Thursday, August 20, 2009

Darth's Got New Shoes!

My "Road Rig" performed flawlessly throughout our first cross-country drive together on US2. Darth was just amazing, a real "beast" who is also easy and comfortable to drive. The camper has exceeded my expectations for comfort, roominess, features and ease of use. I'm very happy with the whole set-up and look forward to many, many more drives together.

The only thing just a little less than perfect was that on poor roads -- for example with lots of ruts and/or sloping shoulders -- the ride sometimes felt a little wobbly, roly-poly or even squishy. I didn't think it was a problem with Darth's suspension, so I did some checking around.

It turns out that most truck/camper drivers complain of the same feeling, and the problem is with the tires! The soft-sided radial tires the factory mounts to help make the ride smoother aren't ideal for hauling heavy loads. They flex and roll too much, which causes the feeling I got.

The solution is to switch to heavy-duty, commercial truck tires. The problem there, however, is that all those tires are made for 19.5" wheels, not the 20" factory wheels! What to do?

The solution to that problem is provided by a company near Baltimore called Rickson. They custom make 19.5" wheels for pick-ups, and then match balance new truck tires to them... Perfect!

Since I was in the area, I drove down to the factory and checked them out. Dan Richter, the owner, is totally cool and explained everything to me. Plus, he had a set of wheels ready to go for Darth and could make it happen that day!

So, Darth's got new shoes! Super heavy-duty truck tires with very solid side walls on fancy new Rickson wheels. Not only has the load rating has gone from 3500 to 5000 pounds per wheel -- a huge increase in capacity -- but the sidewall flex is virtually eliminated and the tires will wear for twice the usual mileage of normal pick-up tires. Darth's being even more handsome than before is just a side benefit!

We're now "new and improved" and ready for our next long drive... Stay tuned for details!

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