35" Bias Ply Baja Claws



Bias Ply Baja Claws - 35's

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. 

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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.

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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 usage.

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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". 

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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.

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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 ). 

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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. 

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

What about the 37's?