Surrounded by large, red sandstone rocks that have been altered by the elements over time, the usually dry Moab, Utah, was pelted by earth-shaping downpours as Hercules Tires dealers drove three of its all-terrain tires over slick sandstone, through mud pits and across rocky terrain during the company’s most recent product evaluation ride-and-drive.
Over a span of a week and a half, Hercules Tires welcomed a total of 50 dealers over three groups to test out its Terra Trac AT X-Venture, Terra Trac M/T and Terra Trac T/G Max tires on two trails with local tour operator Twisted Jeeps. To give the tires more traction in the slick sandstone and wet dirt, the tires were aired down appropriately for added traction given the various terrains, said Jeff Mahoney, Hercules brand manager for the Midwest region. The first trail, Hell’s Revenge, is a slick rock trail that features steep climbs and descents that look very difficult, but are pretty safe given the excellent traction on sandstone–even on a day filled with rain, according to the Twisted Jeeps website. The second trail, Poison Spider Mesa, is a more technical trail with steep climbs, large rocks and some sharp turns.
A Hercules Victory at Hell’s Revenge
After driving from the Twisted Jeeps lot about 10 minutes to the Hell’s Revenge trail with Hercules’ Camilla Jesko, marketing manager of proprietary brands, as my passenger, we made the steep trek up the dirt path, to our first slick rock obstacle on Hell’s Revenge. Sitting behind the wheel of the Jeep and watching a few others go up the first obstacle, it looked as if the Jeep might slide backwards. With a little maneuvering and guidance from Twisted Jeeps driving instructors, the tires gripped the slippery slope and made it to the top.
The rest of the course, which was 16 miles total–12 off highway–included obstacles such as the “hot tub,” which was a straight shot into a pit of water, and the dragon’s tail, a steep, winding slick rock slope. The traction on all three tires was enough for the Jeeps to glide up slopes and through sand.
This was the type of performance Steven Liu, senior director of proprietary brands at Hercules, described during a product rundown the day before dealers hit the trails.
Liu said the Terra Trac AT II, one of Hercules’ most successful tires over the past nine years, has been a staple product for tire dealers, selling over 500,000 units per year at peak. The next-generation of the Terra Trac AT was launched in July under two distinct models–the Terra Trac AT X-Journey for CUVs and the Terra Trac AT X-Venture for SUVs and light trucks, according to our story from July. The models were launched so that Hercules could cover more of the all-terrain market and appeal to a broader base of customers. The company said both tires cover more than 80% of the all-terrain tire market.
So, why replace a best-selling tire? There’s two reasons.
First, since the AT II was launched, the “technology in terms of compounding has changed drastically, as well as the manufacturing technology aspect of it, so it was time,” Liu said.
Second, dealers were asking for different sizing and fitments. Since the tire model was at the tail end of its life cycle, it didn’t make sense to introduce new sizes for that model, but it did make sense to do so for the new generation of the tire, he said. Both tires are made in the U.S. and Hercules said in the same Tire Review story from July that the company will offer 57 SKUs between the two models in 15 – 20 inch rim diameters. Liu added that it also made sense to unveil these new models given the rise in the crossover vehicle market.
Lastly, the two new tires were created because of a change in the competitive landscape as well as consumer behaviors and an appetite for customization given today’s vehicle’s styling and performance, Liu said. The Terra Trac AT X-Venture, one of the tires used on the trip, has a design and treadwear to give SUVs and light trucks the power to handle off-road action and harsh winter weather among other elements. The X-Journey has enhanced wet traction and increased tread life as well as three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMS) certification.
Hercules Products Power Through Poison Spider Mesa
Poison Spider Mesa is a bit more technical trail, given the height of the trail at some parts, tight corners and large rocks, making for a bumpy ride. It also has its slick rock points, which were drenched at this point, with water flowing easily along the rock at some parts.
On this trail, as I was riding with Hercules’ Mahoney and Suzette Wohlgamuth, inside sales representative, as my passengers, there was a steep slick rock portion that was difficult to get over, even with the expert guidance from Twisted Jeeps. It was so difficult that I had to reverse the Jeep while it was almost vertical with the front bumper pointed toward the sky. But, the Terra Trac AT X-Venture tires held on. I turned the wheel left, right and straight, wherever our guides pointed. While I accelerated forward and could only see the sky, the vehicle started to level out and I could then see the ground. We made it over.
The other tires that traversed Poison Spider Mesa were also up to the technical trail test. One of those was the Terra Trac M/T, a mud tire designed for performance on and off the road. According to Hercules, the all-season, mud terrain tire has an aggressive open shoulder design and large tread elements, which promote self-cleaning and increase grip. In addition, the high void-to-rubber ratio tread pattern toward the outside of the tire delivers extreme off-road traction, Hercules said.
Liu said the tire has very aggressive sidewall elements and features a zig-zag center groove right down the middle which increases mud traction and provides superior on-center feel.
Lastly, the Terra Trac T/G Max, which was put to the test on Poison Spider Mesa, is a premium light truck tire that is “purpose-built for commercial traction,” Liu said. It was created after dealers gave feedback on needing a tire to get the job done on different types of terrain and different jobs, so it’s made to withstand the “most-demanding worksite environments while providing capability year-round,” he said.
“The biggest thing here is the cut and chip resistant compound,” Liu said. “You’ve got 15 in. to 20 in. [sizes]. We added a bunch of sizes last year due to overwhelming demand.” There are 26 SKUs in total now, he said. Liu said another big selling point for this tire is the deep tread depth at 18.5/32nds.
Both the Terra Trac M/T and the Terra Trac T/G Max were launched in 2016, and “are due for replacement pretty soon here,” Liu said. The company plans to release an additional version of the Terra Trac M/T in Q3 of 2022. While both tires typically have a seven-year life cycle, there are no plans now to replace either model.