Once you buy an ATV or UTV, tires are the first thing you need to consider upgrading. There are some fantastic machines out there, but the one thing that consistently leaves power, performance, and reliability on the table are cheap-ass showroom floor tires. You would think after paying all that money for a new 4×4 it would come with an awesome set of off-road tires, but that’s not typically the case.
For many applications, like tooling around your small farm, stock tires work just fine. But if you take a UTV or ATV deep into the wilderness, or it’s your main mode of transportation—like it is for many here in Alaska—then aftermarket tires are a must.
Much of the riding I do is in a mix of rocky, muddy, and boggy muskeg. I’ve found that with stock tires, I can’t access the full power of the machine because I end up spinning the wheels. This is especially true when towing or if the ATV is weighed down with meat and gear. I’ve also seen broken sticks puncture stock tires, and in the places I go, that can’t happen.
The tire you need will depend on your machine, the terrain, and your application. If you’re in arid, rocky country, you wouldn’t be best-served with mud tires. Conversely, tires built for sharp, loose rock won’t do you much good if you’re pounding through mudholes on a regular basis. Make sure to consult your dealer before buying an aftermarket tire, because some 4x4s upgrades require wheel spacers for clearance or, in some cases, a clutch kit to give you better performance with large tires.
Here’s a look at the best aftermarket tire options on the market.
The Dirt Devil from GBC is a great all-around tire that will give you a smooth ride on a variety of terrain, but also has enough traction and a good tread profile to handle mud. Some of the more aggressive tires can be a rough ride on rocky terrain, but these provide a great balance and come in 22 sizes. The V-shaped tread gives you superior traction and less slippage when you’re accelerating.
A personal favorite, the Mud Lite II from ITP is an aggressive-treaded all-terrain tire that performs great on soft ground and in the mud. The deep lugs offer great wear-resistance and clean out quickly to keep you moving in the slop. They are 6-ply and feature stabilizing cords to reduce flex. They are constructed of durable rubber to prevent wear on the lugs. The Mud Lite IIs provide a wide footprint, reasonably smooth ride, and excellent traction in a variety of locales, including rocks and snow. The side-texturing helps maintain traction and aids in climbing out of ruts.
If your machine is going to be at home in the arid, rocky desert, the Coronado from Maxxis is definitely a tire to consider. It’s 8-ply and designed for rough terrain and high temperatures. The radial design and fairly tight center lugs provide a smooth ride over rough rocks, as well as great traction on softer surfaces and loose gravel. The side-lugs provide additional grip for ruts, but also critical wear-protection for the sidewall when you’re on the rocks.
A lighter-weight, 6-ply option from Maxxis is the Bighorn 2.0. It’s based on the very popular Bighorn model, but this version is lighter with slightly skinnier lugs. This tire is suited to more general applications, and if you’re using it on a lot of hard-pack or soft, sandy terrain, a set of four will suit you well. They have a good balance of lugs and valleys to provide superior traction, as well as a smooth ride that more aggressive tires won’t give you. The non-directional pattern is optimal for climbing over roots and rocks and provides much better durability than a stock tire.
Read Next: 10 Ways to Ruin Your ATV
5. Super Swamper Black Mamba
If your ATV will primarily be used in the nastiest, muddiest conditions imaginable, take a look at the Super Swamper Black Mambas. They are about as aggressive as you can get for an ATV tire tread, and they’re designed to do one thing: sling mud. With an extremely big center and side-lugs with plenty of space, this 6-ply tire grabs and cleans out as it spins, giving you the best traction you can get in the soft stuff. They’ll give you a rougher ride on hard-pack or rocky terrain, but when it comes to mud, you’ll have a hard time beating them.