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Testing Dick Cepek’s New Trail Country EXP Tire

Posted in How To: Wheels Tires on February 12, 2019
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The name Dick Cepek has been around for over 50 years supplying off-road tires and accessories. Cepek’s passion was exploring the Southwestern deserts that he turned into his business. When he saw a need for more aggressive and durable tires for his own off-road adventures he had some made. As demand for his tires increased, so did his business. Being adventure-focused, he also sold truck accessories and camping gear to go along with his tires to get people out exploring and enjoying the outdoors. As an ultimate tire test, Cepek set out with his friend Ed Pearlman to set a four-wheeled vehicle record crossing the Baja California peninsula in 1966. The following year the Baja 1000 race was created and continues to be a proving ground for tires.

We first saw Dick Cepek’s newest Trail Country EXP tire at the 2018 SEMA show. We had to take a closer look because we were in the market for new tires on our own desert exploring and camping 4x4. The Trail Country EXP blends the attributes of an all-terrain tire with those of a more-aggressive mud-terrain tire into a new hybrid offering. The four-rib tread design has larger tread elements around the outside of the tread with wider voids for off-road traction but still retains a similar overall tread-to-void ratio of a traditional five-rib all-terrain tire for good on-road handling. A silica-reinforced compound improves wear. The EXPs are backed by a 45,000-mile limited warranty.

We mounted our Trail Country EXP tires on aluminum Dick Cepek DC-2 Black 16x8 wheels. The outer lip is very thick, providing strength in an area most vulnerable to damage from rocks and other trail nuisances. We have seen these wheels take a beating and only come out with scratches, so we know they are up to the task of handling anything we throw at them. The DC-2 wheel is available in 40 sizes from 15 inches in diameter up to 20 inches and with offsets and bolt patterns available to fit most popular applications.

We mounted up a set of LT265/75R16s (32-inch tall) on Dick Cepek DC-2 Black wheels under our 1991 Ford Explorer to see for ourselves just how this tire would handle the varied terrain our adventures take us on. The first thing we noticed about the EXPs was how much quieter they ran compared to several of our previous mud-terrains, which is to be expected with a less-aggressive tread and more rubber on the road. While a slight hum can still be heard on the highway, a lower noise level from our tires is a welcome relief on long pavement sections to and from distant trails.

The tires track straight and don’t wander on the pavement or follow grooves. They grip around corners without chirping or slipping and are butter smooth, taking an average of 3.3 ounces to balance.

Off-road we have subjected these tires to everything we could find: snow, loose gravel, sand, rocks, and mud. We were never let down once with the traction the EXPs provided, and we are looking forward to many more adventures on these tires. The heritage of Dick Cepek is alive and well in these tires. They will get you to the office just as well as to your favorite off-road destination or camping spot and back.

Our first off-road test was through a 50-mile loop that is usually dry; however, this time it was covered in snow. The EXPs didn’t care. Their high-silica tread compound enhances wet traction, and the thin, interlocking sipes provided bite through the ice and snow. The tires maintained grip through twisting corners and the straights on both the snow-packed road and light powder.
We were worried about the Trail Country EXP’s two-ply sidewall, but high-tensile cords and stepped sidewall lugs provide additional protection against punctures. We found the tire, rated Load Range E, to have good sidewall flexibility and carcass conformity over rocks at a general trail pressure of 18 psi for a mix of low-speed rocks and sand with high-speed gravel and washboard roads. The two-ply construction also helped with the on-road ride quality, as it was less harsh than we expected from an E-rated tire.
In loose sand and dirt the EXPs performed well, kicking up sand as the large outside lugs acted as paddles to propel us forward. The steering was responsive, allowing us to go where we pointed our Explorer as the inner lugs with small voids resisted sliding. The shoulder lugs that partially wrap down the sidewall provided extra grip in deeper ruts and during climbs up rutted, uneven terrain.
In the mud we can clearly see the mud-terrain aspects of this tire and the benefits of the high-void outer tread. The stone-ejecting ribs also helped to break the suction, clearing the mud away from the outer tread lugs. The inner lugs did clog up with mud at low speeds, but the tread cleared with some additional wheel speed.
Stopping on a few occasions we noticed small stones and pebbles stuck between the inside tread blocks. The outer lugs have stone-ejecting ribs to prevent rock retention and stone drilling, which worked well to avoid picking up unwanted trail souvenirs. The small rocks were easily ejected once we got back to moving along the trail.

Specifications

Dick Cepek Trail Country EXP
Size Tested: LT265/75R16
Type: All-terrain/mud-terrain hybrid
Load Range: E
Maximum Load (lb): 3,415 at 80 psi cold
Sidewall Construction: 2-ply
Approved Rim Width (in): 7.0-8.0
Tread Depth (in): 18.5/32
Tread Width (in): 8.0
Section Width (in): 10.1
Overall Diam. (in): 31.9
Weight (lb): 50.0
Sizes Available: 20 sizes from 31 to 35 inches for rims 15 to 20 inches in diameter. 8 additional sizes ranging up to 37 inches available in the second quarter of 2019.

Sources

Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels
Stow, OH 44224
800-222-9092
www.dickcepek.com

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