Archive for April, 2016
April 23, 2016
さようなら – Sayonora
Today’s post will be my last. I have decided it is time to pull back from my career and focus on family and quality-of-life in the few good years I have left. If I include time spent at the dealership, I have been with Yamaha for well over 30 years. And for those of you who have alluded to me having a ‘dream job’ – you’re correct; it’s been one helluva good run. I can’t imagine another uneducated, country boy with little more than a great love for motorcycles and sleds, slipping past the regulated HR qualification process now. Yamaha gave me ‘my shot’ and for that, I am most grateful.
This blog in itself is testament to the visionary management this company maintains. When we launched in the winter of 2007, there was a lot of trepidation around letting an individual employee go on-line, representing the company with no formal set of rules or policies to fetter and control the ‘conversation’. At the time, no one in our industry had a corporate blog; Twitter had not been born, My Space was bigger than Facebook and ‘social media’ was a new buzz-word companies were struggling to understand (many still are). At the time I was communicating on the sled forums and got singled out by a fellow, hiding behind his key-board, challenging everyone and everything to stroke his own ego. It was frustrating to post legitimate information only to have it discredited as bull-spit . I figured there had to be a better way for me to play!
One individual was extremely instrumental in getting Sled Talk past the corporate goalie: Maggie Fox. I met Maggie at a trade show in 2006 where she was speaking on this new thing called ‘social media’. Sensing some opportunity, I attended her ‘lunch and learn’ on corporate blogging. Fortunately, as things turned out, I was the only one who showed up and received her undivided attention. This was a new venture for Maggie and she was motivated to see this blog get up and running under the Yamaha brand. After several meetings here, it was her compelling presentation to corporate that I believe, broke down the final barriers of risk, putting many of our fears at ease. Maggie’s career since has been a turbo-charged success story. First expanding her former company (SMG) from a family consulting business to a highly successful social media agency with locations in Toronto and Vancouver; then leapfrogging into the corporate sphere to head up Ford Motor Companies global digital marketing operations. I’ve lost touch with her but understand she is now the senior VP of digital marketing for software giant SAP. She once told me, having the Yamaha shingle hanging on the office wall went a long ways to opening those early doors. Well, without her guidance, I would not be writing this ten years later.
Once we established the ‘rules of engagement’ – I was trusted to use common sense and turned loose to talk about Yamaha snowmobiles openly as the ‘lucky guy’ speaking from the inner sanctum trying to ‘tell it like it is’. Truth be known, I have ‘stepped in it’ on more than one occasion. Actually, according to my boss, defending my rhetoric and shielding my ego from criticism has become a fairly regular occurrence for him. On the flip side, his guard has allowed me to write 275 articles and personally respond to nearly 3,500 comments. I’m not really known for sugar coating my delivery so the odds of me peeing on somebodies Cheerios really are not all that surprising. I’m just glad I didn’t have to respond personally.
Today there are upwards to 14,000 unique visitors a month coming here seeking nuggets of information on our sleds. One thing has amazed me from day one. Not one of you has ever gone on ‘the attack’. The comments I receive have always been thoughtful and respectful of the position regardless of whether the author agreed or liked what I had to say. I have approved every comment except one and only because it was basically spam. Nothing I have ever written here has been taken and used against me or Yamaha in any way and for that I am so thankful. Maggie once told me – ‘stay honest and transparent, your audience will grow and rise to your defense if threatened’ – so true!
And to be clear, comments offered here have been referred to many times in various meetings, in emails and sometimes over beers. It’s been said we don’t listen, that what is being talked about on forums never gets to the boardrooms. I have often used Sled Talk (and TY) to reference or support a point. This site has had an impact on our business and our sleds.
Well; there it is. What started off as an experiment to add some ‘ballast’ on the forums has ended up in a decades worth of conversations with many of you, some I’ve met, others I feel I know from your regular comments here. And you should know, it has been your interaction and feedback that has kept me motivated, to write. I want to say a special thanks to Tom and all the admins at Totallyamaha. You guys rock! Many of us here at Yamaha realize and appreciate what a great service you provide for our customers. TY sets the bar very high regarding QDR standards for the motor-sports forums.
I don’t know at the time of this writing, what is going to happen to this site and the archives it contains when I’m gone. It would be sad to see the articles on specific model development disappear. They are records of our history with very few, if any people left that can recount first hand. I have recognized many individuals in my stories who mean a lot to me and who contributed to many of our snowmobiles in many different ways. In my mind, they are the most important of all to preserve. Yamaha is made up of people – the brand and the products are a result of their passion. They are the real creators of our ‘Kando’ and should not be forgotten. I hope somehow Sled Talk will live on as a resource for no other reason than this.
May 5th is my last day as an employee of Yamaha. It’s a bitter sweet feeling as I’m going to miss so many of the people I have worked with over the years, many of whom I consider close friends. I’m also going to miss opening Sled Talk to see if someone has left a question or comment for me. On the other hand, I am finally going to finish some projects like my Phazer ‘trials’ sled and am looking so forward to being there for my family every day, even if that means holding the end of the dock down on a Muskoka chair while they enjoy our ‘cottage life’.
Guys, it’s been a great ride and I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this space. I have – I am truly a lucky guy!
April 19, 2016
Sled Talk has been a terrific project which has enabled me to share many experiences and insights, which I have been privileged to be a part of, during my career with Yamaha. It has also demonstrated the opportunity and value for large corporations who engage their customers on a more personal, transparent and conversational plane.
The social sphere has changed a lot since I started and things are moving forward at a frantic pace. Connectivity and the flow of information is expanding at an unbelievable rate with the internet taking over the number one position as your primary purchase influencer.
Marketing agencies and big corporations (including our governments) are scrambling to monetize the web and control the content. Companies like Google and Facebook are writing programs to track and profile our every move online. Whether you know it or not, your on-line experience is being tweaked closer to your ‘hot buttons’ with every click.
Part of this transition is the ‘opening-up’ of the corporate marketing process to social networking. The integration of blogs, forums and friend sites into their traditional vehicles is making more and more information available to you and on a more personal level. I see it as a kind of global ‘coming of age’, for the social inter-web.
So where does that leave Sled Talk and me? Good question. There are new ‘apps’ and opportunities for engagement on the horizon that quite frankly, I find overwhelming. Remember the scene where Indiana Jones is running out of the cave with the huge boulder rolling on his heels…
I’m told in the new social world, people no longer want to read more than a couple of lines. It’s all about ‘rich content’ / video. This presents an entirely new challenge – how to ‘video’ blog. I realize it’s hard to sort through my archive to find old stories of interest. To make things a little easier, I have re-categorized all the posts on Sled Talk and changed all the titles from the ‘creative’ tongue-in-cheek to words that better reference the content.
It is quite apparent from the comments I have received, the most popular posts have been the model development stories of the different sled projects I have worked on. They are all filed together now and will be easier for visitors here to find, just scroll down the right column to ‘categories’. The stories, like the sleds, remain timeless.
Posted @ 2:50 pm in Yamaha Insights
April 15, 2016
There is a little confusion surrounding the difference between the Sidewinder R-TX 129 LE and L-TX 137 LE models in the rear skid frame area.
Last year the 129 LE mirrored the Arctic Cat ‘RR’ which included some heavy duty bits in the skid, bigger cross-shafts, beefy rails etc. Along with special geometry and premium shocks calibrated with a distinct lean towards racing.
Based on market feedback, it was decided to calibrate the ‘RR’ model with a more ‘real world’ approach. The sled offers more bump compliance for longer days in the saddle, yet still maintains a high level of durability. The skid frame design, geometry and components are now common to all the other models. The shock calibration reflects its aggressive positioning but is not as harsh as last years setting.
This set-up has been carried over from the 129 LE to the 137 LE. The only difference in components is relative to track length. In case you wonder, the Arctic Cat RR models reflect the same direction.
I confirmed the question regarding tunnel protectors on the Sidewinder. None of the sleds come with tunnel protectors. However the new tunnel strip heat exchangers have been designed to serve double duty as the protectors. You only need to add three short aluminum pieces to the rear most cooler and you’re good to go.
Hope this helps, remember the sleds we have in the field are not final with some components mocked up from last years parts bin.
April 13, 2016
Too Little – Too Late
I arrived at my cabin this past weekend to find the lake with some open water in places. Several inches of fresh snow hid the fact we had already lost our base and beneath the skiff of white was spring. Saturday was the predetermined date to remove the Six Star bridge that connects our lake to the OFSC trail system. It’s a big job to remove the decking and timbers, capable of supporting a full size groomer but its part of the deal with the MNR (government) to have trail access. By the time we were done, mother nature in a cruel ‘in your face’ turn, went and refroze the lake and tightened up the snow as much to say ‘never count me out’!
About 20 guys showed up for the work party aboard quite an assortment of machines. ATV’s were the most abundant but a few poor buggers arrived on muddy sleds that quickly froze into brown blocks of ‘snirt.’ Brad rustled up a big feed of baked beans and burgers over an open fire and we all had a good time lamenting the season that wasn’t, once the work was all done.
Fortunately the conditions are still holding good in the west. I’ll be heading to the airport in another couple of weeks for what is sure to be my last ride of the season. Most of the guys I talked to on the weekend are way down on mileage this year and it is showing in the industry sales figures for the first couple months of the year. I have seen inventory levels worse in past seasons but there is no doubt in my mind that we’ll be riding another rough trail this fall.
Some questions have come in on the comments side which may be best answered here:
Did the turbo engine come before the YXZ? Interesting question, chicken or the egg… I don’t think there was really a first or second. The concept was to build an engine platform that could be customized for a given application. The crank-shaft is common to all four motors but there are many individual parts that are unique to each.
I guess you could say that we were developing the turbo concept over a longer period of time and the short block followed along. Both the YXZ and Sidewinder engine early proto-typing started with a Nytro based engine (as did the Viper) and all the requirements for both applications came together in the final layout of the 998. I have no idea where the Waverunner version fits into the equation. Really it was a lot of joint work that came together in the end to yield three distinctly different engines sharing common parts, actually four when you consider the new Vector/Venture 1050’s.
Will the new YSRC roller secondary fit on the Apex? Short answer- no – the jack-shaft is a larger diameter. This is the same between Nytro and Apex. Therefore the new clutch would fit on a Nytro and a Viper but not the Apex/Vector (without extensive modification.)
I am still waiting to confirm the Sidewinder skid frame components on the R-TX LE (129) versus L-TX LE (137) and which models (if any) will come with tunnel protectors. I’ll answer when I know – in the meantime there is a very interesting post over on Totallyamaha explaining some key points on all the new track lengths and pitch. If you haven’t seen it, I’d say it’s worth a read. Kevin did a great job on researching the subject.
So back to Mother Nature – enough already, you blew it when you had the chance. Now lets get on with spring!
April 6, 2016
I need to do a little house cleaning this morning. The Sidewinder gearing specs that were posted here (with the disclaimer ‘subject to change’) have been tweaked recently. The latest numbers I have been given are as follows:
129-137= 9T x 2.86 @ 21/41 gear.
141 x 1.6 & 153 x 1.75 = 8T x 3.00 @ 21/41 gear.
141 x 2.25 & 153 x 2.25 = 8T x 3.00 @ 24/50 gear.
162 x 3.00 = 7T x 3.00 @ 21/49 gear.
Our engineers plan to continue testing and development well into spring in the quest to produce the best performing sleds possible. I wouldn’t be too surprised if there are additional updates into production. I have asked a couple of senior engineers if the new turbo will deliver the same horsepower and torque as we have seen in the validation units. The answers have been quite positive with no changes indicated that would affect the performance.
If you have any questions on anything I post here or on the new sleds in general, please don’t hesitate to post in the comments.
Posted @ 8:26 am in Yamaha Insights