Producing a machine that is expected to perform for everyone, in all conditions, is the impossible task facing OEM ATV manufacturers. The result is often an ATV that works well but is ultimately a compromise. In trying to be all things to all people, the four-wheelers we purchase off showroom floors inevitably come up short in one category or another. Manufacturing agreements, company politics and budget constraints all dictate the decisions that affect the final product. Fortu-nately, the aftermarket industry has come to our aid in testing and manufacturing products that offer almost limitless options in how we configure our machines.
Chances are you've met the guy who spends a small fortune on go-fast engine mods but neglects the rest of his ATV. He ends up with a high-speed but marginal-handling rocket ship. Displacement is our dear friend but only up to the point at which we can put that power to the ground effectively. Suspension setup plays a key role here, but ultimately tires are the last connection between our ride and the ground. With so many options available and all the manufacturers claiming to have the best solution, whom can you believe?
We put all the rubber through...
We put all the rubber through its paces on both a modified Kawasaki KFX400 and a bone-stock Arctic Cat 400 DVX to see what worked best in the rugged Smoky Mountains.
Almost a year ago we contacted some of the most-popular tire companies and told them about our plans to test tires in the rugged mountains of North Carolina. The terrain there is terribly rocky and offers mud, roots and even the occasional snowdrift. We would be running a bone-stock Arctic Cat 400 DVX and a modified Kawa-saki KFX400 and wanted to try several different tire configurations, including those that would give more ground clearance. Flats are a particular problem here, so durability would weigh in as importantly as handling.
We have since logged enough miles on each to be satisfied with our ability to comment intelligently. Our testing schedule included the Steele Creek GNCC race in Morganton, hundreds of miles of local trails and several outings on a natural-terrain MX course. Each set was rated for its durability, weight, price and handling ability. The handling variable was comprised of three components: braking, sliding ability and traction. We plugged these numbers into our top-secret and highly accurate tire-scoring equation to reach an overall score.
Each tire was run at the manufacturer's recommended air pressure, and while some tires included in this test are not OEM sizes, we attempted to determine whether the greater clearance was worth any instability caused by changing the ride height. A word of caution: We must tell you that using tire sizes not recommended by the manufacturer is not suggested. Also, be sure you never mix radial and bias-ply tires.