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The Tread Mill

Dunlop Tire Side Shot
Cole Quinnell | Writer
Posted March 1, 1999
Photographers: David Freiburger

10,000-Mile Road Tests Of Popular Tires

What's round and black (mostly) and needed in fours? If you guessed tires, you're right, but if that's all you know about the tread below you, then you need to read on.

The current slew of off-road tires can be very daunting when you're shopping. Price and tire-size availability drive tire selection more than anything else. While these two points are important, many of the tires we've tested have some really strong traits and some really weak ones, both of which should be equally important in tire-buying decisions.

We shod five vehicles with different tires and clocked about 10,000 miles per vehicle on and off road. This gave us much more information than the typical "works well in mud" comments.

For the off-road information, we tested the tires over different terrain, including sand, rocks, and mud. Since the tires were on different vehicles, some received more off-road testing than others. For example, two sets of tires were treated to the Rubicon, while one set saw only a local ORV area.

On the street, the rubber was driven over typical surface streets and all of them have cross-country highway miles.

Mickey Thompson Baja Radial MTXs
The Mickey Thompson Baja Radial MTXs had the dubious honor of being the only all-season tires that we tested for this article. Going into the deal, we didn't have the highest expectations for their off-road performance, but we had to think twice about the potential of an all-season afterward.

The MTXs did all the things that all-seasons are supposed to: They were very quiet, rode well, didn't wander, and so on. But off road, the tires just didn't know when to stop. We aired them down to 10 psi, and they gripped the rocks better than some of the mud tires. The wide voids in the tread and distinct Mickey Thompson sidewalls helped the tires work in the sand too.

We didn't have a chance to drive these tires in the rain or in the mud. You'll have to decide for yourself about the performance in mud, but all the siping in the tread blocks led us to believe that they would handle adverse weather well.

The tires we tested were 31x10.50R15s, but Mickey Thompson just added 35x12.50R15 and P265/70R17 sizes.

•Good traction for an all-season
•Soft ride
•No wandering

Buckshot Mudders
If you drive your truck every day and are looking for aggressive tires that won't wear out before you pay them off, Buckshot radials are a great choice.

The 305/85R16 set of radials we tested came from National Tire & Wheel, and we mounted them on 16x8-inch steel take-off wheels from Stockton Wheel Service. The narrow tire size keeps the tires from wandering too much and tucks under the sheetmetal of most trucks. The Buckshots are one of the few tires that you can get in a 9-inch-wide, 36-inch-tall size.

Because these were radial tires, it didn't surprise us when they rode nicely, but we were extremely impressed with how well they wore on pavement. After a 2,800-mile combination roadtrip of state highways, interstates, and high-speed dirt roads, the tires still looked brand-new. There was very little tire chunking, and it was difficult to tell if there was any wear at all. The drawback is that they don't grip exceedingly well off road. In the dirt and mud they work fine, but the grip for rockcrawling could be better.

•Narrow Sizes
•Mediocre grip on rocks

An Inch Isn't Good Enough?
Buckshot Mudders are one of the few off-road tires sized only in metric measurements. We'll save you the frustration of trying to figure it out by providing this conversion chart from National Tire & Wheel. Buckshot radials are available in all the sizes shown, while the bias versions are available in all except the 215/85R15 variety.

Sidewall Outside Dia. Tread Width
Designation (inches) (inches)
215/85R15 29 6.7
245/85R15 31 7.7
275/85R15 33 8.6
315/85R15 36 9.1
265/85R16 33 8.6
305/85R16 36 9.1


4Wheel Parts
Compton, CA 90220
Buffalo, NY 14207
National Tire & Wheel
Wheeling, WV
Stockton Wheel Service
Stockton, CA 95203
Tyres Intl.
Stow, OH 44224
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