— Back when the Yamaha Rhino 660 was the pinnacle of UTV performance and Hardcore Racing (HCR) was making titanium long-travel suspension for radio controlled Traxxas T-Maxx trucks, Hobby Products International (HPI) introduced the fifth-scale, gas-powered Baja 5B to the press on a Wide Open Excursions Baja Tour. The three-day adventure followed the SCORE Baja 500 course in Class 10 Baja Challenge buggies, and Lumpy was most impressed by the 18 inches of travel and how stinking hard the BC Buggies could hit rocks and obstacles with the BFGoodrich (BFG) T/A Radial tires. At the time OEM ATV and UTV tires would flat immediately with the impacts the BFGs took, and Wide Open had (and still has) a race program where anyone could “arrive and drive” a BC Buggy in the SCORE Baja 500 or 1000 for $35,000, complete with pit service, logistics and chase support for less than a week of seat time.
Fast-forward to today, and our UTVs weigh and cost half as much as a Class 10 buggy and have as much speed and suspension travel. For $35,000, an enthusiast can have a full-race UTV sitting in his or her garage. Automotive giant BFGoodrich has recognized the importance of the UTV revolution and has developed the new BFG KR2 30×9.5R15 all-terrain UTV-specific tire. Based on the BFG T/A KR2 for Trophy Trucks, the Baja T/A KR2 UTV with CoreGuard technology has unique compounds and new dimensions to meet the needs of extreme performance UTV racers, or anyone who wants a tough tire to tame trails, desert and dunes.
Many aftermarket companies have contributed to the modern UTV that we all enjoy today, and we still see a lot of Rhinos with long-travel suspension, trick ITP SS wheels and tougher terrain specific tires. International Tire Products (ITP) has been helping trick out our ATVs and UTVs for decades. The new Storm-series wheels and made-in-the- USA tires like the Ultracross R-Spec
provide top-level race performance, traction and toughness for our extreme performance UTVs. Like BFG in truck and buggy racing, ITP has helped race teams win the biggest events, like Johnny Angal did at the 2014 Baja 1000 and the 2015 Best in the Desert (BITD) UTV Pro championship.
THE ULTIMATE RACE-TIRE TEST
When we received our set of BFG Baja T/A KR2 UTV tires, we made grand plans and picked up a set of OMF NXG1 15×7 beadlock wheels to make sure we had rims strong enough to take the impacts the BFG KR2 UTV tires would endure. Since we had almost identically setup 2015 Polaris XP 1000s with Shock Therapy (ST) suspension and front/rear torsion bars, we decided to secure a set of ITP Ultracross R-Spec 30x10R15 race tires and put them on ITP Hurricane 15×7 black matte wheels. Our ST XP 1000 got the BFG/OMF combination, while the ST Fox Edition XP1K got the ITPs. Both were set at 15 psi for all-around desert and rock riding in 2WD and 4WD where needed.
High-end tires and wheels have high-end costs, and we wanted to know just how much bang for the buck the BFG/OMF and ITP/ITP combos would provide the serious enthusiast. A single BFG Baja T/A KR2 UTV tire has an MSRP of $260, and vendors like Holz Racing Products (HRP) and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC are only discounting KR2s to $258. The OMF NXG1 beadlock is $379.95 to $429.95, depending on finish and options, so each wheel/tire combo is $665. The full BFG/OMF set is $2660. ITP has an MSRP of $268.59 for the 30x10R15 Ultracross R-Spec, but vendors and online stores have them discounted to $168–$200 each. Rocky Mountain ATV/MC has the 15×7 Hurricane wheel for $126.50, and High Lifter asks $97.95 for each. An RM ATV/MC customer would pay $299.38 per wheel/tire or $1,197.52 per set. That’s a difference of $1,462.48. Bargain shopping for the BFG/OMF combo would only save $109. Then again, not everyone would go for the high-end OMF beadlock wheels.
INITIAL DESERT TEST IMPRESSIONS
Mounting the tires on wheels, we were amazed how sticky both tires were and wondered how long such soft compounds would last. We hit the Mojave Desert, did some rock crawling and climbed seriously steep, rocky hills. Traction with both tires was incredible, and it was pretty hard to get either to break loose at all on hard terrain. We’d literally have to juke the wheel over bumps entering turns to get sideways on hardpack, and straight line acceleration and braking traction were excellent. Sand-wash manners were also totally predictable with both the BFG and ITP tires. We only went to 4WD when absolutely necessary and hammered loose rocks mercilessly. A tread check at 60 miles showed fresh knob edges and the manufacturing nipples worn down to dimples. At the end of the first day of testing we set up cones and did slalom speed runs on a silt-covered, hard dirt road. The BFG KR2 UTV tires had only a 3-mph advantage on the Ultracross R-Specs. We attributed the better cornering traction of the BFGs to a flatter profile, more aggressive tread pattern and a stickier compound. After a second weekend of riding both the BFGs and ITPs had only started to dull the sharp leading edge at 160 miles.
LONG-TERM TEST RESULTS
Nick Nelson raced the Mint 400 UTV class on BFG KR2s with Wes Miller, and the tires showed little tread wear after 330 miles of punishment; however, the team suffered three pinch flats before the first pit at 28 miles. One was an impact so hard it would’ve been a miracle if it didn’t flat, but the other two were suspect. The night before the race the BFGs were set at 25 psi, but they had bled to 21 psi the next morning. Handling with the BFG KR2s was excellent, and they tracked very well in loose sand to desert hardpack. Meanwhile, Branden Sims won the BFG-sponsored Mint 400 in his LSR/ITP RZR XP Turbo with Ultracross R-Specs, while Cognito’s Justin Lambert won the Pro Production class with his R-Spec-shod XP 1000. Neither had problems with flats.
We didn’t put nearly as much acceleration, braking and impact stress on our BFG KR2s or ITP Ultracross R-Specs as top-level pro UTV racers do, but we did accumulate enough miles on the two top-tier racing tires to get a handle on handling traits, tread wear and overall durability. We had to air up two of the four BFGs before every ride and never figured out if it was the tires or wheels that were leaking. Wear was similar on the BFGs and ITPs as miles accumulated.
WHAT’S OUR FINAL ANSWER?
We’re very impressed with the BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR2 tires’ excellent handling and hooked-up feel, and the tread lugs do a good job of self-cleaning and resisting wear. They deliver a lot of performance for the hard-core racer and are backed by BFG’s pit support in BITD and SCORE races. The KR2s, however, have a softer sidewall that requires more pressure (25+ psi) to prevent pinch flats, and they have too narrow a profit margin for dealer discounts. By comparison, ITPs Ultracross R-Specs don’t quite deliver the confidence inspiring hook-up of the BFG KR2s, but they do offer excellent handling, extreme durability, better flat resistance with stiffer sidewalls and long life with less maintenance. They also fetch a far lower real-world price, so the bang for-your-buck is much better. Also, ITP makes R-Specs in sizes for all UTVs, up to 32 inches.
ITP ULTRACROSS R-SPEC
Construction: The R-Spec features eight-ply radial construction and a unique multi-surface, non directional tread design for improved off-road traction and versatility.
Reason for being: The more openly spaced tread pattern helps the Ultracross R-Spec perform in desert and slick rock conditions.
Ply number: 8-ply
Sizes: 23x10x12; 27x10x12; 27x10x14; 28x10x12; 28x10x14; 29x9x14; 29x11x14; 30x10x14; 30x10x15; 32x10x15
Worth knowing: The new, larger 32-inch option might be the wave of the future for higherspeed, rough desert terrain.
BFGOODRICH BAJA T/A KR2
Construction: A non-DOT offroad race tire that is constructed specifically for UTV use.
Reason for being: Built for the trails, dunes or desert with an off-road-proven tread pattern derived from the race-winning light truck tires, the KR/2 rejects stone retention and provides extra clean-out.
Ply number: 3-ply
Worth knowing: Designed and made in the USA.