The great thing about the snowmobile industry is the amazing people that make it up. There is no shortage of unique characters in our sport, probably because it takes a pretty special person to be a diehard snowmobiler.
When you think about it the sport is very demanding, it takes an incredible amount of time and a pretty depressing amount
of money to do it. Snowmobiling takes a lot of commitment and getting hooked on it can cause other areas of your life to suffer. For snowmobilers, all those sacrifices are worth it. The joy of a bluebird day and bottomless powder makes it all worthwhile.
Chances are, by the very fact that you are reading this maga- zine you totally get this and can relate to guys like Troy Johnson. Troy is one of the few guys that has been able to form his life around snowmobile and has put him- self in a place he can ride incredible country on a daily basis. He truly lives for snowmobiling and SledHeads has been fortunate to work with Troy for many years and involve him on many magazine projects. We’ve never gone behind the scenes with Troy about how he got to where he is today. This is Troy’s Story.
Troy grew up in Utah and worked road construction until he left for school. In the early 80s, Troy had his first introduction to snowmobiling on an old Arctic Cat Panther and was instantly hooked. A few years later he bought his first snowmobile: a 1982 Yamaha SR-V. Since then, Troy has always ridden Yamahas.
For about a decade Troy would travel up from Utah to Alpine to snow- mobile as much as possible. Finally he got sick of the city and decided to make Alpine his home.
“I love Alpine because it is like camping everyday,” he said. “You can do any kind of recreation you want here. From snowmobiling to boating and everything in between, it’s all right here.”
In 1990, Troy opened a repair shop in Alpine and a few years later it became a Yamaha snowmobile dealership.
For over thirty years Troy has been a Yamaha guy and is prob- ably best known for building Yamaha mod sleds, several of which have been SnoWest Magazine project sleds.
As an avid motocross rider Troy has ridden Yamaha bikes since before he started riding Yamaha sleds in ‘82. “I took on the Yamaha dealership in Alpine because I knew they were a good manu- facturer and built reliable machines and it was nice to have one manufacturer for bikes and sleds.”
And so a long lasting marriage with Yamaha began, one that still continues to day, even though he sold the Yamaha dealership a couple years ago.
Evolution of the Turbo
Over the years Troy has seen a lot of changes in snowmobile technology and has always been involved in trying to improve the machines performance with aftermarket modifications. From turbos on V-Max4s in the mid ‘90s to pipes, porting and big bores of the two-strokes, and onto the four-stroke turbos, Troy has been involved the whole way through and has seen a lot of changes.
“The biggest changes have been to suspension and chassis. Sure, power- plants have come a long way, but we have had horsepower for a long time. Turbo V-Max4s made a ton of power. These days we have horsepower in the chassis, which can be ridden and are more maneuverable. But there have also been a lot of other improvements, like in belts and clutching. Back in the day we used to rebuild clutches all the time because they got so hot and the belts would melt. Thanks to new belt and clutch materials and designs this really isn’t a problem anymore. Not on my Yamahas, anyway.”
When Yamaha first launched the RX-1, Troy was quick to jump on board and try to make something special out of that sled.
“The RX-1 was pretty poor at first, until we put some boost on them and longer tracks,” Troy said. These big horsepower four-strokes quickly became the weapon of choice for riders who were serious about climbing.
“I think that the four-stroke turbos are what led to the more recent trend of tur- boing the two-strokes. By its very nature a four-stroke is more forgiving to tune so once everyone figured out how to make the turbos work on four-strokes, they applied that to the two-strokes. Most of the turbo companies making two-stroke turbos these days got their start on four strokes like the RX-1 and Apex,” said Troy.
Even though the Apex is a few years old now, a turbo Apex is still Troy’s primary sled. When asked his opinion on four-strokes these days, he told us “it’s not all peach- es and cream but four-strokes definitely have their place. I ride one because I can have a lot of power and a sled that comes home every time. Yamahas are not throw-aways. Some turbo sleds are only good for one or two years. These are more like a sled that you can get five or 10 years out of.”
Troy’s three-year-old turbo Apex is a testament to this reliability. It has over 5,000 miles on it and the engine has never been opened up.
Troy is an amazing rider, very calcu- lated and in control all the time. With 30 years of experience he has learned a lot and these days he rarely gets stuck and can go anywhere he needs to. He knows his local area so well that he usually ends up leading the group and is great at making sure everyone stays together and is always the first to help people get unstuck.
Over the years, the SnoWest and SledHeads editorial staff have called on Troy’s knowledge and opinion many times. Troy’s favorite story with the crew is when he went testing with SnoWest publisher Steve Janes and SledHeads editor Ryan Harris on the first project sled he built for SnoWest: a 1997 Yamaha Mountain Max 700.
On the first ride with the modified sled, Troy took them up to Windy Point so that they could do some long climbs and work on the clutching. Ryan was very eager to see how the sled ran so Troy agreed to let him take it up the hill but specifically pointed to a tree about half way up the slope and told him not to go past that. Ryan agreed and took off up the climb. With the throttle mashed to the bar, Ryan went blitzing past the agreed upon turn-out point and kept going toward the top. By this time Troy was getting pretty nervous and turned to Steve and said he is going to burn that thing down. Ryan’s vertical ascent continued for a few more seconds before the motor came to a stop, transforming the pistons and cylinders into one piece. Aside from that, the other problem was that the sled stopped
very near the top where it was very steep so Ryan had to hold the machine to stop it from rolling all the way to the bottom. Troy and Steve had to hike all the way up to get the machine turned around.
Ever since then, Troy has been a bit more careful and more specific (threatening) with instructions when dealing with Ryan.
Another trick Troy has learned is to always bring a first aid kit with band-aids when Steve is around. Especially if there are any type of hand tools involved, no matter the simplicity of the tool or task, Steve is renowned for leaving Troy’s LCC shop with some kind of cut.
Lincoln County Customs
Troy sold his Yamaha dealership in 2007 so that he could concentrate on more custom projects. He kept the same shop on Greys River road and renamed it Lincoln County Customs.
These days Troy continues to ride daily in the winter and race motocross in the summer. Even at 47 years of age, and with two fused ankles, Troy still rips on a motocross bike and usually comes home from the races with a pocket full of cash and several trophies. For years, Troy has been close friends with Brad Ball and has built a few sleds for Brad over the years. When Brad launched MotorFist in 2009, Troy quickly came on board and has been a big supporter of MotorFist. Troy will be carrying MotorFist clothing in his store and is going to become the first MotorFist Flagship store.
When asked what Troy’s goals for the future are his reply was simple, “I just want the areas we ride in now to stay open forever.” But Troy realizes that we can’t just all sit back and expect these riding areas to remain open. Troy has been involved in politics at a local level for years and is cur- rently running to become the Mayor of Alpine and if elected he hopes to unite the town’s businesses and people.