After 10 months of development, we are thrilled to officially announce the launch of our proprietary independent suspension design, the Freeride Suspension System!
The TOPO Series trailer has always been designed to stray from the beaten path. As we tell all of our customers, the TOPO base model comes fully off-road capable with a Dexter torsion axle rated to 3,500 lbs. While this allows for off-road travel, the lack of adjustability for the spring rate for our trailers results in an often stiffer & bumpier ride than it needs to be. So, we set out to design our own.
A torsion axle, such as the Dexter one that we use, gets its shock absorption from internal rubber rods. While a rubberized suspension can be durable, the damping it provides is minimal. A rubberized suspension exacerbates any repeated shocks to the system (think a long-haul down a washboard road) because it amplifies the forces into the mass of the vehicle, making a very jerky towing experience. This is not only true on off-road terrain, but even on paved roads through normal bumps, potholes, and rougher surfaces.
Ultimately, a torsion axle causes more impact and wear-and-tear to your trailer and tow-vehicle than we believe are necessary. It also results in less traction through the tires, translating to less control over your trailer. The goal of creating a more enjoyable and capable ride pushed us to design the Freeride Suspension System, a suspension purpose-built for our trailers.
The Freeride Suspension System design incorporates a steel A-frame style, trailing-arm with a shock and spring to create the damped ride we've been looking for.
Chris Hudak, Escapod Founder and Product Designer, explains the design, "Using proprietary technology we were able to mount the shock and spring in the same plane, perpendicular to the trailing-arm and in-line with the directionality of force. This allows the shock and spring to work together as efficiently as possible."
Views from a customer's 140-mile Death Valley overlanding mission using the Freeride Suspension System.
This independent, trailing-arm suspension system allows for the off-road performance we've long desired for our trailers. We liken the feel of this suspension to what you'd find on a downhill mountain bike, while our standard torsion axle is more like a hardtail or cross-country mountain bike.
With 4.5" of travel that moves independently on each side, we've created a suspension that helps keep your tires stay glued to the ground even when going over large bumps. This amount of travel allows us to use a softer spring providing more compliance over small bumps and the needed range to handle larger bumps. Since each wheel has its own suspension, we were also able to minimize leaning through corners, which translates to even more control.
Bringing the suspension design & manufacturing in-house allowed us to create a cost-effective damped independent suspension system. This is one of the latest innovations on Escapod's mission to build "The Best Damn Camper Known to Man."
Hudak explains, "When we evaluate whether or not to take on a design challenge, we use our mission as our guide. In this case, we felt like we couldn't not take it on."
Once we had thoroughly tested the initial prototype, we launched it at an introductory price as we continued to tweak and refine the design. We learned a lot and made a number of upgrades to the original design. Today's Freeride Suspension System went through extensive R&D and is an entirely different product from our initial Upgraded Suspension offering.
After we created the first prototype, we put the design through Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to find where weak points might be present. This process evaluates a design based on computerized engineering principles. We used accelerometers to determine what real-world forces the suspension would experience. Both in individual large impacts and cumulative small impacts like a washboard road.
We then evaluated our weld procedures, from the weld-wire, gases, and process we're following, to create the strongest welds possible. After that, we had weld samples destructive-tested in a lab to determine both the tensile and shear strength of our welds. From there, we compared the numbers with the data from the accelerometers and FEA analysis to ensure this suspension would stand the test of time.
All of this R&D led our team to make nuanced adjustments to both the design and build process to dial in the latest Freeride Suspension System.
Now that you have an understanding of how the suspension works, you might be wondering if it's right for you. If you plan to travel far off-road and want to push the limits, you'll definitely want to upgrade to the Freeride Suspension System.
But, what if you only plan to travel on dirt roads and don't intend to do any rock-crawling? Interestingly, you still may want to consider it.
What surprised us most while testing this suspension was not how it performed on rough terrain, but how it handled driving off the lot. Our Director of Sales made a 600-mile journey to California towing a trailer with this suspension. She shared the following sentiments: "I charged through some serious potholes on I-80 traveling full-speed and barely felt a thing."
With a torsion axel, we typically have some anticipatory tension when going over a dip in the road. Now, it is entirely unneeded. As we'd travel over a bump, we'd feel the reverberation in the vehicle and would expect to feel it again as the trailer made an impact, but we'd feel nothing. There is such minimal tug on your tow vehicle you almost forget you're towing a trailer.
We believe the Freeride Suspension System is a no-brainer for anyone purchasing an Escapod. At just $975, it dramatically improves the towing experience and may even extend the life of your vehicle and trailer.
We're extremely proud of this product and love seeing the adventures that it has allowed our customers to have. We look forward to lots of bumpy roads ahead!