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March 26, 2009

TO Supercross

I have been having a few technical issues with Sled Talk this week but it seems now all is well. I’m sorry if you have tried to access the site, leave a comment and been frustrated by an error code but we are, once again, good to go.

As I was spending some time on the admin side trying to figure out what happened, I ran across some interesting stats.

Sled Talk has  passed the two year mark entering number three. I have written and posted 112 articles and received 1110 comments, most of which I have responded to and much of that during my spare time. The good news is, I still have a wife and the dog doesn’t try to bite me when I enter my own house!

If you were hoping to see the factory snocross team in action this weekend in Chickopee (Kitchener ON), the event has been canceled, however the boys are still planning to hit Horseshoe for the CSRA final in a couple of weeks. As for me, I’m going to hit the AMA Supercross in Toronto this  Saturday to witness Bubba and Josh pull off a 1-2 finish!

On the product side, factory has listened to your feedback and I am happy to say it appears that all the 2010 Apex models will be coming with a new fully open / fully clipped, 2-ply Ripsaw track with EXTROVERT drivers and the new MONOSHOCK 2 skid frame. This will certainly enhance suspension durability, performance and hyfax longevity…

I’ll be back early next week with a full update and some new stuff but I wanted to get in a quick post today to let you know the blog is still alive. Now I’m outa here, and thanks to all of you, we have a belated birthday to celebrate tonight…here’s to year 3!

cheers  cr

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Posted @ 3:18 pm in Industry News   

March 6, 2009

Scratchers – New Sleds 2010

Most lakes in southern Ontario are glare ice now after the most recent melt down, quite a shame considering the temperatures have been arctic cold for days. The good news is in the bush, where the trails are still in great shape (at least until you have to run a road). Up north I am told the conditions are stellar. My cousin Brian called me last night to pick my brainsdscn1209.jpg about the new sleds and if he should be trading his hi-mileage Attak…

He had just returned from a week long tour (2500km) in northern Ontario. He was traveling with 3 other sleds -all of them yellow- and had some good stories for me. I won’t go into the details, lets just say his Attak provided some extra pulling power for all three at one time or another (one of them twice) nothing serious, but good hot-tub fodder!

Another good buddy Chris H, just returned yesterday from a five day northern Ontario epic and reported the same stellar conditions but with a twist. South of Sudbury the ice really took its toll on his group.  He is running an XTX and had the foresight to install some ice scratchers on his skid-frame, not everyone in his posse did. On the return they jumped onto Georgian Bay near the French River and ran all the way down to Moon River well south of Parry Sound. His XTX was happy-happy showing no wear onfrenchr.jpg the hy-fax, Chris figures thatdscn1211.jpg over the whole trip if he had any wear at all it was no more than a 1/16 inch. The sleds without the scratchers all destroyed their hyfax (including the Poos and Doos) with a couple of guys getting right into the aluminum and wrekcing their rails… On top of that they were dealing with over heating engines. Chris sent me these picks of the Bay… you can just smell the plastic!

So whats my point? Ice Scratchers work. I have known this for a long time but because we haven’t been able to sell them as accessories in the past, we haven’t done much to promote them on our sleds. With the advent of the 2010 Nytro MTX SE, which is sold with our new scratchers included, we are now able to offer them as an accessory item. A little background on the mountain market; light weight has a much bigger impact on their riding than it does here on the trail. Also running 2+ inch lug tracks presents some isues for hyfax. Some riders, in a quest of additional weight savings started removing their idler wheels and adding scratchers. They unload at low altitscratch.jpgude, drop the scratchers and carefully walk the sleds up several thousand feet of packed trail to access the pow, game on. By including scratchers with the new air Nytro, owners can realize over twenty pounds total of weight savings over the 09, nice! Kind of ironic that the deep snow, powder guys were the ones to break open the ice scratcher biz, while the majority of hyfax and overheating woes are due to hard packed conditions our sleds are  constantly subject to in the east. When you figure the cost and hassle of dealing with baked hyfax, overheating (additional heat exchangers) and pooched idler bearings, a good set of ice scratchers are pretty cheap insurance.

The Scorchers brand scratchers we are selling can be mounted on practically any sled. They have an adapter that lets you mount them behind the second idler wheel on a mono-skid but the torsion skid (twin shock) requires mounting them back of the idlers so as to clear the main spring when not in use. Probably the biggest concern is remembering not to back up witih.jpgh them down, especially on packed snow where they will dig in and bend (right Chris? 😉 ). I predict we’ll see a lot more of these being used here in the east in the coming seasons.

Shifting gears, I heard from a little birdie that Hayden and the Factory SX Team  will be at the final 2 CSRA events,  March 28-29 at Kitchener’s ‘Chicopee Sky Resort‘ and April 4-5 at Craighurst’s ‘Horseshoe Valley’ resort.

I must admit, I was waiting in anticipation for the release of the all the new sleds from our competition. After all the comments I read and received regarding the lack of new models from Yamaha, I was fearful that one might drop a serious trump card. In the end it didn’t happen, that’s not to slight the new chassis Polaris has released. I am sure they have put a lot of time and resource into it but in the big picture, I believe we did pretty good. Matter of fact, take out the Rush from the equation and dang-it we clearly had the most changes with the Air Nytro and new Vec.. It’s a little perplexing to see how gentle the forums have been to the other guys… Most of the comments I am seeing are along the lines of ‘oh well it must be the economy’ and ‘I didn’t really expect much anyways…’ sheesh, maybe we took the brunt of the venting by being first out of the blocks, I wonder what 2011 will bring?  😉 cheers  cr

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Posted @ 9:55 am in Accessory Stuff,Industry News,Yamaha People and Communication   

February 11, 2009

2010 Backlash – Market Crash

On this rare occasion, I am going to disregard my own ‘terms of use’ and shove my arm in the fire. There is an old saying ‘don’t shoot the messenger’, but just in case… it’s been a slice!

I had intended on posting a blog right on top of the new model launch yesterday but I had a couple of problemals-group-photo.jpgs. The first is kind of lame, but true. I rode just over 840 km on the weekend to take part in the ALS / Ride for John (Snowtrax) and my old fingers (not to mention most of my upper body) was not responding well to neural input.

The second problem, is all the scathing comments  I’ve been reading on Totallyamaha, some of which were directed at me personally. I realized the controversy regarding our 2010 line, (which I had anticipated and alluded to on this blog), was more intense than first thought. (Heck, some are even dis’ing Bunny!)

One reason I paused in reflection was SledFreaks challenge to me on TY… Oh you will see my name on his blog… I can’t wait for him to try and defend this insult of a lineup.’

Now I really don’t think he meant the lineup is insulting,  so much as what is missing from it is insulting. Most of the disappointment I felt from reading the forums is focused on the Apex and the expectations (and hype) for more power, performance, technology etc.

SF, In all honesty… I have no defense. It occurred to me, just like you, I am also disappointed (have been for a long time). You see, I am also a die-hard Apex rider and I also want a new sled. The only difference is, I learned some time ago, we would not be releasing it this year (not to say we won’t eventually) and I guess I sort of  got over it. Trust me when I tell you I did voice my sentiments internally, in spite of our efforts it was just not possible. But to quote an old ad: ‘we will serve no wine before its time…’ arguably it is time but I cannot share all the background concerning the rationale (some of our competitor’s also visit this blog regularly)

I take a lot of solace from knowledge gained from industry research and web metrics. I know for every one comment I receive online there are upwards to three hundred people who read, consider and draw their own varied conclusions. Many of these folks are not as ‘hard-core’ or extreme when it comes to their sleds. We have sold a good number of Vectors and the new model is really quite impressive and IMHO is now the best choice hands down, for the majority of trail riders. It’s unfortunate it has to live in the shadow of the four cylinder but I will save my Vector comments for another day. Same goes for the Air Nytro.

The other big topic question in several of the comments here and over on TY is to do with pricing and the Canadian v.s. USA imbalance. As I have said before, this is an area beyond my expertise.

I will say on the subject of economics, I am also very disappointed. I am disappointed that the greed of money lenders in the USA was permitted to go so far unchecked. I am disappointed that the ‘system’ has failed so miserably and on such a huge scale as to cause a global financial melt-down. I really can’t fathom the depth of impact which this is having around the world, meanwhile we continue to invest in foreign policies (or policing) at what cost? I am disappointed that the Yen has remained so strong against our currency and disappointed with the cards my company has been dealt within this whole mess.

The net result should come as no great surprise. We have been faced with some significant challenges over the last few months and this is reflected in our price increase. I certainly understand the frustrations heard in many of your comments and ask the same from you regarding my inability to debate the subject.

I am however thankful of a few things. I am thankful that Canada has been spared much of the impact of this recession (so far). I am thankful that our engineers continue to deliver significant improvements to our products, even when faced with severe cut-backs and losses in Japan. I am thankful that I still have a job, a sled and the health (still thinking of you Big John!) to enjoy it.

In closing, I am waiting with baited breath, to see what March will bring when our competitors announce their new models, pricing and programs. It is always difficult to be the first in… If you believe history repeats then you should believe that Yamaha will do whatever we must do to remain competitive.

Cheers  cr

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Posted @ 1:48 pm in Industry News,Opinions and Insights   

February 4, 2009

Pre 2010 Launch

Man, things sure heat up around here when it  comes to new product launch time… I seem to have an abundance of unrelated  topics to share and very little time to be creative. So- I figure I may as well ‘shotgun‘ today’s post and let you pick and choose the subjects that interest you:

Competition Stuff, X-Games report from the US boyz, you have likely heard but here is the official word.

winter-x-games-yamaha-factory-racing-press-release-v1-wil.doc

USCC cross country racing, believe it or not Yamaha Phazers have carved a nice little niche in the sport class, here’s the media release.

uscc-ada-race-report.doc

Our old friend Yuji Nakazawa, has found his form back at home and is currently atop the SX standings:

nagano-results-020109.ppt

Mechanical Stuff

Here are a couple of pics from under the hood of the worlds fastest snowmobile… I was thinking what a great ad it would make to get Hondo and his world record mileage sled togther with G-force and their world speed record sled. I see a simple caption, something to the effect of: What does the worlds fastest snowmobile have in common with the worlds most reliable snowmobile? Yamaha engines!

img_2771.JPG img_2772.JPGimg_2773.JPGimg_2774.JPG

This supercharged G-Force Apex has a potential of over 500 hp, the view from the cockpit is somewhat intimidating. The large central tank contains ice water for engine cooling, the tank on the right side is water used specifically for the liquid-cooled, inter-cooler, then flows over the exhaust system, exiting via a water jacketed exhaust pipe (makes for a cool looking vapor cloud out the back). Some long travel MTB shocks up front for a comfy inch or two of suspension, The steering is achieved using cables like an old style F-I boat… The tank on the left running board hold the fuel (100% alcohol) and the one you can barely see up front holds the oil. They lost an engine to this at one point due to the extreme acceleration duration which forced the oil  into the back of the tank causing the front mount oil pick-up to suck air… doh!

img_2775.JPG img_2776.JPGimg_2777.JPGimg_2783.jpg

I have seen this fluid primary clutch before that Gilles is helping bring to the next level. There are  pistons in each of the cylindrical chambers which are oil filled. Under centrifugal force the pistons force the oil into another chamber through tunable passageways causing the shieve to close. Note the schrader valve: the top of the main chamber uses air pressure to replace the primary spring to return the shieve, forcing the oil back into the the piston cylinders. It is infinitely adjustable by varying the amounts of air and oil. It also is not limited (durability) by RPM like a conventional clutch, which in our case, could negate the need for a reduction gear. They have developed a very cool feature with a hydraulic, remote control which allows the driver to hold the clutch shift on the line regardless of RPM, can you spell ‘holeshot’… boggles the mind!

I had mentioned that Gilles has developed a clutch spec for the Nytro which in his words is clutched ‘similar to a 2-stroke’. Our OE clutch spec is intentional delivering a very hard hit for the purpose of bump timing and lofting the front end over obstacles . He has discovered- for the guys running around on the groomed trails– that lowering the shift RPM, keeping the engine in the fat part of the torque curve allows for superior trail manners with increased fuel economy. He has machined his own fly weights which shift out sooner than stock and keeps the engine working, they have re calibrated the secondary and applied a little magic, the end result has more than a few Quebec trail burners smiling.

When Gilles was explaining his tuning theory for the Nytro, I was reminded of the old ‘wind-shield wiper’ analogy. This is where the tach and speedo needles advance at the same rate, kinda like a couple of windshield wipers, as opposed to a narrow power band engine (2-stroke) that ideally should tach out to the optimum max RPM then drag the speedo needle up to speed. I wagged my index fingers to demonstrate and Gilles gave me a big grin…’nough said.

Looking to tame the beast, putting more power to the trail with no loss to top performance? Give Gagne Lessard a call, don’t be shy they have English speaking staff… what I’m hearing is all good! cheers cr

New Stuff

My friends over on Totallyamaha have probably seen the latest ‘teaser’ but in case you don’t know… Johnny is back (and thank the powers that be… so is Bunny). I would have posted this sooner but I just stumbled out from the mushroom patch 😉

The embargo date for the 2010 sleds is Feb 10 at 12:00 noon EST. We will have all the specs up on our web-sites and after the dust settles, I’ll add my .25 to the controversy.Yes you read that correct. I anticipate that we will have controversy after reading all the conjecture on what we are about to unveil… I do hope the 300hp turbo Apex rumor won’t disappoint too many if it doesn’t happen…  😉  cheers  cr

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Posted @ 9:39 am in Accessory Stuff,Competition and Racing,Industry News,Opinions and Insights   

January 30, 2009

Soucy and G-Force

It has been an interesting week. I drove out to Drummondville Quebec, home of the Soucy Group to meet with their engineers on a couple of projects we are working on. You may not have heard of this company but I guarantee you have experienced one or more of their products at one time or another. They are a major supplier within our industry, building parts for BRP, Polaris and Arctic Cat. The Soucy story is really quite interesting.

msoucy.jpgThe founder, Gilles Soucy an avid snowmobiler, had the vision to purchase much of the tooling and parts for all the old sleds back in the late seventies as most of the original parent companies abandoned the snowmobile business. He started a distribution network for these parts (persoanlly delivering them out of an old school bus) which were still in demand and soon after, entered the manufacturing business to replenish and supplement his new business. His wholesale company, ‘Kimpex’ grew quite large and was later sold-off by Gilles as he shifted his focus to the design and manufacture of OE spec parts.

His venture readily expanded with the award of many OE contracts starting with Skidoo and branching out from there. These days the company specializes in metal fabrication, rubber track and UHMW / plastic products. I had the chance to do a full factory tour and was truly amazed at some of what I saw being produced. The rubber division is making track systems for most of the commercial and agri applications (such as groomers, tractors, combines etc…) and more impressive- secretive military stuff.

I have met Gilles several times over the years (unfortunately he was in Florida on this particular visit). He is a very intelligent and engaging man. One thing is clear when visiting his modern conglomorate, he has somehow preserved the essence of a grass roots ‘mom and pop’ family run operation. It’s reflected in all his employees and it’s not uncommon to see Gilles himself wandering the factories floors, speaking to his people, still an active part in the day to day business. I find there is something very ‘human’ about this big company which leads me to my next visit.

A couple of hours to the south and west of Soucy lies a quaint little town called Coaticook nestled in the hills close to the US Vermont / NH border. I made a point to visit here while in ‘the hood’ because this is the home of G-Force and the groupe.jpgworlds fastest snowmobile. Gilles Gagne and the staff at Gagne Lessard Yamaha, the local dealership and parent to G Force, have something truly amazing going on in the back of their shop. I have had the fortune (sometimes misfortune) of visiting / working with many different performance tuners and modification gurus over the years. I have learned to never take the performance gain claims at face value without asking a few questions and perhaps performing my own validation. I’ve seen enough to know when something is not transparent or too good to be true and I also know when someone is doing it right and is worth a second look. I can tell you one thing for sure, G-Force is the ‘real deal’. Gilles himself is brilliant and he has surrounded himself with a team who reflect his passion, ethic and vision.

team-lamtrac-gforce.jpgI am thinking G-Force is one of the performance industries best kept secrets but if Gilles dream becomes true this is all about to change. I am going to write a detailed report of what I saw in his back room and include a bunch of interesting pictures of some of the mods including his world record (210mph) slipstreamer. He also has developed some special parts to help dial in the Nytro for improved groomed trail riding and is working on some easy and effective (affordable) bolt on horsepower for Yamaha 4-strokes but more on that later.

I couldn’t help but think of sir Tony and the Worlds Fastest Indian when I had dinner with Gilles. If you have never seen this movie, I highly recommend you rent it, throw a little ‘bean oil’ in a hot fry pan and crack a brew. It is a tribute to all back-yard tuners and motor heads with a dream and the passion to make it real. Gilles Gagne is one of these remarkable guys…

cheers cr

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Posted @ 1:08 pm in Competition and Racing,Industry News,Yamaha People and Communication   

January 6, 2009

Best 4-Stroke – Retirees

It is the magazine ‘Sneak Peek’ season when the manufacturers load up the grease guns and invite the key players of the print world and to some extent, the video and cyber media to top secret locations. Where they will be overwhelmed with new model presentations and hospitality in a quest for the most covers and editorial praise.

122608_vol20no3.jpgI had a chuckle reading the latest Supertrax where Mark and Kent were bantering about the best 4-stroke in their ‘Best in Class’ awards. Mark was reminded by his brother that he had just chosen the new Skidoo 1200 over the 09 Nytro based on a Sneek Peek ride. I’ll quote Kent’s reply to Mark’s comment:

Very nicely stated Mark. If I were an idiot, I’d almost be convinced your choice was sensible… Here’s a word I didn’t here in your diatribe, ‘Prototype‘. Now after a few miles on a factory prototype Ski-Doo at 10,000 feet, you’re telling us you want to honor it with our coveted BIC award… with the changes to the 09 Nytro – big changes by the way – it’s dialed in to perfection and is the best 4-stroke sled I’ve ridden.”

My point is, the Sneek Peek’s certainly are a valid marketing tool, especially when you can capture an editor with a track record like the ‘Motorhead’ who has a reputation for accuracy and’ telling it like it is’. That’s not to say the new DOO won’t DOO it but I haven’t heard of any with over 50,000 clicks like some of our triples… time will tell.

I remember the spring of 2002 when we pulled the sheets off the original RX1 at the Yamaha Sneek Peek in Wisconsin. That was the same season Ski-Doo introduced the REV and the media had the challenge to decide on their front covers based on what they rode at the ‘Peek’s’ and following Snowshoot press introduction. (ed: for the record, we got the most 😉 )

Greg sent me a cool picture just before Christmas from our 03 model Peek. It made me reflect on a few things including where theyrx1-pic.jpg all are now.

From right to left: Greg Marier, who before Yamaha was with Scorpion and Cat, has held the posts of managing the original R&D Minnesota facility in Coon Rapids in the 80’s and 90’s, leading product planning for YMUS, then leading marketing and public relations for the snowmobile division to where he currently sits, in charge of the factory race team development.

Beside Greg is Max Aoshima who retired a couple of years ago (but is still hanging around the factory). I first met Max in Alaska during field testing. He is one of the last pioneers of Yamaha snowmobile having worked on the original SL series, played in the hay-day SnoPro era and has had influence on just about every sled we ever produced. He finished up his tenure by taking care of snowmobile testing at our Minocqua facility with Jimmy (hey Cowboy!) Kedinger.

Next to Max is another well known Yamaha engineer, Toshi Yasui who is also a veteran of the snowmobile division, if memory serves me well he was first project leader of the Enticer series then Exciter and for sure he was project leader of Vmax 500/600 back in 92/93. I remember getting quite ‘red’ arguing with Toshi about how the ‘new Vmax500‘ was getting too heavy and the need to put the sleds on a diet. Then there was our TSS discussion, but I won’t go there… Toshi similar to Max is semi-retired and working out of the Tokyo office representing Yamaha with regards to Japan government relations. (Japanese companies are highly government regulated)

Next to Toshi is the father of the RX-1, Takaji (Tim) Nakano. Tim was the project leader for the RX-1 and is now in charge of the snowmobile engineering group. I remember first getting to know Tim as I drove him to Anchorage following a nasty sled crash in Paxson. He was project leader of Vmax4 800, when, on the airstrip at Paxson, he lost vision and flew off the end of the test track into a river. He dislocated his shoulder and bruised his ribs. I was to deliver him to the airplane home. I can still hear his moans from bouncing off the frost heaves cruising down the Denali hiway in an over-sprung Blazer.

Next to Tim is Mike Amano another snowmobile old-timer but more from the product planning side. Funny thing but I remember visiting Mike in a hospital in Asahikawa after he looped an SXR at a very high rate of knots cresting a steep hill up in Shibetsu. Mike is now working within the factories product planning division, governing all products, helping to develop the presentation methodology behind the machine.

Next to Mike is yours truly and I’m still here!

To my right is Ron Ruzewski. Ron is an engineer who came to us with deep roots in CART racing as a suspension guru. It was Ron who designed the A-arm suspension along with Tim and his team. At one point Ron actually had an apartment in Iwata Japan as he integrated into our factory culture. We lost Ron to Penske racing who made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Too bad he’s a good man who loved to ride snowmobiles, I remember trading paint with him on a couple of SRX’s one with the low legs (98 spec) against the less coupled 2000, sorry Ron but I knocked first!

Finally is Stephane Miville from Motoneige Quebec magazine, the official Quebec Federation Publication who assembled our team for the photo-op.

UPDATE; Hot off the press:

New cargo racks for Nytro XTX and Phazer MTX will be available mid January 2009. These racks feature lightweight, durable 5052-H32 Aluminum, with hydro-turf platform for better load stability. Includes exhaust turnout which must be installed with the rack- failure to do so could cause damage to cargo or rack. MSRP 274.95 CDN$

rack-1.jpg rack-2.jpg

For the record, bloggers:  lakercr, Low Slung and snoguzzler are the official winners of my little ABC’s trivia contest… no explanation, just winners! TMDT 😉

cheers cr

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Posted @ 2:00 pm in Industry News,Opinions and Insights,Yamaha People and Communication   

December 30, 2008

Avalanche Tragedy

I was stunned yesterday when I heard the news about a snowmobile tragedy out near Sparwood BC where eight men were killed in two separate  avalanches. In case you had not heard the details, the first avalanche trapped four riders out of the eleven riding in the area. The remaining seven were searching for the victims when a second slide came down on them.

Three guys were able to survive the second slide but were left stranded on the mountain. As of today seven of the missing eight sledders bodies have been recovered.

I followed the story on CBCNEWS.ca as the thought of this tragedy was eating at me. The coverage was as you would expect but the ensuing comments posted on the CBC site were thought provoking and in some cases downright disturbing.

I feel for the friends and families of the victims and offer my deepest sympathies. I also consider those lost trying to save their comrades to be ‘heroes’ not ‘foolish’ as some have posted on the CBC. These guys were experienced riders and well equipped according to the reports I have read. I have to say it repulses me to read comments from those who would turn this horrible event into a ‘ban snowmobiling’ political forum citing us all as irresponsible menace’s and a burden on society.

Helluva way to finish up 2008!

cr

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Posted @ 4:03 pm in Industry News,Travel and Events   

November 5, 2008

Industry Update 11/08

I know better than to discuss politics or religion at a party but I have to say I am happy that the US election has finally taken place. Perhaps we can get on with things under more stable conditions. Funny how only moments after the Canadian election our strong dollar began to plummet and now moments after the US election our price per liter for gas started to rise.

I know, there is no direct connection or greater conspiracy but…

Now I’m looking at some interesting stats on Yamaha. The global revenue was down in the first nine months of the year (less than 4% but nonetheless down) mostly blamed on slumping North American and Euro sales. The company generated a nine month revenue of just over 13 billion USD or 1.3 trillion Yen. I can tell you one thing for sure, those clams weren’t harvested selling snowmobiles! Motorcycle sales were down in NA about 20% as were ATV / Snowmobile but overall motorcycles saved the day with similar increases elsewhere.

To put things in perspective Yamaha sold close to 4.5 million motorcycles in those same nine months which was up from the previous years nine month yield of 3.7 million bikes. Now where did all those motorcycles go you ask? Good question.

117,00 motorcycles were imported to North America and about 300,00 made it to Europe. That still leaves about 4 million and change elsewhere… read: Asia.  The forecast sees the year ending at 6 million motorcycles sold and 17 billion in the coffers. Not bad for a down year I guess. Now lets get back to snowmobiles. Last time I checked the totals it appears world wide sales for all sleds combined (that’s at least 5 manufacturers) adds up to about 160,000 units.

Let me see now 6 million bikes versus 160,000 sleds. That’s very humbling math for a former product manager! So where am I going with all this you ask? Well I really don’t know but the numbers are public and thought provoking to say the least.

I can’t help but wonder how the rest of the world views us here in North America, with our affluent, albeit aging population. We are consuming goods at a much higher rate per capita than most other countries and becoming extremely demanding with regards to our products and lifestyle.

To make matters more interesting we have developed a ‘system’ where-by we are not held responsible or accountable for our own actions more often than not. This clearly ties the hands of many would-be entrepreneurs as they try to market products through a quagmire of potential liability and risk exposure.

From a global perspective, I am willing to bet the golden fruit that used to be the North American market is getting very ripe on the vine. I sincerely hope the new administration in the USA can invoke some positive change for all of us. And for my American friends, please don’t assume I am taking sides here, I am not. Either party can invoke ‘positive change’ and I don’t know squat about politics and whose really driving the bus.

Being a ‘cup is half full’ guy, I’ll be patient and as I await the first freeze and some falling flakes I realize that snowmobiling has never been more important as a vehicle to escape from the world and put a fresh perspective back in my life …(even if it does cost me 2 bucks a liter.)

cheers cr

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Posted @ 3:56 pm in Industry News   

August 21, 2008

Changes at Yamaha Canada

Just when I thought I had it all figured out….

Hey everyone, hope you all have had a great summer. Ben fired in a comment this morning that kinda kicked me in the butt. He reminded me that its been several weeks without a post. Guilty as charged, but let me explain. We made some changes here at Yamaha Motor Canada coming into the summer and I was asked to head up a new division to lead product planning and research including the integration of accessories development. We are covering the complete motorsports group including bikes, ATV’s and of course sleds plus we support our prop heads in their continued growth. I needed to throttle back on quite a few projects (including SledTalk) to focus on my new challenge.

But then it happened, the temps dropped quite a bit this past weekend, the morning air is still chill and returning from my cottage, I saw the first maple tree covered in flame red leaves. Time to start thinking snowmobiles from a riders perspective.

The boys from Yamaha USA’s snowmobile group are traveling up to Toronto next week for a meeting of the minds. We have lots to discuss. There are many changes afoot based on the current economy and several new opportunities for us to explore. I haven’t had an update from Greg and the factory snowcross team but I know they have been working hard in preparation for the new ISOC series. (stay tuned)

On the political front, there are some exciting things shaping up for the provincial associations with the feds, EPA 2012 and access issues which don’t get any easier. At least sled and infrastucture insurance has stabilized somewhat. Through ISMA, the manufacturers collectively, are planning a real push on introducing some new riders to the game which is being picked up by many provincial and state associations, reflected in soon to be announced programs.

The marketing front is seeing a couple new players trying to scratch their way into the big league publications, a couple of new trade shows are in the offing and there are more ‘opportunities’ than ever to partner with arms length promoters with an eye on sledding. End of the day the ‘sno-mo biz’ is in pretty good shape looking forward. I haven’t seen the Farmers Almanac or Environment Canada predictions for snowfall yet but I have a native friend up at the cottage who told me he seen a very good ‘telling sign’ of a severe winter to come. ‘White men are cutting lots of firewood here’... I’ll go with that!

bm.jpgSo there it is, I fully intend to keep blogging as long as I have a receptive audience. The content may change a bit as I am more focused on accessories these days and learning lots of cool things on the ‘wheels’ side which may be of interest to some… (have you checked out our new Vmax 1700?)… I expect our friends over on Totalyamaha may start to come out of hibernation and the forums will begin to heat up. I doo hope the mods are well tanned and rested 😉 Hold onto your toque, ’cause here we go!! Cheers cr

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Posted @ 11:26 am in Industry News,Opinions and Insights,Yamaha People and Communication   

February 1, 2008

Doo 4-Stroke – SX Racing

Never a dull moment..

Well there’s lots of things going on this week, I barely know where to start. I guess the first thing I should doo is welcome our friends at Skidoo to the world of 4-strokes. Their new Vector level 1200 triple should cover the bases for them much better than their previous attempt with the V-twin which never went mainstream. It will be interesting to see how they market 4-strokes against their own 2-stroke message from the past few seasons. Timing is everything I guess.

A new battle has reared its head in Quebec with some special interest groups lobbying to ban snowmobiles from all provincial parks. It appears the science they used to present their argument to government is based on a very old and poorly researched study (from the seventies) with no consideration for the advances made in technology and changes in snowmobile operation. It’s hard enough when we have issues based on real problems to deal with but it gets extremely aggravating when we have to defend ourselves against conjecture and untruths. We will be supporting the Quebec snowmobile federation in engaging this new attack head on.

I had a chance to get caught up with Greg Marier yesterday after he returned with the race team from X-Games:

So Greg, great run at X games. What do you think about the results? “Well, a fourth place finish against the top racers in the world was great, but the way the sled was running and how strong Steve looked, I was hoping the race would run a little longer. Steve was on the top of his game and looked to need just a few more laps to make it to a podium finish. We did show that Yamaha is a contender in sno-cross.”

I have had a question from ‘welterracer ‘ wondering about the power of the race sleds, what can you tell us?
“Depending on our race engine spec and the dyno, I estimate we can make 10-15 more hp than the stock FXNytro. That should put the engine power at around 145hp – But we don’t race dynos – Real power is what you can find in the field, what you can clutch for and get that power put down on the snow. It is different game where the 2-strokes are dealing with a narrow powerband and have to tune for the ‘correct’ pipe temperature; with our 4-stroke, the racer hits the throttle and lays down the torque.

Based on watching at the races, I feel we have enough power to cover the 2-stroke competition, and our power advantage shows up in the holeshot and the drive out of the corners. And to get our power to the snow, we have a lot of data acquisition on board the sleds that has helped us to use our 4-stroke power for greater acceleration.”

Can we talk about the data acquisition you mentioned or is that hush-hush? “No, not at all. We can monitor engine RPM, throttle position, driven clutch RPM, GPS actual speed and sled position, track speed, shock stroke, air, water and drive belt temperature. But when we are racing the main focus is on throttle position, engine RPM and track speed.”

So what is the biggest challenge for the team looking forward? “Hey – Sno-cross racing at the National level will always deliver tough challenges, every race weekend is full of them. Considering that Yamaha also choose to race a 4-stroke meant that many people counted us as ‘non-competitive’ right off the bat. However, thanks to our 4-stroke power and the Camoplast-designed tracks, we’re getting great hole-shot performance. This season, the sled is also working very good in the technical ‘rhythm’ sections, which is a direct result of working closely with the guys from FOX, who have been great to have on board as a new sponsor. What we are really honing in now is on the cornering speed and handling. That’s where I feel we have the most left to gain. One thing that has really come together is how well the team is functioning as a unit. All the guys are really working well together.”

What about the weight of the 4-stroke – is that a major challenge? “Everyone may think ‘lighter is better’ but the first thing a race sled needs is durability, then power, then handling. While we will always be working to get the sled lighter, we cannot sacrifice function or durability just to make a minimum weight. Watching the season so far, the brand that claims to be the ‘lightest’ does not look to be the best overall on the track.”

How about Cory, Jimmy and the new Speed & Style event? “Cory had very little time (having just recovered from injuries), but he hit the ramps to learn some new tricks. He has had some experience with the extreme stuff and really rose to the occasion, He looked especially good through the whoops where some of the guys were having a lot of difficulty. It really is unfortunate he drew LaVallee to compete against in the first round. I give him huge cudos for his efforts. Jimmy is also coming back after some very painful injuries and missed the finals in Freestyle by one spot. It does appear ESPN is putting increased emphasis on the Style events than the snocross race but I guess that’s showbiz.”

Well its snowing like crazy here and we’re shutting down early, dang-it, I guess I’ll have to go home for a ride!!  cheers  cr

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Posted @ 2:02 pm in Competition and Racing,Industry News