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Stephen Britt Tries Out BFG A/T KO's
By, Stephen Britt
Does The KO In BFG's New A/T KO Really Stand For "Killer Offroad?"
Building an off-road trail rig is all about trade-offs. We often sacrifice ride quality for a tall, flexible suspension lift. We sacrifice easy turning ability for full-blown lockers. We spend thousands of dollars turning a well-behaved street machine into a viscious, hard-core, take-on-anything monster of a vehicle; and love every minute of it!
Yet, there are those of us, including myself, who have the ultimate conflict with this obsession of ours. We must, because of our limited spending ability, use our beloved trail machines as daily drivers. So, we compromise.
Hence, the reason for this article: compromising the off-road traction available with big mud tires for the streetabilty of all-terrain's.
THE TEST TIRES: BFG A/T KO's - 33X10.50 R15
If you go to an organized trail event anywhere in the United States, it won't take you long to realize that 33" tall tires are the norm. In fact, they are part of the required equipment list of many clubs that run difficult trails.
Since this tire size is so popular, many tire manufacturers have numerous options available. You can get them in many different widths, ranging from 9.5" to over 14.5" wide. You can get them in many different tread patterns, from the highly street biased (ex. BFG Trail T/A's) to the highly off-road biased (ex. Super Swamper Boggers). BF Goodrich now offers three widths for their 33's; 9.5", 10.50", and the usual 12.50".
Upon visual inspection, a few obvious differences and similarities glare out at you. While the over-all tread pattern has not changed dramatically, the side lugs are spread further apart (45% wider according to BFG). (INSERT COMPARO PIC HERE?) Another obvious difference is the presence of side lugs. These lugs are similar to other tire manufacturers' designs but in a less-aggressive nature. Also, new to the A/T is a so-called rim protector, which is no more than a rubber lip that surrounds the edge of the rim. It's function is to protect the rim from the occasional scrape of a protruding rock. Some styling differences such as lettering are subtle, but noticeable.
The new 33x10.50 tire size is a blessing in it's own right. This size will present many with the opportunity to run 33" tall tires and get the maximum width recommended for their stock 15x7" rims (such as those commonly found on Jeep YJ's, TJ's, and XJ's). The advantage of this is the obvious cost savings of not having to purchase a new set of rims. Also, the 10.50's do not drain as much power away from the engine due to their lighter weight. The power loss is noticeable, however.
Some sort of lift will be required to fit these tires. How much depends on your vehicle and your off-roading needs. (FYI - I am running these tires on my YJ with a 2.5" suspension lift, 1.5" longer shackles, and a 1" body lift. At 4.25" of total lift this setup provides plenty of clearance for these meats.)
The drawbacks to these tires are that the 10.50" wide tires will not provide as much traction as a 12.50" and the tires WILL RUB with stock rims while the steering is turned to full lock. On YJ's, the tires will rub the leaf springs if the steering stops are not adjusted. On TJ's, the tires will slightly rub the control arms. Also, depending on your lift, the tires may rub the shock tower under full compression and full turn. I did not test the tires on an XJ, but similar, if not worse rubbing may occur and fender trimming may be needed. All of the rubbing can be stopped through inexpensive add-ons such as steering stops or bump stops, or you can just adapt your driving style to compensate it (as I have).
Since my previous set of tires were BFG A/T's of a similar width, I thought I had a fairly good idea of what to expect from these tires on the trail. I thought wrong. In many places where my old AT's would fail, these tires pulled right through. The extra width of the tread did it's job and cleaned mud out better for more bite. Under off-camber situations, or when attacked by a protruding rock, the side ribs would bite right back, and protect the tire from damage. I even intentionally drove over a seldom-used bypass that is notorious for claiming tires with it's pointy, jagged edges. The BFGs survived without a scratch. (PICTURE HERE?). Don't expect these tires to perform like Mud Terrain's, though. The tread is still vulnerable to clogging with sticky mud.
While All-Terrain tires may not provide the off-road trail traction that can be found in most mud tires, the drive to and from the trail is a pleasure. Even with wider spaced tread, none of the overwhelming roaring sounds, which is characteristic of aggressive tires, have to be tolerated. As with the older generation A/T's, comfortable cross country travel is just as easy going as ever.
To make a long story short, if you want the best off-road ability possible while sacrificing as little highway comfort as possible, the new BF Goodrich tires may be for you. And, if you want the most amount of clearance possible while sticking with a narrow rim, the new 33x10.50's is a great bet. Just don't expect to be "king of the mud pit" with these tires and you won't be disappointed. These tires may not the best, but for an all-around tire, they are very hard to beat.
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