Choosing Tires For ATV/UTV Mountain Riding
Guest post by: TJ at Maniac Muddy Tires Blog
Adventure riding in the mountains can be such a rewarding experience. It’s a good excuse to be out of touch with civilization for a while—after all, you can’t take phone calls if you don’t have cell reception. And indeed, half the adventure can be the unexpected difficulties you tend to meet along the trails. If you are getting ready for a mountain riding adventure, be sure your gear and your machine are equipped to get you back without incident – a big part of which includes selecting the right kind of ATV tires for your quad.
I’d say 95% of all the problems I’ve had on the trails were either tire-related or I got stuck in that mud hole I couldn’t pass up. For this reason, I always pack an emergency tire repair kit (and a winch). And speaking of tires, make sure you have a good set of mountain-conquering ATV tires on your machine. If your tires are made for rugged terrain, hopefully you won’t have to use that repair kit. I can speak from experience after having had a flat about ten miles deep in the West Virginia mountains several years ago—I had to do a temporary repair and head back to camp early. Another time I had OEM 2 ply tires on my quad (a learning experience from my early riding years) and trashed my right rear. I had to learn how to ride my quad on three wheels for several miles that day, which was not much fun.
Tire selection is one of the most crucial items on your checklist, because on a mountain your terrain is so unpredictable. You will have steep inclines and downgrades; some areas will be rocky, and others will be soft and muddy from being in the shade. You will also have sticks and stubble from fallen tree limbs and dangerous areas where the path narrows next to a drop off. You need your tires to have good bite, be self cleaning and have puncture resistance – and not all tires are up to the challenge.
Why can’t I just use the tires that are on my quad now?
Because you most likely have either the stock tires that came with your quad or you’ve put a set on that is meant for some other purpose. Some extremely aggressive mud tires are good for only mud – for other terrain, it would feel like you were riding on a washboard and all that jarring will wear you out in a hurry. A super smooth riding OEM general purpose tire will have a tread with thin casings and won’t be very puncture resistant.
Your goal is to have the best of both worlds with an intermediate terrain tire. A tire I’d recommend of this type would be the GBC Dirt Commander, which has an 8 ply casing and an intermediate tread design. Others to look at are Maxxis Big Horn, Interco Swamplite, Carlisle Mud Wolf, Duro Power Grip, GBC Dirt Devil and Grim Reaper, ITP Terra Cross, Sedona Buzz Saw and Rip Saw—there are more, but these are a good place to start looking when you’re ready to upgrade. Most of these tires mentioned are sized for utility 4×4 ATV’s, but some are available in Sport Quad ATV sizes as well.
Preparing your tires
When I go mountain riding I like to soften up the tires a bit by lowering the air pressure to around 3psi to be more conforming to the ground and more forgiving over sharp rocks and jagged wood. Common operating pressures are 5-7psi, but I’d never go below 3psi or you run the risk of losing your bead seat or air seal. To get these lower pressures correct, you need a good low pressure air gauge—you can pick one up online or at your local power sports center.
For good measure
As I said earlier, another useful item I like to have along is a good winch. You might come across a nice big mud hole on the side of that mountain and just have to find out if you can get to the other side. You never know how deep that mud can go, so be prepared. ATV tires alone won’t pull you out.