How successful would my Gladiator Sport be on the Rubicon Trail?

Josh903

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Howdy all,

A friend of mine may be doing a trip to the Rubicon trail next year in his JLUR and welcomed me to come if I dared. My Gladiator Sport has some mild mods that have helped me conquer some more moderate trails but from what I understand of the Rubicon, it is on an entirely different level. I feel I probably wouldn't get through it without some good bit of damage, if at all, but wanted to get y'all's thoughts on it.

Current mods are a Rubicon Express 3.5" lift which really just consisted of new springs, a front track bar, and a rear track bar relocation bracket, and front geometry correction brackets. Factory control arms and shocks with extensions sitting on Milestar Patagonia MT 35s. Mopar step Rock Rails along with RedRock Bed Side Rock Rails, AntiRock front sway bar, and Fab Fours Stubby front bumper and Badlands 12k winch.

I hope to upgrade the entire suspension to a Clayton Off Road 3.5" Overland Plus kit sometime next year but may or may not be in time for this theoretical Rubicon trip.

Most recently I did some of the mild to moderate trails in Moab including Hell's Revenge, Poison Spider, Top of the World, and Elephant Hill and it handled them well aside from a bit of skid plate usage.

Picture below for a visual idea of how it sits now.

So how much trouble would I be getting into if I tried to take it on something like the Rubicon LOL?!


PXL_20220518_225321042.jpg

 

azmojave

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Rubicon trail is totally different than Moab. It’s two days of boulders. Without lockers it’s not gonna be a lot of fun. Can you do it? Maybe. Bring a strap.
 

WK2JT

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Exactly, was going to say, have a winch, strap or both with you. You can do it… just get really comfortable with the BLD with your open diffs! It requires a different driving style, but you’ve probably already experienced that. Nice rig BTW!
 

hjdca

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We just did the Rubicon trail last weekend during Father's day. It is by far the hardest trail I have done, and I have done all three "Big Bear Badge of honor trails". I ran the whole trail in first gear, low lock, and I have 5.13s and a 4:1 transfer case, my JTR is also a stick shift. You can walk the trail faster than driving it. With a Gladiator, you need 3.5" lift, 37 inch tires, and lots of armor --- plus lockers are a huge help. The boulders are so big, that you have to climb them with one side of the truck to get you high enough to keep from dragging underneath. One guy in our group had a Gladiator Sport with a 2.5 inch lift and 35 inch tries and we must have winched him 20 times. I personally turtled twice when I slipped off rocks and was not using a spotter. A spotter helps a lot, and a front camera is almost a game changer. The length of the gladiator is also challenging on obstacles like Cadillac hill. You have to use your sliders to swing the back end of the Gladiator around. I bought new 37s for the trip and ran them at 12-13 psi. I am super glad I bought new tires. You can also look at my build link in my signature. I went underneath the truck yesterday to paint my skids, and I can tell you that everyone got used -- all the control arm skids, the engine, tranny skids, gas tank skids, sway bar disconnect skid, fad skid, etc... Tie rods also take a beating. We had one bend in our group. My aluminum tie rod and drag link was much appreciated. Rims also take many scrapes. My wheels are flat black Methods, so, I just touch them up with satin black paint.

We stayed in Loon Lake thursday night. Drove to Buck Island and camped the one night. Drove to Rubicon Springs and camped one night, then drove out Sunday morning. I think that is a great way to run the Rubicon.

It is a bucket list trip for me, and it did not dissapoint. It is a wonderment and so unique, you have to do it. It was a great 3 days that required concentration while driving and it really honed my rock crawling skills. You will get lots of practice. It is challenging and fun, but, you should have the equipment and had good experience rock crawling before attempting it. Here are some pics from last weekend.

Note: The key to making it is to avoid breakage. So, do not "send it". If you get stuck, back up and try crawling a different line - even if you have to get winched backwards. Keep doing that until you get through. The Gladiator will not break in first gear crawling. "Sending it" with the wheels turned while stuck in rocks is how you break it.

Here is a link to "part 1" of the videos my girlfriend started making from the trip. This is all before we got to Buck Island.


Buck Island

ISUONP.jpg


Top of Cadillac Hill

gJYXYz.jpg
 
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@californiajeeping

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I have done the rubicon a bunch years ago. I would not even consider taking my diesel gladiator without one tons and 42's.
 

Bonanza

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Challenging but very doable on 37s without lockers. On 35s, you're going to struggle in some sections for sure, especially with the geometry brackets and not adjustable LCAs.
 

MaysvilleStig

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I say go for it and report back. Then we'll know the answer for sure! lol. Some folks start listing mods that'll just make it easy. Doesn't mean it's a requirement. Driver mod counts for quite a bit, not everything, but it does matter.
 
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Josh903

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Exactly, was going to say, have a winch, strap or both with you. You can do it… just get really comfortable with the BLD with your open diffs! It requires a different driving style, but you’ve probably already experienced that. Nice rig BTW!
Yea I don't mind winching or being assisted lol. I did use my winch once during my most recent trip. I will give challenging obstacles a solid try but don't hesitate to use assistance if it gets dicey. I'd rather do that then break things unnecessarily.

The BLD system works well if given a chance to do its job. Got me up Hell's Gate when the front passenger tire caught some air and the BLD stopped it and redirected power to the other side.
 

@californiajeeping

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Yea I don't mind winching or being assisted lol. I did use my winch once during my most recent trip. I will give challenging obstacles a solid try but don't hesitate to use assistance if it gets dicey. I'd rather do that then break things unnecessarily.

The BLD system works well if given a chance to do its job. Got me up Hell's Gate when the front passenger tire caught some air and the BLD stopped it and redirected power to the other side.

At a MINIMUM i would tack the ujoint caps with a welder. You can do this without much effort and its very very cheap insurance. 3 or 4 tack welds on each cap to the yoke.

If you get bound up on the trail from dropping into a V notch you can spit the caps on the ujoints then it spins and takes the balljoints out. This has been a problem with open knuckles since forever.

On my 2015 JK sport with a front dana 30 and 37's I simply welded the caps. I never had the above happen but saw many many many JKU's with even D44's spit the caps and lose a knuckle.

I would also upgrade the tie rod and drag link or the first rock that hits it will have your steering wheel at 180 degrees.
 


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Josh903

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We just did the Rubicon trail last weekend during Father's day. It is by far the hardest trail I have done, and I have done all three "Big Bear Badge of honor trails". I ran the whole trail in first gear, low lock, and I have 5.13s and a 4:1 transfer case, my JTR is also a stick shift. You can walk the trail faster than driving it. With a Gladiator, you need 3.5" lift, 37 inch tires, and lots of armor --- plus lockers are a huge help. The boulders are so big, that you have to climb them with one side of the truck to get you high enough to keep from dragging underneath. One guy in our group had a Gladiator Sport with a 2.5 inch lift and 35 inch tries and we must have winched him 20 times. I personally turtled twice when I slipped off rocks and was not using a spotter. A spotter helps a lot, and a front camera is almost a game changer. The length of the gladiator is also challenging on obstacles like Cadillac hill. I bought new 37s for the trip and ran them at 12-13 psi. I am super glad I bought new tires. You can also look at my build link in my signature. I went underneath the truck yesterday to paint my skids, and I can tell you that everyone got used -- all the control arm skids, the engine, tranny skids, gas tank skids, sway bar disconnect skid, fad skid, etc... Tie rods also take a beating. We had one bend in our group. My aluminum tie rod and drag link was much appreciated. Rims also take many scrapes. My wheels are flat black Methods, so, I just touch them up with satin black paint.

We stayed in Loon Lake thursday night. Drove to Buck Island and camped the one night. Drove to Rubicon Springs and camped one night, then drove out Sunday morning. I think that is a great way to run the Rubicon.

It is a bucket list trip for me, and it did not dissapoint. It is a wonderment and so unique, you have to do it. It was a great 3 days that required concentration while driving and it really honed my rock crawling skills. You will get lots of practice. It is challenging and fun, but, you should have the equipment and had good experience rock climbing before attempting it. Here are some pics from last weekend.

Note: The key to making it is to avoid breakage. So, do not "send it". If you get stuck, back up and try crawling a different line - even if you have to get winched backwards. Keep doing that until you get through. The Gladiator will not break in first gear crawling. "Sending it" with the wheels turned while stuck in rocks is how you break it.

Here is a link to "part 1" of the videos my girlfriend started making from the trip. This is all before we got to Buck Island.


Buck Island

ISUONP.jpg


Top of Cadillac Hill

gJYXYz.jpg
Thank you very much for your trail report! It is very valuable insight. Seems I should look into a bit more armor. I would love to add ARB lockers but it is an expensive mod I will likely have to do farther down the road perhaps along with a re-gear.
 
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Josh903

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At a MINIMUM i would tack the ujoint caps with a welder. You can do this without much effort and its very very cheap insurance. 3 or 4 tack welds on each cap to the yoke.

If you get bound up on the trail from dropping into a V notch you can spit the caps on the ujoints then it spins and takes the balljoints out. This has been a problem with open knuckles since forever.

On my 2015 JK sport with a front dana 30 and 37's I simply welded the caps. I never had the above happen but saw many many many JKU's with even D44's spit the caps and lose a knuckle.

I would also upgrade the tie rod and drag link or the first rock that hits it will have your steering wheel at 180 degrees.
Thanks for the suggestion. I'm not very savvy with these areas but I know people that are and I will look into it. I do plan on tie rod and drag link upgrades whenever I do the Clayton lift upgrade.
 

hjdca

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Thank you very much for your trail report! It is very valuable insight. Seems I should look into a bit more armor. I would love to add ARB lockers but it is an expensive mod I will likely have to do farther down the road perhaps along with a re-gear.
Good assessment. Armor up, and you will not hurt anything except your rims. Also, it will be more easy if you have a winch and you have a friend with a winch behind you. Then, you have your bases covered.
 

CrazyCooter

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IMO, the JT is just the wrong tool for that job!

It can obviously be done, but how much struggle and damage are you willing to take on? I wouldn't take a JT I cared about though Rubicon unless it had at least 40's and supporting mods.

Been through 9 times over the past 25 years using a KTM 525EXC, Samurai, CJ7, and YJ all with relative ease due to short wheelbase and narrow track......The JT is NONE of those!

 

 
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