Build a Crawling Course

To the uninitiated, rock crawling courses are just a series of gates. Unfortunately, more than a few course designers also don’t seem see it as much more than that. A good course is far more complex than that, and while there is no real substitute for experience when it comes to designing a course, there are some fundamentals to keep in mind. Read on and you’ll be soon building courses that will keep them coming back for more.

Just like racing, crawling draws in people of a wide variety of skill levels. To ensure everyone can have a good time, have your courses get progressively difficult. This includes the gates within a single course as well as the courses. An excessively difficult first gate will frustrate competitors. If you’re running more than one course that are being run in order, have the courses increase in difficulty as well.

Good courses should test man and machine. They should not be a test of a driver’s ability to avoid the intended challenge. The easiest way to prevent drivers from getting too creative is to use out-of-bounds markers. Powered chalk works extremely well for this and is generally inexpensive. The entire course doesn’t need boundary markers, but used strategically, boundaries will not only force drivers to run the course as intended, but they will also help speed up the process as drivers won’t going 20 feet off course to loop around just to avoid a reverse penalty.

Mix it up! Make your courses a true test by having a variety of challenges. Make sure you have plenty of climbs, some downhill sections, side hills and tight technical spots. Many course designers unknowingly favor and focus on one type of obstacle and that’s usually uphill climbs. This doesn’t do a good job of testing the drivers or the rigs.

The king of thinking-outside-of-the-box crawling courses is Brian Parker of Reno, NV.  Brian–the man behind the RECON club and G6 competitions–makes it his personal mission to keep drivers guessing. Brian knows that if events get monotonous, turnouts will suffer. So, do what Brian does and throw in a few crazy obstacles. This includes bridges, ramps, high speed sections and even jumps. Brian also knows there is no rule that rock crawling events have to be held entirely on rock. Have your courses be true off-road courses and include dirt, sand, water, mud or whatever else may be at your disposal.

We call them scale rock crawlers, but they are really scale off-roaders. That means that, even more so than their comp-specific counterparts, scalers should be run on a much wider variety of terrain than just rocks. Dirt hills, ditches, logs are all awesome challenges for scale machines. Keep in mind the word “scale” is just French for “top heavy.” Scale rigs tip over faster than the average politician sells out. While an occasional yard sale in unavoidable, don’t create a course that is impossible for a scale vehicle to navigate. Don’t make it easy; just go back to the progressive rule of thumb outlined before.

With vehicles that barely reach double-digit speeds, rock crawlers aren’t exactly dangerous, but crawling courses can be. Most drivers will be focusing 100% of their attention on their truck and not at all on their footing. Keep this is mind when designing your courses. It is far better to be safe than sorry. Keep the climbing to the trucks and make sure your course paths allow for drivers to easily follow along without having to break out the crampons or falling off a ledge if they back up a step.

The two coolest things about building a homegrown backyard course is not having to travel to  crawl and being able to really show off your creativity. There are two ways you can go about building a course: the large crawling area and the more defined obstacle course. Here are some tips to help you build a solid homegrown course that’s far better than a pile of rocks:

  • After you create a layer of rocks to crawl on, fill in the voids with dirt for a more realistic course. Most homegrown courses  only present the challenge of avoiding wheel swallowing holes between rocks. Mix up the size of the rocks and fill in those pockets with dirt.
  • Two 2×4 pieces of wood can make an interesting challenge when anchored securely and parallel to each other.. The skinny side is less than 2-inches wide (you knew that, right?), so it will take a steady hand to navigate the two pieces as a bridge.
  • A flexible wooden bridge usually isn’t tough to navigate, but they look cool. Drill each piece of wood and then pass the rope through, tie a knot and pass it through the next piece of wood.
  • Go beyond rocks. Dirt is off-road. Carve out some short, steep dirt hills. Make a sand pit (it will stop the heavy “comp trucks” in their tracks).
  • A row of half buried logs with a few inches between each log makes for an awesome challenge. put a few logs at slight angles to real twist some frames.

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  1. Hey there. This gives me some great ideas for my own course. I have a Trail Finder 2 and a Wraith.
    Many thanks

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