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February 14, 2016

Bolt-on Smiles

I awoke to minus 32C this morning, second day in a row of Arctic air at the cabin. On my second cup as the sun breaks through the trees, reading the comments, speculating on what would be our next big thing in snowmobiles.

Snow bikes seem to be getting a lot of traction in the rumour mill. Let’s imagethink about that one for a moment. Here’s a couple of facts you should know. The total market today is approximately 10K units sold. This is the entire history of SB sales. Timbersled is by far the largest player in the kit game, holding several key patents on the conversion. Polaris recently acquired Timbersled in what some consider a block play and now possess those patents. SB don’t work worth a damn on hard pack (current technology and design). SB kits require a host motorcycle on which to install them. In addition there will be political hurdles to overcome as they become more mainstream, definitions, compliance, regulations etc..

Now all that said, many guys are choosing Yamaha YZ’s as the bike of choice. One could say we are already in the SB business by Ascension. But if we really wanted in I suppose it would be best to build a complete SB just like our friends at AC have proposed. Nice way to skirt around the patents and save the consumer the cost of wheels and rear suspension they don’t require. That would require significant investment and if based on a YZ would open a Pandoras Box of liability and risk exposure in breaking new ground or snow as is the case.

End of the day, the SB market is currently planted firmly in the Rockies. It’s cool, it’s growing but its niche. If I had to draw sales projections over three years for a new SB project, it would be a single K digit (note: I’ve been wrong before!). We could build the best SB ever considering our wealth of MC and SMB engineering, or we could sit back and enjoy a few extra sales in the already very healthy off-road motorcycle world…. March 1 will tell all.  cr

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Posted @ 8:40 am in Yamaha Insights   

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18 Responses to “Bolt-on Smiles”

  1. SRXSRULE says:

    Definitely a cold couple of Days, great for making ice and a snow base! Last Super Bowl Sunday in Matagami, Quebec we woke up to -38*C, -47*C with the windchill. Had to warm up some batteries on other brands, but surprisingly my fathers 2014 viper fired up without delay! I saw a venture owner with a hair drier out however haha.
    Anyway, some valid points made in your blog Chris. This snow bike craze reminds me of the late 90’s? Early 2000’s Sno-Hawk trying to break into the market. They were a neat idea, never did get the chance to throw a leg over one. I haven’t seen one in years, they never did really take off. I agree that Yamaha already makes a lineup of motorcycles. Showing some of my non snowmobile owning/ motorcycle owning friends these snow bikes however did create some excitement.
    Maybe a return of the sno scoot? Haha

  2. lowslung says:

    So its not a two-stroke,or a snowbike.Noticed in the teaser the way the seat pivots side to side under the rider.Very different.Guess i can dream while i ride my phazer RTX over the fresh powder(got 20cm last night)this afternoon.

  3. Anthony says:

    You are flying. One post after another. That is great. Specially during this not so good winter. This Tuesday 20 cm snow storm predicted is now changing in mm of rain.
    If I am reading your post right, and I hope I am, There wont be no SB released March 1st.
    I would be stunt to see Yamaha coming out with a SB at this time. Customers have been waiting for a new platform for years. We need a entry level snowmobile, a better mountain sled and even if the current Apex and Vector are still great machines we are more than due for an update.
    Can’t wait to March 1st!!

  4. VTM says:

    Still waiting on your reply CR… Why is there week rods in the Viper engine? ( also found in YXZ 1000r and waverunners ) The new 2016 engine screems cheap ( no magnesium used, less expensive crank and rods ) Not telling costumers there was a new engine. Why??

  5. Scott says:

    Between your posts and the teaser video, the forums have lit up with Yamaha speculation like I’ve not seen in years. It is so fun! I’m glad it isn’t a snow bike. I got a chance to look at a kitted KTM a couple weeks ago and was impressed it made it to where we were at but it looked cobbled together and was so fricking tall. I talked to the owner and watched him ride it and I didn’t get a burning desire to run out and convert one of my dirt bikes. I think they’d be absolutely no fun to be on going downhill on an icy trail to and from the mountain.

    It’s funny, I have no idea what kind of new sled you guys could come out that would get me excited. I mean this as a compliment as I don’t think we customers necessarily know what we want. We can be so fickle. I’ve learned a lot from reading your blog since ’07 and between regulations, patents, ROI, etc, etc, it has to be incredibly hard to know what direction to go. I’ve also realized how marketing is really persuasive. What might not work on me can work on my friends and when they go and buy light weight 800 mountain sleds I’m kind of forced to do the same thing so I can ride with them.

    It is really cool that your so involved watching what is posted in the forums and offering insight on the comments. I suspect an OEM almost has to temper the excitement as speculation can get out of control and diminish the unveiling of what is an amazing new sled but people built it up into something that would be impossible to produce at an affordable price.

  6. VTM says:

    What is Yamaha’s statment on the new week rods in the 2016 Viper engine?


  7. Four Stroke says:

    Sounds like more excuses to do nothing, and then wonder why sales in the snowmobile market continue to decrease. March 1st better bring some amazing news. Contrary to my Vector, my brand loyalty is all about warn out.

  8. Steve Roberts says:

    Snuggled down for Valentines in a cabin is an excellent recharge and way to enjoy a long Family day weekend. I’d don’t know how a snow bike would fare out at -32 however. My 98 VK is pulling double duty keeping firewood here in White Lake, with wind chill – 40 whatever. The ol girl still has a place in my heart , starts great , tow anything, go anywhere , and functional windshield . Yah it burns a bit of fuel/ oil but as bonus the 535 has enough fan and exhaust heat to keep an old guy warm. Like sledding with a habatchi on your lap.
    When looking at new product development these basic qualities are still valid benchmarks to be satisfied .
    I guess novelties like bikes ,scoots etc has a market , but I would respectively submit that the red ink they may create makes them of very little value to corporate success.
    A Yamaha accessories addition with some legal patent manouvers may be more realistic.
    Back to reality , I’m glad to see so much vitality come back to the blog .
    A good attitude and personal wellness are a mandatory core base to maintain. Trips south nah, too crowded,Cuba , Mexiico, Bahamas , nah too much planning and health risk….. How about a long weekend at camp snowmobiling on any Yamaha , even made in the last 2 decades…….
    That’s somethin to brag about
    All said and done its
    Just another March 1 product release
    No sweat


  9. Petey says:

    I too am hopefull of something new and more that catch up, but a true trend setter, Yamaha has the know how and technology to do it, and then add in Cat. I have been riding Yamaha for over 30 years, my loyalty is about to move on unless something great and earth shattering is unveiled on March 1. Bold new graphics, moving the shock location and approach angle of skid, and new A arms and spindles won’t do it any more. My current sled is a 2015 Viper MTX turbo 153. I like the sled but again don’t like all the weight., after riding Skidoo and Polaris and the M series cat, the extra weight is getting old. The big deal breaker for me is the extreme engine breaking, I have had several people ride this sled and everyone says same thing, “why so much breaking”? I have been tossed more than a dozen times when riding with one foot on running board counter balancing the heavy sled while side hilling and letting of throttle or thumb slipping of throttle and off you go, unless the new design corrects this I’m a gonner, and there isn’t many of us Yamaha guys left, I’m snow checking a new one in April. I plan of riding all brands, no loyalty anymore I’m leaving that in the hands of Yamaha. If the new model isn’t a giant leap foreward Yamaha has just chased another 30 year loyal customer away.

  10. MikeyJ says:

    Spent a fair amount of time riding the local trails over the weekend, winter is finally here in Central NL. The Apex performed flawlessly, I’m now re-evaluating my earlier suggestions that I’m in the market for an upgrade in 2017.

    I’ve concluded that I don’t need more power, in fact don’t really want more than what the Genesis 150 gives me in the 2014 XTX package that I have now. That engine knocks it out of the ballpark every time I ride, I hope it doesn’t disappear from the line-up in the near future.

    I would, however appreciate a slightly more rider forward design and less weight, both for the sled and for my recently expanded girth (really need to work on this!). Like I said, I’m happy for now, besides, my wife told me I’m no longer in the market for a replacement as she now wants to upgrade her Vector for something new, I suspect a Viper of some spec.

    Oh well, can’t win them all, can we?

  11. Bob says:

    Let’s keep in mind that these snow bikes have been around on and off since the 70’s. If my memory is correct, Chrysler sold the retail Snorunner in the late 70’s which was originally developed by the military division of Chrysler but rejected by the military due to poor performance in deep snow.

    I do agree, the SB is cool but is a very limited niche market. If our winters continue to get warmer, it may gain more acceptance but will still be limited.

  12. Baldwin says:

    Bring back the SnoScoot with the new YZ250X engine inside it. It’s sort of like a snow bike, right…? I loved mine as a kid and even as a teenager. Wish I still had it.

  13. Viper S says:

    Went for a nice ride yesterday on the old standby, a 92 Venture GT! Glad I did with the 30 degree temp. rise… Amazing ride in newer snow good trails, thoroughly enjoyed the “old school “ride and went places with no fear, I don’t have on the Vec LTX (tight twisties and frozen wash outs).
    Hopefully for MY 2017, Yamaha will get back to some of these old pleasures and innovations. Maybe some back to the future? Here’s to March 1!
    Viper S

  14. CraigB says:

    Thanks for keeping the blog going and for explaining the complexities that are involved in bringing a profitable quality product to market. I liked the older post showing the construction of yamaha engine vs competition 4-stroke(too bad shoppers wont know the difference until a few thousand miles).

    On Mar 1st, I have a feeling the new sled will be a 2 ski lighter phazer/nytro looking machine with an all new suspension system that can turn from a trail machine to a mountain machine. A true crossover that lays lower for trails but has more travel and articulation for sidehilling.
    I also see the factory turbos and more performance dampers being released. We’ll see…

  15. Yellowknife says:

    I’m just watching this for the first time https://youtu.be/pQ7Hi0QwhOM and a chord struck me – together you are stronger (AC & YMC) than apart, particularly when it comes to product development and offering something new/innovative together. Reading between the lines, we have 2 snowmobile R&D budgets going into new product instead of just one.

    March 1st. Looking forward to it.



  16. ETEC fan says:

    After riding a timbersled for 5 minutes, my son a sledhead, wants to switch…will not purchase another snowmobile…Can play in the trees away from big avalanche danger…build it and they will come.

  17. Greg says:

    Is the SB a niche market? Time will tell. I had 1 Yamaha dealer tell me he is now selling 1 SB for every 3 snowmobiles. There is definatly a healthy market in the steep & deep. Areas of Canada with shorter winters (southern ON., parts of Maritimes) & flatter terrain may not see as much SB interest.

  18. Low Slung says:

    Hey chris,i found the new yami.Its a snowbike all right http://www.superbikeplanet.com/image/archive/16archive/m1snomachines/4.htm

    LOL, That it is! cr

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