LAST UPDATED: April 24th, 2020
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This is an age-old question. It is especially relevant if you are just starting out with the off-roading hobby, and you do not really want to go for full professional mud tires on your newly built or bought off-roader. This is a question even seasoned off-roader enthusiasts have no direct answer to.
Fret not dear reader, we are here to answer that question for you and debunk any and all associated myths that go along with all-terrain tires.
Hopefully, by the time you have gone through this article, you will get the answer to the question: ‘do all-terrain tires ride rough?’.
Features of All-Terrain Tires
So what makes an all-terrain tire? Firstly, it is the material. The rubber compound used in an all-terrain tire is a little softer than that is used in road-going or highway tires.
This soft rubber enhances the gripping capabilities of all-terrain tires and makes them suitable for all terrains.
Next, we come to what makes an all-terrain tire different from their road-going or highway terrain counterparts. First up, we have the tread design.
The treads are designed in such a manner so that there is an additional grip on rocks and mud, on top of your average road pavement.
Now it is one thing to carry the load on the road and quite another off-road. You need a strengthened sidewall in order to carry that load over rough terrain.
Not all all-terrain tires come with strengthened sidewalls. You would see these types of tires traditionally used in trucks and campervans that go off-grid.
All-Year Operation Capability
Yes. Your all-terrain tire is expected to be all-purpose, and as such, it is made to provide adequate traction in snow and ice. This, however, does not defeat the purpose of owning a set of winter tires.
Winter tires still hold an advantage over all-terrain tires, courtesy of the compounds used in their manufacture, and of course, their tread types.
Drawbacks of All-Terrain Tires
So the main takeaway from all this is that all-terrain tires have going for them is their versatility across most off-road terrains. But this versatility comes at a cost. And the costs are several.
Noisier in Comparison to Road-Going or Highway Tread Tires
This is mostly a given. The tires are made of a softer rubber compound. Hence they do absorb most of the impact force, but most of it is transferred on to the shock absorbers, and hence you tend to ‘feel’ the road more. There is also an increased level of vibration, and that translates to more cabin noise.
Tend to Be More Prone to Cupping
Off-road tires are more prone to cupping than your average road-going or highway terrain tires. This is mainly because of a lack of control by the shock absorber. So it is recommended that you rotate your tires every 5000 miles or so.
Lower Fuel Efficiency
Deeper treads equate to more contact area. More force is needed to shift that contact area. Your engine needs to work more to cover a certain distance on the pavement with all-terrain tires that it would with highway terrain tire. Hence, it consumes more fuel in the process. Thus lowering our fuel efficiency.
Short Tread Life
The rubber compound that goes into making these all-terrain tires is typically softer than the type that goes into road-going or highway terrain tires. Thus, they are more prone to wear and tear, and as a result, have a shorter tread life.
Do All-Terrain Tires Ride Rough?
But wait. We have discussed so many things at length even though we are still no closer to answering the question, ‘do all-terrain tires ride rough?’. So next, we define what we mean by ‘rough’. In our use case, rough translates roughly (no pun intended) to lack of comfort.
And comfort in the motoring world is established by looking across three different fronts. Cabin noise levels, how much of the road you ‘feel’ when you drive, and lastly, how much do the components in the cabin rattle about when you are driving.
Cabin Noise Levels
Using all-terrain tires means there will most definitely be an increase in cabin noise levels. This is due to the choice of materials that make into going the tires in themselves. The noise is not jarring by any means. It is just slightly annoying.
Some manufacturers are actually coming up all-terrain tires with noise dampening features. So, there is a bit of a win-win on that front.
How Much of the Road You ‘Feel’ When You Drive
When you drive along the road, you can actually feel what you are driving over. And that is essential because we make calculated decisions based on that, other than sight and noise. Thus, it can be a win or loss depending on who you ask.
But when we are talking about comfort, it certainly is a downside. If you end up feeling every gravel on the road, it certainly does not win any comfort points for the tire. Depending on the person, it can contribute to elevated stress levels.
And some people do not simply want to feel everything on the road when they are driving. When driving with all-terrain tires on the road, for better or for worse, you will ‘feel’ more of the road.
It does not matter who you are. No one likes cabin rattle when driving down a straight road. Most of the impact from the road on the tire is absorbed by the tire itself, and the rest is passed on to the shock absorber.
There is a limit to how much vibration your shock absorber sift through, and when that limit is crossed, the vibration is passed along to the cabin, thus contributing to cabin rattle.
With all-terrain tires, you will see and feel more cabin rattle when driving on pavement. And thus, we dock a point for comfort.
By now, you have probably figured out what we mean when we say you will be able to formulate your own answer to the question, ‘do all-terrain tires ride rough?’.
Taking all of the factors we have talked about into account, you can decide for yourself whether a particular set of tire rides rough.
But yes, at the end of the day, all-terrain tires do ride rougher than their road only or highway terrain counterparts. All-terrain tires are purpose-built to do one thing, to provide traction and help you get across all manners of terrain aside from just the pavement in your driveway.
Comfort is not really the factor that goes into consideration when it comes to manufacturing these tires. But thankfully, some manufacturers are beginning to take that into account. We hope this article was of some help in answering your question.