Micro RCs look out …

That’s a pretty cool video of the electric Losi LST XXL2-E.

Lucky for me, I was able to drive the XXL2-E a few days ago. Although I only ran one battery through it, it was a fun, fast truck.

I have not driven many Losi trucks in recent years. Losi has always been one of the best RC brands, producing race-winning vehicles. (As a broke kid, I recall dreaming of their XX-T but could only afford the Junior T.)

I am use to 1/10 and 1/12 scale vehicles. The XXL2-E truck is massive. And I mean massive. It deserves that extra-extra large name. It is a 1/8 scale, which measures 26.5 inches long with the wheelie bar, 18.5 inches wide, and 9.8 inches high.

Although it is long and wide, it was the tire and shock sizes that impressed me. The tires are 6.9 inches high and the shocks are over-sized.

The truck uses a Dynamite 22000Kv brushless motor, which has plenty of torque to motivate this truck. It is a way different animal than a radio controlled rock crawler.

When I drove it, it ran two 3S LiPos. The owner said that when running 2S, the truck can be a bit sluggish. I’ll take his word for it. But, the two LiPos batteries made it move quick.

The XXL2-E also has AVC — active vehicle control. This technology is new to me. It is a stabilization system that helps manage and control the power that good brushless motors produce.

With the AVC set, the truck tracked really well. I jumped it off a small ramp and every time I pegged the throttle just before the ramp, the truck never veered off course and I always hit the ramp head on. (Veering is common when a lot of power is applied quickly.) I am digging the AVC.

The one aspect of this truck that I really liked was its ability to ride on two side wheels easily. I pegged the throttle, cranked the wheel, and one side of the truck would lift up. Then, I could ride a side-wheelie for a little while.

Despite the donuts and shenanigans, the truck felt much more stable than others I’ve driven.

The location we drove it at was a little cramped so the full speed could not be reached.

Because it could not be opened up, the battery lasted close to 40 minutes before needing the LiPo charger.

The four wheel drive worked great climbing a 50 foot hill. Traction up the hill was never an issue.

The XXL2-E may have a spot in my RC car roster. I just need save a little for it because it does come with a pretty hefty price tag.

The MSRP on it is $659.99. It is an ready-to-run (RTR), with the radio, speed control, and motor. It does need batteries and a charger. After the truck cost, battery, and charger, it would probably cost close to one grand. Pretty pricey. That’s one of the downsides to it.

Where to drive this thing at?

One of the coolest things about micros is that they can be run in locations that bigger RCs can’t. I won’t break out the 1/10 scale trucks in the house, but a small 1/36 scale can race around the house.

1. Linoleum

Micro radio controlled cars are astounding technological marvels, delivering tons of fun in a tiny package. That fun generally stops the moment its wheels contact even the thinnest of carpets. Unless you’re building “sand traps” into a home-bound course, keep the wheels on the linoleum/hardwood/concrete.

2. Hot Wheels Tracks

If your home does suffer from excessive carpeting, and your micro radio controlled car is the right size, get some tracks. The local goodwill may be a good place to find this, rather than buying new. With ramps, loops, turns, and jumps, your only trouble will be explaining the mess to your significant other.

3. Sidewalk/Street

Depending on the size, your micro radio controlled car may be perfectly at home on pavement — or it might be like driving a regular car over a field of volcanic rocks. Either outcome could provide some entertainment. Though if it’s the latter, you may quickly tire of chasing after your car, particularly after it flips upside-down.

4. Parking Lot/Garage

Any RC car loves open space, and smooth terrain. If there’s a lot near you that has downtime in normal operations, it can be a great place to open the car up without worrying about too many obstacles. The same rules as the skate park apply: Be courteous and aware of any human obstacles that pop up. And before you let an internet list send you to some dangerous abandoned parking lot, do your homework on it and keep at least one buddy with you.

5. RC Track

Depending on where you live, there might be a proper RC track in your community. These can often be special weekend set-ups, open to the public but with racing generally reserved for “professional hobbyists” (and anyone willing to fork over the entry fee.) However, there are some tracks that exist to give a place for “hobby hobbyists” to unleash their machines. With surfaces perfectly matched to the kind of smooth traction an RC needs, and track features scaled to their size, it will be hard to match the kind of fun to be had.

6. Your *own* RC Track

The last entry made official RC track businesses sound like racing nirvana, but if you can’t find one, you’re not out of luck. Remember: Those tracks were built by hobbyists just like you. Sure, they may have more resources, but if you have a basement or attic or garage free for even a day, you can set up your own little slice of RC heaven.

Useful materials: Cardboard anything (shoeboxes, tubes, normal boxes), Tape/Glue, and a nice pair of scissors are all you need.

The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Run the track as you build it to make something truly impressive. A ramp is neat, but a cardboard tube car-receiver placed where the car usually lands is what will provide challenge and excitement in the long run.

What to Upgrade ??? Here’s my thoughts:

The Motor Upgrade

While a micro radio controlled car will come with a motor, a great upgrade is to switch it out for a new one. Complete kit RC cars are sold with the cheapest motors built-in to help keep the costs down. The budget model brushed motors typically used will not be able to compete with more powerful motors and a quality electronic speed controller.

Using high quality brushless motors and ESC gives a number of improvements. There will be a lot more speed available. Brushless systems are also a lot more efficient. A RC car outfitted with one will run longer and faster with the same battery.

Here the only real limit is money. The more powerful the motor and ESC combination, the more it will cost. The other thing to keep in mind is the quality of the battery used. Extremely powerful motor and ESC combinations will only get a longer run out of weaker Ni-Mh batteries. Using better Li-Po batteries will give the RC car a punchy feel and even greater speed.

A New Body and Lights

The most fun upgrades are aesthetic. Picking a new body and new paint scheme is a great way to give a micro radio controlled car a new lease on life. This is an upgrade that is also relatively inexpensive.

LED light kits are more affordable and easier to use than ever. Adding lights make an RC car more realistic. There are light kits suitable for every RC car type. Enthusiasts into building scale models will particularly enjoy using LED lighting.

Change Up the Gear Ratio

The most inexpensive upgrade is to switch the gear sizes. Look for the pinion. It is a small metal gear on the motor. Now find the spur gear. It is a large plastic gear. These two are easily adjusted within reason.

Either one or both gears can be changed. For a faster top speed on a micro radio controlled car the smaller pinion gear must be changed for one with more teeth. For faster acceleration the large spur gear must be switched with one with more teeth.

Fresh Tires

Different tires work for different surfaces. The wrong tires can slow a car down. Even worse, the wrong tires can make a car slip and slide around. Many hobbyists keep several sets of tires for each vehicle.

Slick tires grip well on typical road surfaces and dry tarmac. Worn out tires of other types can be used too. Mini-pin tires are designed for carpeting and clay surfaces. Full spike tires are best on grass and deeper mud. Step pin tires are a decent all-purpose tire for most surfaces.

Stronger Turnbuckles

Turnbuckles are a part that is often bent, twisted or simply broken. Rough streets or a fast night at the track can easily ruin a steel turnbuckle. Replacing them with far stronger titanium turnbuckles is an easy choice. They are more durable and somewhat lighter.

New ESC Fan System

The ESC system must be kept cool for it to work. Normal engine function produces a lot of heat. Newer ESC systems often come with fan systems bolted on to give extra cooling. Older systems can also benefit from a cooling system.

Engine Heat Sink

Modern powerful brushless engines can generate a lot of heat when pushed to their limit. But heat shortens their lifespan and limits their efficiency. An aftermarket motor heat sink will help with both issues. Installing one is a wise upgrade.

Why buy a micro radio controlled car? Good question. Here’s why:

Photo by John B├Ąckstrand from flickr, CC BY 2.0
Photo by John B├Ąckstrand from flickr, CC BY 2.0

I like micro RCs. They are fun but why buy one? Here’s why if you are on the fence.

1. Compete

Once you own a micro radio controlled car, you’re ready to enter the world of competitive racing. Racing RC cars in real-time is a thrilling replacement activity for a passive hobby like video gaming.

Almost every town has an RC racing community that is often welcoming and friendly to newcomers. Inquire at your local hobby shop about where to race. Those businesses often host competitions and workshops.

If you want to bring RC racing to the realm of high-stakes, most regions host professional events with entry fees and cash prizes.

2. Meet

Buying an RC car is a wonderful way to meet other car and model enthusiasts that share your interests.

A friendly race among friends or coworkers can turn into a lasting team-building exercise. Children also benefit from friendly social interaction and driving a micro radio controlled car with other RC hobbyists can boost their self-esteem.

3. Tinker

If you can build an RC car, you’ll open the door to many creative outlets with the new skills you’ll acquire.

Maintaining the electronics of an RC car is complex and requires working knowledge of how to attach a battery or other fuel source to power the car. You must also learn the basics of how receivers and transmitters work.

The mechanisms that steer the car are also the same as those of a real vehicle. What makes this hobby unique is that it can also serve as a teaching tool towards working on real cars.

4. Personalize

Unlike a card game or toy collecting, RC hobbyists are 100% in charge of customizing the look and feel of their collectible. Although the chassis is standardized on most cars, there is no limit to how you can upgrade you car’s parts.

You can upgrade you car’s power to nitro and its motors can be swapped out for more powerful models for driving over rough terrain. The paint job, spoiler and other details on the body of the car are only limited by your imagination!

5. Family time

Kids (and adults) love RCs. They can be a great way to bring a family closer together.

6. Gift

Although RC cars are a great choice for people aged 10 to 100, they are an especially thoughtful and educational gift for children. Most toys are cheaply made and designed to be played with right out of the box then tossed away. These cars are made with real, rugged parts that can withstand a lifetime of use. Maintenance is needed to keep the cars in working condition which teaches youngsters the value of caring for their belongings. Working on RC cars exponentially improves a child’s math and science skills, which are highly valued in today’s world.

7. Fun

Overall, the cars offer an exhilarating experience for anyone who has a fondness for anything with wheels. A backyard can be turned into a race track and a boring afternoon in front of the TV can lead to an exciting and active playtime in the park as you and your family watch your car race across the pavement.