drums! Mike spun me around. ‘Come with me!’ and back we went to look at some cool pictures of a much younger, long haired Mike sitting behind a huge Ludwig kit with Joey looking on, grinning and shaking his head at us.
I can’t wait to have a pint with Mike on my next visit and find out what other things I have in common with my ‘brother from another mother’. But think about it, here we are, two guys at the twilight of our careers, working for major sled companies, a result of our passion for the same, born on the same day, built with near identical engines, still competing in highly aerobic sports at a ripe age, sharing a near identical history as musicians, now functioning together as main links responsible for the details of the Yamaha / Cat shared agreement vehicles. I find myself shaking my head when thinking about it.
Posted @ 10:18 am in Yamaha Insights
November 7, 2014
Carry On or Checked?
Friday noon, looking out the window at the falling snow. The calm before the storm as my calendar is rapidly filling up towards Christmas. We have several tests planned starting end of November right up until the week before the holidays. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Viper chassis responds to the addition of Performance Dampers. I will also be joining in with some of the project guys from Cat early in December to sample some new sizzle and I have a ‘bucket lister’ journey to add another new country to my tally of weird and wonderful places to ride snowmobiles kicking off the season.
The only ball in the air is how to divide and conquer a conflicting date and whether or not I’ll need (or can arrange) to fly to Japan for a couple of days mid December.
Something occurred to me while discussing this meetings agenda with our engineers. Most people, regardless of their brand blindness, will agree that Yamaha engines rank amongst the very best in the world. This is especially true regarding durability and reliability and if you consider the QDR relative to the performance, one could argue Yamaha is the best in mass production motosports power – marine, motorcycle, off-road, snow… My epiphany was – we have never tried to explain what we do differently, what steps are taken in engine development, to deliver the balance of performance and reliability that the Yamaha QDR reputation is founded upon. We’ve spoken to it in marketing over the years but the engineering detail has never been really been exposed. I sense an opportunity and an intriguing project at hand.
Case in point is the all new R1 and R1M MotoGP inspired bikes. @200hp / liter of normally aspirated power packing a full warranty along with the duty cycle of a flippin Corolla. The on-board electronics controlling this engine and consequent power delivery is incredible. I have mixed feelings about having a computer control how I ride but considering the performance levels being achieved and so few Valentino Rossi’s buying road legal sport bikes, I get it.
We are seeing more sophisticated electronics being applied to our snowmobiles as well and I see this only increasing as we move forward. Having learned from my past ramblings allow me to say this ‘just for the record’ – I did not say that the new R1 engine will be available in a snowmobile next year, an ATV maybe – but not a sled!