ATV Tire Replacement Tips!
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Do you know which aftermarket ATV tire best suits your needs? Choosing the right tire for your Four-Wheeler doesn’t have to be difficult.
However with all the different brands, ply ratings and tire types available, shopping for new tires for your ATV can be a little confusing.
My first shopping experience for tires came after wearing out the stock OEM tires that came with my Honda 300 4X4. With nothing to compare them with,
I felt they handled and wore pretty well.
In reality the OEM tires will do just fine for the majority of ATV owners needs, under most circumstances. However keep in mind that the weaker construction OEM tires are usually more prone to flats, so always carry a radial tire plug kit and air pump!
Things To Consideration When Upgrading Tires
My particular riding conditions varied from steep, rocky, to some sand, a little mud and 3-4 months of snow snow… On many rides I encountered all these conditions. With the stock tires, I often had flats, got stuck and was unable to climb many steep hills. So I opted to buy the toughest tires with the best all-around traction available at the time.
Looking back, I really didn’t really understand all the effects of changing tires. I felt that I just needed a tough tire with good traction, so I thought! Fortunately, the ITP Big Foot package worked out, but not without some surprises along the way. Here’s how the transition went...
The Unpleasant Surprises!
1… The new tires were 6 ply, very stiff and gave a much harsher ride and made steering more difficult at slow speeds.
2… The tires were larger and heavier which changed the gear ratio, making me downshift more and lose horsepower.
3… These wider tires, with more aggressive tread, threw much more dirt, mud, and snow on the bike and me than the stock tires did.
4… The harsh ride and strain on the rear axle made it necessary to replace and upgrade that axle.
The Pleasant Surprises!
1… Better traction than expected. These ATV tires seemed to be able to go most anywhere, except in deep, soft sand.
2… A one inch gain in clearance with these taller tires really made a difference in clearing obstacles without affecting riding balance.
3… No more tread punctures or sidewall tears, even from the sharpest rocks. I got a small rock caught between the bead and rim, lost all the air and was still able to ride 10 miles back home without tire damage.
4… Longer wear from these tougher tires. They will probably lose bead tension and leak before the tread wears out. ...Update... these tires had to be replaced due to lack of bead tension well before the tread wore out at over 2500 miles.
Lessons learned… Don’t just go out and buy ATV tires without thoroughly assessing your needs. Ask yourself, do I really need new or better tires? If so, do your homework and consider the following…
ATV Tire Buying Tips!
- Do you really need new tires? Stock tires, if not badly worn will perform just fine for most common everyday riding conditions.
- Consider cost. Good ATV tires can be as expensive as car tires. What’s your budget?
- What kind of riding conditions do you encounter most often? Mud, snow, sand, rocks, smooth and hard or a combination of the above. Look at tires in that category or even a good all-around tire.
- Looking for a smooth, comfortable ride with good performance? Consider one of the new radial tires.
- For puncture resistance and toughness, consider a 6-ply tire.
- When buying larger/oversized tires, make sure they will fit and won’t rub on fenders or frame. Assess the effects of power loss and gear ratio changes, handling etc.
- Consider buying a tire/wheel package for your particular ATV model which can eliminate many potential problems and they look good too.
My Pick… and Review of the ITP MudLite!
A few years ago, I bought a new Yamaha Big Bear 4X4. Having been spoiled by the performance of the upgraded tires on my Honda Fourtrax, I immediately set out to replace the standard issue (Carlisle) tires with something better.
I wanted a tough, lightweight 6 ply ATV tire with the best possible traction for all riding conditions, a smooth ride and the same size (to fit my stock rims) as the tires I was replacing. After much research, only one tire met my specifications, the ITP MudLite.
Did I Make the Wrong Decision?
When I first received these tires, I asked myself, did I screw up? These look like some mud tire intended for east of the Mississippi! I ride mostly in dry rocky western conditions mixed with dirt, sand, and a little seasonal snow and mud.
I was really worried until I actually started using them.
I have since put a couple thousand miles on the MudLites, in every imaginable on/off-road situation. Following are my observations over this period…
- Ride Comfort… These tires ride exceptionally smooth on pavement and dirt roads. They also absorb the impact of rocks and other obstacles very well.
- Noise… The noise level is only slightly more than the OEM tires.
- Steering/Handling… These tires steer effortlessly and track well over the trail, but they are a little sensitive to uneven surfaces, tending to follow small ruts and grooves etc.
- Puncture Resistance… No punctures yet, but twice I have gotten small bits of gravel caught between the tire bead and rim causing me to lose all air, necessitating a ride for miles on a flat tire over some rugged terrain, still without any damage to the flat ATV tire shown to the right. Yes, look closely this is how it looks when flat.
- Wear… After 3 years and 2,000 hard miles, only a little wear shows.
- Snow Traction… These tires are very good in the snow, and seem mostly limited by clearance/high-centering caused by snow buildup.
- Mud Traction… Mud traction is as expected, pretty good for a multi-purpose tire.
- Sand Traction… Loose sand traction isn’t the greatest, but still plenty adequate for occasional encounters, if you keep the speed up.
- Loose dirt/Rocks… This where these tires really shine, especially in very steep terrain. The soft tread cleats that wrap around the tire shoulders and flexible tire construction combine to grab nicely on to most dirt/rocky trail conditions.
Conclusion… There are many good ATV tires out there to choose from and, to be honest, most do a pretty good job for the average rider.
If you are looking for something better, a reasonably priced, all-around tire that is smooth responsive, tough and performs well in most any riding situation, it’s hard to beat the ITP MudLite or its new Radial brother, the MudLite XTR. My friend still runs the ITP MudLite after 5 years with plenty of tread remaining. All she had to do was SLIME the tires to stop the air loss from weak beads.
Recommended ATV Tire Accessories
If you trail ride, you should consider carrying the following tire support items...
1... Low Pressure - dial tire gauge
2... Tire pump - small hand pump or 12 volt.
3... Tire patch kit with plugs.
Useful ATV Tire Links
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MAXXIS Bighorn ATV Tires