Reflections: The Ronnie Ouimet Story (Robert Dodge)
Published on March 6, 2011 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Vintage
Tags: , ,

In 1956, a young cement truck driver was opening a motorcycle shop on Alger Street in Adams, working 40 plus hours on the job, sometimes over 50 plus hours nights and weekends. This young man wanted to take a shot at the big times. How far would it go, how well would he do, and long would it last? He didn’t know, but 21-year-old Ronnie Ouimet was willing to take a chance (not a risk) on himself.

Born in 1935 and raised by his grandparents, Ronnie was married at the young age of 16. A father by 19, this man had already assumed the responsibilities of most men far older. By the time he was 21, with a good job already in hand, this young guy decided to go for it; thus was the beginning of Ronnie’s Cycle. Right from the start, Ronnie’s dealt with class-act equipment, selling Harley Davidson.

Business was good. By the 1963-64 season he started selling and servicing Yamaha motorcycles and opened a second dealership in Pittsfield. Moving ahead a few more years to 1966, Ronnie’s Cycle started selling snowmobiles… Moto-Ski.

Ronnie Ouimet Vintage Yamaha Snowmobile advertisement

Ronnie Ouimet was photographed riding a 1971 Yamaha GP 396 for Yamaha’s national snowmobile ad campaign.

Now, for you sledders out there, this promises to get interesting. In his first year of selling sleds (just like bikes) Ronnie wanted to go racing… hey, its not all sale and service, ya know. Besides, it’s good business, especially if you win! And win he did. Ronnie did really well on the local scene, he had a good following, sales were good and life was good. BUT… he wanted to see how he would fare against some bigger names, so he and his good friend Roy Hoellerick loaded up their Moto-Skis’ and went to Boonville, N.Y. Ronnie ran a ‘66 Capri with a souped-up 300cc (a cut head, straight pipe, larger carb) and went out and showed ‘em how it was done.

When the flag dropped, the… you know the rest. Anyhow, this guy, 31 years old, goes out and does battle in a “run what ya brung” race and comes home with the gold! $385.00 and a beautiful 4 ft. trophy, the Adirondack Cup! The race? The first sanctioned USSA race in the Northeast. History in the making! That is pretty neat in my opinion. (See photo at top of post)

The next year Ronnie’s started selling Ski-Doo, and was still doing well on the local racing scene. He went to Eagle River, Wisconsin and did okay, but no gold. Onto West Yellowstone he went. Ronnie was testing-out a new 340 for Ski-Doo and set a new track record, 46 mph. Remember this was 1967–that was fast!

While hanging out in the pits, Ronnie saw a guy wearing Yamaha colors and learned that Yamaha had built a sled. As soon as the guy from Yamaha heard that Ronnie had a Yamaha bike dealership, he asked Ronnie to fly out to Los Angeles, California to see the first Yamaha snowmobiles in the U.S. The new sleds were grey and white and had a 351cc engine.

Ronnie Ouimet and Yamaha snowmobile engineers

Ronnie Ouimet and Yamaha snowmobiles. (L-R) Ronnie, factory engineer, Jim Hoellerich, Toshi Kaga, head engineer with the Yamaha snowmobile.

Somewhat hand picked by Yamaha, two of the sleds were shipped to Ronnie via airfreight to Hartford, Connecticut. Ronnie and his friend Jim Hoellerick (Roy’s brother) took these two sleds, along with a factory team bike rider, and did some test tuning in the hills of Savoy. The following year Ronnie’s was selling Yamaha, alongside Ski-Doo, Harley Davidson and Yamaha bikes. He was busy, but he was doing what he truly enjoyed… anything with motors and racing.

From that first year on, until the mid ‘70’s, Ronnie went to Japan, Canada, and Alaska, to take part in research and development for Yamaha. Being part owner of H & R Machine had also helped with the task of having to build pipes, carbs, and whatever else they needed. They simply built it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Ronnie Ouimet Vintage Yamaha Snowmobile advertisement

Ronnie Ouimet was photographed riding a 1971 Yamaha GP 396 for Yamaha snowmobile ads. This vintage machine is very desirable.

Ronnie, along with Yamaha, formed a race team out of Wisconsin. Onboard came the team of brothers- Wayne and Lynn Trapp, and cousin Mike Trapp. With Ronnie being the oldest of the bunch, he was no slouch! Remember, he was building a lot of “trick stuff” for the factory racers at this point, so he got to test it on the track. Once perfected, it would go on everybody else’s sled, and then he would go onto something new.

Ronnie Ouimet and Mike Trapp on Yamaha snowmobiles

Ronnie Ouimet and Yamaha snowmobiles. (L-R standing) Sam Ashida, Mike Trapp’s mechanic, Mike Trapp, (seated) Ronnie Ouimet and his mechanic Tony Hisatomi.

He ended up going to the World Championship in Eagle River three times. Ronnie had a good run, hanging it up when he was 41 years old.

Not to be forgotten, or to blend into the crowd, Ronnie’s Cycle continued to support more race teams and solo riders over the last five decades than one could imagine, be it bikes, ATV’s or sleds. Having been an original team driver and doing R&D for Yamaha, he got a hold of some of the coolest stuff that Moto-Ski, Ski-Doo and Yamaha had to offer, not to mention the bikes.

This man has truly done well. Ronnie has built an empire that any man would be proud to have. With seven businesses, this accomplished gentleman in his early 70’s has showed no slowing down. A pilot of some 40 years, Ronnie flies himself anywhere he needs to go, but his favorite mode of transportation is his bike. Why not, that’s where it all started!

This past year, Ronnie received an award from Harley-Davidson for 50 years in the business. In fact, he has one of the oldest dealerships in the U.S.! Wrapping it up, I want to thank Ronnie for all that he has done for our sport, and all motorized sports for that matter. Ronnie is a personal friend of mine, I’ve known him for years, and I’ve done business with him. I didn’t write this to give his business a plug, that’s simply not my intention. I only wanted to recognize one of the most competitive and hands-down nicest men I have ever known.


«   »

Return to full list of entries

%d bloggers like this: