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Burning Ring of Tire II

Posted in How To on April 5, 2005 Comment (0)
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Photographers: JP Staff

Back in the March '03 magazine issue, we gave you an in-depth look at all the tires the Jp Staff has hammered on. We said that we not only kill lots of tires, we kill lots of different kinds of tires. Nothing has changed. Perhaps more than any other magazine, the Jp staff tests tires to ten-tenths of their ability to bring you the truth on how the tires perform both on- and off-road. In fact, we probably put more miles on our test tires in the dirt than other magazines do in the dirt and on the street combined. We're wheeling fools. Here are our findings.

It's too bad tire stores aren't like shoe stores. It would be cool if you could try on your new set of tires and drive around on them for a while before you plunk down your cash, but it doesn't work that way. Since we've driven each tire in this story, we'll give you our idea, on a scale of one to four stars, of how they do in a given terrain. That way you can match which tire excels in whatever type of driving you do most.

****- This is the tire you should be running.
***- It's a good choice and will work well.
**- There are better tires available, but it's acceptable if you need to compromise.
*- We'd choose a different tire.

The BFGoodrich Krawler is a radial tire that shares more in strength with a bias-ply. In the rocks, the big lugs grab like gangbusters, especially with the tires at lower air pressures. The sidewall lugs work very well for climbing even slick granite on the sidewall. The tread and sidewall flex and readily envelope obstacles, but resist tearing and damage to an impressive degree. They excel in most terrain, but don't really seem to like deep, thick mud. On the street you can feel some lug slap, but the ride is not overly harsh and, once rolling, even borders on smooth.
Street-*** Mud-* * *
Sand-* * * * Heavy Rock-* * * *

The BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM is a radial tire that's available in sizes up to 37x12.50-17. The semi-aggressive tread pattern makes it a good choice for all-around use, including street driving. Dry loose dirt, sand, light mud and some rock capabilities make the BFG Mud extremely popular. The sidewall lugs are slightly larger than those found on the earlier Mud Terrain, but the sidewall construction is the same three-ply. In some areas, they'll last a lifetime. Other more abusive terrains (sharp and rocky) have been known to cut the sidewalls of the BFG KM.
Street-*** Mud-***
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-**

The BFG Baja T/A is often thought of as a race-only tire, but we've been really pleased with its performance just about everywhere. Surprisingly, if you air the tires down to about 5 psi they do very well in rocks, and their strong four-ply sidewalls aren't likely to tear. In mud and sand, they clean easily, and the outer lugs act like little paddles to keep forward momentum. Naturally, they do exceptionally well as a prerunner tire, giving superb forward and lateral traction while maintaining a high-survivability rate for rock hits. While the ride on the street is very rough, we've put about 10,000 miles on a set of 33x10.50-15s with very little tread wear noticeable.
Street-** Mud-***
Sand-**** Heavy Rock-****

The Super Swamper Iroks are aggressive bias-ply tires that still provide good wet pavement traction thanks to a soft compound and siping in the tread. The sidewalls are durable but compliant; however, they still flat-spot badly, especially on cold mornings at low pressures. It takes a few miles to get them warmed up and round again. Like most Swampers, the large scooped lugs on the Iroks grip well on jagged rocks and dry surfaces but also move a lot of material to help forward momentum when in the soft sand and mud. The soft tread compound seems to wear a little quicker than we had expected, especially on the edges of the outer lugs, but that's the price you pay for traction. Irok tires are good for all-around off-road use, as long as you don't spend too much time spinning them in sharp rocks or on the street.
Street-** Mud-****
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-***

Think of the BFGoodrich All Terrain KO as the sister of the BFG MT KM. It's available in the same sizes and has the same sidewalls and carcass construction, but has less aggressive tread and sidewall lugs. The BFG AT KO tends to clog in heavy mud and, like the MT KM, has a sidewall that can be cut in sharp rocks. However, its mild tread pattern works well in sand without digging to China and excels at giving a quiet, smooth street ride. The tiny sipes on the tread blocks help on pavement in rain, snow, and ice, and help make the AT KO an acceptable tire in some rocky conditions.
Street-**** Mud-*
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-**

The F-C Kevlar features a polyester and Kevlar bias-belted design. The sidewall is strong, which is typical of any bias-ply or bias-belted tire. Sizes are limited to 36x16.50 and 38x15.50 in 15- and 16.5-inch wheels. The mild tread pattern provides good traction on all but the muddiest surfaces and works extremely well on the street for a tire this size. Some flat-spotting is normal at cooler temperatures.
Street-*** Mud-**
Sand-**** Heavy Rock-****

Extreme rockcrawling has pushed the development of the Goodyear MT/R and has helped create one of the toughest all-around tires available. The MT/R is now available in sizes up to 37x12.50-15 and even a 40x13.50-17. The three-ply sidewall is extremely durable, even on the nastiest razor rocks. MT/Rs should be rotated frequently (every 3,000 to 5,000 miles) or the tread wears irregularly.
Street-*** Mud-***
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-****

The Goodyear AT/S is a street-friendly all-terrain best suited for a life of daily driving with only mild recreational off-roading. We've found the traction to be good on light rocks, but the paper-thin sidewalls wouldn't hold up to sharp rocks or branches. In the sand, traction is middle-of-the-road, which surprised us. Where these tires excel off-road is in high-speed dirt sections where the two circumferential grooves keep the vehicle on the course you set it on. Street driving is superquiet and smooth, and wet-weather traction is excellent.
Street-**** Mud-*
Sand-** Heavy Rock-*

The Mickey Thompson Baja Claw has always been one of the toughest tires available. The polyester and fiberglass bias-belted design puts up to six hefty plies in the sidewall. Plus, the tread wraps most of the way around the tire, offering traction and extra protection at any angle. The Claw line is constantly receiving new sizes for 15-, 16-, 16.5, and 17-inch wheels. Because it's a bias tire, you'll notice some flat-spotting when parked overnight in cooler temperatures or at lower air pressures.
Street-** Mud-***
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-****

The Xterrain is a radial tire with up to three polyester sidewall plies. The plies are said to be thicker and more puncture-resistant than those found on some other radial tires. We didn't gouge ours, even though we tried. The Xterrain now comes in sizes up to 40 inches. The Xterrain tires offer an appealing, aggressive tread pattern that doesn't take away from the road manners of the tire, making it a great all-around choice.
Street-*** Mud-***
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-***

The Super Swamper SX is probably the most bulletproof tire available, but at a price -- it sucks on the street. The SX is a bias-ply tire with steel belts in the tread zone. The aggressive lugs wrap halfway down the tire, providing increased traction and protection. On the street and at higher speeds off-road, the SX tires will develop cracks in the outer sidewalls. They won't leak air, but they look kinda spooky. Very low (single-digit) air pressures are needed to get the SXs to stick to off-road terrain. Flat spotting and a need for excessive balance weight is a common Swamper trait, and the SXs are no different.
Street-* Mud-****
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-****

Who can't instantly recognize a Bogger? Like some kind of bastardized paddle tire, the Bogger gives incredible forward momentum in mud and sand, but its rather hard composition and lack of siping provide poor traction on smooth rock. On jagged rock and on ledges, the big, wide lugs of the Bogger act like hands to grab and pull your vehicle up and over. But, like the Swamper SX, the Boggers have an increadibly thick and strong sidewall. It's good for resistance against rock damage, but it takes a longer time to break the tires in and you generally need to run them at a lower pressure than you would other tires. Believe it or not, we put about 20,000 street miles on a set of Boggers. They wore better than we thought they would, but they offer an extremely rough, uneven, and loud ride on pavement.
Street-* Mud-****
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-***

The Super Swamper TSL (three-stage-lug) is the classic bias-ply mud tire that by now seems to have been around forever. While the sidewalls aren't as thick or as well protected by tread as those of the SX, they are extremely durable and will bulge and flex at pressures starting at just under 10 psi. This is a tire designed for off-road abuse, so it's not surprising that it abuses you on-road. Especially true of taller sizes is flat-spotting, a square-feeling ride and tough balancing issues. However, their performance in mud and on rocks is on the high side of excellent. Wider versions do very well in the sand, but narrower Swamper TSLs may tend to dig on heavier vehicles.
Street-* Mud-****
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-****

The Yokohama Geolandar MT is a highly refined, albeit small tire (by today's standards). It's offered in a variety of sizes up to 35 inches for 15- and 16-inch wheels. The computer-designed directional tread does a good job of self-cleaning in mud and sticking to wet pavement, and it offers phenomenal grip in the rocks. The sidewalls are only two-ply, but we never experienced a rip or puncture and they exhibited a nice bulge at lower pressures. We tested two sets of 35s, a 35x12.50-15, and a 315/75R16. The 15-incher was a load range C, while the 16-incher was a D. We found that the 15-inch version exhibited more tread wear on the street than the 16-inch version, even though the 16s were on a heavier rig.
Street-*** Mud-***
Sand-*** Heavy Rock-***


Interco Tire
Rayne, LA 70578
Pro Comp Tires
Dick Cepek
Yokohama Tires
Fullerton, CA 92631-5106


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