So you want to run the Rubicon Trail… And who wouldn’t… But what does it mean to survive the Con? For us it meant two long hard days on off-road trail with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It also meant a little carnage, a lot of fun and an experience we’ll never forget.
One thing to remember about running the Rubicon Trail is that the trail is one rig wide most of the way. No matter how many rigs are in your group, If you get stuck… It is only you, the rig in front of you and the one directly behind that can help. Think about that if only one or two rigs are set up for recovery.
Until the day before this off-road adventure the only skids on our rig were the paper thin factory gravel guards. Luckily Mark saw that and found an old front skid that could be bolted into place. This skid was by no means a thing of beauty, but it was 1/4 inch steel and would protect the engine as well as keep a nice approach angle. Mark made me deal… The skid was free, but each scratch would cost $10… I think that turned out to be a $1,000 skid… But we worked out a fair trade… Remember the 90w we poured into the 80 Series day 1 on the Rubicon… well guess where it came from? The rest of the crew sported full skids and were able to slide over boulders that hung Hula Betty and I up. So yes… You should have a full set of skids.
A big part of negotiating large tight obstacles is to plant your sliders on the rock, give it some gas and pivot around. More often than not I would hear one of the spotters yell, “Ok your slider is working for you… come on around”. Additionally, more than once the sliders were the only thing between our door sills and the granite. Without our Metal Tech sliders, we would be spending time in the body shop, a lot of time. Sliders are another must for the trail.
All the rigs were sporting a winch. And all the rigs used their winch at least once. Ours in fact only had one use in it before giving up the ghost but that one use was what it took to get off a big rock we had high centered on… Without full skids, there is a nice open hole around the transfer case that will sit nicely on a rock. Once you have a boulder wedged in your frame you have all the traction of a turtle on it’s back. The winches and tow straps were a big plus especially when we got to Big Sluice… Boulders, more boulders and a few really big boulders thrown in for fun. Getting high centered is not all it is cracked up to be.
All but one of the rigs were sporting 33″ tires. And when Nick walked over everything with his 35″ tires… We all had tire envy! We made it with 33″ tires but Nick’s extra clearance defiantly gave him an edge. Of course it didn’t hurt that he’s a good driver who knows how to wheel what he brung.
The FJ Cruisers in our group could be divided into two groups. Standard 3″ lifts and those sporting Total Chaos 2″ long travel kits. The long travel certainly gave us the extra reach that allowed our tires to maintain traction and forward momentum when the 3″ lifts fell a little short. The extra travel also gave us a bit more confidence when it came to swinging high without any trouble in the off camber stuff.
The Toyota Trails Team has taken a stock rig through the Rubicon… ONCE… and they also got completely shut down another time… You just don’t know what you will find year to year. We saw plenty of Jeeps with 6″ lifts and 37″ tires… They didn’t have trouble on the big rocks. But than again they didn’t have as much fun as we did playing chess with our lines in the boulders.
You hear about how weak the IFS front end is. And yes if you turn the wheel… punch the gas and start hopping on a rock… you will brake a half shaft. We carefully worked the skinny peddle and picked our lines accordingly… NO ONE broke an axle… Of course we had several spare half shafts… we just didn’t need them. We also were able to use the IFS’ off camber abilities to negotiate the rocks in ways the solid axle guys can’t. Not that IFS is better… it is just different and don’t let anyone tell you an IFS rig wont make it… You will just have to work a line differently than the solid axle guys.
Some in the group did pick up a few body panel dings and the under side of our rig was polished up nicely by the granite. We even managed to shed those self ejecting rear bumper corners coming down off a tall shelf, but all in all everyone of the FJ Cruisers performed well. If you think that is no big deal than let me tell you about the guy we met on Cadillac Hill. He had been waiting on the side of the trail for two days. He blew up his steering box and his partner had gone out for to find another. His Jeep was well built and he was prepared but the Con shows no mercy.
We survived the Rubicon trail. Not because we were the most built rigs out there. Not because we had more experience than the rest. Not even because we better prepared… We survived because we had a good trail boss (Mark and LT) and we kept our heads no matter how crazy the trail got. The best mod for your off-road adventure rig on any trail is a smart calm driver and a good attitude. Everyone in our group had it all together.
We survived the Con… and that is saying something.
We have way too many photos to publish alongside this story and you can see them all on our Flicker Rubicon Trail Adventure day pictures.