Cold rain, snow squalls, commuting in darkness, indeed, we’re on the brink of winter. The doors on the big rigs are sealed and our testing crew, gear bags stuffed, en route to a remote area of Alaska where they’ll run durability on a fleet of production sleds to kick off the seasonal project development sequence.
Never to be left in the snow dust, our management team is spooling up with a flurry of meetings starting next week in our Lakeview office. Jon is off to the corp head office in Cali to pull double duty on future product discussions and MY16 color and graphics. I am going to stay back to keep the home fires burning but will dial in for a quick product plan update via a conference call.
I don’t know if its a past life spent racing dirt bikes or simply growing up in the mountains riding fan-cooled sleds light enough to pick up by the front bumper – multiple times a day – I am captivated by the MX conversion kits led by Timbersled and several others. I know there would be issues on the dedicated trails here in S-ON. But the power line corridors and dissecting abandoned logging roads beg for something like this. Light, agile and narrow with no plumbing to hook a stump or send you to the shop with crumpled clip and an empty wallet. I want one!
The trucks are rolling out of TRF with SR Vipers destined for dealerships all over North America. We had a little hiccup with the shipping dates but we’re now on the gas and sleds are being off-loaded at many dealerships as I write this.
While at the TO Snowmobile Show I met Louie. It was an interesting encounter. One that quickly led to a tire kicking session on a Frankenstein sled, fabricated in his man-cave from an aluminum cookie sheet with hand laid carbon fiber bits and glued on Pogo-sticks off a Tundra. A VK540 mill spinning a forward mounted ‘old school’ secondary layout providing thrust. A Newfie boon-docker if you will.
Turns out Louie wasn’t just into building eclectic bush-wackers , he hosts his own web-base TV show called ‘Powermods’ where he explores some of the after-market industries latest and greatest bolt-on engineering with a ‘how-to’ approach to building and testing some pretty cool stuff. It was only fair that I showed him some of our latest – captured off guard and off the cuff, here’s my spiel with Louie on the Performance Damper. It was fun watching the reaction of people trying to get their heads around the technology, Louie’s ‘awe c’mon’ was perfect. Now if that wasn’t enough, here’s a brief explanation on the Dupont Hyfax display.
I enjoyed the Toronto Snowmobile Show this year. It felt busy and upbeat to me, more-so than in previous years. I spent a couple of hours touring the floor with Masa and Sage Sawai, kicking tires, pointing out products, features and technologies that impact our business. It was interesting to observe their reactions. I noted some things I take for granted were eagerly viewed and others I tried to champion, were met with little exuberance.
We had a small display comprised of three rear suspension rails bolted together side by side. Two rails were off the same (used) skid-frame, the left one had production hy-fax and the right had a Dupont hyfax (impregnated with Vespel inserts). The third rail had a brand new stick of the Dupont in place. The used rails had just over 1100km of southern Ontario scratching on them and the difference between the material wear properties was blatantly obvious. The standard Hyfax showed significant wear ahead of the front idlers, with an uneven undulating pattern towards the rear. The Dupont stick showed almost no wear, remaining straight and flat along its entire length.
It was fun having this tool when trying to explain why someone would want to spend a C-note plus for a stick of plastic and a pleasure to announce it’s inclusion on the production units coming out of our Japan factory. To that point, the Japanese Dupont’s have less Vespel inserts than our accessory parts as they are quite labor intensive to produce.
The question was posed and the answer yes, we have prepared the Duponts with a T-cut specific to the SR Viper skid-frame which is common to many Arctic Cat models and AC will also be making available through their dealers. So-if you have any friends riding green that smell like burning garbage bags in the morning – we have the cure!
It was no dull surprise to read a thread on TY where a lot of Viper owners have received their accessories already. Now all they need is a sled to put them on. Good news is: a steady train of trucks are leaving TRF daily, loaded with Vipers and heading for a dealership near you. I noticed several guys are asking about the tracks on the Vipers. Ripsaw-2 / 2ply on the RTX / LTX and Cobra 1-ply / 3P on XTX SE. There is 9T extroverts on 129 / 137 – 8T extroverts on 141. The drive belt is shorter on SR compared to Apex / Vector (8DN) so you can’t interchange and I wouldn’t suggest you even consider for a spare unless its an emergency. It’ll fit but you’ll be driving around in 3rd gear so to speak…
Another question from the show… ECU calibration. The ECU is the same on Viper as it is in the 7000, horsepower output is identical. How it is put to the ground is another story. One that will be told on the snow. I’ll watch for any more scuttlebutt, ugly rumors or out and out horse-pucky and weigh-in when I can… cheers cr
Thinking we should all live in the mountains. I have been seeing some pretty exciting pics from friends who are fortunate enough to hold up in the west. Check out the November snow that DNR gets to play in. And the resulting oops of a random brain fart. Randy has also been hitting hard already in Rev’y.
Kinda makes you want to go play does it not?
I was reminded this morning of a little project I did last season and meant to pass along as a tip for anyone still running our older two stroke / trailing arm chassis. I mounted up a pair of the dual keel Tuner skis to my 2000 Phazer and was very pleased with the results. The steering effort was good, there was less push and much less darting. The mod was simple, all it took was a longer bolt (I used the standard A-arm spindle bolts PN 90105-10070) and scrounged up 4 flat washers with 10mm ID holes to shim between the saddle and spindle axle. The original ski rubbers were retained along with the mounting bolt nuts, (of course I used a fresh cotter pin ahem) and applied a gob of grease to the bolts. Now if I could just figure out how to mount a set on the Bravo…
Our brass is all overseas right now for some meetings with top management. This is an annual planning review with lots of big picture stuff covering all or our products. One item on the agenda is of particular interest to me and I think it will impact our snowmobile business in the coming months, but more on this later. Meanwhile we are sitting fingers crossed, waiting for the season to commence fully, with the hopes of open trails and renewed sales after last years dismal finish.
We had a nice dump of snow at home on the weekend and it wasn’t long before I saw sled tracks on the shoulder of the road leading off into some farm fields. I say it every time this year and knowing that I’m preaching to the choir but: Think twice before heading out on your machine. Wait for the trails to open and take extra care off-trail with the limited base this time of year… play safe!! cheers cr
Well its that time of year again… the summer vacation is barely behind me and the snowmobile business is already beginning to take over my days. With Hay-Days just around the corner followed by all the fall trade shows, the meetings and preparation are in full swing.
Yesterday Yamaha USA announced a new performance kit for the FXNytro. Aimed at low altitude / sea-level models, this latest MPI boost kit will offer up an additional 45 ponies using a super-charger along with an additional heat exchanger and some clutching / gearing calibration (all contained in the kit). MPI has worked hard on the development of this kit to ensure the quality and installation is up to Yamaha standards. We got to ride some sealevel calibrated 180kit Nytro’s last spring and it was a real giggle. The XTX, with its extra traction was the wheelie king and both models were ripping the legs off the competition…
We are still working through the final details here in Canada, but the plan is to have the MPI Supercharger kits available, in limited quantities, this fall.
The old saying to describe progress as ‘having a few balls in the air’ is likely the best way to describe our business model right now. I eluded last spring that our engineers are very busy in the background and we have made some pretty good progress over the summer. I was told recently to put on my running shoes and lace them up cause it won’t be all that long (by our standards) until some of these balls start dropping -big grin- more to follow on that later.
I know my blog has dried up somewhat over the summer (just like many of the lakes around here) with the drought of no new content but I am planning to ramp things up again as the season unfolds. I find it helps a lot to kick back in the summer and take a break from Sled Talk. I really focused on my other passions (mountain biking and my family-cottage time) but with only two races left and the water cooling down, I’m eager to get back on a sled… how about you?
Had an interesting week. We (our accessories development team and snowmobile service managers) have been locked down at Kellermans resort in Muskoka. Twelve of us hit the trails Tuesday to test out some new riding gear. The conditions were less than ideal but all-in-all things worked out really good. Wednesday and Thursday were all day meetings. And here I sit last man out getting caught up on the email and reading the aftermath of yesterdays XTX announcement. I am finding it kind of sad to see the disappointment written in comments here and on the forums but I can’t say I was surprised.
The MY13 Nytro XTX we launched yesterday was a last minute addition to the line up, which YMC finally conceded to build once they recognized the efforts (and cost) going towards accessorizing the sleds to get a decent back-country track and improved deep snow performance. As many have pointed out, guys have been doing this since we first released the Nytro. The only reason we announced it yesterday was based on a strong request from the sales guys who wanted to add the unit to the Power Tour demo rides which are happening now. Had we waited until March 2nd the chances of deep snow to play in would be that much less. Having said that, this years snowfall and warm temps have pretty well negated the whole plan anyway. I have mixed feelings about hyping up our new product launches, thinking they should be more steered by the actual impact the product will have more-so than the basic desire to excite the market. That said, it is our job to advertise and promote regardless of the cards we are dealt be it a completely new model line or BNG. No excuses here, just offering a little background on why we had a preemptive announcement.
Back to the riding… I am also aware of some frustration regarding the availability of our new Dupont hy-fax. As I mentioned in an earlier post I was impressed by the testing results but was not going to fully endorse without running a set. Well I have close to a thousand km on mine now and my last few rides have been on glare ice. The trails are rock hard here and the lakes are skating rinks. My hy-fax still looks like new, have not smelled plastic once, have been running the lakes at speed (I am also using and Ice-Ripper track) and right now I am thinking this is the real deal. I don’t care what brand of sled you ride, without some good scratcher’s you wouldn’t be going far or fast here right now without destroying the runners. I’m a believer! The issue now is overheating engines, everyone I have talked to is seeing temp lights and searching for the illusive snowbanks on the sides of the trail, damn we need snow!!
I have seen a few threads discussing some of our new accessories mostly wondering when they will be available. I thought I’d try to shed a little light on whats be going on in the back-ground.
TRIC Ice Scratchers. Last year we introduced these flexible cable scratchers based on a version that has been sold by Yamaha in Europe for a number of years. What appeared to be quite simple on the surface turned out to be rather complex in the application. We made some running changes to reduce the amount of deflection in the cable which yielded satisfactory performance in the intended conditions. We still had deflection issues when the cables were operated at higher speeds or with too much pre-load. Over the summer we investigated multiple improvement ideas with our supplier and in the end, went with a fairly simple upgrade. We have added a ‘damper’ in the form of a hi-impact plastic tube to the cable and changed the crimp on the Babbitt to allow more radius. While we were at it, we standardized the hole size to accept common studs for greater selection and easier maintenance. We will be recommending the cable be taken out of play when not required (simply loosen the bolt and raise them up off the snow) and continue to advise against operation at sustained high speeds. The production has started and we will be shipping out well before Christmas.
The new Tuner, dual keel skis. These babies were tested last year and the design was approved. Production samples were received this fall and had to go through another round of approval which, after some minor delays, appears to have the green light. Production, if it hasn’t already commenced, will very shortly. The Tuner carbides come from another supplier and they are on-track for delivery. The catch in all this is the number of skis per week produced will be under 100 pieces, so it will take a bit of time to fulfill all the orders but we should be well on our way by Christmas.
The Yamaha Dupont super sliders. The impregnation of the Vespel chips into the hyfax material has presented a unique challenge for our supplier. Early samples were not able to meet our satisfaction and some tweaks to the new manufacturing process were required. The latest samples are looking really good and production is ramping up. Our supplier is even planning to add a shift to turn the orders around faster and these should be hitting our dealerships soon as well.
More good news, the Oil-Lite bushing kits for the front ends are arriving, we just need to get the installation instructions confirmed and they’re a go. Another decision was just made to offer a body kit for the FX Nytro that contains bright’ red-armor’ dipped side panels and hood. If you aren’t familiar with this, the plastic water dipping process has been used on our special edition ATV’s and the ‘red-armor’ was the most popular. The pricing looks like it will be quite reasonable and the quantities are limited so if you have banged up your sled or just want the custom look, you might keep an eye out for this one. I’ll post some more details when available.
Finally (and this is arriving this week), we have the tether actuated, roll-over switch which will cut-off the oil tank breather to avoid the loss of oil in the event you part ways with the sled during a bank turn or failed high-mark maneuver., not that that would ever happen to you …
I know this all sounds like a lot of hurry up and wait but it is never as simple as it seems on the surface. Prime time for new product announcements is September; fall trade shows, Hay Days, media events etc. afford the best opportunity to show and tell before the snow flies. We decided to roll the dice and announce our plans while still in the final phases of testing and production approvals. I know some guys are chomping at the bit to receive some of this stuff now that they know its coming but I think it is more important that we get it right. I forget the vintner who used the tag ‘we will serve no wine before it’s time’.
The Yamaha brand trademark has some very tight controls governing its use. We have a VI (visual identity) manual the size of an encyclopedia and a whole department at YMC assigned to enforcing the detailed policies. There are occasions when we will license other companies to use our trademark on certain products, provided they compliment the brand and don’t conflict with our sales. I thought I would point out a couple of these licensed items which may be of particular interest this time of year for folks who might have a kid in the family.
Strider bikes is marketing a cool ‘pedal-less’ bike for kids 18 months to 5 years. I read once in Bicycle magazine that the best way to teach a kid how to ride is ‘lose the pedals’ and let them coast down a safe grassy hill. It’s how I taught my daughter and it worked like a charm. Now my only concern is keeping ahead of her on the race course. The Strider bike takes it to the next level. Check out the clip. These are being sold through Yamaha dealerships in Canada and the USA, just in time for the holiday season.
Another licensed product closer to my snowmobiling heart is the Snow Bike by Sport
Dimension. These are bright blue, three point kids sleighs (think GT Racer) with styling cues taken from the FX Nytro. Right now they are only available in the US at Costco stores (not on-line) and retail for $49.95. We are not able to distribute them in Canada but I have seen some people talking about them on-line and some nice folks are making them available on E-bay for over $100… hmmm.
Now I should disclaim my references to these toys. I am not suggesting you purchase one, after-all if a kid was to fall off a bicycle or a toboggan they might get hurt and some hot-shot lawyer would surely pin it on me. It is much better if you wait until they are sixteen and buy them a real FX Nytro or maybe an R1, that would be okay. cheers cr
I just returned to the office along with most of our management team after spending the past week and a bit travelling to meet with our dealers. We kicked off the tour in Quebec City last Tuesday and Wednesday at Wendake native cultural museum. The attendance response from our Quebec dealers was so good we ended up having to rent a big top tent to display all our stuff and was standing room only for staff during the presentations.
I jetted home Wednesday night just in time for our mountain biking race series awards banquet where I proudly watched my daughter receive the ‘best sportsman’ award then it was off to Deerhurst Resort for the next meeting. Our very own Amy McIsaac and her band provided the nightly entertainment and once again we were caught off-guard by the higher than expected dealer attendance.
We wound up the Ontario meeting on Friday afternoon, made a mad dash to cottage and hit the airport early Monday to fly to Halifax for round three. The east coast hospitality was great as we were received in a century old harbor tavern and treated to some more local culture. At the same time, some of our team headed west to Banff where Randy and the boys corralled the western dealers. I heard there were some shots fired and a good time was again had by all.
We had some key business partners join us at all four meetings providing some excellent new product support for the attending dealers. We introduced the new Dupont hyfax and Tuner skis along with new partners, Shark helmets, AXO riding gear and Irish Setter sports wear as ‘exclusive’ to Yamaha lines. We also had the experts from Camoplast and Superwinch on hand along with the brass from Nippon Oil blenders of Yamalube and from YMUS Mr. Yamalube himself Steve Friedrichs who has forgotten more about oils and lubes than I’ll ever learn.
In debrief there was clearly an overall positive message delivered at these meetings and a general acceptance that we are on the right track and moving forward. Of all the product groups we touch the most solid in respect to the consumer has got to be snowmobile. Everything points to a season of growth given just a little co operation from mother nature.
I’ve been getting a few inquires and requests for info which I thought I would add to this post. First: carbides on the new 2011 Apex ski. From all accounts the traditional runners from our old ski will mount up fine, a small amount of bending may be required. The SnowTrackers bolt right up no problem which is good because there is no way you’ll be bending that flat host bar with the carbide wafer! Hey Sled Freak you can pull down your Kijiji ad for the ‘Snowtrackers almost new, only used by a little old lady on Sundays’ and bolt them to your XTX
The other popular ‘odd-ball’ is the Cobra-head which appears can be made to fit but as far as we know they were going to put some additional curve in the bar and set-up as a new part number.
Fox Shocks: we have put together a new shock kit for the Apex consisting of two RX ‘SE’ spec front shocks and an air pump, suggested retail is 559.95 which ain’t bad for FOX! On the same subject due to popular demand we are making the FOX mega-Float rear Monoshock that comes standard on the 2011 Apex SE available as a kit that retrofits all previous mono skids. Properly aired up this puppy will breath new life into any of our older models offering a very wide range of spring adjustment, plush to bottomless.
Another one I was asked what cover will fit a Nytro with the accessory tall windshield. I am told our deluxe cover just fits but gets ‘er done. With all the talk about studding, I have had a couple of inquires about the pre-studded Camoplast offerings. We have them for the 144 and 121 but the 128 is still in the works. I hope to have the chance to mount one on my sled this year, if so I’ll write up a review from the hip.
In closing, I know I am preaching to the choir but I’ll say it anyways. If you are heading out for that first ride, please take all the regular precautions and be extra wary of obstacles covered by the snow. No base = big bang! Save the testosterone for the good conditions… isn’t that right Bellymon? ride safe – ride sober – sled smart.
I attended the Toronto Motorsports Show this past weekend and if nothing else it certainly got me to thinking about the upcoming season. We were there with a full corporate booth featuring several unique displays. Jon worked together with Wade and the boys in the States to build us an EPS simulator. My first reaction to the plan – why bother, everyone knows that EPS makes the steering effort easy and you won’t feel the cornering accuracy or isolation from the trail junk without a real ride – in short it’s just a gimmick. Boy was I wrong!
I watched the faces on several customers light up when they turned the Apex bars, key- on / key-off. ‘Holy (expletive goes here), is that ever cool…’ Marty and Don from Snowmobiler TV set up their camera to catch a current Apex owner trying it out. His reaction was one of astonishment… next came his wife who smiled and gave ‘the nod’. Grinning, he promptly informed me he had just received formal permission to trade up. Nice!
The other simulator which got plenty of attention featured our new HID headlight set-up. They were blinding even when surrounded by all the other bright lights in our booth. Take this one for whats it worth but after using the HIDs on my Apex towards the end of last season, I will not own another sled without adding them as an upgrade, they work that well. If you do a lot of night riding you owe it to yourself to check these out, ‘nough said.
So I started my day by surfing the forums, looking for any chatter resulting from the show. It was pretty quiet actually but I did stumble upon a couple of links which I thought I would share. First the STV guys have a cool interview with Blair Morgan on the ‘Go Riding’ site. It’s great to see him back in the saddle and hear his positive take on his life at present. There is another link to their blog where I found a cool video of the Miss Teen Canada contestants learning to ride ATV’s at Horseshoe Riding Adventures under the tutelage of Clinton Smout. I know this is Sled Talk but it’s always fun to see ‘newbies’ reactions when discovering motorsports, especially the young lady suffering from visual impairment. Good on you Clinton!
Over on Totallyamaha, the first post I spotted was Yamaha owners discussing the best way to polish their sleds as they prepare for the winter, yeah I know, there are lots of more technical things being discussed but it did cross my mind that having the top thread of the day focused on polishing instead of engine rebuilding wasn’t a bad thing.
I was checking out the magazine web-sites thinking their might be a reaction to what I wrote last week on ‘reading between the lines’. Instead I found a solid video review on the Apex by Supertrax. Mark is not one to sugar coat his comments (trust me on that!) so this one made me sit up and take notes. Then there was a short in the Read Valve column of Supertrax mag talking about the new PUSH turbo kit for the Nytro MTX. The author was quick to point out the press release didn’t mention availability in Canada.
I’ll confirm this by saying we are not going to distribute the PUSH turbo here this season. The reason being, is simple enough. The North American distributor for MCXpress turbo kits is located in British Columbia and has done an excellent job of marketing a similar low-boost product in Canada. They have a well established network of dealers who have pre-ordered kits and are currently selling and servicing them. This is not the same case in the USA and the potential for the PUSH system entering the mountain market there is quite good. From what I have seen and heard the PUSH turbo is a reliable, easily installed system that meets Yamaha quality standards and you can bet we will be watching this new introduction very closely.