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December 2010 4Word - Editorial

Posted in Features on December 1, 2010
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In this issue, our parent company, Source Interlink Media, and SEMA detail ways we could lose all backcountry access and ways we can fight this at the polling booth. No matter which party's in charge, we keep losing ground. Literally.

With many of my favorite challenging trails/OHV areas being closed, exploring has become my main off-road activity again. Exploring got me interested in off-roading when I was a kid and it's still so much fun. The roads and trails used while exploring are those that will be the last to be closed, so they can be enjoyed longer.

For speedy exploring, I've purchased a 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. You'll be reading about this in future issues, but let me just say the Raptor is amazing, both for its competency in the dirt and the fact that Ford chose to build such a great off-road vehicle with a factory warranty.

The Raptor supplement to the owner's manual is surprising in that it shows that Ford actually expects the truck to be used in the dirt. There is good advice about how to trail ride and surmount different obstacles. Here's a greatly edited sample:

Driving Your F-150 Svt Raptor Off-Road In addition to providing an excellent on-road driving experience, the F-150 SVT Raptor excels at all types of off-road driving. The truck has been designed and equipped to allow you to explore those places where the road doesn't take you, whether it's a forest trail or the open desert. It is always recommended that at least two vehicles are used while off-roading. The "buddy system" helps ensure that help is close at hand should a vehicle become stuck or damaged. It is also wise to take supplies - such as a first-aid kit, supply of water, tow strap, cell or satellite phone - with you any time an off-road excursion is planned.

• Throttle, brake and steering inputs should be made in a smooth and controlled manner. Sudden inputs to the controls can cause loss of traction or "upset" the vehicle, especially while on sloped terrain or while crossing obstacles such as rocks or logs.

• Look ahead on your route noting upcoming obstacles, surface texture or color changes or any other factors that may indicate a change in available traction, and adjust the vehicle speed and route accordingly.

• Always keep available ground clearance in mind and pick a route that minimizes the risk of catching the underside of the vehicle on an obstacle.

• When negotiating low-speed obstacles, applying light brake pressure in conjunction with the throttle will help prevent the vehicle from jerking and will allow you to negotiate the obstacle in a more controlled manner. Using 4L will also help with this.

Driving in sand
• It is very difficult and in many cases impossible to navigate deep sand with tire pressures which are appropriate for on-road driving. If you decide to "air down" your tires, be advised that the tire pressure monitoring light will illuminate. The tires must be returned to normal recommended tire pressures before driving on pavement or hard surfaces.

• Lower tire pressures are more likely to cause a debeading of the tire during cornering. Avoid sharp or abrupt turns when you have extremely low tire pressures.

Crossing obstacles
• If a large obstacle such as a rock cannot be avoided, choose a path that places the rock directly under the tire rather than the undercarriage of the vehicle. This will help prevent damage to the vehicle.

• Ditches and washouts should be crossed at a 45-degree angle, allowing each wheel to independently cross the obstacle.

High-speed off-roading
The off-road driving discussed thus far has focused on the type of events typically encountered during slow speed off-road driving conditions. The F-150 SVT Raptor provides excellent performance in a fullsize pick-up truck during these slower speed conditions, but truly excels at higher speed "baja style" off-road driving. High speed off-roading presents a unique challenge, but extra care and caution should be taken before engaging in this type of driving. If you plan on using the truck for severe, high-speed off-road use, the following is recommended:

• Equip your truck with the safety equipment used for the Stock-Full Class as defined in the rule books for Best in the Desert Racing ( and SCORE International Off Road Racing (

• Before venturing off-road in unfamiliar areas at high speeds, do a low-speed reconnaissance run ("prerun") to become aware of any obstacles that you will encounter. It is important that you take the time to become familiar with the controls and dynamics of your vehicle before attempting higher speed off-roading. Some points to consider:

• Build up speed slowly. Initially, drive at a pace which allows ample time to fully assess the terrain around you and to understand how the vehicle is responding to both the terrain and driver inputs. Increase pace as comfort increases while always being mindful of how the vehicle is responding to various events at different speeds.

• Find a wide open place to experiment with different functions on the truck. Try a given maneuver with different vehicle settings (4H vs. 4L), (differential locked vs. unlocked), (AdvanceTrac in key-on vs. single press vs. press and hold modes) and see how the truck responds. Start slowly and build pace as comfort increases.

• Similarly, in a wide open space, experiment with different driving techniques. For example, if the vehicle is tending to push straight ahead when trying to negotiate a turn (understeering or plowing), a light application of the brake while turning may help rotate the truck.

A wider entry to the corner or entering the corner more slowly may help the truck turn and allow you to apply the throttle sooner after negotiating the turn.

• Remember the phrase "smooth is fast." This refers to your steering, throttle, and brake movements. Smooth decisive movements will yield improved results while helping to increase safety.

• As speed increases, it is wise to look farther ahead of the vehicle so that there is time to react to oncoming obstacles. Remember that in many off-road environments, obstacles will be hard to see until they are relatively near. A good strategy is to alternate between looking far ahead and up closer to the front of the vehicle as you're driving.

• "Drive what you can see." This refers to not driving faster than you are able to negotiate unforeseen upcoming obstacles.

This could refer to obstacles over a brow, in a ravine, in brush, in dusty conditions, and in the darkness, among others.

• Always remember that you may not be the only one in a particular recreational area; always be cognizant of others in your area. This is especially true of motorcycles and ATVs, which may be more difficult to spot than a fullsized vehicle.

• While driving in desert conditions, the midpoint of the day is the most difficult time to see many of the small ridges and dips due to flat shadows from the sun being at its highest point. Extreme care should be taken at these times to not inadvertently run into these obstacles.

How cool is this? This, plus much more, is in the Raptor's owner's supplement. The Raptor promises to deliver as I continue to enjoy the open roads and trails that are left to us. Let's hope we can enjoy more of our backcountry again by using votes to put people with some sense into office.

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