RC aluminum wheels have been around for a long time. These good-looking-but-heavy wheels were first installed solely as a cosmetic upgrade. Well, back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I’m sure plenty thought there was a performance advantage, but the reality is the racer that put aluminum wheels of his Tamiya Frog was not improving handling or improving acceleration—just the opposite. performance wasn’t better; his wheels just looked cool. Fast forward a decade or so, and with rock crawlers and scalers, aluminum wheels became more of about improving function than form. For a rock crawler, the added weight of aluminum is often beneficial (lower center of gravity). Aluminum’s added durability is also put to good use in the crawling segment as trucks running on the rocks are notorious for making quick work of the hex on plastic wheels. Aluminum wheels also make better bead locks as the screw holes for the bead lock rings won’t strip out easily like plastic. And finally, aluminum wheels don’t crack when falling off ledges. There are a lot of good reasons to use aluminum wheels on a crawler, but it doesn’t have to be just about functionality. There are a number of companies offering scale and downright beautiful wheels for crawlers. One such company is Locked Up RC, and when we needed new wheels for our test of the Pit Bull Rock Beast II 2.2 tires, we went with Locked Up RC’s 2.2″ Rock Cutter SLW Compatible Beadlock wheels. Not only are these wheels styled after real wheels and nicely machined, Locked Up RC helps you take it to the next level when it comes to scale details such as scale lug nuts and scale bead lock hardware.
The Rock Cutters are a six spoke design that is 3D, meaning it isn’t a flat design. Interestingly, the back and typically unseen side is flat and the SLW Compatible version of the Rock Cutters can be run inside out with the flat backside as the face. SLW is a Vanquish Products term that sands for Super Light Weight, but what it really means here is these Locked Up RC wheels do not have a machined in hub. Instead, Vanquish’s removable hubs bolt to the wheels. These allows you a wide range of back spacing options. The back spacing of the wheel is 14.75 mm, but there are a variety of Vanquish hubs in different widths available to the overall back spacing desired. The hubs cost $15 to $20 per pair depending on where you buy them.
The Rock Cutters are sold as single wheels with only the back rings included. The cost per wheel is $21.50. Outer rings are available in three styles with price ranging from $6 to $6.75 per ring. The rings used in this test are the Agile rings. The M 2 x 7 mm screws needed to retain the rings are $5.95. The M2 x 1 mm scale bolts to finish off the rings cost $18.70 for stainless. The tool needed to thread in the scale bolts is another $5.99. The rings have 24 holes, but only 18 are threaded for the tiny faux bolt heads. The other six holes are for the actual bolts that attach the rings. The acorn nuts needed to attach the SLW hubs cost $9.95. The needed tool is $6.99. Total cost for wheels, hubs, hardware and tools can get close to $190.
PERFORMANCE & FINAL ASSESSMENT
Bead locks wheels are like turnbuckles, shocks and fluid-filled diffs—they are usually no fun to assemble. Once they are assembled, all of the above are all great, but sometimes (as in almost always) they are more of a chore than a joy. The Locked Up RC bead locks may even be a bit more work because of the added hardware, but it really isn’t that bad and certainly isn’t a deal breaker if you’re looking for that higher level of scale. I was disappointed when I snapped one of the scale lug nut studs. A few of the faux bead lock ring bolts also threaded in poorly. That bummed me out, but nearly as much as the lug nut stud that broke. My advice is to really take your time. These wheels will give most people some serious sticker shock, but it’s up to the individual to decide whether the level of scale detail they offer is worth the price.
The assembled bead locks have a firm hold on the Pit Bull Rock Beast II tires I was using. As with any bead lock wheels, you have to take care that the bead is fully seated. If you do your job right, the Locked Up RC wheels will do their job and hold the tires tightly.
In use, the Locked Up RC wheels have worked great. There is no sign of the finish showing any wear and the bead locks are showing no sign of allowing a tire to pull loose. There’s no denying that the realistic hardware looks great and the overall machining quality of the wheels is on par (there are visible machine marks) with most other aluminum wheels. The aluminum used is clearly of high quality, but take care with the stainless hardware as stainless isn’t always all that tough compared to other types/blends of steel.
I have used these wheels on my comp rig and took home first at a big event. Does that mean that these wheels will be your key to victory? No, but I am willing to bet they won’t hold you back.
Locked Up RC