By Mike Garrison
A Moment with Mike is a weekly opinion column where LiveRC’s Mike Garrison gives his take on hot-button issues, general topics, and conversations within the RC industry. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LiveRC.
No one likes to waste money, especially when it comes to a hobby they are doing for fun. In almost any form of motorsports racing there are endless ways to spend your money, and the same goes for R/C car racing. Unfortunately, while there may be endless ways to spend it, we aren’t all on an endless budget, and therefore it’s important to know exactly when and where to spend your hard-earned dollars. Everyone has their opinion on where to spend money in R/C, but today I have made a list of my top 5 areas where spending a little extra money will help you be successful on the race track.
#1) Car Kit That Fits You
While being the underdog with a “good deal” sponsorship from a lesser known brand or a car that you are totally unfamiliar with may sound appealing, it can also destroy your chances on the race track. Everything on this list is important, but none of it matters if you don’t spend the money on a car that works for you, is reliable, and meets your needs. If you aren’t good at developing setups, don’t buy a car that has no setup support or other drivers in your area. If you crash a lot, don’t buy a car that is known to be more fragile than others. Each car kit is unique, and each driver is unique. Don’t let “good deals” get in the way of making sure you find a quality vehicle that fits your needs.
Once you have a car that fits you, the next thing to focus your spending on is tires. There was a time in R/C that choosing the right tire was easy, but that is long gone with the hundreds of combinations in tread patterns, tire compounds, and foam inserts available today. Setup of a car is very important, but even the best setup can be impossible to drive without the correct tires for the track you’re racing on. It’s important to talk with other local racers, track owners, and hobby shops to find out exactly what tires work for the track you’ll be racing on. Once you know what tire works best, spending money to keep your tires fresh will greatly enhance your setup and performance on the track.
#3) Radio System
One of the biggest downfalls for many racers is their radio system. I’m not saying that you need to spend $600 on the latest and greatest in order to be competitive, but its important that as your skill level progresses that you upgrade your radio, receiver, and servos to keep up. RTR vehicles is a common starting point for new racers, but as they get better, they often are looking for a more responsive setup, a car that turns more, etc. Basic car setup can help with all of these things, but for many of these drivers the answer is spending money to upgrade to a faster and more responsive radio system and servo setup.
#4) ESC/Motor or Nitro Engine
Buying an ESC/motor combo or a nitro engine can easily cost as much as the initial car kit you are purchasing it for. Despite this being a hard pill to swallow, this is not an area that you want to skip out on spending money. Too often I see racers with great talent once again choosing lower grade equipment or lesser quality for a lower price, sponsorship, or discount deal. Those same racers quickly find themselves unable to finish a race (let alone win one), not for a lack of ability, but a lack of good, reliable, smooth, and quality performance from their ESC/motor and/or nitro engine. Once again, I am not saying that you must spend the highest dollar amount possible in order to win races, but its important to research what equipment is reliable and works well for your application. Quality, reliability, and frustration free performance is well worth a few extra dollars.
While tools do not necessary enhance your performance while on the track, a quality set of tools is important to have for multiple reasons. First and foremost, there is nothing more frustrating than tools that don’t fit, the tips break, or they don’t work as they should. Second, without a quality set of tools your maintenance routines are likely to suffer, which is likely to result in suffering performances on the track. Buying tools can be expensive, however, a quality set of tools is something that if treated with care can last longer than your R/C career itself. Spend the extra money for tools that are comfortable, work well, and make routine maintenance as enjoyable and easy as possible.
Side Note: Tools are also something that typically don’t get “outdated” such as cars, tires, and radios, therefore if you decide to sell off your R/C stuff – DON’T SELL YOUR TOOLS. If there is even a 1% chance you will get back into R/C racing, save your tools! No reason to spend the money twice, and the price you’ll sell them for isn’t worth the hassle of trying to replace them all again.
Regardless of where you spend your money, you cannot buy talent and/or the hard work that it takes to become a great racer, BUT you can certainly make that task far more difficult if you don't equip yourself with quality equipment that fits your needs. Frustration with equipment is a major fun killer in R/C, and often drives people out of the hobby. Do your research, ask fellow racers for opinions and experiences with different brands, purchase what YOU need to progress YOUR racing, and remember that any little bit you can do to decrease frustration and increase fun is well worth every penny.