Snowmobile dealers in some parts of the country are reporting their best sales season in more than a decade. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “we’re out of new sleds” while talking to dealers over the past month or so. Some dealers who carried over a couple of dozen sleds from last year will go into 2014-15 with nary a sled. One dealer reported driving as far as five hours one way to purchase new sleds from a fellow dealer.
It’s been an incredibly strong winter for them inside the showroom, but they’ll get a kick out of learning about what the cold and snowy winter meant for Crazy Kurt. Kurt Hayden is the owner of Hayden Honda in Kendallville, Ind., and decided last year that he would ride a motorcycle to work every day for an entire year until his 60th birthday.
Hayden, who turns 60 in April, began his journey on April 12, 2013. He lives about six miles from the store, which is open five days a week, although he almost always finds himself at the shop on Mondays as well. Crazily enough, he also took on the feat the year before he turned 50. Hayden’s father opened the store in 1965, and Kurt took over the Powerhouse dealership in 1980.
Hayden does a bang-up job of blogging about his yearlong adventure on Crazykurt.com. “I’m not a self-promoting type person, so they were hard to do at first, but people became interested, so I try to do it as often as I can. Between the blog and Facebook (facebook.com/haydenhonda), it’s surprising how many people know about it. My son Nick got the site for me. This stuff is all new to me, and if I can do it, anyone can.”
A recent post: “I’m way past wanting more snow. The groundhog just saw his shadow! The little varmint should be shot, thrown in a compost pile, and burned! It seems he could see his shadow at midnight during a solar eclipse! I’m done with this snow and cold.”
This one also puts readers alongside him for the ride: “OK, we got lots of snow. I’d guess 8+ inches. I did ride my TRX into work. It has a plow on it, and even with the blade up, I was pushing snow while riding on the county rode. I had to stand up to not have snow blowing in my eyes the whole way! The ride on SR 3 wasn’t too bad. I got behind a couple cars and stayed right behind them doing about 35mph.”
Summertime rides, of course, proved to be the most enjoyable, with the rides providing Hayden with a sense of yesteryear.
“In the summer I rode all kinds of stuff, even scooters. The best ride was on a Honda Metro. I don’t ride long distance anymore, and it was this beautiful afternoon and I’m going 30 mph on a scooter, I’m relaxed and it just struck me — this is fantastic,” Hayden told me over the phone after a less pleasant ride to work. “I just don’t hop on and go for ride, like many guys in my position, anymore. I’d go 500-600 miles a day when I was younger, from here [near Ft. Wayne, Ind.] to Peoria for the Grand National Championship TT. Now I run a dealership and don’t have time.”
Come winter, the ice-packed roads proved to a challenge greater than any sub-zero wind chill temperature. “I can go a mile on the coldest day before I even feel the wind or cold. I get dressed inside, build up as much heat as I can in my cocoon. I’m pretty well sealed.”
But by January, Hayden had ridden to work in temps that reached minus-16 degrees, and that started to get old.
“In January we had two days above 32 degrees. I picked the worst winter that we’ve had for 20 or 30 years to do this,” Hayden said. “It was the coldest January since 1980. I’m over this now. It’s getting to be a pain in the butt.”
His daily gear in those climes included three layers of upper body clothing to go along with a heated vest and jacket. A balaclava and neckerchief also made winter more bearable, along with a solid pair of gloves.
Studded tires aboard a CRF230M helped to keep the bikes upright in the winter, although Hayden counted three tank slappers among his near-misses. From a 750 Magna to F6B to CF500F and CB500R, Hayden’s seat time has allowed him to share the benefits of the various bikes to customers. He’s actually ridden nearly a dozen different models.
“For a lot of dealers, the work gets in the way of fun,” Hayden said. “It allows me to ride and demo stuff that maybe I would not have gotten on, and it allows me to relate to the customer better.”
Blackwell off to retirement
Mark Blackwell has announced his retirement from Polaris Industries after 13 years with the Minnesota-based OEM.
Most recently, Blackwell served as vice president of special projects at Polaris. He had been based out of his home office in Temecula, Calif., the past two years, where he and wife, Patti, were able to spend time with their son Brett, now in college.
In a letter to industry friends and associates, Blackwell said his retirement date would be the first quarter of 2014.
“My time and work with Polaris have been the best of my life, and I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given and the support I received. Clearly, Polaris is a great company with an outstanding board of directors, senior leadership team and employees. I firmly believe that the alignment of ownership and incentives combined with the corporate culture are among the best of any company in the world,” Blackwell wrote.
Dave McMahon is editor in chief of Powersports Business. Contact him at 763/383-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.