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Hardcore Off-roading with The Sketchy Oregon Boys in 4x4 Buggies at Never Ending Canyon

No Buggy Said It Was Easy

When our friends from Oregon made a trip to Lake Tahoe recently, they asked for some recommendations on trails to wheel. They had been to the Rubicon and Fordyce, but were looking for more challenging options. These guys all have tube buggies and wear helmets when they go rockcrawling, to give you an idea of what they consider fun. We have wheeled with the Sketchy Oregon Boys before, and every trip we seem to end up with broken parts.

The group ended up talking to rockcrawling competitor and buggy builder Jesse Haines about where to wheel near Reno. Haines built our lightweight Tracker, which we have wheeled all over the Hammers and every trail in Moab. "You don't want to take the Tracker," Haines told us matter-of-factly. While our egos were bruised, we just brought our camera instead of our rig. This was the right decision, as the trail left nearly everyone on their roof at least once. You don't want to do that in a full-body Jeep you are still making payments on. There are plenty of trails that you don't need a buggy for, but this isn't one of them.

Kaitlyn Tydeman's 30th birthday was the motivation for the trip, although the Sketchy Oregon Boys don't need too much of an excuse to go wheeling together. Here she is being spotted by her husband Graeme. While this is the stuff of nightmares for many couples, these two have won rockcrawling competition and have the trust and communication necessary for sketchy climbs like this one.
The trail was tight and technical, with no bypasses around most of the obstacles. That meant single file was the plan for much of the day. We felt sorry for the person who had to follow Dustin Emick in his buggy with 42-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers, portal axles, and rear steer.
Randy Slawson debuted his new "bash buggy" on this trip. The past King of the Hammers winner focused on making his recreational wheeler as light as possible with a single 2-inch coilover at each corner and a turbocharged Ecotec LTG engine under the hood. These engines are found in Cadillacs and use electric steering, so Slawson had to get creative when adding a steering pump.
This trail gets your attention right off the bat with a huge waterfall. While it is possible to winch to the top, the trail only gets more difficult from here so if you need to winch on the first obstacle you might want to find a new trail. Chris Bradford was our ride for the day until he broke a stub shaft in his GFab Jeep buggy.
Chris Basse brought his whole family out on the trail, although his wife Leah and their sons walked during the more challenging parts of the trail. Ironically, Basse didn't roll at all until his family was all belted up and they were in the gully at the bottom of the trail on the way out!
There isn't much Samurai left on Robbie Cox's rig. The factory axles and suspension are long gone, instead replaced with 1-ton axles and coilover shocks.
Kaitlyn Tydeman's Samurai buggy has 9-inch axles with Dana 60 knuckles. A turbo 1.6L is lightweight yet makes enough power to spin the sticky 39-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers on Trail-Gear Creeper wheels. Small-displacement engines with forced induction seem to be very popular with this crowd.
Mark Schultz taught us a trick about keeping Maxxis Trepadors from burping air or losing the inner bead, even with beadlocks. These tires stick like glue, but the thick sidewalls mean that sometimes they want to come off the rim at low pressure rather than conform to the terrain. Schultz puts five wraps of duct tape on the inside of each wheel next to the inner bead to keep them from coming off.
When we wheeled with Will Bradford two years ago his buggy had Toyota axles and 36-inch tires. Then last year he had 42-inch tires on the poor Toyota axles. This year he added a Dana 60 front axle and sticky 39-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers. Will is really happy with the latest upgrades, his buggy went everywhere he pointed it on this trip.
Robbie Cox's Samurai buggy is shorter and taller than most of the other vehicles that were on the trail on this given day. That increased the pucker factor on the steep climbs, but it also allowed him to tiptoe through boulders like this without getting hung up like others did.
Dustin Emick bought this buggy from Portland's James Treacy, so he automatically gets a pass to go wheeling with the Sketchy Oregon Boys. The buggy has rear steer, portal axles, and 42-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers so it will go just about anywhere. In the winter, Emick swaps the tires out for 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claws and goes snow wheeling.
The trail was a combination of big rocky slabs and loose boulders that moved around and made the line different for every vehicle. When you look at how small Kaitlyn Tydeman's Samurai buggy is relative to this dry waterfall, it really puts things into perspective.
There were two lines up this waterfall, with the left life being more difficult than the right line, with a severe off-camber section. While the right line was easier, it required you to drag the tube work along the ledge. You definitely don't want sheetmetal on this trail.
Going up can be nerve-racking, but we always find it more frightening to drop down technical obstacles since you're working against gravity. Nearly everyone on the trip rolled at least once when descending the trail. The most common cause was a tire dropping in a hole and pitching the vehicle over.
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