Read how our BFG Goodrich KO2 All Terrain Tyres held up through the dust, heat, water
Choose Your Tyres Wisely
Tyres are the most important contributor to your vehicles performance, both on the tarmac and far away from it. They are the only element that bonds your vehicle of choice to Terra Firma, so it pays dividends to choose wisely.
For our circumnavigation of Australia we needed some reliable and capable boots with which to shod our Land Rover. These tyres had a lot to live up to, supporting a 3000 + Kg four wheel drive through twisty tarmac roads, abrasive gravel tracks, slippery rutted trails, loamy beaches and razor sharp rocky outcrops. We elected for BF Goodrich’ KO2 All Terrain in a 265/70R17 LT size, so lets discuss how they went.
Technical Mumbo Jumbo
So for starters, what do all these numbers on a tyre sidewall mean? Lets have a quick summary of the basics so we know what we are dealing with:
As mentioned, our particular tyres are a 265/70R17 LT 121/118S
265: This is the width of the tyre in millimeters, so ours are 265mm wide.
/70: This is the ‘Aspect Ratio” and relates the tyre width to the sidewall height. So our sidewall height is 70% of the width, ie: 0.7 x 265 = 185mm
R17: The R denotes a radial construction tyre, as opposed to superceeded styles of tyre construction such as Bias Ply. Almost all available tyres today will be Radial construction. The 17 tells us this tyre suits a 17 inch wheel.
LT: This denotes a ‘Light Truck’ rating for this tyre. Many 4WD/SUV tyres are available in standard or LT rating. The LT rated tyres offer a heavier duty construction, with more reinforcing steel/nylon plies within the tyre carcass and consequently a greater load carrying capacity and increased resistance to damage. The downsides to an LT rated tyre are increased cost and increased weight, however for tough offroad use this is a worthwhile compromise.
121/118S: This figure denotes the load and speed rating for the tyre. 118 coresponds to 1320 Kg per tyre at max pressure (80psi), while the S tells us that they tyre is rated to a maximum speed of 180 Km/hr. Plenty!
Note: It is important to make sure your tyre selection is legal for use on your vehicle within your state or jurisdiction. These laws can vary wildly, but generally within Australia you can fit up to a 50mm larger diameter tyre without engineering approval. It is paramount to ensure your tyres are load rated to at least your maximum Gross Vehicle Mass.
The KO2 is what we would describe as an aggressive all terrain, meaning it has fairly large tread blocks and strong sidewalls with additional tread grooves, sometimes referred to as ‘side biters’. This design delivers great offroad traction for an all terrain tyre, while maintaining respectable manners on the road.
The sidewalls on our LT rated tyres are quite stiff to improve the load carrying capability, though this also aids in on road performance and steering feedback as the tyre resists deformation when cornering. For an off road orientated tyre, the road handling is impressive. Likewise tarmac traction in wet weather (often a sore weakpoint of chunky off road tyres) has proved acceptable, even as the tyres have worn down
Off road performance is the main selling point for these tyres, perhaps alongside the macho look that they bring. Happily, we can report no serious shortcomings on any terrain, and we have dragged them across every terrain the Australian continent has to offer! Here are some more specific notes:
From the beautiful Western Australian beaches to the desolate great central deserts, Australia is not short of sand and the KO2’s have seen their fair share. With correctly adjusted pressures, we usually start around 18 psi and lower as required, the traction and flotation ability of the BFG’s is impressive. They still offer consistent and predictable grip even after travelling 60,000 kms.
The southern Australian coast offered up it’s fair share of sloppy muddy terrain and we found the KO2’s to be up to be more than capable of keeping the Discovery moving. In very muddy conditions the tread pattern will become blocked with mud and clay, where a true mud tyre with it’s larger tread blocks and spaces would remain clear. Despite this we found grip to be adequate and the tyre easily cleared itself of excess mud once vehicle speed got up to 10 km/hr or more.
Gravel and Dirt
Most of our driving off tarmac was spent hurtling down the many dusty dirt tracks that litter the Australian continent, where we estimate at least 6000 gravel road kms were covered on our big lap alone. In these conditions the KO2 performs well, delivering predictable handling and good traction in both dry/dusty and wet/sloppy conditions. We would drop tyre pressures 10-15 psi below our usual tarmac pressure, which smoothed out the corrugations and improved ride quality. We did find that on some very rough and abrasive tracks (special mention to the glorified goat track leading into Purnululu NP and the Bungle Bungles!) the KO2’s had the tendency to “chunk out” and suffer chipping to the tread blocks. We found that dropping the tyre pressures further reduced this effect, so it seems the issue can be controlled with awareness and monitoring.
Though rare in Australia, we did manage to find some slush and snow up in the appropriately named ‘Snowy Mountains’ of New South Wales. The BFG KO2 are winter rated and adorned proudly with the snowflake symbol, which means they are designed to cope with severe winter conditions and freezing temperatures. At road pressures and on the steep inclines encountered, we found the KO2 reached it’s limit fairly quickly and allowed significant wheelspin. That being said our time on snow was very limited and we have no experience setting appropriate tyre pressure for these conditions, so the lacklustre performance may be attributed to user error here.
Durability and Opinion
With over 60,000 kms of overland and interstate travel under the belt, our set of BFG KO2 All Terrain tyres have not had a single puncture, still have legal tread and are performing well. We have a set of 5 and rotate them through every 10,000 kms to share out the wear, especially important as our vehicle is constant 4wd and significant differences between tyre diameters (such as one heavily worn tyre and one brand new tyre on the same axle) can cause drivetrain wear and damage.
As the Kilometres have ticked over the tyres have developed increasingly more road noise, particularly at highway speeds. Unfortunately this is the case with the majority of tyres, especially those with an off-road oriented construction, so we do not consider this abnormal or a fault per se. That being said, road noise is still not too intrusive, helped of course by the Land Rovers good noise damping and insulation qualities.
We have also experienced some ‘chunking’ and damage to the tread blocks, sustained primarily after driving at high speeds on coarse gravel tracks. This appears to be a known weakness of the BFG KO2 and has been well documented, however we have found running appropriate tyre pressures and sensible speeds minimises or even negates this occurance.
Given the mileage and use these tyres have been subjected to, we are very happy with their durability and would recommend them to anyone looking for a go anywhere, jack of all trades tyre.
Do you have a story to tell about BFG KO2’s? Don’t agree with our thoughts above? We’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below to let us know what you think.