My new, old hobby: RC Racing

il_570xN.319025435 (Photo via etsy user “curiosofwonder“)

If you’ve suffered through some of the other posts on this blog, you might have noticed I am a bit tightly wound. That’s a prime quality to have when you are scrutinizing Supportability of complex systems.

But, even the tightly wound need a way to, well, unwind. Despite this need, I have struggled to find a hobby that works for me.

At first I tried digital music, hoping to spark the creative side. The problem is, being digital, there is technology involved. That led to me trying to figure out every knob that I can tweak and every parameter I could change – rather than just making some frickin’ music.

As I tend to do, I spent more time researching and twiddling than I did actually enjoying the hobby. I know more about effects, compression, and subtractive synthesis than I do actual music at this point. As a result, I’ve got a whole bunch of songlets – but nothing to actually show for it.

(On a side note, this is also why I am a console gamer now, instead of a computer gamer – plug-and-play, baby).

I don’t know what drew me back to it, but for some reason I decided to get back into RC racing. About a decade ago, I bought a nitro RC car that I used to race in parking lots on weekends.


I hadn’t used it in about eight years or so. Have I mentioned my oldest son is also eight years old? Feel free to draw whatever conclusions you like from that data ;)

Anyway, what a difference nearly a decade makes! Back then, electric cars were a joke. You had three minute run times, followed by 45 minutes to an hour charge times. Nitro was definitely the way to go. Just add more fuel, and keep going.

Fast forward 10 years, and things have totally reversed. Nobody does nitro anymore – at least not on-road. Most everything is electric – even the off-road stuff, which really surprised me.

This time around, I decided to meld to my passions: Formula One and RC racing. I managed to find a really good deal on a starter set up: a Tamiya F104, complete with radio, electronics, and battery. I actually spent more money on the peripherals than the car.

So, how is this thing going? Well, they say a picture is worth…


But, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, I do indeed suck at this. But I am steadily improving.

So, why do I think this hobby is going to stick? There are three main reasons:

  1. Much less fiddling
  2. … but there is still some amount of fiddling, which is optional
  3. The fellow racers are a really great group of guys

Plug-and-play… literally

Part of the genius of these F1 RC cars is that there’s not a heck of a lot to tweak on them. Their design is pretty simple. For now, this is a good thing. It means I can do exactly what I need to at this point: Focus on keeping the car off the walls. As evidenced by the pic above, I still have a ways to go.

Also, where Nitro engines required near daily re-tuning as weather, celestial alignments, or any of 10,000 other variables changed, electric cars simply require a battery to run. Plug that up, turn on the radio and car, and just drive. Less barriers to just getting out there and having fun!

Still some “fidddle factor”

Yes, running the car is like flipping a light switch. This is not to say that I won’t be obsessing over tuning details later. At least I don’t feel like I have to work on the car for hours to not be behind the 8 ball.

There are plenty of parts, tuning options, and general tips/tricks/BS to be gained from others that will keep the fidgety side of me happy, as well. If this guy and spend over 25 minutes just talking about setup options, I suspect I can spend a bit longer actually implementing them.

It’s the people, stupid

I’m an introvert at heart. When I am at a party, if I don’t know anyone, I’ll be the dude with a pint in the corner just people watching. But, around people I know, I am probably more talkative that some people care for (just look at the length of my posts as evidence :) ).

While it took a tiny bit of courage for me to walk over and start talking to folks at my “local” racetrack (which is 25 minutes away), that effort was well rewarded.

There’s a really good crew of guys at Mike’s Hobby Shop in Carrollton. They are all very helpful and it is a fun, yet competitive, atmosphere. People are very happy to lend a part, offer advice, or even just flat out give you odds and ends like screws.

While I have yet to meet them, I also hear the Houston F1 crowd is a great group, as well.

Back to Mike’s… Make no bones about it: People want to win, but they are also a community that helps each other improve. There is a very adult atmosphere that realizes the better the competition, the better you will become… a rising tide lifts all boats… <enter what ever Zig Ziglar-esque cliché you want here>.

Out of all of the surprises thus far with my new, old hobby, this one has far and away been the most eye opening – and I suspect it is the key to what will keep me in this hobby for a while to come.


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