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7th September, 2023

From Shocks to Phlox


Testing OME’s New MT64 Shock Absorbers in Search Of Wildflowers
Guest Post By: Harry Wagner 

The Lake Tahoe region experienced the biggest winter in 50 years in 2023, resulting in snowpack that lasted all through the summer in some areas. The heavy precipitation wiped out roads, but it also generated spectacular wildflowers throughout the summer. What better conditions could you ask for when testing Old Man Emu’s new MT64 shocks? We loaded up ARB’s 2022 Toyota Tacoma, outfitted not only with the new MT64 shocks, but loads of ARB products including their bumpers, air locker, air compressor, drawers, BASE Rack, LINX… well you get the idea. This Tacoma has it all!

Spanning over four hundred miles, the Sierra Nevada Range is the most famous mountain range on the west coast. It includes twenty wilderness areas, three national parks, and two national monuments. It is also home to the highest point in the contiguous United States (Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet) the largest alpine lake in North America (Lake Tahoe). But this story isn’t about the Sierra Nevada. This story is about the lesser-known Sweetwater Range in the Toiyabe National Forest.

On the drive down the freeway to our destination of Walker, the first thing we noticed was how well the MT64 shocks handled the weight over potholes and curves in the road. Plenty of rebound damping meant that the Tacoma felt settled and didn’t wallow around, even when fully loaded for the expedition.


OME’s Expanded Shock Options

The MT64 shock absorbers fit between the classic Nitrocharger and premium BP-51 in Old Man Emu’s lineup. What does MT64 stand for? The “MT” means “monotube” and 64 is the piston diameter in millimeters. Contrast this with the BP-51 that is a bypass shock with a 51mm piston. The two shocks actually have the same outer diameter, but the BP-51 has a smaller piston to accommodate internal bypass tubes that make the shock position sensitive in addition to being velocity sensitive. The MT64 uses a similar piston design to the Nitrocharger, and while it lacks the remote reservoirs of the BP-51, the large volume of the MT64 allows for plenty of fluid volume to resist fading over long washboard roads. As bore size increases, sensitivity of the shock increases. More piston area gives engineers maximum opportunity to tune the plushness of the ride. And like every Old Man Emu shock, the MT64 is factory tuned to your specific vehicle and designed to work in conjunction with OME coils, leaf springs, and control arms.


Once leaving pavement you start to climb steadily past Burcham Creek and Lobdell Lake. During our visit, the “lake” was fuller than we could ever recall seeing it, and there is an old cabin near the lake that makes a good camp site. Realistically, you could run this entire trail in a day, but there are several wonderful camp sites that are worth exploring over a weekend. Just remember to bring your overlanding gear like your rooftop tent, awning, and freezer fridge. The lake level was a result of the massive snowpack over the winter, and we even encountered snow during our August exploration of the area. We also encountered dozens of varieties of wildflowers including lupine, phlox, paintbrush, columbine, and penstemons, to name but a few.


Aspens give way to juniper and juniper give way to low ground cover past Lobdell Lake and the road continues to climb. The Sweetwater Mountains largely consists of a geologic pluton surrounded by volcanic flow from the Little Walker Caldera. Above the timberline, the Sweetwater Range provides habitat for many rare plants in the rhyolitic soil. Referred to as “Mars with flowers,” the area is unlike anyplace else we have ever visited. The runoff made the road more challenging than usual, but the ARB Tacoma handled it with aplomb. Whether slow speed crawling or carrying momentum over loose terrain, the MT64 shock absorbers offered a smooth ride, thanks in part to their internal hydraulic top-out control.


How Does The MT64 Differ from The Competition?

There are plenty of options on the market for large diameter, internal floating piston (IPF) shock absorbers, but most of these were developed for racing applications and have spherical bearings in the shock eyes, exposed shock shafts, and seals that need to be replaced on a regular basis. If you have a desert racer, these are a normal, expected part of race prep. If you use your vehicle for overlanding or for daily driving and weekend exploring though, the MT64 is a much better option with their double bonded natural rubber bushings, multi-lip redundant sealing pack system, and rear shaft guards. The front MT64 coilover shock body also has multiple snap-ring grooves that provide anywhere from 0-3 inches of lift. No need to swap coils, or to worry if your vehicle will sit level after you make modifications. You can depend on Old Man Emu’s MT64 shock absorbers to be trouble free over years of exploring.


The ghost towns of Belfort and Clinton are on the eastern side of the range, which is where we made camp for the night. Both of these small gold mining camps had post offices in the 1880s, and many of their structures are still standing. Between 1880 and 1884 the Patterson Mining District produced $500,000 in gold and silver, $13 million in today’s value. By 1888 only one mine remained active. The ARB Camp Slide kitchen made dinner easy to prepare and clean up, while the Esperance Roof Top Tent made for a peaceful night sleep.


Besides Mount Patterson, other peaks in the Sweetwater Range include Wheeler Peak (elevation 11,664 feet), Middle Sister (elevation 10,859 feet), and East Sister (elevation 10,580 feet). The Sweetwaters are not visited nearly as much as say, Yosemite. And that was exactly what drew us to the area when we were looking for locations to test the new MT64 shock absorbers. You don’t need a heavily modified vehicle to explore this area, but a supple suspension and the ability to air down your tires when you leave the pavement and air them back up with a compressor at the end of the trail are highly recommended. ARB’s Tacoma, outfitted with a Twin Air compressor and MT64 shock absorbers, fit the bill on all counts. By the end of the trip we had witnessed breathtaking views, camped out under the Perseid meteor shower, and racked up hundreds of miles on the new suspension. The only question remaining was “When can we place an order for our own set of MT64s?”

Photo Credit: Harry Wagner


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