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What do you do when you’ve explored every FJ Summit trail in the Ouray-Silverton-Telluride area multiple times? Find something new.


Hema Explorer-Clear Lake

The Hema Explorer system helped to scout a high alpine lake that we’ve never explored. With a route planned in the cloud, I synced the tracks to my phone & tablet and downloaded the proper maps. We hit the pavement south of Ridgway, headed for Red Mountain Pass. 

After turning off the highway, we found a standard forest road complete with a washboard surface. We aired down to 22psi on the new tires, hit record on the app, and headed for the hills. 

Despite the cloudy & rainy day, we were able to find some really great views throughout the ~8 mile journey which included over 3,000ft in elevation gain. We spotted the Golden Horn a few times, along with several lakes, waterfalls, and great potential campsites. 

Hema Explorer-Clear Lake 

The end of our trip revealed a socked-in yet still beautiful Clear Lake. At an elevation near 12,000ft the lake is actually....quite clear. It’s also cold, and a really great place for lunch. Alas, the rain caught us so we enjoyed our sandwiches in the comfort of the GX. 

This trail is suitable for any stock 4x4 or SUV with low-range and you should plan 2-4 hours for a round trip, depending on how often you stop to capture the views. You can see our track on the Hema Explorer Cloud: http://hema.li/clrlkco

Hema Explorer-Clear Lake

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    With sunlight fading, we pushed the accelerator closer to the floor. Our perfect campsite was still several miles away on the shores of Lake Powell. We needed to get there before dark.  The narrow, overgrown trail allowed for good speed but hid rocks and ruts that could cause serious damage at speeds.


    Slinky Stage 4

    I was clipping along in my 80 series, at almost 70 mph through the sage and yucca, when cresting a rise I found myself nearly on top of the next big bump with no time to scrub speed.  I got light in my seat. The truck left the ground briefly.  There was now a long straight section of trail mostly obscured by desert grass.  I mashed the throttle and the needle passed 70.  Just as I felt confident to keep accelerating a deep, sharp ditch across the trail came into view through the grass.  Again too late to drop speeds, I accelerated to try to get the truck to carry across the gap instead of hitting a low point.  I prepped myself for a big hit.  I was clipping along in my 80 series, at almost 70 mph through the sage and yucca, when cresting a rise I found myself nearly on top of the next big bump with no time to scrub speed.  I got light in my seat. The truck left the ground briefly.  There was now a long straight section of trail mostly obscured by desert grass.  I mashed the throttle and the needle passed 70.  Just as I felt confident to keep accelerating a deep, sharp ditch across the trail came into view through the grass.  Again too late to drop speeds, I accelerated to try to get the truck to carry across the gap instead of hitting a low point.  I prepped myself for a big hit.

    As time slowed my mind considered all of the parts in the front end that were going to be broken. Bang! The distinct noise was not as bad as I expected. Even more shocking: other than the noise, the truck didn’t disintegrate.  I slowed to a stop to check the damage.  No bent steering. Control arms still straight.  Nothing leaking.  The suspension seemed to just grin at me, mockingly saying, "is that all you’ve got?"

    A year earlier I had upgraded the suspension on my 80 to a new kit coming out of Australia.  The Stage 1 Slinky Long Travel kit.  I was intrigued by the tapered wire, dual rate coils, and the Australian spec ICON 2.0 shocks.  Fast forward 12 months later and I had almost 20k miles on this suspension from daily driving, to 7-8,000 off-road miles of slow speed rock crawling and high speed desert running.  If you want to find out what I thought about the Stage 1 Kit, take a look back at the Summer 2016 Issue of TCT Magazine and you’ll find my review.  In sum, I believe the Slinky kits are the best all-around performance suspension available for the 80 series when considering bolt-on kits and not going full custom. A year earlier I had upgraded the suspension on my 80 to a new kit coming out of Australia.  The Stage 1 Slinky Long Travel kit.  I was intrigued by the tapered wire, dual rate coils, and the Australian spec ICON 2.0 shocks.  Fast forward 12 months later and I had almost 20k miles on this suspension from daily driving, to 7-8,000 off-road miles of slow speed rock crawling and high speed desert running.  If you want to find out what I thought about the Stage 1 Kit, take a look back at the Summer 2016 Issue of TCT Magazine and you’ll find my review.  In sum, I believe the Slinky kits are the best all-around performance suspension available for the 80 series when considering bolt-on kits and not going full custom.

    Back to the story that I started with... we were on our third day of a product testing trip. We had several hundred off-road miles from St. George to Moab, UT, with Darren McRae, of Autocraft the creator of the Slinky kits, and US distributor counterparts. We also had a handful of Slinky customers or prospective customers.  Before the trip, we visited IH8MUD headquarters just outside of St. George to use Woody’s shop lift so I could upgrade my suspension yet again.  This time I was stepping up from the Stage 1 to the Stage 4 shocks.

    I want to focus on the differences and pros and cons to the different Slinky shock options. The Stage 1 shocks are an ICON 2.0 smooth body IFP shock that has been valved and tuned by Darren specifically for the 80 series. For those looking to get to another level of performance with their 80, but still need to fit in a budget, these Stage 1 2.0 shocks are the best smooth body shocks I’ve experienced in my 20 years of 80 series ownership.I want to focus on the differences and pros and cons to the different Slinky shock options. The Stage 1 shocks are an ICON 2.0 smooth body IFP shock that has been valved and tuned by Darren specifically for the 80 series.  For those looking to get to another level of performance with their 80, but still need to fit in a budget, these Stage 1 2.0 shocks are the best smooth body shocks I’ve experienced in my 20 years of 80 series ownership.

    In contrast, the Stage 4 ICON shocks are a 2.5 remote reservoir (front) and a 2.5 piggy back reservoir (rear) that, when combined with the Slinky Long Travel coils, create the triple threat setup.  A number of things make the Stage 4 shocks unique and different from the Stage 1’s.  First, it starts with a ͞flutter stack͟ in the valving to allow some movement of the shock shaft before full valving sets in.  This provides a supple ride with a higher fast piston speed valving code.  Think of corrugated roads when you haven’t aired down your tires from 45psi, no fun right?  Not anymore.  With the Slinky shocks, washboard roads now feel smooth and you wonder where that buzzing noise from the bumps is coming from.

    Second, the Stage 4 shocks have adjustable Compression Dampening Control (͞CDC͟).  The CDC secondary piston and valve stack stops the pintle style, restrictive ͞90 psi in the tires͟ feeling on sharp bumps when road driving and are typically less than half the line pressure of other adjustable shocks at fast piston speeds.  There are 8 different adjustability settings. Changing the setting is a simple turn of a dial. Stage 1 shocks are the equivalent of a setting of 4 on the Stage 4 CDC adjustment dial.No tools are needed, so it’s easy to make changes and dial in your ride for different conditions or vehicle loads in a matter of seconds. Second, the Stage 4 shocks have adjustable Compression Dampening Control (͞CDC͟).  The CDC secondary piston and valve stack stops the pintle style, restrictive ͞90 psi in the tires͟ feeling on sharp bumps when road driving and are typically less than half the line pressure of other adjustable shocks at fast piston speeds.  There are 8 different adjustability settings. Changing the setting is a simple turn of a dial. Stage 1 shocks are the equivalent of a setting of 4 on the Stage 4 CDC adjustment dial.No tools are needed, so it’s easy to make changes and dial in your ride for different conditions or vehicle loads in a matter of seconds. 

    Third, the Stage 4 Slinky shocks have a built in hydro bump zone at fast piston speed for when the piston goes past the top manifold.  What does all this mean for the average dude that isn’t a suspension engineer?  It means a dramatic increase in vehicle control and comfort not only on the road but in rough terrain. Both kits are available either in 50mm or 75mm lift heights with intermediate or heavy coil spring rates.  The shocks are a full 12͟ of travel, and the coils have a taller free height to stay seated in the coil buckets even at the limit of flex.  There is a full compliment of supporting components like adjustable track bars (panhards) and heavy duty rear lower control arms and adjustable upper control arms, along with brake lines and caster correction options to get everything set up correctly. 

    During the course of our testing trip we had vehicles with Stage 1 Slinky suspension, Stage 4 Slinky suspension, and without Slinky suspension.  We needed to cover a lot of miles in a short few days in order to get to Cruise Moab on time. We travelled fast.  The vehicles that were not Slinky equipped were unable to keep pace with the other trucks.  In trying to keep up, all non-Slinky equipped trucks had varying degrees of shock fade, with some having total shock failure.  This slowed them down even more as there was essentially no suspension dampening at all until the shocks cooled.  With the Slinky Stage 4 shocks, and piggy back and remote reservoirs there is enough oil in the shocks that it is virtually impossible to run them hard enough for a long enough amount of time to create any shock fade.  So, long off-road trips like this at high speeds are no big deal.  Not only is the truck less fatigued, but you as the driver are less fatigued after a long day on the trail.

    The excellent valving and adjustability of the Stage 4 shocks provides an entirely new level of confidence when driving an 80 series at higher speeds on rough terrain.  I stopped even thinking about rocks any smaller than a basketball in the trail.  The shocks just soaked them up.  Catching some air off that crest? No problem.  If you own an 80 series you know that they are heavy trucks right off the lot.  When built up with bumpers, winches, bigger tires, roof racks, rooftop tents, fridges, drawers and all the camping gear you bring along for days on the trail exploring and camping, they get significantly heavier.When you start to push speeds in an built 80 the truck will lean and wallow through corners. It can be unnerving to say the least.You also find your bump stops regularly when travelling fast.  That is just not the case with the Slinky suspension.   The excellent valving and adjustability of the Stage 4 shocks provides an entirely new level of confidence when driving an 80 series at higher speeds on rough terrain.  I stopped even thinking about rocks any smaller than a basketball in the trail. The shocks just soaked them up.  Catching some air off that crest? No problem.  If you own an 80 series you know that they are heavy trucks right off the lot.  When built up with bumpers, winches, bigger tires, roof racks, rooftop tents, fridges, drawers and all the camping gear you bring along for days on the trail exploring and camping, they get significantly heavier.When you start to push speeds in an built 80 the truck will lean and wallow through corners. It can be unnerving to say the least.You also find your bump stops regularly when travelling fast. That is just not the case with the Slinky suspension.  

    With my truck fully loaded and carrying one of the heavier roof tents on the market I was comfortably and confidently driving speeds in the dirt that far exceeded any speeds I would have ever attempted, even with an empty truck prior to having the Slinky suspension.  It would have been quite nerve-wracking to drive like that with other commonly used suspensions.

    In conclusion.  I spent a year with the Stage 1 shocks and was very happy with them.  The limitations of the Stage 1 shocks become evident at higher speeds.  I would occasionally ͞overrun͟ the Stage 1 shocks and bottom out through big bumps.  The Stage 1 shocks are fantastic for relatively lightweight 80s that aren’t burdened by lots of extra weight from modifications and gear.  But if you’re 80 has more than say a front bumper, a winch and some sliders you may want to consider stepping up to the Stage 4’s.They will handle the weight and give you the ability to make adjustments for when your truck is unloaded for daily driving or when it’s fully stacked for that two week trip down the Baja peninsula.  They will give you the confidence to know that when you run out of talent like I did in the story I began this article with, the suspension will soak up your mistakes, whether it’s a smooth landing or surprise hole in the trail.There is serious technology and engineering behind the Slinky suspension systems. It was developed specifically for the 80 series.  These kits have been tested and proven in Australia for years and it’s exciting to have these kits as an option for us here in the US.   In conclusion.  I spent a year with the Stage 1 shocks and was very happy with them.  The limitations of the Stage 1 shocks become evident at higher speeds.  I would occasionally ͞overrun͟ the Stage 1 shocks and bottom out through big bumps.  The Stage 1 shocks are fantastic for relatively lightweight 80s that aren’t burdened by lots of extra weight from modifications and gear.  But if you’re 80 has more than say a front bumper, a winch and some sliders you may want to consider stepping up to the Stage 4’s.They will handle the weight and give you the ability to make adjustments for when your truck is unloaded for daily driving or when it’s fully stacked for that two week trip down the Baja peninsula.  They will give you the confidence to know that when you run out of talent like I did in the story I began this article with, the suspension will soak up your mistakes, whether it’s a smooth landing or surprise hole in the trail.There is serious technology and engineering behind the Slinky suspension systems. It was developed specifically for the 80 series.  These kits have been tested and proven in Australia for years and it’s exciting to have these kits as an option for us here in the US.   

    If you are looking for top tier suspension performance for your Cruiser, I think this just might be the best.Slinky kits are currently available through Redline Land Cruisers and other US dealers are coming soon.

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    Published in Summer 2017

    With a constantly growing show, we’re seeing more and more new companies emerge in the aftermarket industry.  Around every corner we’re seeing new innovation pushing the boundaries of the automotive industry.  

    Published in Latest News

    Both inside and out, we been seeing some impressive builds and great new product at this year’s SEMA Show.  Big, small, new and old these builds can give even a seasoned SEMA attendee some serious whiplash!

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    Although Toyota strayed away from displaying any off-road vehicles this year, exhibitors around the show still had a good showing for Toyota enthusiasts to flock around.

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    The popular Expedition Overland YouTube series is entering its 3rd season, featuring their South American travels in the latest examples of the Tacoma, 4Runner, and Land Cruiser.

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    I'm sitting in a shop outside Bozeman, MT with a long-time friend and a source of inspiration within the overland industry.  We chat about the first time we met and how so much has changed, and things that haven't


    We've covered Clay Croft and Expedition Overland in previous issues. If you're not familiar with the XO web series, go have a watch, then come on back.

    Inside The X-Hangar

    Clay and I met at SEMA Show 2011, after midnight, at the Overland Journal party. I had, quite literally, just watched the first episode of Expedition Overland which launched just a few weeks before. 

    I recognized Clay immediately and introduced myself as ͟The FJ Cruiser Magazine guy, who really loves your series!

    Inside The X-Hangar

    The original series of Expedition Overland featured Clays personal vehicles which were initially modified for exploring Montana backroads. At the time the Clay was in a budding career as a film maker, but was between gigs. That is when XO was born, but I digress.

    Back to the shop.... 

    Inside The X-Hangar

    This 'little' shop on the Croft property outside Bozeman is called the X-Hangar. It's a custom designed shop, logistics hub, creative space, and production studio. Also, it's awesome! 

    Last month I had the opportunity to visit the X-Hangar for the first time since it's completion and Clay was nice enough to give me a personal tour. 

    SPACES

    The Shop

    Custom bi-fold airplane hangar door is over 14͛ tall and houses 3000 sq. ft. of shop space. All the tools you can imagine, and already plenty of stories. The shop is where rigs are built, modified, repaired, and prepared for expeditions. They're also home to XO's new Series' Oh "Hey There!" and "In The Shop".

    Inside The X-Hangar

    Inside The X-Hangar

    The Offices

    Plenty of room for planning, promoting, and various staff to hang their hats. On the day I visited the XO team was busy planning & editing their upcoming South America series. In the outer office, comfy couches + a linear fireplace with a very large display panel are perfect for reviewing daily edits and previewing upcoming releases. 

    Inside The X-Hangar

    Inside The X-Hangar 

    The Logistics Area Clay tells me that when they originally drew out their South America route it was -30 outside the door, so apparently the X-Hangar has great insulation. A large custom table provides room for the entire crew to discuss where the next adventure will take them. I'm also told that dozens of XO hats, shirts, and other swag are packed & sent out from the Logistics Area each week. 

    Inside The X-Hangar 

    Inside The X-Hangar

    The Edit Suite

    The suite is my favorite room in the X-Hangar. XO designed it to be as comfortable as possible which helps ensure editing continues uninterrupted for as long as is necessary. The edit room features custom lighting, its sound proof, has professional audio capture, an extra-wide curved screen connected to a top of the line Mac Pro. The goal of this room is to produce the most inspirational and amazing content possible. Apparently it works: I caught a glimpse of epic aerial footage from South America during my tour, alas Clay wouldn͛t reveal any details. 

    Inside The X-Hangar

    It's been almost six years since I met Clay Croft and became aware of Expedition Overland. I knew from the beginning this team would produce world-class content. I knew they would inspire tens of thousands of enthusiasts to get out and explore. The X-Hangar now allows them to do so with a dedicated facility which results in a world-class production. I have no doubt the future seasons of XO will continue to inspire all of us to get out & explore!

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    After years, why keep coming back? Why come the first time? Will you come again?

    Its no secret that the crew at TCT Magazine loves the FJ Summit. We keep coming back. Shane & Angie were at the first FJ Summit in the original Williams FJ and have attended ever since. Director Jonathan Harris also became a TCT editor.  Associate Editor Daniel Markofsky leads trails here in his 80 series Land Cruiser. 

    Why? 

    People, Scenery, Tech, Trails, History, Education, Vacation, Food, Relaxing, Hot Springs, Excitement, Community, Camaraderie, Family.


    FJ Summit 2017

    Prep. I need that lift. Don’t forget armor.  

    Do I really need sliders, dual batteries and solar? Check.  

    Axe and shovel. Check.  

    Gears. Next year, nope, now.  

    Definitely a roof rack.  

    CB or HAM?  

    New tires? 

    Every Summiteer goes through this type of list.

    Day 1: Breakfast. The steam rises off your fresh local burrito as it peeks out of the foil. Coffee steams in your other hand. You feel the chill, but know the day will warm. You meet the group. You make new friends. 

    On The Trail.

    Its why we are here.  

    Tire pressure. Check. Debate. Check. Ask. Debate. Add air. Check.

    Fuel. Never pass a gas station. Is my tank full. How much is my reserve. How long is the day. How much gas do I need. Do I really need a full tank. I have enough, I think.  

    How hard is the trail? What is your experience? Let’s check out your rig. What is your tire pressure? Are you scared of heights? Do you have A-Trac? Lockers? Have you ever used them? No, you won’t need them. You will need them. 

    Having trouble on the trail? Are you in low range? You mean this button? What does that one do? What is it? I don’t know, I just turn them all on. I was told that was what to do. No, I did not air down because I have no way to fill up. To what? 50 PSI like the sidewall says.

    ATVs coming up. Side-by-sides coming down. Jeeps ahead. Did you turn? Where is the bathroom? What time do we get back to town. Can I get a spot! How did they get that bulldozer/Subaru/Jeep/Honda up here? Do those people need help? What time is lunch? ATVs coming up. Side-by-sides coming down. Jeeps ahead. Did you turn? Where is the bathroom? What time do we get back to town. Can I get a spot! How did they get that bulldozer/Subaru/Jeep/Honda up here? Do those people need help? What time is lunch? 

    Lunch. Is it a cold sandwich, handful of chips, grilled chicken, or mac n cheese hot off the manifold.

    Did you take in the view? Glad the rain stopped. I don’t need 4-low first gear all the time? Oh, You were on channel 22, that explains it. Car off, hand brake on, manual tranny in gear every time we stop? 

    Dinner. The food is good and the line is a slow roll down vendor row. Dude! We chatted online, soooo great to meet you! Under the tent you are welcome at any table and anyone is welcome at yours. At the brewery, grill, or grocery you are surrounded by friends. Maybe you pass on that additional margarita as the excitement for the next day appears. 
    Sleep. Is it a comfortable condo? Hotel room? RTT, camping pad. Maybe stealth on the sleeping platform you built the night before you left. Shhh. 2017 treated Summiteers to a lightning show of biblical proportions, thunderclaps worthy of the Roman Gods, and snorkel eating rain. 

    Saturday night: Hi remember that trail we ran Thursday? I did all those things my tail leader showed me. It was so much fun! I can’t wait to get home and explore my local trails. Now I finally understand how my FJ/4Runner/Tacoma/Prius works! (ok, not the Prius.)

    Sunday:  Yep, mine is 6, 8, 9, 16 hours to home.  

    Oh, me, I’m here another week.  

    Cool.  

    See you in 2018!

     

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    Published in Summer 2017

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    What a great summer!

    We've been busy covering amazing Toyota Truck, Cruiser, and SUV adventure...


    Download this issue now to read all about:

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    Overland Expo West 2017 set up at a new venue just south of downtownFlagstaff - the Fort Tuthill County Park. We found ourselves balancing nostalgia for the rustic Mormon Lake site against the reality that Overland Expo outgrew its former home. Expo has become so much more than enthusiasts gathering to swap stories, tips, and skills.

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