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Guest blog by Bernie Williams


Sometime ago a well-known 4x4 magazine published an all-terrain tyre shootout, one that focused heavily on sand-driving performance, as well as gravel-braking distances.


There were some questionable methods to that shootout, one of which was to compare the performance of lightweight SUV tyres, against some heavyweight (LT) competitors… in sand… at the same pressure! Naturally, the problem with this methodology is that a tyre with a LT carcass is going to be significantly stronger and more rigid that a thinner SUV tyre, meaning: the LT will require more deflation to get the same footprint.


In essence, such a test penalises strong, puncture-resistant tyres, while rewarding thinner SUV products. Of course, we all know that this is the complete opposite of what’s really needed in an all-terrain tyre… in the real world.


"All tyres perform well

when they're new"


However, an even bigger gorilla in the room was the test’s failure to mention one critically important aspect: ALL TYRES PERFORM WELL WHEN THEY’RE NEW!


Recognising that any sand-based test is naturally flawed due to the shear variety of sand types available, I would like to see the exact same test conducted after 10- or even 20 000 km have been covered on each set of tyres.


I guarantee you that many of those budget all-terrains (which have shallower tread depths) would not fair as well as they did the first time round, particularly when it comes to gravel-road braking, and even sand driving for that matter.


All-terrain tyres with deeper treads will offer greater off-road performance over time. 


What many people don’t realise is that the performance of a tyre should really be measured over the long term, where a better sense of overall performance, as well as value for money can be calculated.


On average, most budget all-terrains feature a tread depth of just 10 mm or less; by comparison, many premium aftermarket tyres feature a tread depth as high as 15 mm. If 5 mm of tread life is used on either set of tyres, it goes without saying that the 50% loss is going to significantly effect how well the budget tyre performs off-road.


The fact is, tread depth is the only comparative measure where longevity and future performance can be accurately determined, and yet, it’s seldom ever mentioned in a media tyre test. 



Bernie Williams is the Managing Director of Khwela 4x4 Adventures & Dynamic Driving; he’s been guiding self-drive tours into Africa for more than 20 years, and is also an advanced 4x4 driving instructor for Toyota Advanced Driving, Isuzu Driving Academy, KIA, and BMW Driving Experience. More recently, Bernie was made the chairman of the Off-Road Guides and Overland Tour Operators Association of South Africa (OGATO). You can contact Bernie through his Facebook page here.

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