Testing Nitto’s New Ridge Grappler TirePosted in How To: Wheels Tires on November 11, 2016
We admit it. We were a little surprised to hear about the new Nitto Ridge Grappler when it was announced. Not because we don’t welcome any and all off-road aimed tire with open arms, but rather because Nitto already offered so many off-road tires. From the extremes of the Trail Grappler and Mud Grappler to the unique flame-treaded Dune Grappler, the utilitarian All-Terrain Terra Grapplers, and even the heavy-duty All-Terrain Exo Grappler, it seemed that Nitto had just about every off-road tire niche filled. Add in the reputation that all Nitto tires have for being durable and reliable and you know that we were pleasantly surprised.
Upon closer inspection the Ridge Grappler is intended to split the difference between Nitto’s mud-terrains and all-terrains, a space we’d like to call the mud-/all-terrain hybrid. With that in mind we reached out to Nitto to test these tires on a dual-purpose rockcrawler, a crawler that would see hard use off-road, be road drivable to and from the trailhead, and may also get driven long distance when no trailer or tow rig was available. We warned Nitto that we would use the tires aggressively on the sharp rocks of Arizona and elsewhere in the Southwest and would drive the thing to the parts store if it wasn’t broken. Nitto agreed unflinchingly knowing that this is a great way to prove a dual-purpose all-/mud-terrain hybrid tire. With a little help from our friends at Discount Direct and our local Discount Tire we had our 37x12.50R17LT Nitto Ridge Grapplers mounted on 17x8.5 American Outlaw Ranger wheels.
The first part of our plan was to rack up the mileage on-road and off, but we jinxed ourselves and broke the truck before we got to do all of the tire testing we would have liked to. What happened is we got a bit excited and took an unfinished rig out on the trail to shake it down before adding a few final bits. We also were anxious to test these tires and, after lots of time in the garage, were looking to have some fun. At the end of the day, shake it we did, and we found the truck’s limits with human error and a big hole in the trail on the inside of a corner. It was dumb, but accidents happen even to those of us who do this for a living. Sadly we ended the test and returned from the venture with the frame bent and our rig on a tow rope for 10 miles to a spot where we could put it on a trailer.
The truck is still broken, but we did get to test the tires, albeit in a limited manner. So plans changed and evolved, and we promise to test these tires further, but with deadlines looming we want to give you our brief yet educated first impressions of the tire. Know we will continue to use and assess the performance of these tires over the next couple of years.
The looks of the Nitto Ridge Grappler give away some of its technology. The variable-pitch pattern on the tread lugs is designed to keep the tire quiet on-road, and it works. These tires are quiet and smooth on the road and highway. There’s plenty of grabbing alternating edges on the tires step blocks as well as sipes, all of which help grab the road, trail, ice, or snow. Stone ejectors help the tires shed any rocks picked up on the trail that could damage the tires.
On a new rig it is important to verify that the tires won’t get damaged by sheetmetal, especially freshly trimmed sheetmetal and bumpers. Little did we know that a big hole would make all our work preventing rubbing for naught. While on the trail the tires grabbed loose rock and sand like a mud-terrain, also sticking to what little bare rock we tested them on. We noticed no tearing or chipping on the tires from use on rocks in an area well known for chipping tires.
Our 17x8.5 American Outlaw Ranger wheels from Discount Tire have a modern yet traditional look reminiscent of heavy-duty trucks. The wheels are cast in aluminum using modern methods, yielding a lightweight yet strong wheel. There is a lot of metal at the outer bead of these wheels, meaning they should take the abuse from rocks well without much chance of bending or cracking. We took the tires and wheels down to our local Discount Tire, where the tire experts had our tires and wheels all mounted up in a flash. If you’ve never experienced the efficiency of Discount Tire and the folks who work there, you need to see it first-hand.
Like all of Nitto’s Grapplers, the Ridge Grappler has two slightly different sidewall designs. On one side the tires have a traditional pattern, while the other side features a new, aggressive block design. The staggered shoulder lugs and sidewall blocks all feature a reinforced block foundation to add strength and rigidity to the tread.
We have been accused of being able to break a hammer in a rubber room. If the shoe fits wear it—until the shoe is too damaged to wear. What you see here is a result of our ham-fisted ways and is in no way a reflection of the quality of the Ridge Grapplers. Rather, it is a testament to their durability. As a result of the slightly bent frame on our fresh build, this tire (which used to easily clear) was pushed back a few inches. It now rubs a jagged 3/16-wall 2x4 steel tube when turned to the right. The tube is the basis for some heavy-duty rock sliders that are not quite finished. The damage to this tire is the result of towing the rig back out of the desert after the damage to the frame (and the radiator exploded; that was kind of cool). We knew towing it out was going to damage the tire, but had no choice. The tire, despite the damage, has no cuts into the body of the tread, only damage to the lugs. This tire had every right to fail. We expected it to, but it never did.
Nitto Ridge Grappler
Size Tested: 37x12.50R17 LT 124Q
Type: All-terrain/mud-terrain hybrid
Load Range: D
Maximum Load (lb @ psi): 3,525 @ 50
Sidewall Construction: 3-ply polyester
Approved Rim Width (in): 8.5-11
Tread Depth (in): 18.3/32
Tread Width (in): 10.25
Section Width (in): 12.75
Overall Diameter (in): 36.6
Weight (lb): 78.26
Sizes Available: 30 sizes from 32 to 37 inches for rims 17 to 22 inches in diameter