Unless youve been stuck out on a trail somewhere for the past two years, you already know that Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels took over the Dick Cepek tire line. Thats really good news for those of us who enjoyed Cepeks tried-and-true Fun Country, a capable tire that was easy on both the trail and eyes. M/T didnt just pour new rubber into the old molds, however, but rather went in and redid the whole thing, except for the familiar tread pattern. Thats good and bad. Bad, because the very trail-friendly bias-ply version is no longer available; good, because the new Kevlar-belted tire seems just as competent, if not more so. As of this writing, the Kevlar F-C was available in four sizes, the smallest being the 36x16.50-15 seen here, and up to a 38x18.50-16.5LT (33-inchers are in the works, were told). For those with really large fender openings and extremely low gears, there are also 44x18.50s in 15- and 16.5-inch sizes, but those are bias tires and are not Kevlar belted.
An Unusual Construction
Bias-belted tires arent common anymore, having been all but replaced by radials. Basically, the bias-belted tire is a bias-ply with radial-style belts. This gives the superior sidewall strength of bias construction combined with a bit of the radials inherent tread stability, which promotes tire life and improved handling. On the trail we need conformability, not stability, but the use of Kevlar in the new F-Cs seems to have struck a good balance as the belted tire still envelopes trail obstacles well, yet provides good road manners. Theres no flat-spotting on cold mornings with the polyester and Kevlar construction, and while not obvious, the familiar-looking tread is now laid out in a small/medium/large block pattern to break up harmonics and make the tire run quieter. If your four-wheeler has to spend time on pavement, the Kevlar F-C (which obviously stands for Fun Country) is definitely a trail tire you can live with on the street.
Over the Trails
The F-Cs have nicely rounded shoulders and a tread thats aggressive enough to get a bite without needlessly tearing up the terrain, and we found them to work great on everything but mud. Theyre not bad in mud, but lack the large voids needed for serious mud flinging. Still, on a light vehicle the sheer width of the 13-inch tread helps forward motion in mud since the vehicle wont readily sink.
At first we were concerned about running the 36x16.50s on a vehicle weighing less than the 3,073 pounds that just one of these Kevlar F-Cs will support at a mere 30 psi. As it turned out, once aired down properly the tires conformed quite well to stumps, rocks, and whatever else the trails offered. Generally, wed point the vehicle in the direction we wished to go and the Kevlar F-Cs would crawl their way there, without tire spin and the consequent ruts and dust. Even with a fair amount of pressure the F-Cs worked really well in sand dunes, and once lowered to where the sidewalls would begin to wrinkle under power, they really get up and go.
While durometer readings down around 57 helped explain the good grip on rocky trails, we suspected that the soft rubber would then get torn up accordingly. That hasnt been the case, and after several rock runs only one F-C showed a minor bruise on its four-ply sidewalldespite having scraped the well-protected 10-inch rims quite hardand the tread block edges are still sharp and nice.
Owners of early Fun Country tires may recall a fair amount of unroundness being common, but Mickey Thompson seems to have mastered the art of building balanceable tires. Two of the test tires showed a very impressive 14 and 17 pounds of road force variation, respectively, on the Hunter GSP 9700 balancer. While the other two were at 39 and 41 pounds, thats still really good for 35.8-inch-tall tires. While on the subject of weight, notice that this rotund rubber weighs in at a very reasonable 73 pounds, partially due to the use of light-weight Kevlar belts. A low rotating mass translates directly into better performance.
We know that the old Fun Countrys were a good do-it-all tire, a true all-terrain design that usually worked great in snow, sand, dirt, and rocks, as well as being well mannered on pavement. With Mickey Thompsons quality control and improvements to the carcass, the new Kevlar F-Cs are better yet.