As another year of our sport fades into the history books, it is time for us to look back and reflect on some of the most popular, and least loved, trends of 2008. We have identified several of the trends that lit up our radar screen, but we'd love to hear what you think was cool, or what happened during the year that irked you. Let us know on the forums at www.fourwheeler.com.
No Lift Wheeling
In recent years we have seen more and more vehicles attempt to fit larger tires with little or no lift. This has the added benefit of a safer rig with greater stability with a lower center of gravity adding up to exceptional trail ability. Throw in once treacherous hillclimbs or side slopes and you'll be sold too. Such kits as the AEV Highline kit raise the fenders up on Jeeps to allow 35s or 37s with stock or near-stock height suspension.
What was once the exclusive domain of the two-wheel-drive prerunners, long-travel 4x4s have become increasingly poplar due to the high capability and exceptional comfort on and off the trail. We experimented with long-travel four-wheel-drives with Project Range Runner and were blown away by the results. Four-wheel drive and high speed are starting to gain traction beyond prerunning to racing classes in SCORE and CORR, which means the aftermarket has responded with trickle-down technology for the common truck. Even Ford has plans for a "trophy truck you can buy from the factory" with its upcoming limited-production Raptor. We have also heard rumors of Toyota looking into a similar low-volume edition of the Tundra, and we know other OEMs, such as Hummer, have studied the idea. We just hope this isn't the last we hear of the factory long-travel truck. Although if it is, there are several companies out there willing to build one for you for the right amount of Benjamins.
Unfortunately 2008 seemed to be the year of land closures, with more and more land being taken away with every passing day and the threat of areas to recreate disappearing on a scale never before seen in the history of our sport. It is going to take the banding together of all of us, and for all of us to get involved and be interested, to turn the tide. The time is now for all of us to do our part by joining and donating to pro-wheeling organizations that fight for our right to wheel. For those of you on the sidelines, it is time to step on to the field and stop waiting for someone more vocal than you to fix the mess. We need to get organized, all of us. It is the only way we'll be able fend off those who want to remove us from the trail and for us to continue our enjoyment of the backcountry a decade from now.
Growth in Private ORP
If there is one positive outcome to the Land Use story it is the emergence of private off-road parks opening up around the country. Thanks to those passionate enough to put their money where their mouths are, private individuals, investors, and companies have been buying up plots of land and have been willing to open their gates to the general wheeling public. In fact many of these places have developed some of the most difficult trails in the country. We strongly encourage you to support your local OHVP and keep this trend alive.
2008 will go down in history as the year of the UTV. What were once regarded as more capable golf carts, are becoming the relatively affordable alternative to trucks and Jeeps. With an entire industry dedicated to making them more trail worthy and OEMs reacting with performance factory models, such as the Polaris RZR, this is a trend we don't see waning any time soon. While some states have started to recognize certain UTVs as street-legal machines, the majority of us are still faced with a huge drawback: the need for a support rig and trailer to get out to the playground.
More Conservative Tire Sizes
Remember when 44s on your fullsize were all the rage? Well, it seems like wherever we look, trail rigs are wearing smaller tire sizes. Maybe it is the better braking and handling, the better fuel economy, or the return to more technical wheeling, but whatever the thinking behind it, the only place we see 44s these days are on legitimate mud trucks, TTC rigs, or 20-inch-wheel-wearing pavement pounders. It seems like the true wheeler has settled in the 37- to 40-inch range.
We can still look back and remember when having 12 white twin-tube shocks on a fullsize Chevy, complete with neon shock boots, was about as much performance as suspension kits had back in the day. Boy, have we come a long way. A quick glance under just about any late-model rig will at the very minimum net you a view of some monotube shocks, while high-end rigs are adding monotubes with external reservoirs. With performance shocks starting to be the norm in many buildups, we haven't been surprised to start seeing bypass shocks, one primarily enjoyed by desert racers, used on more and more trail rigs. Bypass shocks can be tuned externally and the speed-sensitive valving works so well on the trail, they never allow the vehicle to crash through its suspension travel. This is one trend that will start separating out the high-end systems from one another.
Banning Of Trucksticles
You may or may not agree with those anatomically correct (if not correctly sized) truck versions of the male anatomy, but when time is actually spent in an effort to ban them from roadways in certain states, you have to wonder if any real work is getting done in the world of government and what it means for free speech and other more serious issues our country is facing.