Swapping out your stock UTV tires for a set of fresh meats is one of the easiest performance-enhancing modifications you can do. However, with so many different tire styles and sizes on the market, how do you know what to choose?
When designing our Expedition RZR, we knew we wanted to go a little larger than the RZR Turbo’s stock 29.5” diameter Bighorn tires, but we wanted to keep the weight reasonable at the same time. We selected a set of ITP Tires Ultracross R Spec rubber in 32x10R15 sizes, wrapped around ITP’s beautiful Black Ops SD Series beadlock wheel with polished rings. The tires run about $159 each on Rocky Mountain ATV, with the wheels coming in around $160 each.
We logged a little over 600 miles in our tire testing with these ITP Ultracross tires, in terrain varying from the sands of Glamis to the harsh rocks of Jawbone Canyon. Most of the miles were spent across wide open desert, driving over rock, gravel, sticks, and other debris. In the same testing ground, lighter carcass tires have routine puncture issues.
The 8-ply radial construction of the Ultracross R Spec has earned it a reputation for being one of the toughest tires you can buy for your UTV, but at nearly 40 lbs a tire, they are a little more taxing on the RZR’s stock running gear. Initially, our tires measured 31.75” tall at 15 psi on the ITP Black Ops beadlocks. After 600 miles, they measure 31.625” tall, showing very little tread wear and no tearing of the tread blocks.
When going to a larger tire, a few things are affected. The first is your unsprung weight. Any added weight at the wheel will accelerate wear of hub bearings, tie rod ends, axles, brakes, drive belts, and any other moving parts connected to it. That being said, we haven’t had a single parts failure under normal driving running a 32” tire on any UTV. Braking performance will suffer slightly, as more leverage is applied to the braking system via the larger diameter tires. Lastly, acceleration also takes a hit, as the engine now has to spin a taller tire that weighs more.
Compared to the stock Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires that our RZR XP Turbo came with, the ITP Ultracross R Spec tires offer a substantial increase in side bite, especially up front. The wider profile tire and square setup (all four tires the same size) makes the handling much more predictable, especially in 4 wheel drive. The taller side profile of the tires eats up small ruts and holes with ease, simply gliding over things that a smaller tire would drop down into. For the desert, larger tires are king, making traversing nasty terrain a lot more comfortable. With nearly 1 inch of additional sidewall between the rim and the ground, the ride also improves over square-edged impacts that would shake the smaller stock tires.
ITP’s Ultracross does a great job of eliminating some of the deflection and tire wiggle commonly associated with larger carcasses. The steering feel is direct, while more feedback does make it through the wheel and into your hands. The effort required to turn the larger tires isn’t very noticeable until you hit pavement.
In rocky terrain, these tires start to really shine. The tread is tough enough to withstand the abuse of high-traction environments, but sticky enough to make even wet or damp driving on rocky surfaces feel surefooted. On desert hardpack, they blow the stock tires out of the water. Zero wandering from the front end leads to a lot more confidence, and the slide characteristics are predictable even on uneven surfaces or in transitions between sand and hardpack.
We haven’t noticed any abnormal wear with these tires, although we did get two small punctures in the carcass between the lug blocks that were easily plugged, and are still holding air. This is easily one of the most predictable and grippy desert tires we have driven on, and they improve the handling of a stock RZR dramatically in the rough. If you’re looking for an all-terrain type tire that doesn’t make a ton of noise or suffer from balance issues, the ITP Ultracross R Spec will have you smiling from ear to ear. As an added bonus, they look absolutely menacing on our Desertworks Expedition RZR!