Tire testing has got to be one of the best parts of our job, but also one that requires a fair bit of skill. Every year or so we round up the latest treads, haul them out to the desert, mud, and rocks, and try to discern the pros and cons of each. So basically, we get to leave the office, e-mail, and ringing phones behind to go on a company-sponsored wheeling week. Like any wheeling trip we first have to round up trailers and tow rigs, camping gear and coolers of grub, and give our dedicated trail machines a thorough going-over prior to leaving home. This year's test required a simple transmission torque-converter replacement on Jerrod Jones' Blazer after he had spent a week dialing in the bits and pieces that hadn't been finished in the months prior.
Of course, while that was going on, other staff members were mounting tires, rounding up camera gear, and tying up the multitude of loose ends at the 4-Wheel & Off-Road corporate headquarters so we could leave for a week without the whole darn place going up in flames. Needless to say even as the last job was crossed off the to-do list, Editor Rick Pewe found the leaf-spring shackles on the magazine's trailer ("Crawler Hauler," Apr. '07) falling apart. Again it was a last-minute dash to get that fixed, his Jeep loaded, and pick up our new feature editor prospect, Ali Mansour, from the airport before peeling out of town and heading towards the local mud hole.
Luckily Art Director/magazine parachute Alan Huber was already there with his Boy Scout-like-prepared Jeep Cherokee. Tagging along on this trip was Online Editor Jason Gonderman with his prerunner 4x4 Ford Ranger. Since we had organized this tire test/photo shoot at a Forest Service OHV area, we also needed the proper permits and that required Tech Editor Fred Williams to bomb over to the Forest Service office bright and early in his Red Sled Chevy and then cross the only mountain range in the Los Angeles area so we could start shooting photos of our trucks in the mud.
Thus it was situation normal as we tested the mud hole by burying Jones' Blazer frame deep on the first run and spent the next hour testing winches when we should have been testing tires. Can't you see why we love tire testing? With every obstacle encountered we just smiled, knowing we weren't in the office or driving in L.A. traffic.
By the end of the week we had played in the mud, driven out to the desert (just a little asphalt for noise testing), crawled over some rocky terrain, lost just one wheel and tire combo at highway speeds (amazingly no one died), broke some more fullsize IFS parts, had a steering column come apart (again amazingly no one died), wrestled multiple muddy tires on and off different trucks in the wind and dust, and found every hole-in-the-wall dining experience we could. Of course all the while we were taking notes, noticing the sometimes subtle differences between each round rubber offering to really get as much of an impression of each as possible. Yes, a week out of the office can't be beat, and if doing it in our own trucks for the sake of testing tires in various terrains is what we have to do to give you the best assessment of each brand, then gosh darn it, we'll sacrifice the time to do it for you. Thanks for reading.