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One Jeep, Four Guys, Four Days Of Wheelin'

Posted in How To: Wheels Tires on May 1, 2018
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This report is coming to you straight out of four days of four-wheeling with four guys in the Oregon wilderness during a test of the new Nexen Roadian MTX tire. It was the perfect setting for a tire test. Rain, fog, overcast, 20 minutes of sun a day, more overcast, fog, and rain—it was Oregon. Picture mixing mud, water, dirt, sand, gravel, wind, snow, the collected crumbs of various road snacks, and four guys inside a 2018 Jeep JL for four days. After those four days, I would have bug-bombed that Jeep.

Our first day of four-wheeling began in the Tillamook State Forest grinding our way up a muddy trail called Fire Break 5. The terrain changed here and there from granular dirt to gooey mud and slick goo-covered rocks. The Nexen Roadian MTX is in fact a mud-traction tire, thus the MTX designation, so we expected it to perform well in muddy terrain. The tire’s Z-shaped center lugs lean a bit more toward an all-terrain design yet still bite well in mud, and aggressive lateral lugs on the sides of the tread area are angled and staggered to create a biting edge. Large voids between the angled lateral lugs allowed for lots of bite and quick release, preventing mud buildup.

We were impressed with the tire’s mud performance, but as we said, that was to be expected. What we did not expect was that the tire would work so well on slick, muddy rocks. We set the inflation pressure at 15 psi and even though these were F load range tires, the sidewall flex was amazingly compliant, wrapping around and taking a firm grip on the slippery stones.

The center row of smaller lugs is designed to grab dirt yet allow a free flow of water and mud through the center, while the larger offset and angled lugs and large voids on either side of the tread provide a deep biting edge. We were not surprised that the Nexen Roadian MTX performed well in muddy environments.

For this tire test, we were driving a 2018 Jeep JL Wrangler Sport. Why a Sport? The Jeep JL is one of the most capable off-road vehicles ever made, but the Rubicon model with its lockers in both axles would not have provided as thorough a test of the tires as the Sport model with no lockers. We chose the simpler Sport model because it would have to rely more on the traction qualities and capabilities of the tire to get it through tough trails and difficult terrain. It did have a 2-inch lift and 35x12.50R17 Nexen Roadian MTX tires on it, which certainly helped. There may have been some driver skill in the equation too, since between the four of us in the Jeep during those four days, there’s likely 75 years of off-roading experience.

We then drove from Tillamook to Newport, Oregon. The next test day was to be a romp in the Oregon Dunes farther down the coast near Florence, so that night we strategized at Rogue Ales Bayfront Public House over fried cheese curds and good brews. As we have already noted, we expected the tire would perform well in mud. What we did not expect was the Nexen Roadian MTX tire’s performance in the sand.

We ran dozens of lines up and down the dunes; across the faces of dunes; crabbing up, across, and down the dunes; in the bowls in between dunes; and just about everywhere we wanted go on the wave-like mountains of Oregon sand. Not one stuck. Of course, we were again running the Nexen Roadian MTX tires at 15 psi (no beadlocks so we didn’t go lower), and that certainly helped the fairly aggressive tire to act more as a flotation tire than a digger on the sand. We were also keeping our momentum and wheel speed up, which helps on sand, and we were pleased that not a single tire got rolled off the wheel during a day of dune romping.

At that point we had two more days of testing in the wilds of Oregon, so we headed for our night’s stop, which was Eugene. The next morning was an early call, as the drive to our next location—the Fort Rock area—would take us over the Cascades. The drive from Eugene to Fort Rock was not intended to be a part of the testing procedure, and we were told we would not see snow on the pass. But it was Oregon. That morning we drove through a relatively heavy snowstorm for more than an hour, with some sections of the highway covered with 4 to 6 inches of snow, and only once did we feel any break in traction as we climbed and then descended the Cascades. Who says we don’t test tires in snow?

The terrain had gone from snow-covered highway to dry pavement as we entered eastern Oregon, where the rain shadow created by the Cascades has yielded a much drier climate. It’s an area of wide-open spaces, graded dirt, and gravel roads. Just right for testing tires with a bit of speed under your wheels. We all think we’re professional rally drivers when we get out on those sorts of dirt roads, and the Nexen Roadian MTX tires had just enough steering control and just enough slip to allow us to pretend we were Ari Vatanen (look him up). We found it was just as easy to keep the rear end under control through quick corners as it was to break it loose and then bring it back into shape.

Its more than satisfactory sand performance was a nice surprise, considering the Nexen Roadian MTX is designed to be a mud-terrain tire. At 15 psi, we carved the dunes all day long, floating atop the sand like a big, fat, red buzzing bumblebee, and never once rolled a bead.

Dirt and gravel roads checked off the list, we high-tailed it to Bend for the night. Our final day of tire testing was to be in the snow, and another early start had us on yet another snowy and icy highway to Edison Butte Sno-Park in the Deschutes National Forest near Mount Bachelor. After dropping air pressure down to 15 psi again, we headed out from Edison Butte on a nice little Jeep trail through a frosted pine forest with a foot or more of cold and crunchy snow on the path. The Nexen Roadian MTX–shod 2018 Jeep JL Wrangler had no trouble at all on the snowy trail, and for a time during our snow run, we were breaking trail with no fear. After hours of playing in the snow, we stopped to get a few last-minute photos, and that’s of course when the snowball fight broke out. Once that was over, everyone was wet and cold, and then the wind began to blow, so it was time to pack it up and head for home.

We don’t like to be too rosy about anything, but we did experience very good performance from the Nexen Roadian MTX in a variety of terrains and driving situations. Was it noisy on the highway? It’s a mud-terrain tire, so it’s not quiet. It’s not 44-inch bogger noisy, but we can’t think of a mud-terrain design that we’ve ever tested we could honestly say is quiet on the highway, some just hum a little more or less than others.

However, what’s really important is that the four us didn’t alienate or offend one another too badly during the four days. One day we actually spent our drive time rattling off punch lines but not the joke, the next day we were singing every song we could think of in a barbershop quartet style. While all this was going on inside the 2018 Jeep JL Wrangler, the Nexen Roadian MTX tires performed very well in mud, offered good steering control and ride quality on the highway, and showed surprisingly good handling characteristics in the snow and sand. For more details and the latest in size availability, check the Nexen Tire USA website.

Snow revealed another strength of the Nexen Roadian MTX. Not only did it perform extremely well during a cross-Cascades icy highway trip through a snowstorm, it came through with flying colors on our frosted forest trail ride out of Edison Butte Sno-Park.
Nexen’s Roadian MTX tire is a unidirectional tread design, so it doesn’t matter which way you mount them on wheels, but here’s the tricky part: One sidewall has this cartoony monster claw (pictured) pattern to help the sidewalls get some traction, while the other side has a more industrial machined design on the sidewall to help bite into the terrain.
Four days of four-wheeling with four guys in the Jeep JL Wrangler. It was wet and rainy, and when it wasn’t wet and rainy, it was windy and cold. When it wasn’t muddy, it was dusty or it was snowing. I’m just glad I didn’t have to clean that Jeep.
PhotosView Slideshow

Sources

Nexen Tires
909-923-4011
http://www.nexentireusa.com

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