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Two Days Great at Arctic Cat: The June 2015 Report


(6/18/2015)

 

At Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Man, where DOES the time go? It had been a few months since my last trip to Thief Rivers Falls and Arctic Cat. Way too long if you ask me. It won't happen again, I promise.

Fortunately I'm back on track after spending a couple days there this past week, where I joined Kale Wainer (above) on various snowmobile, ATV and UTV projects that you'll see over the coming weeks and months.

It's always good to go home to Cat.

 

At Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I'm always curious what will be on display inside the entrance. This time it was a snowmobile display of 2016 models including an M series, CrossTrek 9000 and an El Tigre package ZR9000.

This sight combined with the familiar industrial scent of manufacturing immediately pulled the rope on my waiting-for-winter engine! It's only June, and even though I have a lot of stuff planned for this summer (including some cool Wildcat rides), I had my first strong longing for the upcoming winter.

 

Building 2016 M8000 Sno Pro snowmobiles at Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The processes that produce that wonderful scent produced by welding, painting and myriad other manufacturing steps that culminate with the assembly and production of Arctic Cat snowmobiles, ATVs and ROVs.

 

Building 2016 M8000 Sno Pro snowmobiles at Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

This week the wheeled machines were on a short break but the snowmobiles were rolling down the line like clockwork.

 

Building 2016 M8000 Sno Pro snowmobiles at Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2016 M8000 Sno Pro models came alive in their glorious green, white and black.

They weren't the only green sleds rolling off the assembly line this week...

 

Building 2016 Arctic Cat ZR120 snowmobiles. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

...as a whole bunch of 2016 ZR120 models were being built on what is normally the ATV line.

In the more than 25 years I've been going to Arctic Cat, this was the first time I've timed it perfectly to see 120 (or Kitty Cat) production.

It was significant for me because every single time I see an ATV or snowmobile on the assembly line, I think of the person who will eventually own it. I think of the build up to their decision to buy one, and then of the anticipation and excitement they feel once they've decided to get one. And then the day that he or she gets the machine at the dealer and brings it home. That first time it's in the garage and he's sitting on it, imagining all the rides.

We all know those feelings; they're so powerful that they're nearly glorious. Especially for that first machine that we get.

Now... think about what it's like for a kid who wants a 120. Incredible!

That's what I was thinking about when I saw all these little dreams being built.

 

Building 2016 Arctic Cat ZR120 snowmobiles. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

There will be memories made on these machines that will last a lifetime. These first tracks will lead to decades of trails and adventures.

Some kids who get the batch of 120s built this week will become Team Arctic racers. Some will ride snowmobiles to school when they're old enough. Others will enjoy they're favorite vacations on snowmobile trips with their family.

Some will make huge life decisions based on their passion for the sport, such as where they go to college or trade school, where they live as adults and even whom they marry.

Such is the life-affecting gravity that begins when they first throw a leg over these cool little snowmobiles.

Whew, powerful stuff! I'll keep it lighter for the rest of this post. But let it be known that seeing those sleds on the assembly line was my favorite site of the whole trip.

 

Arctic Cat ATV/UTV engineers John Anderson and Ryan Hughes. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Seeing these two guys inside the ATV Engineering shop also put a smile on my face!

John Anderson (left) and Ryan Hughes are two guys who fully understand the passion that's home to Arctic Cat. Anderson is a Service Technician (who happens to be a vintage snowmobile fanatic) and Hughes is the Product Team Manager of the Utility ROV models (such as the Prowlers) who has been at Arctic Cat since 2003.

These guys were hard at work on the 2016 models, which will be pretty dang kickass and unveiled later this year.

 

Arctic Cat Senior Graphics Stylist Corey Friesen. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Corey Friesen is another guy who feels the passion for Arctic Cat, as well as the Chicago Blackhawks.

Friesen is the Senior Graphics Stylist at Arctic Cat and one of the most die-hard puckheads I know. He was pretty pumped about Chicago taking the Cup on Monday.

He was also pretty pumped about the 2017 Arctic Cat snowmobile graphics he'd been working on about 10 minutes before I shot this photo. I didn't get a chance to see them, but Corey promised a look the next time I was in town. I'll let you know what I think after I see them. 

 

Arctic Cat's Steve "Abe" Broten. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

A few minutes later I was walking through the Arctic Cat machine shop area and saw a couple friends working on stuff. Steve "Abe" Broten was working his magic on the lathe. Monday this week marked his 26th year at Arctic Cat! Congrats Steve.

 

Arctic Cat's Mike McArdle. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Mike McArdle was fabricating a fitting for use in the snowmobile engine dyno room that he operates.

It always impresses me when engineers like McArdle, who don't fabricate for a living, can whip stuff up on a press or lathe as if they do it 40 hours every week.

 

Inside Arctic Cat engineering. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After chatting a few moments with Mike, I met up with snowmobile engineer Bart Magner (left, shown talking with Ben Salentiny).

Bart works as Drive Engineer in the Drivetrain group at Arctic Cat, whose job is to finalize clutch calibrations on snowmobiles. Bart can ride a snowmobile for two minutes and tell you everything that it's doing. Literally. Like whether it's clutched one gram too heavy on the weights; if the suspension needs more rebound dampening; if the engine is running too lean off-idle; if a slight vibration in the footwell originates from the belt or the track; and a hundred other things. He notices EVERYTHING and he knows how to calibrate for them.

Bart can also ride a snowmobile as fast as anyone I know, and has been known to win snowmobile races whenever he gets the urge to compete.

There are a lot of people at Arctic Cat who do an exceptional job each and every day, but most of the world seldom hears about them. Bart is one such person.

He agreed to let me interview him in the coming weeks, albeit reluctantly because he's so dang modest. I needed to get a couple pix of him for the interview.

 

Arctic Cat engineer Bart Magner on the company test track. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After shooting the pix, he needed to run a 2016 CrossTrek 8000 a few laps on the paved Arctic Cat test track.

 

Arctic Cat engineer Bart Magner on the company test track. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

He rode a dozen or so laps, stopping in the water shed on every fourth to fill up the slide lube system and cool the track.

 

Sporting Clays with Matt Hughes and Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

A cool extracurricular event was going on this week at Arctic Cat: a visit from Matt Hughes (left), the 9-time UFC Welterweight champion and Hall of Famer.

Hughes retired from UFC competition in 2013. Now he's the host of Uncaged with Matt Hughes, an un-scripted reality TV show based on his life and hunting adventures.

 

Sporting Clays with Matt Hughes and Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

He was at Arctic Cat filming an upcoming episode for the third season of the show, and part of the visit included an evening of shooting sporting clays at the TRF gun club with a group of Arctic Cat employees.

 

Sporting Clays with Matt Hughes and Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The Wednesday night sporting clay league is woven into the fabric of life for some Arctic Cat people.

 

Sporting Clays with Matt Hughes and Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Having Hughes join the group was pretty cool, in part because he's a genuinely good guy who loves the sport, and because he's just a regular guy when he's not in the ring.

 

Sporting Clays with Matt Hughes and Arctic Cat. Photo by Brian Dick

Conversely, I must NOT be a genuinely good guy or a regular guy in any situation outside of the ring, because everyone laughs at me when I whiff shooting at clay pigeons.

As if missing shots and getting laughed at by your friends isn't bad enough, things really turned south for me when I challenged Hughes to one round of fighting.

 

Matt Hughes puts Sandberg in his place.

The fight lasted 2.1 seconds before I tapped out and crumpled to the ground in a puddle of what-the-hell-just-happened?, so ending my very brief career as an aspiring fighter.

It was lights-out for me and for my first day in TRF.

 

Soo 500-winning Arctic Cat ZR6000R race sled of Brian Dick & Wes Selby. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Day two was spent at the Team Arctic Race Shop, where I captured photos of various sleds for an upcoming expose like this one on Ryan Simons' X Games-winning Hillcross sled.

The star of this photo shoot was the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR6000R mod sled that won this year's Soo 500 enduro at the capable hands of Team Arctic's Brian Dick and Wes Selby.

 

Team Arctic racer Trent Wittwer's ISOC winning Arctic Cat ZR6000RSX. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I also took pix of the ISOC Amateur class-winning snocrosser of Team Arctic's Trent Wittwer. It's a stocker, but it has some pretty cool tricks that personalize it for Trent.

 

Team Arctic's Wes Selby is honored by myself and Mike Kloety. Photo by Kale-ArcticInsider.com

And I finished off the hero shots by grabbing a few pix of Wes Selby (center) with his three race-winning sleds from this past season. On the left is his mod hillcrosser/hillclimber that collected a couple wins at the end of the season. That's the Soo 500 winner on the right, of course. And in the middle is his stock ZR6000R XC sled on which he scored wins in two USXC races and took a close second in points (behind teammate Zach Herfindahl).

That's Team Arctic Race Manager Mike Kloety on the right, joining me in pointing at the all-star Selby.

 

ArcticInsider trip to Arctic Cat. June 2015

We needed nourishment after the arduous, energy-sapping photo shoot, so Selby, Kloety, Ben Langaas (right) and I headed to Biff's (formerly Dee's) where we loaded up on calories and laughed about how I got my butt kicked by Matt Hughes the evening prior.

Langaas is a pro Team Arctic cross-country racer who is interning Arctic Cat's Engineering department this summer. Pretty cool!

 

Dimmerman visits the Team Arctic Race Shop. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After lunch it was back to the Race Shop where, lo-and-behold, in walks (L-to-R) Team Arctic champion Jim Dimmerman, Kale Wainer and Tom Rowland from Thomas Sno Sports.

 

Team Arctic's Wes Selby and Jim Dimmerman. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Dimmerman spent untold hours in the former Team Arctic Race Shop during his career as a factory Sno Pro racer beginning in 1978.

He had never been to the new location, so he had all kinds of questions for Selby about what goes on in the shop these days and how it compared to his time.

 

Jim Dimmerman on the 2015 Soo 500 winning Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Always a good sport for my goofball requests, Dimmerman shows his hang-it-out style on the Soo 500 winning sled.

I can't be the only person who truly would love to see Dimmerman hang it out on an oval track again someday.

 

Christian Brothers Racing shop in Fertile, MN. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

It was good to see Dimmerman and Rowland, but it was also time to head for home, stopping at the Christian Brothers Race Shop in Fertile, Minn., where nine ZR6000R race sleds are being built into enduro/Soo sleds for the upcoming season. The sleds, which are identical replicas to the '15 winner, will be for sale to Team Arctic enduro racers. I'll have a story on this project soon.

That's all for this trip. I promise another one in July!

Thanks for reading.



Comments (9):

Allen Teach says:
6/19/2015 11:17:00 AM

Great story John and the Soo portion has pushed me well past the tipping point to ask about an idea I have had for a while. What would you guys think about organizing a group ride from the St. Germain HOF to the 2016 Soo 500 race? I do not have a clue how many many miles or any details but I think it could be great fun in the spirit of Ride with Champs. It is an event many of us want to cross of the bucket list made better by the impressive Arctic effort of late. Maybe next year is not the one to do it as hopefully the Winnepeg runs and takes the time and HOF effort but just a thought.
Scott Watters says:
6/20/2015 6:37:00 PM

Great write up John and for me the factory one's are the best one's to read 2 or 3 times over picking something new up every time.
Tom White says:
6/21/2015 7:12:00 PM

Thanks for another great story. It looks to me like you had Matt Hughes right where you wanted him, I'm surprised you didn't print the photo of you flipping him over your shoulder. You're far to modest.
Bob says:
6/22/2015 11:47:00 AM

Absoloutely unreal John, how you come up with a different article week after week is truly amazing! You dont see this stuff on the "other" guys sites! With Cat, its's the sleds for sure, but it's the people, the history and the "up close" interviews with the folks at Arctic Cat that make the brand and the sleds. I remember when I was at the factory for the 50th, I was amazed how many people that hadn't a clue who I was, shook my hand and said, "thanks for coming out and supporting us". And who said Vulcans were the only ones with green blood!!!!!
Paul Nadeau says:
6/22/2015 5:47:00 PM

Thanks John for another great article. Bob is right, it is unreal what you bring to us in every article. thank you! Hey Jim, I would bet a fiver that someone in the Arctic clothing dept could whip up a nice new suit for the Soo! Ok Christian Bros racing, time to put on the push to get Jim back in the saddle again!
jimr says:
6/23/2015 7:17:00 AM

I have a 15 LXR 6000 waiting for me to pick up at RV Sports. Going to be a great winter. September cannot get here soon enough. My pickup month.
Kevin Koehler says:
6/23/2015 2:47:00 PM

John
Any word if Zach will be back on a Cat for 2016, or are the two ( giants ) fighting over him with there thick walets?
Becky E says:
6/28/2015 12:43:00 AM

Great article John! If I may suggest, next time swing through Purchasing, say hi! We may not have the flash of Ohhh say Corey Friesen, but we're pretty dang cool! Thanks for the fun read!
Raymond Fouch says:
12/30/2015 9:08:00 PM

So much fun seeing the cat factory! Jim Dimmerman looks like he could still compete on the track and I have the 81 sno-pro he could ride.

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