Several innovations in fourwheeling hardware have made their way to the market in the new millennium, many as a direct result of the growing popularity of rockcrawling competition. These include new products, such as Atlas transfer cases, and new applications of existing products, such as the now widespread use of link suspensions. The one common factor between all of these innovations is that they involve machining. Through the years I have seen people fabricate everything from suspensions to frames to custom gearboxes (!). One thing that you cannot make at home however, is a tire.
The barriers to entering the tire market are extremely high, so I consider us fortunate when an established manufacturer comes out with a new tire aimed at the off-road market. But an entirely new tire manufacturer? That is practically unheard of, which is why I was so interested when I first discovered Pit Bull Tires. Pit Bull is a divison of Tire Mart and an established player in the tractor pull tire market, so technically they are not new. Tire Mart and Pit Bull have spent a great deal of time and money developing their new line of off-road tires, which include the Growler all-terrain tire, the Maddog mud-terrain tire, and the Rocker extreme-terrain tire. Pit Bull's commitment to developing a better tire for off-road motorsports has been demonstrated by their sponsorship of CORR racing, as well as supporting many rockcrawling competitors.
The new Rockers are considerably wider than the tires they replaced.
While I do not personally compete, recreational rockcrawling is my favorite pastime and I am always looking for products that will give me an edge out on the trail. I spoke with Pit Bull's Mike Green at the Off-Road Impact show last January about their new line of tires. “Competition compound” tires seem to be all of the rage right now, so I asked Green if Pit Bull had any intention of producing a tire specifically for rockcrawling competition. “We put a set of 35 inch Rockers on a stock class vehicle at a Neuroc event last year” Green explained, “the vehicle and driver had never won an event previously, but he came in first on our tires.” Impressed by the results, I pressed Green for more information about what makes Pit Bull tires so special. He was fairly tight lipped, but at the same time very confident about his product. Was the product really that good, or was this “anti-hype” just a new, clever form of hype? I had to find out for myself, so I ordered up a set of 35x1450-15 Rockers to punish on the rocks, dirt, snow and sand found near my Reno home.
Sizing Them Up
The tires took very little weight to balance considering their size.
Our local Big O mounted the Pit Bulls to our old steel wheels.
The tires arrived in short order and I took time to inspect them thoroughly before mounting them. The tires weighed in at a hefty 55 pounds each and feature large, aggressive tread blocks with 22/32” deep tread blocks. Overall height of the unmounted Rockers was well over an inch taller than the worn tires that they replaced, and just over the advertised height of 35 inches. The construction is bias ply and the tires are rated with a C load range, meaning that they should work quite nicely on the relatively heavy Early Bronco they are destined for. With the inspection out of the way I mounted up the new Rockers on some old 15x10 steel wheels to perform some real world testing.
When I took the new Rockers to the wheelers that work at our local Big O tires, they were as excited as I was to examine the tires. They noted that the carcass already felt pliable and “broken in” even though the tires were brand new, and also noted that the relatively high weight was an attribute in off road tires. Two of the tires took four ounces of weight to balance on Big O's Hunter balancing machine, while nine ounces and eleven ounces were necessary to balance the other two tires. The technicians at Big O attributed the additional weight more to our dented and scraped old wheels than the new tires, and knowing what I have put those wheels through I tend to agree.
The Fun Part- Testing
The Rockers run big for 35s and used up all of the wheelwell in the Bronco.
Even with 8 psi of air, the tires maintained excellent ground clearance.
With 30 pounds of air in the tires, the Rockers were round, with only the middle of the tread on the ground even after being mounted on the heavy Bronco. Bringing the air pressure down to 24 pounds evened out the contact patch for street driving, but these big, heavy bias ply tires are clearly intended for the dirt. That being the case, the noise on the road is less than we anticipated but you still won't mistake a set of Rockers for a passenger car tire. With the flexible carcass and staggered lugs, I expect the Rockers to really shine in sand and deep snow. Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to test the tires in these conditions… yet. I fully intend to put the Pit Bulls through their paces in the high Sierra as winter approaches, all in the name of testing!
With the pavement out of the way I headed straight for the nearest rocks. Lacking beadlocks, I started by dropping the pressure to 12 psi. The tires didn't seem to budge, so I kept lowering the air pressure to 8 psi before I noticed any bulge in the sidewalls. Crawling through the the rocky canyon that I use for testing, the Pit Bull Rockers exhibited excellent grip. They conformed to the jagged rocks on the first trip out, requiring no time for the carcass to cycle and break in before becoming flexible. At the same time, the tough bias ply sidewalls shrugged off the jagged rocks with hardly a scratch. The Rockers also provided the Bronco with superb sidehill capabilities, thanks to the irregular shaped lugs. The tires do seem to “wrap up” like a drag tire more than the radials we have run in the past, but this is a small price to pay for the conformity to the terrain.
The Pit Bull Rockers shined in the rocks, where the Bronco spends most of its time.
If these new Rockers are any indication, Pit Bull tires will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. With tires that run larger than advertised size, bombproof construction, and large (39”) sizes that do not cost $500 a piece or are only available to competitors, Pit Bull has clearly been listening to what off road enthusiasts want and delivered the goods.
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