Technology is an amazing thing. I hit my high trajectory golf balls with my graphite shafted, titanium-faced driver further than I ever could have with my old woods. Unfortunately, I now have to go deeper into the woods to find the ball that I sliced out of bounds. Of course, instead of spending my money on these fancy widgets, I realize now that I would have best been served if I had spent time on the practice tee, perfecting my technique.
Off-highway travel has not been overlooked by the technology explosion. Today you can purchase a capable, selectable locked vehicle with upgraded axles and a creepy-low transfer case that comes with special tires and a factory warranty. The Rubicon is an amazing Jeep, and has more features at the showroom floor than many vehicles (including my own) which have undergone expensive transformations.
The focus of this issue’s column is not technology, but practice. Good technique means being able to put a tire on a particular rock almost unconsciously. It means having the right amount of momentum to get over a steep hill easily. And it means knowing how to get through that mud hole with minimal impact and maximum grace.
Practice is something you can do most of the time you are on the trail. Focus on taking good lines through (or over) obstacles. Position yourself to put smaller, single rocks on the trail under your passenger side tire. If you are really good, roll over the rock with your passenger
side rear tire only. Knowing exactly where your tires are is critical to ‘wheeling’ advanced trails. Using a spotter is quite often required, but easier sections of the trail can be easily traversed by a skilled driver who pays attention to taking proper lines. Teach yourself to be that skilled driver.
For hill climbing, practice momentum with small hills and work up towards bigger climbs. The key is to make it to the top (and over) without “catching air”, or stalling before the crest. Our classes cover hill climbs very early on the first day because “gravity thrills and gravity kills”. You can roll your vehicle over and hurt yourself ( or others) on a hill much easier than on most flat trails. If you don’t have enough momentum and stall before reaching the top, the technique is to quickly shift into reverse, and carefully drive backward down the hill. Because you are going backward, steering is reversed (and very twitchy).