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Losi Night Crawler Review

12/21/2009 by Gary Katzer

Copyright:© 2009 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

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Crawlers have truly burst onto the scene, thanks in large part to Losi’s multiple entries into the class. The 1/10-scale Comp Crawler raised the bar in many areas in terms of performance. For those who are looking for premium performance without the premium price tag, Losi has the perfect truck for you in the 1/10-scale RTR Night Crawler. Borrowing many key designs and features from the Comp Crawler, the Night Crawler brings some different twists to the crawling game and gets you up and running in no-time flat. 

 I was able to take the Night Crawler with me when I headed to the recent Spektrum Off Road Championships held at S&N’s Trackside Hobbies, my old home track. They have recently set up a crawler room with a wide variety of different obstacles, rock formations, elevation changes and more. With a bunch of charged packs, my daughter at my side and my camera at the ready, we took to the course to try to get a better grasp of this whole rock crawling thing. 

Speed Specs
1/10-Scale Night Crawler
Manufacturer: Losi
Part Number: LOSB0104
Vehicle Class/Type: 2.2-class Rock Crawler
Target Audience: Beginner to Intermediate Rock Crawling Fans
Kit/RTR/BND/Race Roller: RTR

Test Items Used:
Losi 2S 7.4V 5000mAh LiPo 20C (LOSB9861)
Dynamite Passport Ultra (DYN4064)

Track Notes
    Anyone who races (and has kids who aren’t quite ready to race themselves) is familiar with the challenge of keeping kids entertained while at the track. My daughter has been bugging me for some time to let her drive one of my race vehicles. This again was the case at the Spektrum Off Road Shootout where she really wanted to join in with the “big kids” and drive something. Unfortunately this was neither the time nor the place with nearly 200 entrants at the event. Thankfully the rock crawling room provided the driving experience she was looking for without having to worry too much about being in someone’s way or struggling with a vehicle that was too fast for her experience level. 
    Now being a good dad, I made sure to run the course a few times first to make sure the truck performed as it should. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the truck drove straight from the box with the kit oil, springs, ride height and gearing. After a little bit of running, I handed her the transmitter, stood back and let her have at it. It was one of those experiences that I didn’t quite expect.
    While the transmitter was a little big for her hands and she really needed to concentrate to be able to work both the throttle and steering at the same time, she had an absolute blast. The Night Crawler was slow enough that it didn’t get ahead of her too quickly yet fast enough to be fun for her. She was able to get up and over the course more or less without needing much help from anyone. Sure she sent it tumbling a few times, but for the most part she was able to keep it rubber-side-down, shiny-side-up.
    The day after the race I returned to Trackside for my own testing and evaluation. With my daughter in school, I knew I wouldn’t have to fight her for transmitter time. After seeing how well my daughter was able to handle the Night Crawler, I had high hopes for it. Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed. As testing goes, this was a fun way to spend the afternoon and I could tell almost instantly why she was able to have fun and be successful with it. The Night Crawler has a ton of forward bite, the worm gear really works and the overall design really provides a ton of confidence behind the wheel. My only complaint was that I thought the Night Crawler would benefit from having a little more weight placed over the front axle or installing some wheel weights. As it was, the Night Crawler was able to get up and over other obstacles that other crawlers were having issues with. For a Ready-To-Run this is one capable truck.     

Top Speed/Acceleration
    The brushed motor and ESC that the Night Crawler comes with provides a ton of torque, especially when combined with the Night Crawler’s advanced transmission. I was actually really surprised that the truck was as fast as it was out of the box, especially when you consider the included motor is a closed endbell brushed design. Top speed was really good too; if anything, you can reduce wheel speed and increase torque and acceleration by dropping a tooth or two on the pinion gear. This would also increase the runtime slightly. 

Handling
    I’ve admitted before to being an on-road racer by nature and making the transition to running off road has been challenging, however I have been able to do so with reasonable success. That being said, moving to rock crawling presents a totally different set of challenges. Along with just trying to get the rig from point A to point B by plotting the shortest route, you also need to examine the faces of the rocks to determine where the Rock Claw tires will get their best bite and traction. Depending on what the best route is the Night Crawler is more than equipped to handle the roughest trails. 
    The solid axle design handles differently than a traditional independent suspension-equipped vehicle. The best way I can describe it is its like having a super-thick anti-rollbar installed as the truck has a very direct feel to it. As one side of the truck’s suspension lifts the other drops, making the suspension feel very compliant over a variety of obstacles. The control provided was surprising to me as I was able to put the truck pretty much where I wanted to on the course repeatedly. There was a particularly tricky section with two rocks that I had to squeeze the Night Crawler through to continue through the course. The challenge was that the faces of both rocks were completely smooth, which did not provide a great surface for the Rock Claw tires to dig into. It didn’t matter as I was able to get the rig through the narrow passage time after time.
    The only nitpick I have regarding the Night Crawler’s handling was a feeling that it needed a little more weight over the front axle. There were times when the truck would feel like it was going to tip over backwards on extreme grades. There were also times when I wished that the front tires were “into” the rocks a little more instead of being on top of them. Some adhesive lead weights placed on the front axle or some wheel weights would definitely have helped keep the front end down a little better. 

Off-Power
    The worm gear drive system helps the Night Crawler maintain its position regardless of the surface or angle you might be on at any time. This made it pretty easy to approach a section, scout it and make an educated decision regarding how to plot my course without worrying if the rig was going to lose its position and roll backwards. There were a number of other trucks running the course at the same time, none with a worm gear transmission, and all had issues rolling back if they didn’t stay on the power. 
    In addition to holding its position when climbing, the Night Crawler was also very stable while descending. This again is due to the worm gear but credit also has to be given to the Rock Claw tires. They bit in and held position on a variety of surfaces, from rocks to wood, in a very impressive manner. The control was precise, and if anything more than I expected.

On-Power
    If you like instantaneous torque then you’re going to love the Night Crawler. One thing that may go underappreciated is that the Night Crawler doesn’t rock back and forth on power; it stays nice and level which prevents the chassis from loading and unloading unexpectedly. This leads to the predictable handling nature that the Night Crawler features. 
    Unlike its cousin the Comp Crawler, the Night Crawler’s battery is mounted above the transmission. This raises the center of gravity slightly but not so much that it hampers the control or performance. The Night Crawler simply digs in and launches forward when you squeeze the trigger. 

Chassis Roll
    A rock crawler has a totally different feeling regarding chassis roll than any other vehicle I’ve ever seen or driven. The Night Crawler uses this roll to its advantage, allowing it to conform to any surface the tires touch. It is a weird feeling, seeing the cab of the rig at a 45-degree angle to the ground while the axles are at completely different angles. It looks like it shouldn’t work but it totally does. I never played around with the shocks or springs, but the kit setup felt very good for what I was doing in the rock room. The Night Crawler could have been set up with stiffer springs to reduce the chassis roll but that would have simply made the chassis less compliant and made it harder to scale different obstacles. In the end, I think the Night Crawler has found a nice balance in the setup that the truck comes out of the box with.

Final Thoughts
    I’ll admit that I haven’t hopped on the rock crawling bandwagon before now. I mean it’s crawling rocks and going over stuff, how hard could it possibly be, right? Well, after spending a few days with the Night Crawler, I have to admit that I get it now. Rock crawling is a very cerebral experience, much more than I ever gave it credit for. While many may consider 1/12-scale on-road racing as the RC equivalent of a chess match, perhaps rock crawling is the closest thing to it in a single-vehicle format. It challenges you to think two, three, four moves ahead and plan accordingly and really develop a strategy for how to best attack the course. That’s another difference between rock crawling and any other form of RC I’ve ever done. It’s not just you against the field for the most laps in the least amount of time. It’s you versus the rock, the trail, and in many ways, yourself. It’s a pretty visceral experience. 
    I will admit whole heartedly that I get it now. I understand better why so many people have fun rock crawling. Perhaps it took seeing my daughter having a blast doing it that really opened my eyes but seeing her having fun helped me have fun too. The Night Crawler is a capable rig that does rock crawling right. It’s as complete a setup as you’ll ever find. From its Spektrum-equipped 2.4GHz Losi radio system, multi-National Champion Rock Claw tires, worm gear drivetrain and excellent ESC, this is a very good truck. In fact, it’s so good that my daughter may just be a better rock crawler than her father is. Well I guess it had to happen sooner or later, but a few more years would have been nice.