Built around an idea first introduced in the late '70s to incorporate tread onto the sidewall, the latest rendition of the Mickey Thompson Baja Claw features more side-biting edges than ever. The unique Sidebiters stretch from mid-sidewall to the tread surface itself to create a tread footprint as large as a 20 inches. Should the extended tread blocks not be enough to ward off sharp rock edges, the Baja Claw also employs a six-ply lower sidewall with a cut-resistant compound. Though this makes for a stiffer tire, the sticky-soft tread-block compound still allows plenty of adhesion to the obstacle or road surface, and an ample degree of flexibility when the tire is set at its optimum psi.
In testing a set of polyester/fiberglass Baja Claws on our Project Jeep TJ, we were more than impressed with how it handled, particularly in regard to its ability to conform to a variety of tread surfaces. We began the testing process by tackling some deep sand washes and rutted fire trails. Rather than make it easy on ourselves, we opted to maintain the highway air pressure of 30 psi for a few miles in order to gauge the tires' performance when aired down. Even at 30 psi, the tires were very capable, but after running the pressure to 12 psi, it was obvious that the Baja Claws had a sweet spot we'd yet to reach. As stiff as the tires are, it took airing down to about 8 psi before they revealed their true colors. We would have dropped them even lower, but our 16x10-inch MT Classic II wheels weren't equipped with bead locks and we weren't eager to reseat a bead on the trail. We continued through the obstacles with great success, moving through the rocks with ease and playing with the Sidebiters as much as possible by climbing rocks using just the sidewall. Our new wheels evidenced this practice with a number of gouges and scrapes from objects that easily could have slit the rubber, yet the Baja Claw meats continually remained unscathed.
Through the course of the day, we encountered sand, mud, rocks, and snow, all to great results. Perhaps the only portion of the test where the Baja Claw didn't entirely impress us was while on the highway; a good degree of road noise was evident, but not excessive. The tires didn't lack in handling or performance; they were just a bit loud, a factor that one becomes accustomed to when running mud tires on his or her daily driver. Mickey Thompson offers its Baja Claw tires in a variety of sizes and styles, including a radial version. Available sizes range from 31- to 46-inch diameters in 15-, 16-, 16.5-, 17-, and 18-inch wheel sizes.