Two weeks after I installed the suspension, my cousin and I were talking about where we should go off-roading next, but I actually wanted to go back to Azusa Canyon OHV so that I could compare what I remember there (on the OEM suspension and tires) with my current upgraded front suspension and rear suspension upgrades. My brother (also returning with his new suspension and setup) was in, and our buddy Ben. The weather was overcast, and this was after a couple days of heavy rain in SoCal. The only things I did to get ready for the trip was to bring along a tire deflator, and I temporarily removed the OEM side step rails.
This was the first time I aired down, since now I had that ability with the BF Goodrich KO2’s. My cousin routinely airs down his KO2’s to 20-psi when going off-road and since I had the same Load E tires, I also went down to 20-psi and we hit the trails. At first it felt weird – the best way I can describe it was that it felt like standing on a waterbed. The truck felt like it had a little “float” to it, but after I got used to how the steering felt it turned out to be pretty good after all. It was definitely a different feel compared to the first time on stock tires.
With the stock tires I felt and heard everything I ran over, but with the KO2’s aired down I could just cruise at 10-15mph across the rocky flat areas (almost like a washboard surface) and I barely felt a thing. Side note – the rain a few days prior washed out a lot of the surface dirt, so a lot of the rocks were sticking out from the ground more now than they were the last time I was here. The tires felt great – I don’t think I lost traction anywhere (even on a couple relatively long dirt hill climbs). The more I use the KO2 the more I’m impressed with their capabilities.
After driving around for a bit over sand, gravel, rocks, streams, more rocks, even more rocks, shallow mud, etc. I also realized that I wasn’t even thinking about the suspension! The whole day I was just having fun driving through the trails, streams, over stuff, down stuff, crossing stuff, etc. The King/Bilstein combo kept the ride relatively smooth no matter what terrain I was on. I liked how there was less body sway with the new suspension – funny thing was, I could tell simply by how there was less things moving around inside the truck (things in the center console, in the glove box, etc.) With the suspension and the tires I was keeping up with my cousin’s built FJ, whereas before if I went too fast on the stock suspension it felt like the truck was going to fall apart LOL
Later on we headed to the more technical areas to get the suspension flexing. It was a mix of rutted paths that snaked along the valley edge near the mountains, some with deep tire channels and some with rocky streams and close brush running the entire route. The Kings/Bilsteins handled the constant terrain change easily; I never felt like I was being tossed around in the cab like before, and even my keys weren’t bouncing around and making noise like before. The articulation and the added lift made it easier to navigate the terrain. During a rest break our buddy Ben suggested I park in an angled spot nearby to take photos of my suspension flexing. Note: I still had the stock swaybar installed in the photos below:
If you’ve been to Azusa OHV you know that there’s a river crossing right as you enter the gate, and it’s the only way in and out of the OHV area. When we arrived the first thing we had to do was help a Toyota 4Runner get out of the river, as he didn’t make it and halfway through his engine went dead (not good!). Good thing Ben had recovery gear, and he yanked the Toyota out of the river.
Then another Fj buddy of theirs came through and we noticed that it was a little… more… deeper than before. Turns out that the rains that came through turned the entry and exit portions of the river crossing into semi-deep mud, and we were told how a lot of different rigs didn’t make it across. So we sat there for awhile because we weren’t sure if we wanted to try it. We even watched a few others go across first, and there was a line along the left side that you could drive across where only part of your vehicle would dip into the mud hole underneath the river surface.
Obviously we made it across the first time (or I wouldn’t have the pics above) but when it was time to go we had to cross one more time. The FJ’s made it across, but the hole looked like it got deeper. Then it was my turn (photos taken by Ben):
…so I made it through, even if my left front tire slid into the underwater mud hole a little bit. However I was surprised later when I saw the photos above and realized how high the water went up (good thing it didn’t get into the intake box!)
From this adventure I learned more about what my truck could do – which was a lot more now, thanks to the new suspension, the added height, and the KO2 tires. Makes me want to go off-road more, and I’m pretty sure I will. All in all it was a really fun day!