Unless you've been stuck on a trail for the past 15 years, you must have heard about Kumho tires by now. As the world's 10th-largest tire manufacturer, the South Korean company sold some $2.448 billion worth in 2006, and 99.4 percent of that was tires. (Well, yes, many tire companies make other stuff, too.)
Sporting a nicely rounded tread arch and lots of siping in the large tread blocks, we had high hopes for the new Road Venture AT. So, what's good about a rounded tread, anyway? While it may not be ideal for street performance, the more the tire looks like an inner tube (as bias-ply tires often do), the better it tends to work in the dirt due to a more even contact pressure. Sipes, those small "cuts" in the tread blocks, help both with traction (more gripping edges) and to keep the tire running cooler, which makes it last longer. Sipes also allow large blocks to flex, providing better contact with the trail. Other than in dedicated steer tire positions and in free-rolling applications such as a trailer tire, siping is generally a very good thing. And great for icy roads. It may come down to personal opinion, but we were also glad that there were no white letters on the sidewalls, and no "rim protector" lips at the beads to prevent using regular wheel weights and to trap dirt between the tire and wheel. We've also found "rim protectors" to act as levers against the rim, promoting air loss on the trail.
Mounting and balancing the 34.6-inch-tall 315/75R16 Kumhos revealed that despite a weight of more than 67 pounds, not much of the 3M Wheel Weight System's cut-to-suit weights were needed to achieve a perfectly balanced and true running set. We ended up with "three fronts and one rear," the lone rear being just 0.031 inch out of round.
The 70 Percent
With a durometer reading around 66, and two nylon caps over two steel belts, we didn't expect a particularly smooth ride from the Road Venture, but were rewarded with a very comfortable drive. It was also a quiet one, where tire noise didn't appear until over 50 mph and was really just noticeable then (in our somewhat noisy tester, anyway). There was some minor tracking, which could well be contributed to a sloppy steering system and not the tires. Rolling resistance was very low, and handling in general impressive for an all-terrain.
The 30 Percent
This 30/70 percent thing wasn't our idea, but what Kumho claims the AT is designed for. A full 30 percent on the trails? We wish. Not even our trailered trail beater can approach that number. If you can, great, and the Road Venture would love it, too. That aforementioned tread arch and siping didn't disappoint us, and the Kumho worked very well in the dirt and on rocks on all trails we tried. While not a mud test by any means, we had to traverse a section of road with shallow but very sticky mud that was still quite moist-enough to sink in on foot. The thought that traction would be an issue never crossed our mind since the Kumhos worked very well in moist dirt, but we really didn't want the tread voids packed with mud at this particular time. Luckily, the Road Venture's tread self-cleaned very well-especially so for an all-terrain, and in particularly sticky mud.
Available for rims from 15 to 22 inches, there are 24 sizes for 15- and 16-inch wheels, and 11 sizes for the 17-inch-and-up ones, so there should be a Kumho Road Venture AT that fits your vehicle. If you want an all-terrain that is quiet and well behaved on the 70-plus percent part, and quite competent on the remainder, see your local friendly Kumho dealer. They're out there. Really.
Tire: Kumho Road Venture AT
Load range: D
Max load: 3,195 @ 50
Sidewall: 2-ply polyester
Tread: 2-ply polyester, 2-ply steel, 2-ply nylon
Approved rim width (in): N/A
Tread depth (in): 16/32
Tread width (in): N/A
Section width (in): 12.3
Overall diameter (in): 34.6
Static loaded radius: N/A
Revolutions per mile: N/A
Weight (lb): 67.1
Test vehicle: 6,300-pound K-5 Blazer