What are Different types of Off-Road Tires?

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With off-road tires, you get to have an enhanced traction on all types of rugged terrains, may it be gravel, sand, dirt, rocks or mud. Theses tires are made durable with powerful plies underneath the thick cut resistant rubber on top, which are equipped with notches, full depth sipes, chamfered edges, and multiple stone ejectors.

Off-Road Tires
Out of all off-road tires, some of the best looking ones are in Rugged-Terrain category.

Going form least aggressive to most, off-road tires are categorized in the following order:

  • All-Terrain tires.
  • Rugged Terrain Tires.
  • Mud Terrain Tires.
  • A/TV Tires.

As the tire gets more aggressive it’s off-road capabilities are promoted, whereas the performance on smooth pavements gets diminished, in terms of traction and comfort. That’s why it makes sense why all-terrain tires give you the best traction on highways, whereas the mud-terrain tires are not so great, and ATV Tires are straight up dangerous for roads.

All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires basically provide the best of both on and off-road worlds. So with these tires although you are able to go on all types of tougher terrains, without compromising too much on highway comfort.

They feature powerful biters on tread and 3 ply polyester sidewalls for crawling on rocks, staggered shoulders for scooping out the mud, and multiple stone ejectors for keeping tread clean while on gravely and dirt filled roads.

And at the same time, you get closed up strategically placed lugs making longitudinal channels and therefor directional grip on roads, decent pitch sequencing technologies for reducing sound and improving comfort and full depth sipes to provide better wet traction.

And since these tires come in a wide range, you get an option to choose a more on-road oriented tire, if you are planing on staying on-roads for the most part whist having a powerful LT tire.

For example I rated the Continental TerrainContact A/T as the top performer when it comes to on-roads in the category of all-terrain tires. Where as if you need a more aggressive tire, you can go for BF Goodrich KO2, which is the toughest all-terrain tire.

Or if you want 50% off road and 50% on, I’d recommend Falken Wildpeak AT3w, you’ll also note that I rated this tire for this reason as the best in the business.

Mud Terrain Tires

They don’t say mud is all-terrain tires biggest enemy for no reason. Mud is the reason we have “mud-terrain” tires.

Even though these tires are much more capable of performing in the all types of off-road terrains, compared to R/T and A/T tires, since mud is the most challenging of all they are named after that.

These tires provide you with a more powerful inner construction of 3 ply polyester, 2 steel belts and 2 ply nylon cap plies. They have more tread depth reaching up to 24/32″ (seen in Pro Comp Xtreme M/T2). And they offer widest grooves compared to the above discussed.

With powerful construction these tires are more confidence inspiring when encounters tougher terrains, their wider grooves expel out mud much more easily whereas the Rugged and All-terrain tires would simply have gotten packed.

They provide thicker sidewall lugs which provide ample footprint with lowered air pressure.

But on the negative side, these tires are not capable of good performance on roads. Their speed ratings only go up to Q.

And although they offer all season traction, you’d not find any tire with 3 peak mountain snowflake rating.

These tires also have very minimal tread design, so they tend to slip a lot on wet roads.

Rugged Terrain Tires

Rugged terrain tires come in between mud and all-terrain tires. So you get to have a better performance off-road compared to all-terrain tires, and on the same time a superior comfort and traction on road if you compare them with mud-terrain.

These tires basically are the combination of the two, and that’s why they are also called hybrid tires as well.

You get mud shoulders on them whereas their middle part stays all-terrain with closed up lugs arrangement over there.

So with these shoulder lugs and slightly wider grooves compared to all-terrains they get to have a superior self cleaning tread. And this way they tend to do better when on sand and mud, basically on loose terrains.

Whereas on rocks, these tires give you powerful internal construction and much more aggressive biters and sidewall lugs rendering them better.

Though compared to all-terrain, you are going to see a tiny bit limited performance in terms of wet traction and comfort mostly, whereas the dry performance is almost on par with them. Though they are still not considered as better a daily driving options, comparatively.

ATV Tires / Sand Tires

Although all the off-road tires discussed above get to provide good enough traction on all types of terrains, for sandy dunes, you need specialized tires such as paddle and balloon tires.

Paddle Tires

Like the name implies, paddle tires get to provide larger scooping lugs that dig in and throw the sand backwards to provide forward moving inertia.

These tires are mostly seen for buggies, ATVs and Sand Rails.

Balloon Tires

Balloon tires are very puffy and with this type of design they get to be very floating on sand.

That’s because with such larger surface area (compared to other tires), they don’t try to dig in, with their better distributed weight.

These tires are also used in dune buggies just like the paddle tires.

And it goes for both tires, that they are just made for sand, and can’t be used on roads, as they would wear off very quickly there.

To Sum Up

It has always been a long lived war between on-road comfort and off-road capability. Improve one and the other goes down. That’s why as the off-road tires get to become more and more aggressive, they start losing their on-road abilities.

Though you can still choose according to your needs. If you want an off-road tire but going to use them on roads mostly, go with all-terrain tires.

If you need superior off-road performance and don’t care too much about on-road comfort go with mud-terrain tires.

Want something in the middle? Get the middle one, Rugged terrain.

And on the extreme ends, you have ATV tires, which only prefer to live on rugged tracks rather than smooth pavements.

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