First let me say I didn't borrow the
tires to test them. I originally wanted to just try a set of
35's to see how they would effect my gearing. I also wanted to
know how a narrower tire would feel because I had gotten used to the
extra stability my 33 x 15.50 SX's provided. Mark Mason from
Kong's was nice enough to offer his Mickey Thomson Baja Claws for
testing to see how the would do on my Zuk and I took him up on the
offer. I picked them up the week before the February trip to
the Lost World which would work out perfectly to compare the tires
to my SX's which I had ran 3 times previously on the same trail.
First, some before and after
pictures. Both sets of tires are on 15 x 10" rims, the
Claws have .75" more backspacing on the rim than the SX's.
I made some measurements and came up with approximately one more
inch of clearance under the differentials and frame with the Baja
Claws on there.
Just for the record, my Six's are not
in the best of shape. The have about 1/4" of tread left
as shown. I feel this is enough tread depth for comparisons
sake on the smooth kind of rocks found in the Lost World, although
the Sx's would be at a disadvantage on any loose hill climbs.
The Claws aren't exactly brand new
either. The have about 1/8" of an inch more tread (it
sure looks like more) and are pretty chewed up from hard trail
I filled one of the Claws up to 27psi
and measured it's height at approximately 32.5" tall, pretty
short for a tire advertised as a 35" tire. I suspect this
is why my gearing didn't really feel affected. I did the same
measurement for my Sx's and came up with an even 32".
So on with the testing. To get
to the Lost World you have to travel about 10 miles of rutted,
washboard road. Previous trips with my Swampers at 5psi still
resulted in a rough ride, I had to slow down over some of the bigger
ruts to avoid bouncing around. With the Baja Claws at 5psi I
was stunned at the smooth ride. At times I was doing 50 down the
road and could feel nothing. I suspect the bigger sidewall on the
Claws really helped absorb more of the bumps. Next up was the
hill climbs, there are two steep hills on the shortcut to the Lost
World, the biggest is shown above. I spun my SX's on both hills the
last time, didn't get stuck but the tires didn't hold all the way
up. The Claws seem really at home in the loose stuff, they didn't
break loose once on either hill.
By the time we got into the rocks I
was paying even more attention to the tires. I wanted to find out
which situations caused them to slip. The SX's would slip if I
didn't put enough tire onto the rocks (like trying to run along the
edge of a rock). Also, on the last waterfall I had so little
traction I was spinning all four tires and despite having the wheel
turned the Zuk wouldn't move to that direction. It took a little
push on the front fender and then from behind to get the SX's to
hook up. So I tried running the edge of the Claws along rocks,
hitting them head on, running just the rear tire up stuff, etc. The
Claws didn't slip once, not once (yeah, I couldn't believe it either
The waterfall was the kicker. I took
the line right up the middle, got into position on the vertical face
and eased the clutch out and went right up. That was a cool feeling.
I still can't believe how well these tires hooked up in the rocks.
On the way out I tried the smaller hills in 2 hi, something I
couldn't do with the SX's without a lot of momentum. The claws never
slipped, again impressing me.
I am sure a lot of the improved
performance is due to the Claws flexing better under the lightweight
Zuk. Also the tread compound seems a lot softer than the SX
compound. In the picture above you can see some tire marks on
the concrete. I was surprised my lighter Zuk squealed the
tires and left marks everywhere while my friends heavier Zuk did not
(he was running MTR's). So I would guess there is going to be
a trade off on tire wear with these tires.
Another area of concern is the
sidewall strength. SX's are generally considered the toughest
tire out there when it comes to sidewall strength. I suspect
they are more rugged when compared to the Claws simply due to how
little they flex. As you can see, Mark didn't baby his tires.
The sidewalls show many scars but he hasn't destroyed one yet.
So these are my thoughts on the Baja
Claws. I am not out to convince anyone that they are the best
tire, etc, etc. I was just really impressed with how well they
worked after hearing nothing but negative comments about them on the
internet. I think for the rocks on a lightweight rig
they may be one of the best options out there if you can live with
their smaller than advertised size.
Update - 2/18/02 - I ended up
buying the claws I was testing. We mounted them so the inner
sidewalls are now outside (since the look new and have hardly any
knicks). I ran a small portion of Asylum and the entire Upper
Firebird and am just amazed how good these things grab. The
only weakness I have found is trying to climb rocks with a knife
edge, it's still a hit or miss proposition. I have yet to see
a tire that can constantly grab in that situation. Here's a
couple pictures showing the tire flex while one tire is on a rock,
tire is at 5psi. Notice how the sidebiters actually contort
and twist. I didn't have any bead issues either.
Update - 4-29-02 - I have settled on
4.5 psi for hard trails where I know I need lots of grip. The
tires really contort at this air pressure. One other thing I
noticed is it's better to air down after you have gotten to the
trail. If you air down at the meeting spot you'll find your
tire pressure will have risen a few psi by the time you get to the
trail due to the heat.
about the 37's?