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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tires! Tires! Tires!

The importance of tires!

It seems like all I do is talk about tires! Tires this and tires that. But, they are important! Tires just may be the most important single change you can make to your ATV! No, no, make that the most important change.

So you’d think I’d know that, but I actually had to learn that lesson all over again just yesterday. It was a beautiful day and I thought I’d take a test ride. The ATV of choice was the 2010 Kawasaki Brute Force. Camo edition! This was the first real miles we put on it since the filming. During the filming we also had a new Sportsman along. Every time I got on the Brute Force I was too aware of the stiffness of the thumb throttle. It used to be that the thumb had to push two carburetors open, but now it’s only the twin fuel injection units. It just seemed too stiff to me.

Now there are several reasons that could be. It could be that I’m getting old and tired. Or it could be that I spend too much time in the seat of a UTV. But whatever the case I thought I’d just jump on the BF and take it for a little ride and see how it felt putting a few miles on it.

While there are several lessons to be learned from this let’s just focus on the one that has to do with the tires. The ride consisted of 20 or so miles of fairly easy scenic trails. I wanted to see if my thumb got used to the BF or if it did me in. Towards the end of the ride I opted to try a trail pretty well inundated with spring run-off. I figured it would be fun to splash through a little water. Unfortunately it was quickly apparent that the underside of the flowing water was more than just rocky. It had lots of sticky, gooey mud. The kind that permanently stains everything it touches as I later find out. (Note: I know this trail and often wondered why it appeared so very rutted ;-)

But I’m riding a new Brute Force with a locker! (A long time ago an old man imparted a bit of wisdom - that he no doubt learned the hard way now that look back at it). He said that 4 wheels without any traction are no better than two. Words to live by, or learn from. And better to learn from someone else than by your own adventure.

But I had a locker! Equal traction to all four wheels. And power! 750cc of twin cylinder, explosive power to those four wheels. Equally if I might add that again! The only things I lacked (as I look back on all this with a new-found wisdom) were tires with the proper traction, and the common sense to know that.

In my defense I’m a slow learner at this ‘stuck’ thing, having stuck every single test vehicle (full size and ATV) in the snow over the winter months. Most of my friends were perplexed by my actions but I referred them to the ‘other’ old adage, “you don’t know exactly were the edge is until you fall over it!”

Whatever. This is a whole new adventure. Of course I wish I had pictures but even if I would have had a camera along, I was far too covered in layers of mud (sticky, gooey mud that stains everything it touches mud!) to use it. Although the mud was not bottomless, once I stepped in over the top of my 10” boots, I knew I was in deep, ah, trouble.

A quick check of the circumstances showed me that the mud was too deep to stand in, even flowing slightly over the floorboards of the BF I used as my refuge. I had plenty of power to spins all four tires – equally I might add. The problem was that the tires didn’t do anything but spin. Just a bit more tread might have made all the difference in the world. And might have saved me an hour or more of digging and diverting water. And might have saved a good pair of khaki cargo pants and a 4x4TV shirt from being ruined!

I did get out, but it was an hour or more struggle that gave me plenty of time to think about the dangers of riding without the proper tires.

Gotta go. I think I’ll bolt on a set of Terra Cross and see what happens ;-)


  1. Getting old is only in our mind.
    Age never prevented people from doing things:

  2. After riding yesterday I have come to the conclusion that you need two different sets of tires.

    You need a nice set of trail tires that deliver a good ride, great handling and don't tear up the trails. And then you need a second set of snow tires.

    Very aggressive tires do not make a good trail tire. With deep lugs and aggressive treads they have a tendency to tear up the trails but still not near as bad as the sport quads do.

    So for trail riding you need a nice soft radial with a car like tread pattern and then a very aggressive deep lug tires for the snow.

  3. Doug
    I gotta call you on the carpet on this one; you have two sides to tires. One the one hand you tell us (viewers and readers) that tires make the difference and to keep the tire on the stock rims and use only good quality radial trail tires and I’m sure you will concur. However, what I see on ATVTV you riding ATV’s with oversize tires and non stock rims, so I’m confused. Is it one of those things as “do as I say, not as I do” ???
    I’m not trying to belittle you in any way, but it is something that I have noticed. I suspect the reason has to do with “fluff” from your sponsors to keep them happy as they will continue to sponsor ATVTV. Or maybe you are testing new tires and rims; it would be nice to know if it was mentioned in the show.
    Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy your show and website, but I am taken back as I try to understand why I see and hear (read) two versions of tires.

  4. Doug, could you repeat that please?>?

  5. Sorry for any of the comments to this blog that disappeared. I'm not sure what the problem was but ......

  6. I think tires are the #1 upgrade you can make, next to a winch.

    I'm on my 5th set of tires. I went from the OE to Goodyear Mud Runners; they felt like they were made of steel and wore like it too.

    Then Maxxis Big Horns, they slid sideways around corners better than they went forward.

    Then I went to a set of Carlisle ACTs, my favorites so far. They are GREAT trail tires and I feel that they were as good if not better in snow than my Big Horns were and I felt that they were better in the snow than my Mud Runners. I would think that the rubber compound has as much to do with the great traction as much as the tread design did. They lived a shorter life than I had hoped for due to a lack of rider ability.

    I now have a set of Carlisle Bad Lands and the verdict is still out. They seem to be a good trail tire, they handle well at speed on gravel roads but I think everything will end up taking the back seat to the ACTs.

    I think most cheap OE tires make fair trail tires but lack performance in adverse weather and trail conditions and big heavy tires are out.

    Doug, if you’re going out riding by yourself in the mud I think you should take a nice 3-wd ATV so you don’t get as stuck.

  7. That is exactly the reason Jeff. We test a lot of machines and wheel and tire combos while we're out riding so you see us riding with them and that's exactly how we know they're not the best solution....