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Trailrunner - Off Road Notes

Posted in Features on May 5, 2006
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About a year ago, we talked about a new term we were going to start using here at Off-Road. That term was "trailrunner." While a prerunner is usually associated with a two-wheel-drive vehicle built to travel fast off-road, a trailrunner is a four-wheel-drive version of the same thing. The trailrunner's focus could be the same as a non-race prerunner -- going fast off-road. It could also be built to not only go fast, but also be able to do some slower trail exploring.

As you've (hopefully) noticed, we've currently got two project trailrunners going. One is Kevin Blumer's Ranger Trailrunner that's being built to compete in the 1450 class, etc. Now this is an example of a trailrunner that can be used as prerunners were originally designed. That is, prerunning a racecourse or, in Kevin's case, racing. Our other trailrunner project is Moses Ludel's Cherokee Trailrunner. This XJ is capable of fast cruising anywhere and is also built to do trail riding and exploring. Both of these vehicles are trailrunners.

In the March '06 issue, you read about my TJ Wrangler project, the "Flexible Flyer." When I photographed and wrote that feature, we had just finished the project, and the photo shoot was the first time we had really driven the Wrangler, except for small test hops. The area you see in the photos is only 3 miles from my house, so we didn't have much of a chance to REALLY drive the Jeep on-road. We did wring it out in the rocks, sand, and on dirt roads, but only for half a day. The TJ worked well, and I wrote the glowing feature you read.

Once the feature was done, I used the Jeep as a daily driver for a while. After driving for a distance at high speeds, or for a little longer period anywhere, the air shocks stiffened up considerably, porpoising a bit just as the old Gabriel Hi-Jacker air shocks did when overinflated on every car I could install them on in my younger years. The Wrangler's hood would also leap toward the sky when accelerating from a stop, with the shocks immediately extending to their stops, then slowly settling back to ride height. This was annoying. I called Fox and was told that we were running double the pressure the air shocks were designed to use, and with that much pressure in them they would exhibit the problems we were reporting. The people we spoke with at Fox also said the TJ was too heavy to use the 2-inch air shocks. They suggested switching to coilovers, which we did. Problem solved. We had called Steve at Moab 4x4 Outpost to keep him apprised of what was happening. After telling him what Fox had told us and reporting how well coilovers worked with the system, he said they had changed their suspension system to include coilovers. Aren't project vehicles fun? We'll be following up with a feature on what we've done to take the Flexible Flyer to the next level.

Finally, thanks to all who responded to our survey. The results are in and will help us tailor our content to better please our readers. I won't go into all the details, but prerunners, trail riding/exploring, new products or buyer's guides, and tech features topped respondents' likes.

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