Hidden away from the busy roads of Rajagiriya and Nawala is a racetrack where a group of enthusiasts gather regularly to race their cars and trucks against each other. But there’s a twist. These are radio-controlled (or RC) vehicles, normally of a smaller size and scale compared to their real world counterparts. These gadgets (we can’t really call them toys, and we’ll explain why in a minute) are not quite what you would buy for your toddler to play with. Rather, these are high-tech, high performance machines which can often hit speeds upwards of 30 or 40 km/h out of the box, while variants capable of much, much higher speeds are not unheard of.
And Sri Lanka has quite a vibrant and close-knit community that engages in the hobby. And we, ever-curious, made our way down to the RC Nationals Race event held on 9 December to learn more about this fun hobby.
In case we’ve succeeded in piquing your curiosity, here’s what you need to know if you’re considering taking up the hobby.
The Basics of RC
There is something for everyone: The world of RC is so vast that even if cars are not your thing, you’ll be able to find something that is. There are a wide variety of RC gadgets around, ranging from cars and airplanes to even model construction equipment. Prices usually start from a few thousands, so it can be light on the wallet too, depending on your income and how much you decide to shell out on an RC car/boat/helicopter, etc.
Electric vs. Nitro: Hobbyist-grade RC vehicles can be categorised into two based on the power sources driving them. Electric RC vehicles are powered by a battery pack, and require relatively less maintenance, and give you a ‘plug and play’ experience, somewhat literally. Nitro models have an actual internal combustion engine and are powered by a special methanol-based fuel mix, commonly known as ‘Nitro’ (hence the term Nitro RC, indicating vehicles powered by such systems)
Kit vs. Ready-to-Run (RTR): Regardless of what type of RC vehicle you decide to buy, you will have to decide for yourself whether to opt for a kit or an RTR version. Kits come with labelled or numbered parts and can be put together by following an assembly manual. But don’t be fooled. You will need lots of patience and care since you will be dealing with miniature parts. On the other hand, you can gain the satisfaction of pimping out your (RC) ride the way you want it.
But, if you’re itching to get your hands dirty with your new gizmo, RTR would be the way to go. Take the car out of its box, charge the batteries, pop them in, and you’re good to go!
Parts and Maintenance: Like actual vehicles, RC gadgets are also machines and do require a little bit of maintenance from time to time. Every RC vehicle consists of a motor, a servo (essentially the unit that receives the signal from the transmitter i.e. the ‘remote’, and converts it into movement), and an ESC (or electronic speed controller). Apart from these, there are other little parts, such as tires, wheels, shock absorbers, etc., which ought to be properly maintained and replaced from time to time. You can also play around with upgrading these parts (there’s a huge collection of aftermarket parts).
In case you’ve decided to take the plunge, we suggest dropping by a few hobby shops in and around Colombo, just so that you can take the time to understand the plethora of options available for every budget. Of course, you can start your search with YouTube instead, but we think a few curated, knowledgeable sources of information would be better than millions of vlogs. Extreme Gadgets, RC Racing Sri Lanka, and Nitro Racing Colombo are a few places that come to mind. Most of these hobby shops will be happy to arrange delivery for you even if you live outside Colombo.
Like we said earlier, there’s bound to be something for everyone, so your initial outlay can be very small, should you choose. Next, look to join one of the many Sri Lankan RC enthusiast groups on Facebook, which are chock-full of other immensely helpful hobbyists. Use these forums to educate yourself on... well, pretty much anything related to RC. The local RC community also comes together to organise events every once in a while. These events are open to anyone interested, and can be a good way to put your skills to the test. They also provide a good opportunity to meet more new like-minded people, and who knows? Maybe you’ll make some new friends too!
That pretty much covers all the basics. Get racing!
We would like to thank the good folks at Nitro Racing Colombo, who were kind enough to let our video crews cover the event. The track where this event was conducted is also owned and operated by them, and is right behind their hobby shop in Nawala. Contact them on 077 323 5566 or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NitroRacingColombo/
Cover Image Credits: Roar/Shanaka Sirimanne