When you log thousands of miles in the dirt, you learn that your tires are more than just tires. When you buy a tire, you’re buying into your future. Whether you’re pre-running, or just on a leisurely trail ride, your tires determine how much fun you’re going to have because the simple fact is if you’re changing a flat on your trip, you’re probably not having as much fun as you should be.
There are many choices on the table when it comes to an all terrain tire. Some people prefer to go with something more aggressive like a mud terrain tire. But as with any brand mud terrain, you lose street ability, and they’re often quite loud. And if you’ve spent any real time in a vehicle with loud tires, you know that it’s not much fun to yell back and forth just to get to the next destination.
Preferably, an all terrain would be the best to get you from the house to your off road destination and back. How does it stack up against hardcore off-roading? Well we’ve joined BFGoodrich in Baja for their KO2 launch to find out.
Being that RDC is a hardcore racing crowd, you’ll be happy to know that we punished these new KO2’s through some of the notorious and treacherous Baja spots that you all know. This for all intensive purposes is the real deal test. What we did covered 98% of anything you’d encounter on a Baja run. That other 2% is that surprise Baja likes to kick down the road every now and then, and you never know what that will be…
Starting just outside Ensenada at the infamous Horsepower Ranch, our group pushed out early to join the traditional route that all the Baja races take to leave Ensenada. Cut into the hills outside of the city is 40 or so miles of dusty, choppy, windy road that is known for being deceiving to even the professionals in the sport. One wrong move, and you’re off the side of a cliff, instantly causing a bad day. Good traction is key in the hills outside Ensenada, and from the start the KO2 handled the challenge with ease.
Once we got through the hills and on through Ojo Negros, we continued on the traditional Baja race route from Ojos to Tres Hermanos. This was a great opportunity to feel the traction and cornering on the fast narrow farm roads in the area. The KO2 cornered exceptionally well compared to the previous version with more lateral bite and a stiffer sidewall; the previous KO seemed to almost roll over and snap back on high lateral loads, but the new one held its line while inspiring confidence and easing drivability.
A quick stop at Tres Hermanos to stretch the legs, and we began heading east down the sandy wash towards “Gold Mine Rd.” It’s comprised of roughly 10 miles of clapped out, jagged rock and shale that hasn’t been used as a racecourse for a few years because it’s too rough. Leaving the wash, you enter what looks like a gauntlet of a thousand dagger shaped rocks – tire killers! We picked our way through with out issue and on to massive hill climbs covered with sharp shale rock that breaks away as you make the climb. As we crested the top of Gold Mine Rd., we stopped for an awesome view that stretched for miles to the Mexican / American border. The idea that our insanely busy lives existed just miles away seemed comical as we absorbed that view; Baja has that effect. The tires remained unaffected and were ready for more.
As we moved on past El Alamo, we did the traditional pop out at K77 for a stretch on the highway before moving back into the dirt. Being a dirt rat, that’s all the highway I required, but the KO2 was noticeably quiet on the road. While on the pavement stretch, we brake check tested a couple of times, and it gripped exceptionally well.
We jumped back into the dirt heading past the Caselli memorial and on towards the meadow near Jamau for a first class lunch, BFG Baja style.
On the horizon towards Valle T and beyond to our destination, was the tail end of hurricane Norbert that had been working its way up the peninsula. We could see we were in for weather, and despite the questions and concerns from the pavement guys in the group, we carried on. After all, it’s Baja; there’s no stopping for weather.
Just a few miles in from our lunch spot, we started to encounter heavy run off from the mountain storms. The roads quickly became free flowing rivers, and we had no choice but to continue on; it was literally the only way through. In an instant, we went from a dusty desert trail tire test to a full on mud bog. The KO2 did remarkably well in the wet sandy mud however. The tires new siping feature ejected the mud, as it was designed to do, and kept us moving forward and on to well-known Goat Trail leading into Valle De Trinidad.
The Goat Trail is carved out of the side of a granite mountainside, and the section isn’t very long, but it can seriously make your day suck if you don’t take your time and choose your line wisely. In the wet conditions, it can be treacherous. We cautiously worked our way down and onto some wet pavement before we made the turn to Mike’s Sky Ranch.
Anyone who’s been around off-road racing for any length of time knows the road to Mike’s, a 22-mile section of Baja that is both deceivingly beautiful and extremely dangerous. Although well maintained, it’s many switchbacks and off camber turns catch even the best drivers off guard at times. If you happen to “go off” an edge the results would be less than favorable, to say the least. Now add a tropical downpour in an open car, and you have what we did during this run. Once again, the KO2 was surprisingly favorable in these conditions. Forward bite and cornering was comparable with dry conditions, as was braking.
After completing the run to Mike’s, we were greeted by the BFG crew with an ice cold Pacifico and promptly lined up for a quick ride in an Ultra 4 car clad with the new KO2.
Having seen Ultra 4 cars do work before, I never thought an AT tire would be up for serious crawling, but the KO2 cruised through the layout unopposed. It was amazing to see the sidewall flex around the sharp rocks and boulders without any issues.
The rest of the evening was in true Mike’s Sky Ranch fashion, talkin off-road stories from the day and past.
The next day, we were up early and back on the trail after a quick Mike’s Sky Ranch breakfast, and headed dew west to the deadly Simpson’s Grade. Still wet, and in some spots freshly washed away, there was no taking chances while making our way over and down the hill. Once again the KO2’s performed flawlessly, providing toughness and traction as we descended into the valley at Simpson’s Ranch.
The accent out of Simpsons was equally tough with new washouts and boulders in the trail.
We pulled into the meadow in the Valle T area for a quick refuel and onto the next section – the crossover road to the coast.
Now out of the wet, the crossover road isn’t a bad road really, but it is extremely dangerous with its dramatic drop offs that would not only end your day, but most likely your life. Traction is key on the dusty road, a flat would be an issue with nowhere to pull out and change it, but the KO2 handled the group graciously and carried us on to the coast for another beautiful lunch provided by our hosts.
At lunch we were provided a tremendous opportunity to ride with two great drivers to show us what the KO2 could really do. Rob MacCachren and Ryan Arciero threw down some hot laps for everyone in attendance.
One more real world test awaited us as after lunch on the deep sand on the beaches of South Erendira, and then on to the coastline roads that mimics driving on marbles. The KO2 did an excellent job on its final run back to our destination providing the necessary traction and toughness to get us home.
How can you make something that was already good better? On other A/T tires we’ve been on, we’ve noticed they’re either more off-road or more on-road, but that wasn’t the case here. In 1975 BFG created the first radial all terrain tire, and subsequently created the A/T market. Since then, BFG has led that category for most of that time. From day 1, BFG has tested and used the real world data they collect while competing in Baja, and only in the last few years, have the competition started to catch up. But with the new advances in the KO2, BFG once again has that target on their back.
All in all, BFG has put together a great tire, and it truly is an all terrain with toughness, tread life and loads of traction. We ran every terrain conceivable, with the exception of snow. For what we, as off-road racers and enthusiast, do on any given weekend with friends and family, these new KO2’s will get the job done, and get it done well.