Author Archives: Josh Howard

Fixing On-road R/C Racing

Fixing On-road R/C Racing

I know we mostly talk about bashing and practical “daily driving” of our toys here, but there’s been something that’s been bugging me for ages: on-road racing. My love for it cannot be put into words. When you get your car dialed in on a nice surface, it’s just sublime. What I don’t love is what on-road racing has become. Raise your hand if you’ve tried it…. go on… I’ll keep waiting.

Despite the increased number of classes at tracks, better tech, and friendly people, on-road numbers are still stagnant or plummeting in areas of the country. So, why is it not growing? I’ll tell you why:

  1. Cost
  2. Comradery
  3. Creativity

Let’s dive into these one by one. Maybe together, we can provide a solution to fix on-road in our area?

Cost

On-road cars can be as cheap or as expensive as we want them to be. The problem is, most racing classes are won by people with very expensive chassis. Not only that, the tech wars of a few years ago have produced a level of sophisticated brushless motor/esc combos that are constantly changing and getting faster with every generation. I’m still a huge advocate for stock(27turn brushed, 25.5 brushless) and blinky(no speed control adjustments allowed) classes. It really seems to even the playing field and make it easier to jump in with an old chassis or old electronics and have fun.

Comradery

We have far too many classes trying to run at tracks. This is causing a detriment to people having fun together racing. Also, if you’re a new person just getting into the hobby, how are you to get help and advice from people who are probably running classes twice as fast as your class? Slim the number of classes down to a few, break racers into groups according to skill, and watch people grow together. Typically this does happen when there are enough drivers. But, you’ll never have enough drivers if there are 7 classes racing on any given day.

Creativity

Part of the rise of the USVTA classes and USGT has to do with the amount of creativity people show when preparing and competing. The bodies look like cars you can actually drive. Speed is secondary in many cases. It’s more about having fun and enjoying the hobby…. GASP. There will always be hyper competitive people, but I enjoy seeing the creative solutions people come up with for putting a faux driver in their old muscle car body and driving that around the track. I’ve also seen a lot older chassis and bodies being used with older tech in such classes.

Now, all of these complaints do vary from track to track. But, head to any local forum, race track, or even to RCTech.net and read about the barriers people have to having fun in on-road racing. Is there a clear fix? Probably not.

As a lover of all things on-road, I feel we at least have to try something. Why not start with less classes, slower motors, and more detailed bodies? We already know what going back is like.

Great (and not so great) Expectations

Great (and not so great) Expectations

There is a problem that exists in the radio control community. No, it isn’t shoddy quality or even toys that don’t work(though that does happen from time to time). The problem that I’m speaking of is expectations.

Often, we purchase our vehicles with intent to use them for one thing and use them for another. Or, we buy low and expect too much. Everyone wants the best product they can get for their budget… not just radio control fiends such as those of us as RC Newb. What we should do more of is re-evaluate our expectations more often. An $80 dollar radio control vehicle COULD be as good as one that’s $200. But, how often does that happen and how likely is that? It all comes down to care and use. I’ve been in this hobby for quite some time and have seen people overspend with the expectation that things won’t break or that they never have to replace parts. I’ve known people that were incredibly disappointed because they wanted to save 5-10 dollars on a kit. When it comes to critiquing harshly, remember that this is ultimately a hobby. We’re supposed to be having fun. Much of that is lost with high dollar rigs the same way it is with expensive sports cars. The percentage of people who can get the most out of them is very, very low.

If I’m giving advice, I always tell people to write down what their needs are. Make a second column afterwards of wants. Visit an online community(which you must because you’re here). Ultimately, you have to spend within your budget.

It’s better to have fun with something small than be disappointed with an expensive 1:5 scale, dirty boat anchor. Heck, there’s a reason most kids start out with New Bright, Nikko, and Jada radio control… they have to start somewhere. Just don’t expect them to do all the same things a “hobby-grade” radio control vehicle will do. Until next time, keep it shiny side up.

Reviewing the Pagani Huayra from Redcat Racing

Reviewing the Pagani Huayra from Redcat Racing

Well hello! It sure has been a while. I think it is safe to say that life happens. For me, it was home improvements since the last time I’ve written here. One big improvement was widening the driveway and walkway to the front door. Using brick, we did quite a bit to make our house look nicer. Not only that, but I finally got what I’ve wanted for some time… room to run my on-road cars. With the track closed and the nearest one over an hour away, I haven’t been able to test this car in the 8 months or so I’ve owned it.

This car would be the Redcat Racing Pagani. With all wheel drive, a stock spec brushed motor, and a very simple 2.4Ghz radio setup, the street price of less than $130 definitely seems appealing. But, is this car all show?

Pagani_detailThe first thing that made me want to buy this was the excellent Pagani body. The pictures I’d seen made it look top notch. In person, it’s equally stunning. The stickers, however, are not. They look good at first, but bubble and peel due to the complex surfaces on the body. Overall body fitment is good, but the body posts are incredibly tall and do not come trimmed to the correct height. The wheels look good and the offsets work well to give the car a scale feel. Even the fake disk brakes look good. Only problem?… they spin with the wheels as they are actually functional hubs.

The second reason I bought this Redcat was their introduction of a belt drive car. Previous cars had shaft drive (as you’ll see in a future review). This car is oddly similar to several Yokomo models I’ve seen. It’s heavy and mostly plastic. However, it does have some nice metal components including a nice motor mount setup. I’d guess the mid motor setup would be to help with overall stability. Add the included old school battery pack though and the car gets rear heavy.

Pagani_rearThe last reason I decided to give it a try was the price. Even with a brushed motor and esc, finding any r/c with a 2.4Ghz remote and ready to run for less than 200 bucks is a true challenge. I purchased mine from eBay just to see what kind of results I’d have. The seller was great and everything shipped quickly. As it turns out, most sellers online do NOT stock anything. Instead, the products come straight from the warehouse in Arizona where Redcat is headquartered. Rather than Redcat having to shoulder the weight of customer service (which I hear is pretty decent), online sellers try to help solve issues. I had no major issues to report so I cannot say how service is, but I’d imagine it to be as good as the person you’re dealing with which, of course, will vary.

So, how’s it drive? Pretty good! For a stock wind brushed motor, the overall speed is good and the car is decently quiet. The servo feels responsive and the esc has a good linear feel to it. As far as electronics go, I couldn’t find a single thing to complain about. The chassis, on the other hand, that’s another story.

There are many good things to say about the chassis. It handles bumps well and seems pretty tough. On more than one occasion, I skidded off my driveway and was able to drive back onto it. The screws are countersunk and they don’t seem to catch on anything. What I didn’t like about the chassis was that rearward weight bias I mentioned earlier.

chassisEven with the offset wheels and tires, the car pushes quite badly off throttle and oversteers to the point of spinning out on hard throttle application. The oil filled shocks work hard to put the power down, but even the softer tires cannot seem to keep up. On older concrete with a rough texture, the car was over-responsive. While driving on the new brick, the car was far less responsive and was prone to spinning out. Perhaps the most noticeable fault was the car’s inability to track in a straight line. I was able to get it close, but the car still pulled. With some small camber and toe in tweaks (which do have adjustments) I’m sure this could be rectified. Something I’ve found is that most cars need adjusting out of the box. For testing of this RTR, I felt it was best to run it as it came out of the box.

There were no shock leaks, but I did notice the differentials leaking fluid. It’s possible the fluid is just too light. Another issue is the exposed belts. The drivetrain is efficient with them, but they are exposed to the elements. It doesn’t take a very large piece of road debris in order to damage the belt. In fact, mine already has some damage from a small pebble. However, it doesn’t seem to be enough to keep the car for running. I was able to run a solid 20 minutes on the included pack without issue.

leakydiff1As you can see, there are several things to like about this Redcat Pagani. But, you do get what you pay for. Most of the issues may be solved with simple car adjustments. The leaking differentials a a bit of cause for concern and the exposed belts will wear quickly with debris outdoors. With that said, the car is still a great deal.

For the money, you get quite a bit of car. One that’s actually perfect for a beginner just to see if it’s something they like. However, the experienced racer may grow tired of adjustments and components that probably need more polish out of the box.

If you’re a basher, this car is perfect for you. Run it until it quits and get another. If you’re a beginner or novice, get it and race with friends. At least you’ll look cool and the car can be adjusted to grow with you as your skills improve. If you’re experienced like me, you can still have fun too. But, don’t expect perfection. After all, you’re getting a “deal”.

(In the near future, I’ll see if I can resolve all the issues and re-test the car to give a more thorough assessment of the car’s potential.)

Bashing an Onroad Car – A Word of Caution

Bashing an Onroad Car – A Word of Caution

Bashing an onroad car can be just as fun as an offroad truck. However, a basher needs to be a lot more picky about chassis selection than, let’s say, a stock class carpet racer. This may seem weird, but allow me to explain with a few points to look out for before you sink money into it.

Remember, most bashing for onroad will be done in parking lots and streets. As such, the surface isn’t perfect. Anyway… here’s my thoughts:

  1. Regardless of how nice you think carbon fiber looks, it means absolutely nothing when bashing a car. Fiber chassis cars get scratched up extremely easily unless they are protected on the bottom. Even then, they still get pretty torn up and eventually can crack or fail due to damage. Stick to plastics and composite plastics for longer life.
  2. Aluminum looks wonderful, but it doesn’t give like plastic. This can cause problems when you hit something. Once bent or cracked, aluminum parts need to be thrown away. The Aluminum can get stressed over time and, depending on the quality, it could develop stress cracks and break. It’s just something to think about if you plan on running hard for long periods of time.
  3. Flex is not your enemy. In fact, flex is good when running on rough surfaces such as asphalt and concrete. The stiffer chassis you have over bumps, the more it’s going to jump around the the less control you have. Hey, if you like bouncing around out of control, breaking pieces, and destroying an expensive chassis, get the carbon fiber car. If you like keeping a car for a while and maintaining control on rough surfaces, get a chassis with at least a little flex.
  4. Depending on what it is that you’re doing, the hottest motor may not be the best one. An uncontrollable car due to too much power, is just as terrible to drive as one with too stiff a chassis. Combine too stiff with too much power and you’re just asking for trouble (broken pieces, worn out parts, etc).
  5. Belts are nice and efficient. The problem is most touring chassis these days have exposed belts. If you want to keep a bulletproof drivetrain for bashing, stick to shaft drive. You can get away with belts in spurts, but eventually road debris WILL find a tooth and the belt will become damaged. Be prepared to change belts quite often if you aren’t able to find a chassis that protects them.
  6. A chassis with gear differentials is going to hold up to bashing a lot better than other differentials. They’re easily rebuild-able and have long service life. Metal is preferred for brushless power but not always required.

As always, maintenance is key. Keep bearings on whatever you have clean, check motor temps often, and keep rocks out from around the electronics. If a person is just interested in a used onroad basher, there are so many Tamiya TT-01s out there that fit these basic requirements. However, there are other great options too. Some of which we’ll be covering in our sub $200 touring car shootout starting with our round 1. No matter what you choose, keep it shiny side up and have fun!

Epic Touring Sedan Test of 2013 – An Intro

Epic Touring Sedan Test of 2013 – An Intro

As many of you have learned via the podcast, we have some exciting things happening in the coming weeks and months regarding onroad cars. I have invested in several onroad RTR or ARR (almost ready-to-run) sedans with the intention of giving you, the readers, some of the most comprehensive knowledge to date on them. While searching for a touring sedan myself, I was outright amazed at the complete lack of information outside of forums on some of the less expensive cars. Forums are great, but many people have loyalties to brands that cloud their overall judgement of new products from lesser known manufacturers.

To truly begin the testing, I needed to set a few rules.

  • Everything included MUST be UNDER or right at $200. This is a budget comparison test. Not everyone wants to spend $350 on a chassis, $100 on electronics, and $100 on batteries only to find out they don’t like running the car.
  • All sedans must be 1:10 scale and already assembled be it RTR (ready-to-run) or ARR (almost ready-to-run).
  • If the ARR item is missing something, it must be able to be obtained while keeping the overall cost of the ARR and missing items at or under 200 dollars.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you how difficult this is turning out to be. It sounds extremely easy coming from a background where I built kits and didn’t originally buy RTRs while racing. As someone who’s been new to different segments of the hobby, I don’t want to build a kit… I want to jump in and see if I like it or not. However, assembly takes time and costs money from a manufacturer standpoint. This is where things get tricky. I won’t unveil too much about what vehicles I’ve chosen as of yet other than the first two. But before I do, here’s 5 things I’ve learned thus far in my search for this comparison test.

  1. It’s totally possibly to get a sweet LOOKING touring sedan for under $200… if you aren’t picky about who makes it.
  2. Hobby shops have to make money, but I’ve been encountering a few in the local area that are very far off the pricing I can obtain the sedans for on the internet. Mostly, I’ve had the employees tell me how awesome the idea is but how terrible the product I want to buy is. I don’t mind someone cautioning me about buying a bad product. However, I’m doing a comparison test FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S BENEFIT. If it’s a piece of junk, let me be the judge. A hobby shop that is persistant about trying to up sell customers does more harm to the hobby by moving people far up in the price range quickly. The goal should be to have more r/c and more bashers or racers. The entire time I was talking to the local hobby stores, I felt as if they really didn’t want to sell me the sedans… hence why their prices never got close to online prices. (As a side note, many of their off road vehicles WERE listed for similar prices to online. This wasn’t just the case at one store but both stores I visited. This leads me to believe that some physical location hobby shops may be shooting themselves in the foot for your business when it comes to onroad cars. You have been warned… be nice.)
  3. You can buy any r/c vehicle you want… but if you can’t get parts when something breaks, that’s a HUGE problem.
  4. Tamiya, Team Associated, Losi… the big guys… they aren’t always what their old reputation puts them as. Things have certainly changed over the years and brands such as Team Associated and Losi have been bought out by larger companies and distributors.
  5. Without a doubt, eBay is probably one of the best resources for purchasing anything in the entire world. (Just don’t expect the same level of service your local hobby shop will give you.)

Well, without further waiting… I give you the first two challengers in Round 1 of the $200 head to head battle:

the Tamiya TT-02 Factory Finished (ARR) vs RedCat Racing Lightning STK (RTR).

Which one is better for the inexperienced driver? Which one makes the better basher? Which one is the better racer? It’s the established brand vs. the new guy. Stay tuned for more details and Round 1 of our Epic Sedan Test 2013.

(Got an idea for which two you want to see featured in a head to head battle? Let us know on Facebook or via Twitter @RCNEWB)