Getting Started in RC Rock Crawling

Axial XR10

It’s a guy thing: we want toys that can conquer stuff. That’s just the way it is. There are several routes to get there, and RC rock crawling is one of them.

But what if you know nothing about the hobby and have no clue where to start? Well, I aim to help you out a little with this write up. I fully believe that the key is to know a tad about the hobby before you make your first purchase. Let’s look at a few things to keep in mind, both before and after you get your first crawler.

You don’t have to buy new stuff!

Remember, just because an RC crawler is used doesn’t necessarily mean it has a thousand hard miles on it. Folks get into hobbies all the time and lose interest just as quickly. RC cars is but one of those hobbies. Keep your eye on your local Craigslist ads and on eBay for great deals. Most ‘out of the box’ crawlers do quite well, yes, but you can likely purchase a well-built one for the same price if you find the right deal on a used model.

Research, research, research

Yes, the dreaded research monster comes out from under the bed. There are a lot of different RC crawlers out there, and it’s best to know what you’ll want and require from yours before you purchase. Watch YouTube videos, read testimonials, ask in the RC Rock Crawler forum, and, if you know a place where they crawl locally, ask the owners in person what they think. In my opinion, you don’t want to blindly purchase an RC crawler and hope for the best.

Which models have great aftermarket support?

So you find a deal on eBay for a really nice looking crawler that comes with all sorts of accessories for the eye-widening price of $100. All is fine and well until it breaks and you need to replace a part, or until you want to upgrade something and you realize there is zero aftermarket for the thing. The research you did via the above suggestion will tell you that companies such as Axial and Losi probably have the best parts and upgrade availability. I have a buddy who scored a Redcat RS10 for one heck of a deal, and it’s never quit on him. It’s all in what you want to do with your crawler.

rc rock climbing

Have an idea in mind

We all know how hobbies work: first you get something cheap, then you immediately need to upgrade, then you need Stage Two components, then you need a bigger this and a stronger that and before long, you have a custom thing that is second to none in your area.

The same goes with crawlers. I strongly advise buying something used in case you lose interest quickly, and I also advise that you have a general, foggy idea in mind of what you are going to do with said crawler. Are you looking to play with it every other weekend while sipping beers with friends, or are you looking to enter sanctioned competitions where any slight driving error costs points?

For me, half the fun of a hobby is tinkering and upgrading, so I never mind starting at square one. Get something basic and work your way up as you need to. Don’t go nuts buying every upgrade known to man for a crawler you’ll use a handful of times each year.

Know your way around the Internet.

For me, RCNT and YouTube played integral roles in my growth in the hobby of RC rock crawling. Each and every question or concern you have can be answered on the Internet. RCNT is full of people who love to talk RC of any type. You can always ask a question there and if no one can answer, they can point you in a helpful direction. YouTube is just amazing when it comes to RC crawling footage, reviews, and ‘how to’ videos.

Crawlers are not racers.

Never get an RC crawler under the assumption that it’ll go fast. In fact, just the opposite is true: we want them to go slower, generally, in order to perform better. Crawlers are a weird crowd like that. We put weight in our wheels, we try to make them high enough to go over stuff but low enough not to roll, and we like big, knobby tires. If you want to race an RC, look into other types, because a crawler isn’t going to get it done for you.

Expect things to break.

What? Stuff is going to break? Yes. Things will break often, too, if you use your crawler hard, hence the aforementioned upgrades and aftermarket. RC crawlers roll, they break drive shafts, antennas bust, u-joints snap, the motors get hot and die, steering servos fade out, etcetera. Of course, if you only run yours every few weeks in the backyard, you are less likely to incur breakage than someone who competes; that’s just the way things go. Just don’t get discouraged when you are making your way up an obstacle and you hear a snap; after the initial purchase of the car and radio, parts are pretty darned cheap. Upkeep for them is nothing. Just keep a few parts and RC tools on hand for the inevitable.

Are there any RC crawling clubs near you?

I mentioned this before, but it really does deserve its own subsection. If there is a club near you, don’t hesitate to go and ask questions or take your new crawler there. You may not have the best ride in the dirt, but the folks will love having you and helping you out. Plus, you can learn things hands-on, which is worth its weight in RC gold.

Upgrades aren’t necessarily necessary!

This was also mentioned before, but warrants its own spot here. If you happen to score a used crawler with all sorts of goodies added on, you are ahead of the game. However, if you get an ‘out of the box’ model, brand new, you aren’t far behind. Run the thing and see what it does and doesn’t do. Then you can decide what you’d like it to do better, and what parts/upgrades will get it where you want. Never know – you might be happy with the way it came from the factory. Even in stock form, most crawlers do amazingly well. If you are happy with its performance right out of the gates, leave it be and enjoy it!

Lastly, HAVE FUN.

It’s bad form to use all caps, and I know it. But the importance of this advice is never to be ignored. Whether you use your RC crawler in mom’s garden with a couple friends or take a hard-core buggy to competitions, remember to always have a blast. The people in this hobby generally enjoy every part of it, from wrenching on them to driving them to buying parts and dreaming about one day getting the things they cannot currently afford. It’s all about fun and enjoyment. Get yourself a great deal on a crawler and head out to the hills; trust me, it’s nothing but fun.