From the first time I ever tried RWD R/C Drift, I was told that I MUST use a Gyro. Just like most of you out there, I thought, “I’ll do it without a Gyro.” I tried, failed, and learned to drive with a Gyro.
There are a few theories as to what the Gyro does, but it seems the obvious is always ignored. Here are a few I hear often:
The Gyro does all these micro calculations that your brain is too slow to process and your hand is too slow to use effectively. It’s impossible to drive without.
The Gyro doesn’t do much. It just simulates the full scale car’s natural tendency to have the steering return to center.
It’s impossible to drive RWD R/C Drift without a Gyro because you are not in the car and you cannot feel when it starts to break traction.
These all sound great and gives us all a good reason to use Gyros guilt-free.
We have all tried to turn the gyro to zero, spun out uncontrollably, and realized we couldn’t even drive straight. This was enough to convince us that the above statements were true.
(Side Note: A Gyro set at Zero Gain still provides some assist.)
RWD R/C Drifting is the most realistic form of R/C Drifting since this segment had started many years back. The scene has gone through many phases: It has gone from 50/50 (AWD), to Counter-Steer (CS – Overdrive the rear wheels and use the front wheels to keep from spinning), to what we have today, RWD (Use Gyro to keep the car from spinning).
Let’s go back to the first time you drove RWD and how strange the Gyro felt.
Anyone who’s been around from the beginning, or even if you haven’t, the first time you tried to drive RWD, you instinctively tried to counter-steer. (I’m sure everyone here remembers this moment) You either were told or taught yourself to “Let the Gyro do it’s thing”. You flicked the car, held the steering in the direction you wanted to go, and got on the throttle. You practiced that, got better at it, and that is what you do to this day.
You instinctively knew what you needed to do to keep from spinning, but since you had in your head you must to use a Gyro, you unlearned what your instincts were telling you. I know I did. This was the pivotal moment in which you went down the path of Gyro Assisted RWD R/C Drifting.
I tried to do Gyroless a few years ago.
A few years back I had a DIB Version 2 (Purpose built Counter-Steer chassis) that was converted to RWD. Back then the chassis weren’t quite figured out yet and all the RWDs were some sort of conversion or pieced together to get more steering angle. I practiced for a few weeks and was able to turn some laps. Wheels were shaky since I was trying to mimic a gyro and using my steering to keep from spinning. The gyro only affects the steering, right? This was my mindset anyway.
As close as I was, I really wasn’t close at all. The steering geometry wasn’t quite right, and my thinking wasn’t going in the correct direction. Luckily my remote lost it’s ability to control dual servos, and I was forced to abandon the project and slap a gyro in. My thinking was flawed the entire time I was doing this. I thought I needed to mimic what the gyro was doing. I couldn’t be more wrong.
R/C Drift Keeps Progressing
As with everything else, R/C Drift is always progressing. Technology advances and things get easier. Chassis now take advantage of the torque generated by the motor as it tries to twist. Chassis designs now use this force to generate more traction. Steering geometry is now more precise and has a huge adjustment range. Gyro technology has advanced greatly, even allowing some to run at 100% gyro gain. Servos are now specifically spec’d out to work with gyros. We have come a long way. With every advancement, the cars become easier and easier to drive.
What are you trying to say?
The modern day R/C Drift Chassis has become very refined. Very different from what was available to us 4 years ago. Steering geometry has become more optimized for what we are doing. Suspension has a lot of options. We are basically working with some very tunable chassis. So much so, they can be driven without Gyro assistance.
So what exactly does a Gyro do?
I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I have learned what exactly the Gyro is doing as I headed down the path of Gyroless drifting. Forget what you have been told over the years. Simply put, a gyro does what a gyro has been doing for years, keeping whatever it’s connected to in a controlled state. RWD R/C Drifting is no different. In our case, it takes over the counter-steering aspect of driving. (Once you can drive without a Gyro, it is obvious just how much the Gyro itself is doing)
Remember when you first tried RWD Drift? You naturally wanted to counter-steer, but you had to let the gyro do it’s thing. Well, you taught yourself to ignore the need to counter-steer. It’s really that simple. A more accurate statement would be, it is an aid that keeps your car from spinning due to the inability to keep the front and rear of the car in a balanced state. You are aiming the car in the direction you want to go, and the gyro is making small adjustments to keep the car from spinning. The more throttle input you give, the more the rear of the car comes around. The gyro adds more counter-steer (prevent spinning) in addition to your steering input (desired direction).
Ask yourself this:
Why can’t you drive in a straight line without a gyro? Does that even make sense that you can’t do that?
The answer is:
Poor throttle and steering control.
How to drive WITH Gyro Assist
If your car is tuned correctly, you can take off from a standstill as quickly as you would like. Full throttle for that burnout effect, modulating for maximum speed and traction, or anything in between. Not much thought goes into that. The car magically goes straight.
We “flick” the car into the corner, steer into it as the car starts to slide, get on the throttle to get that angle, and we guide the car with the steering to take that smooth line. Want to speed up, give it more throttle. Want to slow down, less throttle. (Subject to debate, but you get the point). Exit the corner and blast to the next. I’m sure we can all agree this is all pretty basic.
For those who started out with CS (Counter-Steer) or even 50/50 for that matter, how long did it take for you to get “Good?” Were you able to tandem the first day? How about the first week? You had to work at it. You had to learn to be smooth, right? A first timer tandeming the first time on the track was unheard of.
Fast forward to today. We have first timers getting on the track and being able to tandem within a few hours. Able to hold their own in comps after a couple weeks of practice. Obviously, things have changed and let’s face it, they have become easier.
How to drive WITHOUT a Gyro
The first thing you will notice is there is nothing keeping you from spinning. One of the hardest things to do is drive straight. Yes, it is difficult to drive straight.
Just as in a real car, if you have 1000 horsepower, you will have a hard time driving straight down your street if you start off by going half or full throttle and start spinning your tires. So you need to be easy on the throttle. (Not that difficult, right? Same applies here) When you break rear traction, there is nothing keeping the back end of your car from coming around on you. This is why you will find yourself spinning when you try to go straight. To drive straight you need to be easy on the throttle, and / or you need to somehow keep the front and rear balanced between each other. You maintain balance by counter-steering AND modulating the throttle. The key is balance.
When you want to start a drift, you will need to get the weight of the chassis to shift, and then you need to break rear traction. At the same time, you need to steer into the drift and maintain a balance between throttle and steering. The more throttle you give, the more the rear end wants to come out. This means as you give more throttle you need to add more angle with your steering input. If you want to continue to navigate a given turn, you will need to adjust your trajectory by making adjustments with both the steering and throttle. It is a constant balancing act. It is truly steering with your throttle.
What is the real difference then
I found using a Gyro to assist in RWD R/C Drifting, the Gyro bridges the gap between Steering and Throttle. With this, you end up using each independently. It breaks down like this:
Gyro Assisted RWD Drifting
Steering – Controls the direction of the chassis. No real relation to the throttle.
Throttle – Controls the speed and angle of the chassis. No real relation to the steering.
Gyro – Electronically prevents the chassis from spinning by maintaining the correct amount counter-steer to the angle induced by the throttle input. Essentially the gyro compensates for unbalanced steering and throttle input.
Steering – Controls the direction of the chassis. Also used in conjunction with the throttle to keep the chassis balanced and in control.
Throttle – Controls the speed and angle of the chassis. Also used in conjunction with the steering to keep the chassis balanced and in control.
I am now driving without out Gyro. The last time I attempted to do this, my approach was incorrect. I thought about RWD Drifting with a Gyro and tried to figure out how to “replace” the Gyro with my hand. All the while, keeping what was explained to me about what a Gyro does. That was just the wrong approach.
This time around I approached it fresh. I told myself everything I have been told could be wrong, so I needed to figure it out for myself. Quite honestly, the explanations never made sense to me and I was quite vocal about it.
I started to think about real 1:1 drifting, and all of a sudden EVERYTHING was clear. Why did I stop counter-steering? Why was I so abrupt with the throttle? Why were my flicks into the corners as hard as they are with no consideration for anything else? The answer was simple, because EVERYTHING I was doing was focused around the gyro saving me.
So in conclusion, it is very possible to drive RWD R/C Drift without a Gyro.
The Gyro is a driving aid that compensates for lack of ability to keep the chassis balanced at all times. Recently it has become the center of tuning, so rather than to make better drivers, they make servos to work better with Gyros. They push for more Gyro gain, and further remove the driver from the task of keeping the chassis balanced. More throttle, harder flicks, less spinning, all because of a little electronic device that allows you to do this. (You can’t do it without)
Normal vs. ACVS Mode:
Recently I have experimented with ACVS Mode which is another step deeper into having the Gyro control the car. When you step away for a moment, you quickly realize both normal and ACVS modes are essentially the same when it comes to Drift. They both remove the need to balance your steering and throttle. I wouldn’t say one is more of a cheat over the other. They are pretty much equal but different. Just the next advancement in Gyro technology. Something to make it easier to drive.
The Chassis are capable
We have all had a good, solid 3-4 years of improving our tuning game. We can all tune the hell out of our RWD chassis. Now if we apply that knowledge without relying on the Gyro to keep us from spinning, we can truly be in control of our cars. There is nothing more rewarding in RWD R/C Drift than to do clean, smooth laps because of your own skills. I guess I can only speak for myself, but I have never felt a greater sense of accomplishment while doing R/C Drift than that first clean lap without any sort of aid. I thought it may be impossbile.
RWD R/C Drift (No Gyro) is really the purest form of R/C Drifting.
Don’t get it wrong, it takes a lot of practice and skill. (And a lot of frustration) My good friend Aydin said it best and gave me a huge boost in motivation. He said,
“Imagine when this (Gyroless) is as easy to us as what we are doing now (Gyro). It’s just a matter of time.”
Quite a few people have expressed interest in going Gyroless. It can very possibly be the next phase in R/C Drift if enough people are up to the task.
Below is my last few laps before we tore down our track. These aren’t my best laps, only my last laps. I was trying a different tune and lost my ability to maintain smoothness on the large sweeper. (Big Ackerman made it easier to get around the track, but harder to keep it smooth, Slight positive Ackerman forces you to be more gentle on the throttle, but in return gives you a smoother line) I wished I had one more day so I could revert to my previous setup, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Immediately following this, we tore down the track at the Original Super-G, and have just recently been able to get our new track open. (7 weeks of not even looking at my car) I know it’s not the smoothest, or even close to being perfect, but I wanted to give you guys a raw clip of where I was at before we had to move. Not staged, edited or anything of the sort.