Tried & Tested: Pushing BFGoodrich Tyres To The Breaking Point!

The world of tyres is a dynamic one and probably more fiercely contested than the automotive industry it operates within.

Tyre manufacturers rely on multitudes of platforms to prove the worthiness of their product. Motorsports is one of the best and the most commonly used platforms to showcase the abilities of any tyre. But every once in a while, a tyre maker will organize a mega event and invite customers, dealers, business partners and members of the press to try out their product.

The latter is exactly what happened recently when American tyre maker BFGoodrich invited guests from far and wide for a rare “familiarisation” event in Thailand aptly called the BFGoodrich Day. The inaugural event saw visitors from eight countries congregate to experience the abilities of BFGoodrich tyres at the Khao Yai National Park, which is about a three hour drive north-east of Bangkok.

BFGoodrich has been around since the 1870s and marks several notable achievements. Some online research revealed that the company supplied tyres to the first car to cross the United States in 1903, and was also the tyre of choice for the Columbia space shuttle which flew 28 missions to space.

BFGoodrich was later bought by French rubber conglomerate Michelin, and thrived. It made a name for itself in motorsports exploits where it competed and won in several series such as the prestigious Indianapolis 500, the Baja 1000, the iconic Paris-Dakar rally, several world rally championships as well as the legendary 24 hours of Le Mans.

However, BFGoodrich is probably most well-known for its off-road tyres, making some of the toughest known tyres for the most demanding terrains whether to be used by the general public or professionally in a race.

Closer to home though, the company is well known but has not been very active in recent years. Due to taxation, high cost of transportation and other related factors, BFGoodrich has operated at the background of the Malaysian tyre scene, until now.

The company is making a resurgence of sorts, not only in Malaysia but in neighboring markets as well, and the recent ‘BFGoodrich Days’ is one of their first big projects.

The event allowed members of the press to experience four tyres from the current range in the BFGoodrich stable.

  1. BFGoodrich Mud Terrain

The ultimate off-road tyre in the BFGoodrich product range, the Mud Terrain tyre has a notable achievement in that it was the same tyre that won the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race which takes place annually at the Mexico-California peninsular and is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious off-road races in the world.

Our day at the BFGoodrich Days started off with this tyre that were fitted to a purpose-built off-road buggy’s that look like they belong in a mission to the moon.

The Mud Terrain tyres feature an aggressive tread-design that allows the vehicle fitted with it to power through just about any type of soil. It features some purpose-built technologies such as Mud-Phobic bars that can off-load compacted mud for better traction.

The compound used to make the tyre is also unique. Called the Krawl-Tech compound, it is specially designed to crawl over rock and slippery surfaces.

We experienced this firsthand on a specially designed track that featured timber that looked like it had been soaked in water for a week and mud that had not seen sunshine for a month.

It was heaven for dirt-lovers, for us it was the perfect place to get dirty with the buggy’s. BFGoodrich expected us to get dirty too and handed us ponchos to wear during the drive stint. Try as we could to get stuck but the buggy simply did not relent and would roll, climb and dig itself out of everything that the track threw at it.

At some points, the sideways incline was so steep that our heads were just about two feet off the mud, but the buggy kept going as the tyres worked like shovels to pull us through.

These specially made off-road tyres are available in Malaysia and range in price from RM1,662 to RM3,827 depending on size.

  • BFGoodrich Trail Terrain

A tyre specially built for on and off-roading, the Trail Terrain is said to be excellent on soft and hard surfaces including light off-road use.

The Trail Terrain offers a robust sidewall, staggered shoulder blocks and a tread design that focuses on durability over long periods of time. This extends the life of the tyre but also ensures that it can perform at its most optimum for a longer time.

We tried these tyres on a different track, one that was longer but not as hardcore as the first one. The tyres were fitted to familiar pick-up trucks such as the Ford Ranger Wildtrak and the Toyota Hilux. There were even a few Ford Everests and Toyota Fortuners fitted with these dual-purpose tyres.

Even thought it was a sun-kissed morning, it had been raining the night before so there were pockets of mud and puddles that threatened to break traction if a corner was taken too fast or if anyone misjudged the braking point. But it was a tyre test, so we deliberately accelerated and braked where we should not have. What’s the point of a slow drive when testing a tyre?

But just like the Mud Terrain, the Trail Terrain too offers technology to maximise traction and longevity. For these tyres, BFGoodrich developed 3D sipes that create traction on and off-road and also resist chipping and tearing, thus increasing the life of the tyre.

So, during the test, there was little to no sliding around except when deliberately accelerating out of a corner, where the rear broke loose from the sudden surge of power. No tyre tech will save you from that, some drivers call it drifting out of a corner and do it for fun.

The Trail Terrain is in Malaysia and priced from RM984 to RM1690.

  • All-Terrain KO2

This was the hardest challenge of them all and was specially designed to rip a tyre of an unsuspecting driver. It involved driving about 30km on some of Thailand’s famous concrete surfaced highways and then uphill to a scenic mountain lookout.  But this involved crawling over jagged rocks that would break an axle should the tyre lose grip or worse.

But BFGoodrich was keen to show off the noise suppression of the tyre, hence the highway drive. We were in a Hilux which is not exactly known for its interior comfort compared to a Ranger. We were not allowed to drive on the highway, which turned out to be a good thing because our assigned Thai driver knew the roads and the local driving culture. To put it politely, he put some of the other Thai drivers to shame with his antics. We suspect he was told to drive hard because it was a good opportunity to show off the road noise levels of the KO2, which was impressive for an all-terrain tyre which tend to hum and drone when on regular roads.

Then came the crawling part and we took over the wheel. And though it was one of the most stressful drives since the driver turned instructor kept barking orders at every given opportunity which was every other second, it was also great to feel the tyre cling on to a rock and not break grip.

BFGoodrich says the KO2’s are the toughest all-terrain tyres ever made and offer aggressive traction for on and off-road adventures. The KO2’s also have tougher than usual sidewalls that are designed to resists splitting. After what we experienced up on that mountain, we believe these claims.

The All-Terrain KO2’s are also available in Malaysia and are priced at RM930 to RM2,398.

  • G-Force Phenom

To test out these tyres, our drive took us to a small race track that allowed us to try out the high speed cornering. The G-Force Phenom tyres are BFGoodrich’s ultra-high performance that are specially designed for acceleration, tight cornering and hard braking.

We were handed a BMW 330i to test the claim and told to speed into corners, not brake and steer towards some cones and then stand on the brakes to come to a complete stop.

As you probably would expect, there were no dramas. There may be better high-performance tyres out there which we will never know about without a proper tyre test, but for what they can do, the G-Force Phenom’s are remarkable.

To achieve this, BFGoodrich uses Performance Racing Core construction that reduces flex in corners so the tyres respond immediately to every turn of the steering wheel. And there is also the Ulti-Grip Technology that evacuates water from the tyre to improve wet weather grip.

The G-Force Phenom’s are priced at RM438 to RM1,241.

In the near two decades of writing about cars, motorcycles and everything that is related, this was the first time this writer experienced BFGoodrich tyres and their capabilities. Every tyre maker will say their product is the best, but few will let you push them to the breaking point, and that no tyre was permanently destroyed that day is a proper testament to BFGoodrich tyres.

A car stirs the soul, a motorbike is the soul. Keshy has been a motoring journalist for over a decade and has written for and founded a number of Malaysian motoring titles including Piston.my, Bikesrepulic.com, Motomalaya.net and other mass media titles.

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