Bodie is a ghost town in a state of arrested decay on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Range in California. After the Gold Rush of 1849, miners started looking for the next big thing, and they found it in the Comstock Lode of Virginia City, Nevada. Bodie is just 100 miles south of Virginia City. In the 1880s the population was over 10,000 and the town produced over $15,000 in gold.
We were looking for the next big thing ourselves, so we mounted up BFGoodrich’s latest All-Terrain tire on our 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and 1996 Toyota Tacoma and headed from Virginia City down to Bodie to give the tires a proper test. Bodie was an innovative town, acting as the first town to harness hydroelectric power. In fact, back in 1892 when the power lines were built, they were in a straight line because it was feared that electricity could not travel around corners! BFGoodrich knows plenty about innovation and traveling around corners. The company practically invented the all-terrain tire segment back in 1976. While note quite as old as the town of Bodie, the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A has been a staple in the light truck market.
Something else that Bodie and BFG have in common: Assayer Lester Bell perfected the cyanide process to safely extract gold from tailings, and BFG recently updated the A/T to KO2 specifications to stay ahead of the competition. It must have worked; the company sold one million of the new KO2s during the first eight months of production, effectively turning rubber into gold. The new KO2 looks very similar to the outgoing KO tire, but there are several notable changes in that familiar-looking package. Sidewall strength has been increased 20 percent, tread life on pavement has gone up 15 percent, and tread life on gravel roads has doubled.
This last improvement was of particular interest to us, as our trip to Bodie started on dirt backroads that had recently been graded. Sounds great, right? While the roads were free of washboards, in our experience freshly graded roads unearth sharp rocks that can wreak havoc on tires. Fortunately the roads did not present any issues for our BFGs, nor did the mud and ruts we later encountered. We took the scenic route and arrived safely in Bodie to find . . . motorhomes and passenger cars?! From nearby Bridgeport the “easy” road to Bodie is almost entirely paved and presents no challenge. As a result, we found the town overrun not by ghosts but by people with cameras and smartphones in hand. Even on a weekday the crowds were surprisingly large. That got us thinking about the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake Severe Snow Traction rating of the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s. Perhaps a snow run is in order this winter to someplace where the crowds are certain to be smaller.
BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
Size Tested: 285/70R17 (on Jeep)
Load Range: E
Maximum Load (lb): 3,195 at 80 psi
Sidewall Construction: 3-ply
Approved Rim Width (in): 7.5-9
Tread Depth (in): 15/32
Section Width (in): 11.5 on 8.5 rim
Overall Diameter (in): 32.7
Weight (lb): 58.1
Sizes Available (in): Currently 50 sizes available for various rim diameters, up to 37 inches tall.
The rubber used in the KO2s was formulated to reduce chips and tears for superior gravel road endurance. The tire also has special stone ejectors that push objects out of the tread, reducing drilling into the tire. All combined with BFG’s famous interlocking tread for excellent stability.
The 285/70R17 (33-inch tall) BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s that we tested on our LJ are rated Load Range E, making them suitable for a 1-ton truck. We aired the tires down to 18 pounds once we left pavement to allow the carcass to conform to the terrain and smooth out the ride. Upon returning to the tarmac we aired the tires back up to 35 psi.
Our first stop was the Chemung Mine, which was founded around 1909. The mine complex consisted of a mill, mine offices, a bunkhouse, and a general store. If you visit this site, please don’t take any souvenirs. Leave everything as you found it so future generations can enjoy the mine.
Our 1996 Tacoma uses a mild Skyjacker suspension to clear 31x10.50R15 KO2s. BFG recommends a rim at least 7 inches wide for this size, but we mounted them on our 6-inch- wide factory rims. BFG makes its rim recommendations for a reason. We have to run relatively low pressures for uniform tread contact from the Load Range C tires.
We had the Chemung Mine site all to ourselves during our visit. Unlike Bodie, which is a California State Park complete with park rangers, the Chemung Mine has no fences. We enjoyed exploring the old mill and coming up with theories about what each piece of equipment was used for.
The sidebiter lugs are the biggest visual difference with the outgoing KO tires. The new KO2 has 20 percent tougher sidewalls than the tire it replaces. This is a result of CoreGard technology that has trickled down from BFGoodrich’s extensive Baja race program.
While it is not a mud-specific tire, BFG claims a 10 percent improvement in mud performance from the KO2. We were impressed by how well the tire self-cleaned when tackling this mud hole. Raised “mud-phobic” bars in the shoulder tread area help to release compacted mud for enhanced traction in mud and soft soil.
The new KO2 designed to last twice as long on gravel and 15 percent longer on asphalt than the previous All-Terrain. You can see the generous 3D siping, which interlock to provide more stability and resist chunking under heavy acceleration and hard cornering.
The unusual amount of precipitation last summer not only provided some mud holes to play in, but the wildflowers were flourishing too. Typically all of the flowers would be gone by August, when we visited Bodie.
Only 5 percent of Bodie remains standing, and the Standard Mine is closed to the public. Still, there are plenty of buildings to visit in the park. Rangers offer guided tours, and programs with information about each house in town are available at the visitor center.
Bodie is maintained as a state park. As such, artifacts like this grinding wheel are still in remarkably good shape. The biggest threat to Bodie is the harsh winters, which often dump several feet of snow on the town. 150 years ago ice was cut out in the winter and stored in sawdust, lasting all summer long.
This 1927 Dodge Brothers pickup was built after Bodie’s heyday but when there were still fulltime residents in the town. It sits in front of two old gas pumps at the town’s Shell station.
Bodie sits at an elevation of 8,379 feet, with mountains in the area climbing much higher. In addition to old mines, this area offers excellent hunting, fishing, and camping opportunities.
We took Masonic Road to Bodie (FS Road 046). While not overly difficult, it is remote, and as such we recommend traveling with another vehicle and being prepared. Carry spare parts, tools, snacks, and plenty of water when you head out into remote areas.
Ore carts like this were used to transport rocks from the mines to the mill, where they were broken up so that gold could be extracted. We’ll stick with our BFGoodrich tires, thank you very much.
This gallows frame was used in the Red Cloud Mine to hoist miners and materials in and out of the mineshaft. On the right is the steam engine used to power the hoist.