When you’re looking for off-road tyres a lot of people put a lot (maybe too much) stock in the tread pattern. Does it look cool? Are the tread blocks BIG? Are there big gaps in the blocks? Well, must be good then. Nope, that’s not exactly how that works. Let’s take a few moments to break down some of the basics on how off-road and gravel tyres are constructed, what they’re used for, what YOU need to look for when you’re shopping for big rubber.
There is a lot of talk about what you’re looking for when it comes to sidewalls and off-road tyres. The truth is, there really isn’t a right or a wrong when it comes to the sidewall. It all depends on how you’re going to use your tyre.
Stiff/ Strong Sidewalls
Sturdier sidewalls are designed on off-road tyres to provide more protection against puncture when going over rough terrain. However, at full PSI this can also inhibit your traction going over loose gravel or shale. To combat this, many off-road and rally drivers opt to lower the PSI a little bit to get a bit of the best of both worlds. If you’re someone who aggressively hits the trails or takes Overlanding a bit too serious, you want to be looking for at least a 3 Ply tire to get the protection you need when riding it hard. You’ll likely be looking for an M/T Tyre to take the lashings you’re looking to give them.
There are off-road tyres that are made with a lower ply sidewall that is designed to enhance traction on the road and provide better riding comfort. These are often found on A/T Tyres. These tyres are designed to be primarily ridden on the road but taken on trails occasionally. Don’t get me wrong, these are also designed to take a beating, just not to the same degree as an M/T Tyre.
When of the properties you want to keep an eye out for is how reinforced the tyre’s shoulders are. Generally, across all applications of off-road tyres, this is important for a variety of reasons. Most importantly the safety of the tyre. Reinforced shoulders will help guard against accidental punctures due and jagged rock, a large pothole, or any other unforeseen obstacle.
Another important aspect to note is the shape of the shoulder. The closer the angle of the shoulder is to 90 degrees (the sharper the edge) the quieter and more comfortable ride you’ll have on the street. The more round the shoulder is, the more traction you’ll have while off-roading. This is because it generally increases the contact patch of the tyre, creating more surface area to grip.
The tread is also something important to look at in any tyre designed to be taken off the road. While some “off-road” tyres are designed for mostly street driving some are constructed to be driven completely in mud and gravel. Understanding how you’ll be utilising your tyre is key to analysing the tread and its pattern.
The larger the blocks, and greater the gaps in between the better they’ll perform in wild environments. The less pronounced the tread and gaps are the more comfortable you will experience on the road. That is because these are designed to grip less which reduces road noise and increases driving comfort.
Load Range/ Ply Rating
When you’re shopping for tyres you may see a letter or number denoting its load range or ply rating. This is a way for the tyre manufacturer to denote the tyre’s strength or load capacity. The ply rating is an older way tyre manufacturer used to denote tyre strength based on the layers of cotton layers or “plies” that formed the internal construction of the tyre.
Modern tyre companies have since moved on to other forms of construction that eliminated the use of cotton. To adjust for the updated manufacturing methods many tyre companies have changed to the load range method to denote tyre strength. The load range rating has depicted a letter and the further in alphabetical order the stronger the tyre. The load range to ply rating is as follows:
Load Range to Ply Rating
B = 4 Ply
C = 6 Ply
D = 8 Ply
E = 10 Ply
F = 12 Ply
The Final Word.
There is plenty to look at when shopping or comparing off-road and gravel tyres. While this is just a small list in the grand scheme of every consideration you have to make when selecting which tyres to mount, it is a starting point with some explanation on what some of the vague meanings are.
Finding the perfect rubber for you truck/ SUV/ car can be time-consuming and often confusing. Every tyre manufacturer is going to throw big words at you like “BIG, AGGRESSIVE, TOUGH, etc.” and it will be up to you to see past these buzz words to see what actually matters. This is how we ‘rethink the process’ and buy better.