BACK in 2014, I spent three days in Baja, Mexico, testing the newest iteration of the BFGoodrich All-Terrain, the KO2.
The region was being hammered by the tail-end of a hurricane, which allowed us to put the KO2s through a variety of terrain ranging from sloppy mud and sandy beaches to rocky hill climbs and high-speed drifts on hard-packed two-tracks. I was impressed with the tyre and within a few months had a set on my long-term Tacoma project vehicle.
Since that time, the odometer has clicked off 55,000km and the KO2s have carried me back to Mexico numerous times, as well as on dozens of backcountry treks around Western USA. The company’s tagline for the new All-Terrain was Traction, Toughness and Tread Life, and I can say that in the past two years my new dogs have been given ample opportunity to pass or fail.
THE traction a tyre provides may be deduced with subjective or objective metrics, and there are numerous factors that play into performance on a variety of tractive surfaces. Tread block configuration, rubber compound, siping and sidewall construction are the key variables and must work in harmony with one another.
The new design has slightly wider voids, a broad, staggered shoulder, and a chevron pattern side-biter sidewall tread that wraps about a third of the way to the rim. Its full-depth siping spans nearly the full width of the footprint, and rather than a straight, vertical slice they are three-dimensional, descending from the surface in a wavy pattern like a piece of corrugated metal.
The general premise behind siping is to enhance mechanical keying at macro and micro levels. Micro keying is the ability of the tread face to comply with minute deviations in the traction surface. Macro keying has more to do with the deformation of the tread block and sidewall as a whole, and is most noticeable at low air pressures.
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Under these conditions the block remains compliant with undulations in the terrain, while the 3D design of the sipes allows them to interlock, keeping the tread block together while reducing the possibility of chipping.
I live in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California, so in addition to forays over dry-traction surfaces such as the deserts of Nevada and Baja, these KO2s have seen a fair bit of wet roads, snow and mud. Voids feature small ridges at the base (mud-phobic bars) that help clear the tyre of interloping debris.
At low pressure (I usually run about 15psi on dirt and 10psi in soft snow or mud), considering that the KO2 is not a dedicated mud tyre, it does a pretty good job. Regarding Goodrich’s claim of a 10 to 19 per cent increase in traction, I can’t provide objective conclusions. However, the tyre has performed exceptionally well in all of the aforementioned environments and at all tyre pressures.
AS A crew chief and navigator for legendary off-road racer Rod Hall, I’ve raced and chased several Mexican 1000 vintage rallies through more than 8000km of rugged two-tracks. In the process, I’ve had several “oh, shit” moments when I ran out of talent and nailed a boulder flat-out while drifting a corner.
It is during these times of brain fade that I appreciate the extensive research BFG engineers put into this tyre. I have yet to have a failure on my personal vehicle or the race truck.
The KO2 features CoreGard technology – borrowed from the race-only Baja T/A KR2 – which implements a rubber formula that is more resistant to splitting and bruising, while a thicker, more pronounced shoulder reduces sidewall failures. Rod runs KO2s on his competition vehicle (a 1969 Bronco) and we’ve completed each race on the same tyres that left the starting line. Enough said.
ONE OF the major challenges tyre manufacturers face is balancing the aforementioned performance attributes with reasonable tread life. A soft rubber compound will stick like glue but wear to the core quickly. On the flip side, a rock-hard compound will provide extended life but will be as compliant as a steel rail-car wheel in the dirt. BFG claims the KO2 offers a 15 per cent increase in tread life on asphalt and a whopping 100 per cent on gravel roads over the previous KO.
I asked Senior Development Engineer Brandon Sturgis about the rubber/carbon cocktail. He said: “It’s kind of like grandma’s secret recipe for lemon cake… she’s not going to tell you.”
In short, the rubber compound has been engineered to reduce chipping and tearing without compromising adhesion. The interlocking tread block, which includes interesting little pyramids or stone ejectors at the base of each void, is designed to keep gravel from becoming wedged in and grinding away at the carcass.
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Three-dimensional siping allows for compliance with terrain while keeping the tread block, as a whole, intact. The overall effect is uniform wear and extended tread life. As for exact tread life, I can’t say, as I would never run a set of tyres down to the DOT minimums – a pathetic 2/32nds. I will say that the average remaining tread depth is 13 of the original 20/32nds, or about 65 per cent.
A tread-life warranty isn’t offered, but at the current wear rate I’d guess 80,000km would be a reasonable expectation for the 50 per cent mark. Not bad, considering the real-world abuse I’ve put them through.
My last comment is in regard to noise. With more than 380,000km on the Tacoma, the rattles have now made my original baseline decibel readings obsolete. Generally, this All-Terrain will be louder than a street or generic SUV M/S-rated tyre. However, they are much quieter than any Mud-Terrain I’ve run and the benefits, in my opinion, make up for slightly less gonzo in the mud.
Overall, the KO2 has proven to be one of the best All-Terrain models I’ve run, and has upheld the company’s lofty claims of the three Ts – traction, toughness, and tread life.
RRP: From $293 (per tyre)