When man and machine interact, the interface is essential in obtaining the most optimum result; in computer jargon, “garbage in, garbage out.” It is the same with driving, especially off-road driving, wherein there are more variables to process, calculate mentality, then input into the machine thru the steering wheel and other controls. In that brief period of obtaining all that information, processing and inputting into the vehicle, depending on your speed, you may have already rolled the car or in a lesser case may have damaged and or got the vehicle stranded. It is doing all that, at one single moment, that substantially makes the sport of off-roading so much fun and exciting. It is also when all the adrenalin starts pumping.
In this article, we will tackle the correct driving position in order for the pilot to safely navigate the difficult terrain, get the right feedback from the vehicle, and how to make proper inputs into the vehicle to get the desired results.
The correct seating position is contrary to what you see in the most popular of all Hollywood car movies. I guarantee, at the least, getting stranded if you drive and steer the wheel, step on the pedal, and shift the way they do it in the movies.
Let’s start with the seating position. Your wrist should be on top of the wheel with your hands fully extended out on top of the steering wheel. If your normal seat position makes it difficult, adjust accordingly, so you will be seated in an upright position. Doing so will give you a better view of what’s ahead and enable you to mentally plot your route over the terrain ahead. By seating in this position, you will also be able to properly hold the steering wheel at the 10 o’clock position, with your left hand, and the 2 o’clock position, with your right hand. A 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position is good, too.
The correct seating position will allow the driver to push on the steering wheel, giving him or her the best leverage to steer. Aside from having an efficient control of the wheel, this position also gives you the most contact surface of your body to the vehicle your back and your bun.
It is the place in your body wherein you will get the quickest feedback of what your vehicle is about to do in relation to your inputs. Pushing on the wheel to steer also pins you to the seat giving you better leverage and feedback.
When steering, never crossover the other arm to grab the wheel. You can grab the wheel with your free hand that is not pushing by meeting the other hand or holding it at the bottom, then pushing again in the direction you want. In this way, you will respond faster to the terrain ahead with the correct wheel input and still get consistent good feedback from the vehicle.
This position will not be easy to adapt to. Believe me, most of us started with the wrong way. This seating position also applies to on road applications. Have you ever wondered why a lot of our country men fail in getting a driver’s license by just getting in the vehicle when taking a test in a foreign country? Well here is the answer. The instructor immediately notices how incorrect your seating position is, as well as how you grip the steering wheel.
In the next issue of Off-roading 101, we will tackle how to correctly manipulate the pedals and shifter on your 4WD.