4WD MODIFICATIONS - TYRES & WHEELS
Maxxis is a relatively new player in the 4WD tyre scene, so we’re evaluating a test set over the next two years, to see how they compare with more established brands. We’ll have regular updates for you.
Maxxis was founded in 1967, as a manufacturer
of bicycle tyres in Taiwan. Growing steadily, Maxxis eventually became the largest manufacturer of bicycle tyres in the world and remains so today.
In the ensuing decades, Maxxis has expanded into new markets, offering products for motorcycles, cars, 4x4s, light trucks, trucks and buses, ATVs, lawn and garden products, race karts, industrial vehicles and trailers.
We’ve fitted a set of Maxxis Bravo AT980 265/75R16 LT 120-123Q tyres to one of the OTA test team vehicles: a Victorian-based Patrol coil-cab.
This vehicle is owned by Juana and Tony Ford, who regularly do High Country trips over the summer months. It also has a schedule of desert trips for the next two winters.
If you want an idea of how the tyres will be tested, check out our Rudall River NP video.
Tony Ford’s initial impressions of the new tyres are that the ride quality is very good, for 10-ply-rated rubber and noise is confined to a low rumble.
He’s taken them down some Victorian mud/clay coastal bush tracks (see below) and has been surprised by the degree of grip in very slippery conditions. As the photo shows they’re also good at self cleaning at the edge of the tread area.
The test goes on!
Steep country tests
Heavy rain in our area on Friday night, Saturday clear and sunny. Sunday magnificent. We took the blue ute for a drive to check out the Maxxis 980s on a very demanding local track.
Betts Creek Track runs east of the Tullochard track in East Gippsland. This track is closed during winter, along with the high country tracks, because it’s a steep drop from a high ridge down to the Snowy River.
The track rates a black diamond, with a warning not to be attempted if wet.
I checked the vehicle and the winch prior to the trip and made sure to top up all fluids, fuel and water. The large toolbox on the back was full of day-tripping gear, including a chainsaw. I weighed the ute at the local tip and we tipped the scales at 2800kg: enough weight to make sure I had good drive.
Once off the Tullochard, I stopped at the start of Betts Creek Track and let all four tyres down to 20psi. The Maxxis 980s bagged out very well and I reckon I gained about a third more footprint.
The top of the track was black soil and a bit damp, but further on it dropped down and the surface was quite rocky with yellow clay and gravel. It was dry and traction was excellent.
The deflated Maxxis rode very well and were most compliant. I used second gear low range and feathered the brakes here and there, and on very steep sections used first low.
The tyres performed well, with no slippage and good compliance. The track continued like this for some time, becoming more steep and with larger rocks. Wheel and diff placement was required.
Halfway down the track resumed its rainforest appearance, with damp red clay and large rocks. The track was now showing why it’s a black diamond.
We dropped very carefully down using low first, but one short section was particularly greasy and the Patrol started to slide. I accelerated gently and used the ruts to bring it under control before a left bend which was just ahead.
Thankfully there were some switchbacks on the bottom section to give some relief from the greasy descent.
About 45 minutes after starting I dropped into a beautiful grassy clearing and the river was a 50-metre walk away – a great spot for summer camping.
I cooked a feed for the better half and I, but thought it best to get out before things cooled down even more.
I considered dropping the tyres down further, but was mindful of losing sidewall height. There were some decent rocks and small ledges to negotiate. I decided to attempt to drive out as it was and reassess as we went.
Like all of you who have had any 4×4 training, I always use second low range to climb.
The initial climb from the camp went well and I could feel the tyres flexing and gripping well. They weren’t throwing chunks of clay everywhere and I could feel them digging in as we ascended.
Halfway up this section were some minor jump-ups and the damp conditions caused the Patrol to baulk, but I kept the power on and we bounced around in the ruts. I worked the steering wheel and felt the tyres bite and move forward over the jump-ups.
On this bottom section there were two more occasions when I thought I was snookered, but I followed the same procedure and let the tyres self-clean and bite.
I stopped up the top, at the sign and agreed no truer words have been written. If the top is damp, it’s likely the bottom will be as well!
Would mud tyres have been better? Well, yes I reckon without doubt, but they wouldn’t suit nearly all my other driving conditions.
Did the Maxxis 980s perform? I think they did very well, having been put into a scenario at the absolute top end of their performance envelope. With lowered pressures and correct wheel placement they gripped, complied and performed.
The score card for the Maxxis 980s tyres is adding up nicely: muddy clay and bog holes; stony descents and ascents; damp clay and rock descents and ascents; they ride well on bitumen and are great on fast dirt roads.
Since this test the Maxxis tyres have done well on the very demanding Ingeegoodbee Track.