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February 2010 Off-Road Rant - Editorial

Posted in Features on February 1, 2010
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How much travel does your off-road ride have? Eight inches? Ten? Are you pushing 18 inches of travel and still yearning for more? Well, while you're worrying about how much travel you can get, there's some guy around the corner perfecting the way his travel is controlled instead of trying to add more travel. And guess what? His dialed-in 10 inches of suspension travel suspension is going to spank your 25-inch-travel truck. And I'm not just talking about in the desert-I mean in the desert, the sand, the street, the rocks, on the trail-anywhere you can think of.

In an effort to improve our suspensions, a lot of guys have gotten overly excited about bigger numbers (as if that's some sort of compensation for something) instead of how you use it. Haven't you ever heard that it's not the size of the boat, it's the motion in the ocean...(okay, even I had to laugh at that one).

Much like the Magazine Syndrome I referred to in the November 2009 Rant, I think this may be partly magazines' faults. We, in the off-road industry, get so excited about hearing bigger travel numbers-equating the bigger numbers to a "better" performing truck. But many times, this is not the case.

I'll give you an example: I own a solid axle Blazer with 14 inches of front travel and close to 21 inches of travel in the rear. The rear is pretty dialed in, but for a long time the front was flopping all over the place. When I used to go through the whoops in this truck, I had to stay on the gas hard to get the front end up in the air and rely on the rear to handle everything. I have also been through the same whoops section in an almost stock suspension Chevy 4x4 IFS truck-the only modification being a set of Jounce shocks outfitting the front and rear. With me driving both trucks through the same rough sections, that almost-stock Chevy would spank my big-travel K5 all day long. The reason: because the almost-stock Chevy had better control of its suspension with the Jounce shocks on it. Sure, my truck would be able to dip a tire two feet down in the rocks at 5 mph, but there was less control at higher speeds. The control of the suspension is everything.

Example Two: Ford's new Raptor F-150. It has only 11.2 inches of travel in the front and 12.1 in the rear. But Fox and Ford spent millions of dollars perfecting how it was controlled. I'd be willing to bet money that the stock Raptor would be able to spank at least 80 percent of the highly modified, long-travel trucks made by enthusiasts today. Why? It's simple: the Raptor has better suspension control.

Maybe you don't agree with me. If so, let me know why you think this is wrong and I'd be happy to publish what you have to say in our Unloaded letters section. Write me at

Also, let's take this opportunity to establish what "standard-travel," "mid-travel," and "long-travel" suspension is, since I've never really heard any definitive numbers for these terms. I'm going to throw out my own numbers, and you tell me if you think I'm off here. I'm making the claim that anything under eight inches is a standard-travel suspension. Anything between 8 and 11 inches of travel is mid-travel, and anything 12 inches or more is a long-travel suspension. Perhaps if we can get some kind of standardized measurement system, things might make more sense to enthusiasts and manufacturers.

This Month:
We started driving to work on 47-inch tires! Yeah, crazy, I know. But we wanted to test the limits of what was feasible, and we wanted to experience for ourselves how crazy/sane, safe/dangerous this really is. This is actually the first of a three-part series that will entail what it takes to live with 47-inch tires on your daily-driven truck. Check out the first part on Page 56. We also got a first look at the 2010 HD Ram trucks coming to a dealership near you. And we checked out some 21st-Century suspensions for your 1990s-era Chevy, Ford, or Toyota. Lastly, but not least, we put together a fabber's special section this month to help you create a stronger and safer truck for you to romp in off-road. Enjoy!

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