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Posts Tagged ‘Off Road’

A fundamental issue that arises when evaluating the offroad driver is speed. All too often you’ll see someone hammer down the throttle while negotiating an obstacle, and invariably you’ll get to witness something break, twist, grenade, or the holy grail of ignorance…the roll over! Believe me when I say these things can be common for those who control their throttle and exercise caution also. But let’s just say that the probability is greatly reduced.

Knowing when to get on the gas is just as important as knowing when to stay off. This one single skill when mastered will save your rig, save your money, and complete the mission.

Do you know your limits and those of your vehicle? Speed and recklessness will point them out quicker than any obstacle in your way ever could. Getting on the accelerator at the wrong moment of an off camber situation will pitch you right over, which can result in you on your side or upside down at the edge of the trail with your gear dumped… or it can pitch you right off the side of a cliff ending in a single or multiple fatality!

Imagine for a moment you’re in your Land Rover or Jeep crawling over some very large rocks in a riverbed after a rainfall when the trail is at its roughest and your passenger front tire gets wedged; bringing you to a stop. You attempt to turn the wheels which severely stresses your steering components, you throttle up and… BANG! An axle breaks, a tie rod bends, or a steering knuckle snaps. It happens just that fast. Larger, heavier tires compound this problem. Add lockers into the equation and it’s even more probable that breakage will occur. We’ll get into the spare parts list and the portable welder at a later date.

Slow, consistent throttle application is the key to proper offroading. Choose the lowest gear and don’t manipulate the gas too much. An inconsistent application of the gas will cause you to bounce. When you bounce, your vehicle is out of control… out of YOUR control. If you’re lucky, it comes to a stop and you try again. If you’re unlucky, it flips over depending on the incline and obstacle. But there’s an often-overlooked situation that occurs when you bounce, which is WEIGHT. The bounce can compound the weight of your vehicle as it makes contact with the ground again… making the possibility of driveline and/or axle failure a reality. Slow and smooth is what we’re after here.

When do I get on the throttle you may ask? Each scenario presents its own unique set of challenges, but my answer for the purposes of this writing is MOMENTUM. Sometimes you just need to carry enough speed not to get mired in the muck. Maybe a quick blip on the gas is what makes the difference of getting your rear wheels over the rock to avoid the bounce. Use your best judgment and FEEL what is going on with your vehicle.

Another speed consideration is crossing water. After first getting out of your vehicle and determining that you can in fact cross without sucking water through the intake and hydro-locking your engine, approaching the water with sufficient speed to create a bow wave in front of your vehicle and driving in the lower water level behind it is the proper way to handle the situation. Stay tuned for more on the raised air intake, commonly known as the “snorkel” and prepping your rig for water.

Until then, control your speed and keep the shiny side up!

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It’s a long way down to the canyon floor below as the Land Rover hugs the mountain wall on one side, and a steep ledge on the other. The growl of the V8 is a little more pronounced in low range as you climb the rocky trail towards the summit. There is a storm rolling in and you can’t help but want to get off the side of this mountain before it rains and makes forward progress more difficult and dangerous. Looking down the side of the mountain to the left you see large pine trees, but up ahead the trail becomes measurably steeper. You wonder to yourself if it’s the end of the line as the path narrows and your hood is pointed up toward a wall of trees. But you notice that it’s a switchback, a very tight switchback cut into the face of the mountain turning to the left. It takes a moment to decide how to cut the turn properly to avoid having to back up and at the same time negotiate the washed out section of trail at the apex of the turn. You engage the DiffLock…

You make it through the switchback as the trail narrows further and climbs higher. The view of the mountain valley is breathtaking as you begin to enter a layer of low level clouds hugging the mountain near the top. A very loud crack of thunder follows the bolt of lightning as the air cools and it starts to sprinkle rain; you’re pulse rises and that feeling of having run out of time sets in. The windshield wipers flick back and forth as you negotiate a particular rocky section on your approach to the next switchback turn to the right. You wonder what this trail could possibly have been used for, what purpose it must have served.

It’s really pouring down rain and it starts to course down the rocks and ruts in the trail. The wet mud terrain tires are breaking their grip on the rocks on the steep climb and it’s time to engage one of the lockers. You decide on the rear first, because you know that if you engage the front it will be too difficult to steer should there be another switchback. You pick a line closest to the mountain wall and as far away from the steep drop on the right side of the rover; your blind side. The front end is pointed very steeply upward as the hood obscures your view to the trail ahead; all you know is what you remembered earlier of some very large rocks coming up. The truck is pointed so far up in front that it’s impossible for you to lean out to see; all you can do is negotiate the rocks from memory. The right front tire engages the first rock lifting the front end even higher as you try and figure out how close to the edge you are. The axles are crossed and you’re glad you’ve got those lockers now. With nothing but a storm filled angry sky in view through the windshield, one tire on a rock and another in the air, you break over onto a ledge cut into the mountain.

You’re foot is shaking on the accelerator and you let go of the death grip on the steering wheel. You’re there, you know at last why this trail exists. At this moment your eyes follow two narrow gauge railroad tracks straight into a mine shaft; into the pitch black of the mountain you’re on. As the rain lets up, you jump out and make your way to the entrance; you can’t help but notice the musty ice cold air escape the opening in the mountain… you turn on your flashlight, it’s time for the adventure to begin.

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