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Gmade R1 Rock Crawler Long-Term Review

In 2011, we featured our original review of the Gmade R1 rock crawler/racer. After a few months of extensive testing (in more than one country no less), driving on a variety of terrains and just generally putting this truly unique truck through its paces, here are the end results of the long-term testing of the Gmade R1 Rock Racer.

> Adjustable Upper Link Mount (Item no. GM51123S). 
In addition to being stronger than stock, these aluminum mounts offer more axle tuning adjustments.
> Aluminum C-hub 7-degree axle carrier (GM51121S). Again, the aluminum adds durability, but the parts also increase caster angle to improve universal shaft angle while maintaining proper caster angle.
> Low CG Battery & Servo Plate (GM51107S). The mount moves the battery low and forward–always better for a crawler. For rock racing and bashing around, I do, however, most often mount the battery outback. If you’re using a small LiPo, you can get away with that.
> Delrin Skid Plate (J20011). Going over sharp rocks is dirty business and can rip up the undercarriage of your rig. Adding the Delrin skid plate adds strength and allows the R1 to smoothly slide over the rocks thanks to the slicker Delrin material. It also allows you to triangulate the lower links to a inboard position.
> Pro-Line Power Stroke aluminum shocks. The stock shocks are cool and work okay, but are limited. The dual internal springs are a neat concept, but are not easy to tune on the fly. Pro-Line’s Power Stroke shocks look great but also make tuning much easier thanks to the thread bodies. They also handle the go-fast setup I’m using better than the stock shocks.
> Axial 2.2 Ripsaw tires and wheels. The stock Gmade Big Horn tires worked better than expected, but Axial Ripsaw tires in their soft compound take the R1 to a whole new level. Nothing beats new kicks for improved performance. I did have to switch the stock hexes for narrower hexes to ensure enough of the threaded axle made it through the rim. It was close, so I added some thread lock under the lock nuts for added security.
> 3-cell LiPo. The R1 was cool on 7.4v, but really comes alive as a rock racer on a 3-cell 11.1V setup.


In the area of Manitoba, Canada that I live, we have a fare amount of flat land, but we also have  a couple rock quarries nearby. This unforgiving terrain is where the R1 was tested. The rocky terrain was sharp in some areas and well packed in others. It can be considered very inconsistent. I like this unpredictable terrain because it can really test your driving skills and the limitations of a rig.

My latest outing with the R1 was with a fellow crawler and his modified Axial AX10. While watching both rigs take on the rocks we threw at them, I was surprised that what one rig could do, the other sometimes couldn’t. Both vary in setups. The R1 outperformed the Axial in some areas and the Axial also came out on top in other areas. Overall, they both performed very well.

Big rocks, little rocks, groups of rocks, the R1 climbed them all and kept up. Trail driving and high speed runs were also enjoyable with the 3-cell lipo I was using.The R1 is made for bashing around and has been said not to be considered a competitive crawler, however, it did surprise me and I would certainly consider competing with it in a 2.2 shafty class.

The Viper 21.5 brushless and 2-cell LiPo setup was a good setup at first, but when I plugged in a 3-cell, the R1 was much faster. With good throttle control, it powered over the rocks and, where I needed it, it throttled up some higher hill climbs with wheel speed to spare. The 3-cell setup did contribute to some noticeable torque twist and the right front tire lift off the ground, but there is a price to pay for having that extra power and it’s not that hard to tune out the torque twist–especially since I added Pro-Line Power Stroke shocks.


The first thing I noticed throughout my long-term testing was the sound of the 32-pitch geared transmission. It’s louder than most, but that’s not really a flaw. Gobs of low end torque is the end result of such gearing.

Moving down the drivetrain, the R1 features universal joint driveshafts. These feed the axles which are all metal geared and feature the very cool portal axle design. The portal axles drop the ends of the axles below the center live of the axle housings. This was achieved by using a two-gear stack system at each end of the axles. Further gear reduction and torque is also achieved here by having the stacked end gears sitting at 14T on top, and 16t on the bottom.  The portal axle design also allowed for more ground clearance over the terrain.

The R1 is well priced at around $240 to $280. The key point here is the R1 is well worth the money. The R1 looks sharp and turns heads. The axle designs are truly unique and deliver a real performance benefit. The innovative design and quality is comparable, in my opinion, to more popular crawlers out there. While I too was disappointed about the small 5x8mm bearings at there location in the drive-train, this didn’t totally break me on my assessment of the R1. Sure, bigger would have been better…but what can I say? So far, so good. From start to finish,  I consider the R1 a truly fun rock racer. It isn’t necessarily designed for competitive crawling right out of the box, but with a little customizations like done here, it has serious competitive potential.




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  1. Great article! I didn’t know allot about the R1 and I was really interested in the rig due to it’s awesome look. Who could not look twice at this thing!? What I wanted to know is if it was just a cool looking rig or if it would perform like I would expect it to. It seems like with the right electronics and maybe a couple small upgrades it would be a really capable rock crawler/racer. I would love to take one out myself to test it out, so it looks like I’m going to have to buy one, but another wicked looking rig is the Kyosho Rock Force. I would love to get a long term review on that as well.
    I have a Losi Night Crawler, and an Axial AX10 and I have to say when it comes to the rocks the Night Crawler truly rocks! The Night Crawler is more capable on the rocks, enough to switch my AX10 into a scale truck.
    With the explosion of the rock crawler phenomenon we all have allot of options to pick from. I am impressed with the new HPI King Crawler. With the super low price of $229 I feel like this is a look into the future of this hobby. The King Crawler comes RTR for a price that is crazy low! That leaves some money in your pocket if you decide against the Losi Night Crawler or the Axial Ridge Crest and with that extra money you could probably make it at least as capable as the others.
    I’m very excited to see what is to come. I think there is a huge name in the RC industry that is yet to stick there nose in the crawler world and I think they are not far from coming out with there own. Of course I’m talking about Traxxas. They blew our mind with the Summit. With the innovations from the Summit I believe Traxxas will come out swinging in this rather new side of the RC.
    Hopefully we will see the crawler world get bigger and bigger. As for myself I can’t get enough! Crawling is fun, your not running to turn your truck over on the other side of the field or track, and they are very low maintenance. So if your thinking of jumping into a crawler I say jump in head first! Do some research and find out what you expect out of a rig and you will most likely be very happy with what you get.

  2. Thanks Travis. Yes, The R1 with a little few goodies does make this rig very capable and awesome to run. I’ve been enjoying mine and here In Winnipeg, MB. Our winter is long and cold. I’m itching to get back out on the rocks. I’m glad you enjoy RC rock crawling, it truly is a change of pace from the “dirt track” mentality. Your right, I think we are ALL are waiting to see if and when Traxxas will stick it’s nose in the crawling world. The summit was a great attempt and I know Matt loves his. He did a great job out fitting his rig to adapt to what he wanted out of it. But I’ll have to go with majority here and say Traxxas has a good thing going in other areas and isn’t in a hurry to join the crawling world to the same degree as lets say Axial. They dominate that circle with many other contenders.

    I Look forward to seeing more on your Gmade R1 build Travis. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page and post your rigs there. Love to see them and share with our other RC Truck Stop fans.

    Thanks for checking out the article.

  3. Greetings. I recently got one and I am really happy with it. After discarding original shocks (that I consider almost unusable except for show) and changed their position and angle I got much more axle movement but also substantial torque twist. Everything but shocks is stock. I use venerable Mabuchi RS540 27t silver can, Quicrun 1060 esc and 5000mAh lipo in stock position. How can I reduce if not get rid of torque twist. Rig is always tilted to the left and when I need extra power it just lifts front right and loses traction.

  4. Greetings Dusan.

    Yeah, torque twist can be a bummer, and is very common with shaft driven rigs. Its almost impossible to get rid of it with out hampering something like articulation or overall ride smoothness. Some guys will add sway bars, but those will affect articulation. I know in some setups in the past I’ve played with shock oil and dampening spacers or adjust the sock collars on threaded shocks for a little extra push on the opposite end. If your right front wheel is lifting, try adding some tension to the left front shock spring. Same concept for the rear if it has that much punch. The gear reduction on this rig is pretty low and torque twist comes easy, even with 27t. It’s a crawler and unless it’s got a 3 cell brushless like ours, it’s not breaking any speed records. Having said that, I noticed our 3cell 21.5 setup was great, but no faster than my axial rigs on 2 cell. Ours will twist on hard launches too. I hope this helps.

  5. Thanks for a good write up…Ive become a quick fan of the portal axles on this rig…getting ready to build a full on R1 with custom work Ill do to alter the chassis.

    Id like to ring in on the torque twist issue…torque twist is caused by the pinion gear trying to climp the ring gear…this problem can be counteracted by leverage using the correct link geometry. Forces on the axle causing it to rotate push and pull on the linkages which act on the chassis…by changing the link geometry you can cause the same forces to act differently on the chassis…all but eliminating TT. Stiffer springs and heavier shock oil will only hamper the ability of the rig to flex and crawl. You can build the rig to have very soft suspension and still limit the effects of TT.

    Best of luck.
    Thomas from Rusty R/C Customs

    1. Hey Thomas, thanks for coming by and checking out the article. I appreciate the input and I’m sure our readers do too.

      I still run the R1 today in the same setup as this review was conducted under. I really like the R1, and it’s reliable platform. Yes a little modified but still a great crawler that sits apart from the others in a good way. There is no doubt these axles would make any custom chassis perform well and keep it unique. Good luck and don’t be a stranger and I look forward to seeing the build. Our Facebook page is a great link for our readers and share builds and ideas.

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