BFG Mud-Terrain T/A KM
Jul 1, 2001
By: Fidel Gonzales
Jeep at Off-Road.com
July 2001 -- We hovered around it as if it was some sort of life-altering lab experiment. It was by no means a starched-white study room we were in. In fact, neither was the subject. It was filthy, worked-over, well-used and run-to-the-ground.
With the new Mud-Terrain KM (right), there is a significant increase in traction due to the larger contact patch of the tread design.
It stood upon its pedestal like that of a typical abuse-proof BFG. The sidewalls were charmed with nicks, gouges, low blows and cheap shots. Miles of rock-strewn throttle jaunts marred the tread pattern.
True, this was all typical of a Baja-winning BFG, but this wasn't your typical tire.
"Alright guys, let's settle the score. What about this tire we've all showed up to see?" I said to the two journalists beside me.
Up until that time, our experience with the vaguely familiar BFG Mud-Terrain T/A KM had been like a first date with destiny. The anxiety and apprehensiveness ran so deep that it seemed to shut down our opinionated uproars and tongue-tied our speech with a coma.
Personally, I was awe struck. Flying into the half-million acre, weekend getaway of Barron Hilton, son of Conrad Hilton, the founder of the Hilton hotel chain, was an endless glimpse into paradise. The expanse of opportunity stretched north from the shores of Mono Lake deep into the shadows of the Sierra Nevadas and just beyond the snow shed of the East Walker River.
BFG added a key component for the world of rockcrawling and desert racing. These DiggerLugz, translate into an enourmous increas in sidewall durability, stability and traction, while scaling rocks as well as ruts.
A Paradise Of Opportunity
We were wined, dined and waltzed into perfect position for the test of tests, the new BFG Mud-Terrain T/A KM ("KM" stands for Key feature Mud).
Although the vast landscape offered the perfect opportunity to grind the tire's surface among rocks, sand, silt, and mud, there were some in the group of off-road journalists who just weren't entirely satisfied.
According to their straight-faced comments, it seems they'd just assume test a tire on the beaches of the Bahamas beneath a sunshade sipping Margaritas. But, that's enough of their lack of commitment and seemingly snobbish air.
Upon Pedestal Of Practicality
Anyway, there we were before the Vincent Van Gogh of rock crawling and desert racing practicality. The tire just stood there upon its pedestal.
Hell, any tire can be placed upon a pedestal. Some would even be satisfied with leaving a test to only the naked eye - just after a scuba dive on the coast of Tahiti.
The DiggerLugz performed more like mountain goat hoofs when put down upon the rocks. On the off-camber silt climbs, they performed like cleats, carving out a path to the top.
The tire we were looking at had just returned from the Best In The Desert Tonopah 300 a few days earlier, where it was mounted on the Ford Stock Mini truck of Deputy Steve Williams.
Photo Galleries -- Gallery 1 -- Gallery 2 -- Gallery 3 -- Gallery 4
The tire is also said to have garnered a class win at last month's SCORE Baja 500, which was hailed by many to be the roughest of Baja races.
Much of the new third-generation Mud-Terrain appeared to be quite the same as the old at first glance. In fact, the tread patterns looked nearly identical, until we compared the two of them closely.
The lead and trail of the old tread was rounded at the edges. The new tread is rectangular, expanding the footprint for a substantial increase in traction and durability. The dual tread radius helps alleviate stress wear and uniformly applies traction throughout the contact patch of the tire.
"Our goal was to develop a tire with superb off-road traction for all conditions - mud, rocks, dirt and sand, balanced by good manners on the pavement," said Scott Dishman, marketing manager for BFGoodrich. "We've done that."
Rod Hall and crew carved out an interesting and very useful course, which served well for the testing of the KMs.
Due to these improvements alone, the tire is said to wear more evenly than its predecessor as well as provide a much quieter and more comfortable ride.
Lugging The Weight On The Shoulder
The introduction of the All-Terrain KO in 1999 unveiled BFG's attractive and purpose applied sidewall lugs. On the new Mud-Terrain KM, which is slated to roll into the showroom early August 2001, BFG increased the ferocity of these sidewall lugs and gave them the name DiggerLugz.
These lugs extend down the face of the sidewall, providing excellent traction during off-camber ascents in any terrain and armor the lower half of the shoulder with a dominant claw-like appearance.
Claw-like? That's exactly how the DiggerLugz performed on a number of obstacles. Rocks were scaled with greater confidence using the sidewall approach. Loose dirt and most certainly the off-camber silt climbs were little challenge to the tire's new addition. A soft, easy blip of the throttle rendered a methodical claw to the top. You can actually feel the lugs lugging the weight of the rig up the hill.
The Jeep TJ Wrangler has got to be the ultimate rock rig. Set up with a set of Mud-Terrain KMs, they were impressive in their stock form. During testing, the tires remained inflated to 20 PSI.
Why don't the sidewalls extend the entire length of the sidewall? Simple. Besides being what attaches the bead to the tread, the sidewall serves as an important dissipater of heat during high-speed driving, whether it is on the street or flat-out on a graded dirt road.
It is the Mud-Terrain KM's ability to dissipate heat within this region that allows the tire to hold true to its longwearing benchmark.
Stuff The Ribs And It'll Spit You Out
Another unique design borrowed from its predecessor are the ribs that are strategically placed within the shoulder void. These ribs add stability to the shoulder, but the more interesting purpose that these ribs serve is for the tire's namesake - mud.
The ribs act as pry bars when in the thick of mud, allowing air pockets to form between the tire and mud, which helps fling the sludge from the tire so that it can adequately bite off more traction the next time around.
The Call Of The Sidewall
A quick stab to the sidewall can kill a tire and most hopes for repair. The third generation Mud-Terrain again borrows the prowess of its predecessor by including the notorious 3-Ply TriGard technology.
The new Mud-Terrains take a better bite of terrain. This was particularly noticable in the silty climb.
"I figured you were just about finished when you backed down from that hill earlier," the off-road racing legend and Special Forces driving instructor Rod Hall said with a raised eyebrow.
"How do you figure?" I replied, knowing exactly what he was referring to.
"Well, you slid right into that tree stump. It took a damn good stab at that sidewall. I thought you were finished. But man, that's one tough tire," he said shaking his head.
"I'd have to say so. I'd been trying to punch a hole in that damn thing all day long but only then did I find the perfect opportunity. I failed at my attempt at destruction, and the tire prevailed," I admitted. "I am once again sold - not that I wasn't before or anything."
On The Edge With The Devil At The Wheel
In most cases, I'm easy going on the throttle as well as the wheel. But when I had the chance to ride alone in the stock Jeep TJ Wrangler, I mashed down on the throttle and steered dead into every large rock within sight.
Four Wheeler's Trent Riddle found himself on the wrong end of the Tow Strap when he sank his TJ axle-deep in the goo.
The sharper the rock, the bigger the grin. The 60 MPH sidewall slides on the washboard roads resulted in demonic laughter blaring from the left seat of the soft-topped TJ. But, the tire maintained its directive without even a gasp for fresh air.
The key phrase is "maintained its directive." Not only did the rally race to the trail head teach me something of the tire's durability, but it also taught me of the tire's improved cornering stability while cutting through the washboard roads. Although previous experience on the old Mud-Terrain was notably good, the new KM boasted a cutting-edge improvement.
Pocket Book Protector
The KM comes equipped with the same Rim Protector strip of rubber that the All-Terrain KO does. If you've ever 'wheeled on the rocks without such an option, you're likely to have learned either of two things.
First, rocks are more likely to ding and damage the rim. This can lend itself to cosmetic damage but can also lend itself to loss of air or even popping the bead.
An auto tranny made this nose dive quite a bit easier.
Second, the Rim Protector helps alleviate the entry of objects between the bead and the rim, which can also lead to popping the bead.
The elder and soon-to-be outdated Mud-Terrain was only offered in 18 sizes, where the new KM is offered in 25 sizes. Trends in the rockcrawling arena helped to change the molds at Greenville, S.C., where a full-blown 37X12.50R17LT/D will be manufactured.
In the off-road racing scene, BFG offers it's line of Baja T/As. These 37-inch, high-dollar beasts have broken the 150 MPH barrier in the dirt and can take a deathly beating in the process of high-stakes competition. At this level of competition, there is no competition. The remaining question is: "Why isn't a full-blown rockcrawling tire offered?"
Hmmmmm?!?! Why would the best-selling light-truck tire manufacturer hold out on larger group enthusiasts who gather larger crowds, receive barrels more in money-making ink and boast a larger customer base than off-road racing? It makes one wonder.
Special thanks goes out to the dedicated crew of the Flying M Ranch. Brent the Chef put the Frugal Gourmet to shame at every opportunity. Scotty and Chis served it up with class, and Jack oversaw the memorable stay. Without them, this meal wouldn't have been possible.
In late 1999, Sports-In-The-Rough combined forces with BFG and Warn to produce the first large-scale effort at competition rockcrawling. Although BFG's combined effort became the quantum leap for an entire genre of automotive competition, the manufacturer did not take part in its overall success. This was due in part to the popularity of bigger tire sizes but also to tires that offered increased void between lugs and more aggressive shoulders and sidewalls.
BFG is fighting back with a strategy that overwhelms the single use tires of the rockcrawling arena, where a tire serves one purpose - to crawl the rocks (or ford through the mud for that matter). The new KM's approach is tried and true. It sells. It works. It will stand the test of time, torture and the treacherous stretches of Baja and the rocky crags of the Rubicon. It is no fad. It is BFG quality. And to top it off, it's a fine-looking tire to boot.
The answer: More contact patch, which produces grip-tight traction. More aggressive shoulder and sidewalls shrug off despair and climbs like a gummy-hoofed mountain goat when climbing sideways.
Another thanks to the BFG crew for their hospitality, hard work and continued dedication to the sport.
According to half-hushed sources that find it difficult to be silent when pressured for an industry-shaking answer, it is hereby predicted that BFGoodrich will toss their tire in the rockcrawling ring of competition.
Will it be the KM? Yes. But, it appears that there will be some money and more than likely a competition tire on next year's agenda. As for this year, keep your eyes on the rocks. They're on the prowl.
Maximized traction and steering control in deep dirt, mud and sand.
Improved wheel and tire protection from off-road hazards, especially during aired down situations
Aggresive good looks.
More even wear.
Reduced road noise.
Exceptional bruise resistance under the tread and in the sidewall.
DiggerLugz (upper sidewall traction bars) and tread-clearing shoulder void bars.
DiggerLugz upper sidewall traction bars and bold sidewall graphics.
Improved high-void tread design with larger footprint, interlocking tread elements, and advanced compounding.
Dual tread radius.
Computer optimized tread.
BFGoodrich Tires TriGard construction - innovative 3-ply polyester carcass.
Single strand beads on all dimensions (singel wire wrapped continuously).