One of the most frequently asked questions I have been asked by people new to the hobby and looking to upgrade their truck is “What tire is best?” That is a very tricky question and one without a simple answer. What may be best for you and how (and where) you drive your truck may not work as well for someone else. A tire that works really well on hard pack may not hook up on loam and a tire that is good on asphalt may not work at all on grass (just as an example). But what tire should you drop your hard earned money on when upgrading your truck? I gave the great folks at Pro-line a call and asked that very question. The answer?
The answer is, there is no answer. That’s not to say that I’m giving up and just going to tell everyone that asks me that question that there is no answer but rather I want to tell them what works where and why. I have been testing tires over the past several months on grass, textured concrete, loose dirt, hard pack and even rock-strewn trails. After more hours than I can count behind the trigger of three different trucks, testing four different tires on each surface, I can definitively say that I stand behind my previous statement: there is no one “Best”. What there is, though, is a tire for every surface and some that don’t do especially well on any one surface but can be used practically anywhere.
I have been using the BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR2’s for a while and have the most wheel time with those. I also procured samples of the Gladiator SC, Trencher X SC, and the Badlands SC, all in M2 compound to keep things fair. I tested each tire on an LCG Slash 2wd, a HCG 2wd, and a HCG Slash 4×4.
Most trucks will spend a portion of their life on a hard surface and my driveway is a textured concrete that is high on traction but also extremely abrasive.
BFG: The KR2’s have impressive forward traction without rolling over too much in the corners. They slide at the limit without rolling too often although they do traction roll more when mounted to the HCG chassis than the LCG. When the truck would pitch onto two wheels it was a slower roll and was easy to save which made me look like a hero (most of the time anyway…).
GLADIATOR SC: The Gladiators hook reasonable well out of the package and should do even better as the small pins wear down to expose the larger blocks. They excel on surfaces that they can bite into and when driving on harder surfaces they tend to skate around a little more. They are fairly consistent on concrete and do not cause rollovers as much as the KR’s but don’t offer as much forward traction. They fared the best on the 4×4 where the driven front wheels make up for the less aggressive forward bite.
TRENCHER X SC: The Trencher is often regarded as the go-to basher tire. On concrete the Trenchers don’t offer the best traction in any direction. They spin on takeoff, they will drift at the limit and offer less steering than other tires on the same surface. What they don’t do is traction roll. The HCG trucks exhibited more bicycling than the LCG’s (obviously) but they still do not like to roll. I was disappointed that the trucks would not carry the front end from a dead stop, but this was a small price to pay to keep from having to make the walk of shame to flip the truck back over after a roll. The traction did get marginally better as the tire wore in, much like the BFG’s did, so that’s a promising sign for future tests.
BADLANDS: The Badlands have the most initial traction of any tire I have ever tested. They launch the front end into the air on takeoff, they will send the truck rolling violently if pushed too hard in corners and they will wear quickly if you spend too much time on a hard surface. They fare better on the LCG truck, the HCG trucks pitch too much for these tires to cope with.
BFG: The KR2’s are acceptable on grass, but the tread blocks are too large to really bite into the ground. They have balanced traction on the LCG truck but the HCG trucks suffer from oversteer as the front tires find more grip than the rears.
GLADIATOR SC: The Gladiator SC’s really came into their own on grass. The small pins dig into the terrain and propel the trucks forward with authority. The HCG trucks experienced traction rolling issues at higher speeds but the LCG was able to corner at surprising speeds. The tires give great steering response without sacrificing rear traction. The Gladiators produce more rear traction and forward bite than the Trenchers and BFG’s but noticeably less than the Badlands.
TRENCHER X SC: The Trencher had similar performance on grass as it did on pavement. There was less forward and side bite than the Gladiators and Badlands and the trucks all suffered from oversteer. The tires turn in aggressively but have a tendency to lose traction mid-corner. The poor rear tires never stood a chance on grass, they will spin on anything over 1/2 throttle on the 2wd’s and even experienced wheelspin on the 4×4. They were not un-driveable, just not as “grippy” as I had hoped.
Badlands: If you need your yard de-thatched, the Badlands are your tire. These tires hook extremely aggressively in all directions and require a delicate touch of the throttle to keep at least one tire on the ground. The Badlands have the most steering of the group and will vault the truck over if you are too aggressive with the throttle, and that’s whether they are installed on the LCG or HCG. The forward bite with the 4×4 is unbelievable, the speed it generates in a short distance is incredible.
BFG: The KR2’s fair better on loose dirt than expected. The large tread blocks move a considerable amount of earth and propel the truck forward. The tires give a fair amount of steering without causing roll overs. The KR2’s perform better on the HCG trucks as the chassis rolling over helps to generate traction. The LCG truck didn’t have as much steering due to the truck not rolling around in its travel.
GLADIATOR: The Gladiators did really well here as the small pins were able to dig into the surface and find traction. The larger pins push material out quickly which aids in forward traction. These tires have a lot of steering and can cause rollovers with the HCG trucks if you push it too hard. As the small pins wear down the Gladiators will fall off slightly but traction and responsiveness on harder surfaces will improve. The LCG truck was able to carry impressive speed through the corners despite the surface being so loose.
TRENCHER X SC: The Trencher is the most at home on loose surfaces. The tread blocks are able to scoop material away to give impressive forward drive. The tires don’t generate as much steering as the Gladiators or Badlands but they are smooth and consistent. The Trenchers do benefit from some chassis roll and on the HCG trucks the tires do fare better in the corners. The LCG chassis experienced some understeer while the other trucks were neutral.
BADLANDS: The Badlands perform very similar to the motocross tire that they are patterned after. The large pins dig into the ground and will spray dirt clods and rocks to an impressive distance so be careful if your truck doesn’t have mud flaps. The Badlands have so much forward bite on loose surfaces that both the 2wd’s and 4×4 were pulling wheelies. No other tire was having this issue during these tests. The tread extends so far onto the side of the tire that the Badlands will find traction no matter how loose, rocky or nasty the surface that you are driving on is. These tires have a ton of steering no matter the chassis. There was little difference in the HCG and LCG when it came to steering response with these tires. Be aware that they will send the truck onto its roof if you push it too hard, there is that much traction.
All of these tires have more than 10 hours of drive time on them (10 hours minimum). I wasn’t disappointed with the wear characteristics of any of them but was most surprised by the Gladiators. I had figured that the concrete would obliterate the small pins within a few packs on any hard surface but they held on quite respectably. That’s not to say that they will last forever making speed runs or drifting but they do wear slower than you might think. Here are some post testing shots of the tires individually and as a group.
Trencher X SC’s
CONCLUSION: As I said before, there is no one “best” tire
for all situations. If you are running on asphalt most of the time I
would go with the BFGoodrich KR2’s. They are the most predictable on
harder surfaces and perform admirably on most other surfaces as well.
Where they don’t fare well are hard packed surfaces with a loose layer
on top. The large tread blocks can’t penetrate the surface the way that
they need to and have too much ground pressure to provide good traction
here. If loose, rocky, mixed terrain is where your truck spends most of
its life, then reach for the Badlands. These tires love dirt and the
nastier the terrain is the better these tires perform. They will wear
quickly on hard surfaces and again don’t do the best on dusty hard pack.
For that you would be best served by the Gladiators. These tires work
well on most surfaces and continue to work as the tread wears down. The
small pins penetrate the dust layer on hard pack while the large blocks
provide traction in all directions on the hard pack. The Trencher don’t
especially shine on any one surface but also don’t perform badly
anywhere either. They are at their weakest on grass and do their best on
looser surfaces. The wear characteristics are impressive given the size
and shape of the tread blocks and you will get your money’s worth with
these tires. With any of these tires you will see a marked improvement
over the stock tires that your truck came with.