Lane’s Inner Geekiness Comes Out

Published in the April 2013 Issue April 2013 Powersport News Lane Lindstrom

With what’s been happening over the past several months with public land use issues and pressure from all sorts of groups to close riding areas and restrict off-road riding, I was all set to write about how we need to be engaged in the process if we’re to protect our riding areas.

I have put several notices, stories and requests on our webpage over the past several weeks and months to keep you informed and ask for your help.

And I was going to make one more plea in this space.

Then I went to Minnesota in January. While in Minnesota I toured one of Team Industries manufacturing facilities near Detroit Lakes as well as Arctic Cat’s engine manufacturing plant in St. Cloud. That’s when I realized I really like to watch that kind of thing. Yeah, kind of geeky, I know.

Really? How can someone watch and think it interesting to see a clutch or transmission system being built? Or watch with any kind of interest an engine being put together from scratch? I can. And I can do it for hours. It really is fascinating to me to watch that process of manufacturing.

I don’t think many riders who like side-by-sides, ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmobiles—anything with a motor-—have much idea of what really goes on when their vehicles are built. They just mash the throttle and want it to go. Not much thought is given about all the design, drawings, clay models, prototype vehicles—all that goes into the final product. It’s much more of an exact science than you might think.

More than once I found myself mesmerized (yeah, again, kind of geeky) by the process. During our tour of Cat’s engine plant, I found myself having to catch up with the rest of the group because I stayed too long in one area watching the engine building process. We watched an engine being built from the bottom up, all the way through the testing process.

Before that trip to Minnesota, it had been a while since I had been on a factory tour. I’ve been to Cat’s manufacturing plant in Thief River Falls, MN, the Polaris factory in Roseau, MN, (as well as the Polaris engine plant in Wisconsin) Ski-Doo/Can-Am’s facility in Valcourt, QC, and Yamaha’s snowmobile manufacturing facility in Japan. I’ve also been to several aftermarket companies of all sizes to watch their process of building all sorts of products we want for our machines.

Still one of the most interesting plant tours I’ve been on was the Carlisle belt factory in Springfield, MO. It was amazing to watch a belt being made from raw rubber. That was pretty cool.

All the factory tours have been very interesting and I don’t think I would ever get tired going on tours. I wouldn’t get tired because there’s so much to watch and soak in. For example, I’ve been on at least three tours of Cat’s manufacturing plant in Thief River Falls, but each time I notice something I didn’t see before. That keeps it interesting for me.

Right about now you’re asking yourself, “Okay, what does this really have to do with anything?”

Well, I know that watching the process gives me a better appreciation for the people who design and manufacture our dirt toys. And it reminds me how complicated a process it is, no matter how automated it becomes. And I appreciate my ride a lot more. As much as some riders want to think their machine was “thrown together” I can say from first hand experience that’s just not true. A lot of time and a whole lot of money go into the manufacture of the vehicles we like to drive.

So, if you ever get the chance to go on a factory tour, do it. I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I do.

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