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Mickey Thompson Baja Claw Tire Test

Jeep Front View
Posted June 1, 2000

Baja Claw 33x13.50x15-Inch Bias-Plies

We've all heard of Mickey Thompson - one of the first companies to enter the automotive aftermarket with tires designed specifically for the off-road enthusiast - and we're all used to seeing the rugged bias-ply construction that this company has championed for so many years. Lately, however, we hadn't been thinking of cutting-edge designs and technology when we thought of the company's tires, and some of the newer players in the industry were becoming more contemporary. You can imagine our surprise, then, when these radical-looking monsters arrived at our office. Obviously the people at Mickey Thompson have been busy looking into the present and the future of four-wheeling and working on new products to meet that demand.

We've never experienced the kind of attention these tires generate. This combination of tread width, gnarly directional tread pattern, and sidewall lugs (Sidebiters) make this one of the most unusual-looking tires on the market, and the results were love it or hate it, with about 99 percent in love. Either way, during a recent trip to Moab, no one who saw them could resist asking about them or staring. Even on the freeways of Southern California, we had guys driving next to us for miles trying to figure out what they were and asking how we liked them. Don't buy these tires if you're nervous about being watched.

Our first impression was that this tire was just too big, too stiff, and too heavy to work well on the trail. Sure, we thought, you don't have to worry about a puncture or a sidewall tear, but what good are they if they don't flex? They appear about as robust as they come and even a little intimidating to lift by yourself. An un-mounted one is almost impossible to deflect by hand, making us wrongly assume that there was no way these tires would perform as well as the super-soft and flexible (although delicate) trail tires we have been using lately. It required the trip to Moab to prove us wrong.

The main concern was that the six-ply sidewall construction and jumbo-sized lugs would inhibit flex, even with low air pressure. Fortunately, these tires were designed for low-pressure use and include a hinge point below the Sidebiter lug area to keep those bulletproof sidewalls compliant. At the first trail head, we aired down to 9 pounds, and there was no noticeable change in ride height. After a quick trip through Hell's Revenge, we realized that less air was necessary, so down to 7 we went. At 7 pounds, we drove the Moab Rim Trail (one we consider to be a pretty good tire test for rockcrawling), and everything started to work. Once this tire enlarges, its contact patch puts all 20 inches of tread pattern in contact with the rocks - you're seriously connected. In fact, when all the other tires in our group were slipping enough to make noises (if you've ever driven the trails in Moab, you know the strange sound of tires on slickrock we mean), the Claws were completely quiet. After the Rim Trail, we went back up to 9 pounds, and the tires retained their flexibility; it appears they just require a short break-in period before they start to work well.

On the two other trails we drove while in Moab - Steelbender and the Lion's Back - we were very impressed with the performance in sand, mud, and other loose materials, and pleasantly surprised by adhesion to slickrock. These tires floated in sand almost like a paddle tire and hooked up so well that they made it difficult to spin the tires in four-wheel drive. On slickrock, the only negative thing is that they require more steering input than some tires to take the line you're looking for; this is a little disconcerting in places such as the Lion's Back. The Moab Rim Trail has some severely off-camber sections, however, and sideways slip was not a problem. Those lugs on the sides really do more than just get looks; this tire will climb rocks on the sidewall alone, as we later found out during some very difficult trails in the Sierras.

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