Thursday

Risk & Reward: Growing New Mexico Backroads


Virgin River Cottonwoods at Zion National Park - Five years ago, this photo was featured in the Overland Journal; it was one of my first published images. Beyond the tangled branches, dying light, and radiant rock, the photo represents the humble beginnings of New Mexico Backroads [NMBR]. Back in 2008, I was challenged by my brother-in-law Phil Byrne to start a blog that featured my images and explorations of New Mexico, to build a presence in the 4WD community and inspire enthusiasts and companies to enlist my services. At the time I was struggling to build a niche business from nothing and looking for guidance. It would take a few hundred NMBR blog posts, accompanied by a few thousand photos, before I received my first photo purchase inquiry. That first inquiry fell through, but soon I began selling $35.00 8X12 prints [printed at Sam's Club for $1.99] steady enough to keep my ambitions kindled and bank account in the black. It would be a few hundred more blog posts before the Overland Journal reached out to me for photos. 

As for the guiding and scouting, during the early years (2004 to 2008), I was learning the ropes of building, breaking, fixing, and maintaining a 4WD vehicle. I was leading small trail runs and weekend trips across the backcountry with my local club and other enthusiasts. I was traversing and learning the backroads along the US/MEX border—now one of my biggest specialties. Driving and vehicle recovery were skills that were earned over the tens of thousands of miles of dirt travels. Cutting my 4WD teeth was a long, painful and rewarding period. 

With constant forward motion, determination and ample blessings I've been able to turn it all into a livelihood. Most importantly, I’ve had unfaltering support from my wife Meghan. The Virgin River Cottonwoods image represents the start of a professional career I once dreamed about—a reality now. NMBR services have expanded to include: adventure and landscape photography [for commissions, prints, digital media & publication]; photojournalism [including wildland fire, US/MEX Border and other high-risk assignments]; scouting and consulting for backcountry film productions and commercial photography; overland, expedition/overland and rock crawling guiding services [for New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Texas]; and off-road driving and vehicle recovery skills training. While each job I do in the field is unique, all of it is rooted in providing strong customer service and support. 

Imagine loving what you do so much that you don’t constantly watch the clock, wait for the weekend, surf the net for hours looking for a visual fix, or yearn for vacation days to arrive. Life is too short to dislike your profession. Take a risk, work hard and go boldly. If the job isn’t out there, make a career where one does not currently exist. Going out on your own will likely double your work hours, slash your income and may result in failure and/or divorce, but the rewards (even with failure) will be immeasurable. Are you ready for your next great adventure? It’s out there…

Friday

NMBR’s 2016 Ghost Divide Expeditions [GDE16] - Overland Expo West Based Expeditions



Ghost Divide Expedition [Original] – Overland to the Expo - Sunday, May 15th -19th, 2016 
and 
Ghost Divide Expedition II – Overland from the Expo - Monday, May 23rd - 27th, 2016

Overview & Invite:

If your prospective 2016 Overland Expo WEST trip involves copious amounts of pavement, consider airing-down, engaging 4WD, and taking the path less traveled with New Mexico Backroads.

Updated 11/9/15 - Due to high demand, NMBR will be guiding two separate five day [500-mile] expeditions that will traverse some of New Mexico and Arizona’s loneliest backroads. 

The Ghost Divide Expedition [Original] will lead to the 2016 Overland Expo WEST; the Ghost Divide Expedition II will lead from the 2016 Overland Expo WEST.  Both Ghost Divide Expeditions will follow the same route and cover three unique areas—Gila National Forest, White Mountains, and Mogollon Rim.  Over two-thirds of the Ghost Divide Expeditions route will be comprised of unpaved roads.  The Ghost Divide Expeditions will provide a demanding [yet rewarding] experience—the days will be long, the roads will be unforgiving, and the pace will be brisk.  The Ghost Divide Expeditions will require participants to be self-supportive with regards to vehicle, equipment, meals and supplies.  All nights will include camping and enjoying the company of fellow overlanders, deep in the backcountry. 

For the Ghost Divide Expeditions, New Mexico Backroads seeks the most self-sufficient, open-minded, and good spirited overlanders.


Where & When: 

The Ghost Divide Expedition [Original] will take place during the week leading up to the Overland Expo WEST—Sunday, May 15th through Thursday, May 19th.  Participants will meet the morning of Sunday May 15th in Southern New Mexico; the exact time and departure location will be announced to participants on April 1st, 2016.

The Overland Expo WEST begins the morning of Friday, May 20th and ends the evening of Sunday, May 22nd

The Ghost Divide Expedition II will take place during the week following the Overland Expo WEST—Monday, May 23rd through Friday, May 27th.  Participants will meet the morning of Monday, May 23rd at Mormon Lake [site of the Overland Expo WEST]; the exact departure time will be announced to participants on April 1st. 

Peparations:

The Ghost Divide Expeditions will require participants to be self-supportive with regards to vehicle, equipment, meals and supplies.  All nights will include camping and enjoying natural surroundings, deep in the backcountry.  Services of any kind, including cell, fuel, or anything remotely civilized, will be unavailable for stretches of up to 225 miles.  In the time leading up to the Ghost Divide Expeditions, participants (or Ghost Dividers) will be provided with helpful and extensive information on how to prepare for the adventure and what to expect.  The self-sufficient aspect of NMBR guided expeditions [and other 4WD based adventures] challenges and prepares participants for their future 4WD based endeavors—to go boldly, prepared, and with confidence.   


The Experience:

2016 will mark the 5th year New Mexico Backroads has guided the Ghost Divide Expeditions in connection with the Overland Expo WEST; this year’s route will be the longest, roughest and best yet.  The 500-mile Ghost Divide Expeditions will include a diverse range of scenery and terrain including desert, grassland, chaparral, forest, rivers, canyons, creeks, lakes, and wildland burn scars.  Road types and conditions will include canyon bottom narrows, washboards, rutted two tracks, primitive non-maintained, graded, mountain shelf, and [least of all] paved highway.  The Ghost Divide Expeditions will feature outstanding vistas, dozens of water crossings, historic landmarks, wildlife viewing opportunities [including Mexican grey wolf territory], and aggressive elevation contours [between 4,000 and 9,000 feet].  For those that join in, the only guarantee is that they will conclude their adventure with new friends, dirty rigs, big smiles, and stories that will make their fellow overlanders envious. 


Ghost Divide Expeditions Resources & Features:

NMBR’s Ghost Divide Expeditions photo gallery LINK

TCT Magazine Article - Writer and photographer Phillip Jones recounts his experience on the 2015 Ghost Divide Expedition. LINK (GDE story starts on page 6)

MOTUS Article -  Zach Berning, Digital Editor at Motus, previews NMBR’s 2015 Ghost Divide Expeditions. LINK

REVOLUTION EXPEDITION Article - Adventurist Terry Baker recounts his experience on the 2015 Ghost Divide Expedition. LINK

Perspective from a 2015 Ghost Divider -

     "Just finished the Ghost Divide Expedition II with Jake Quinones, our guide at New Mexico Backroads and I just can't say enough of what a great time I had. The trip was seamless, the scenery and backcountry was just absolutely beautiful. But our guide made all the difference in the world. His knowledge and history of all the areas were outstanding, making the places we saw come alive. I never questioned his capability or his professionalism at any time. I would and will travel with NMBR many more times in the future! One trip off the bucket list. Now for the rest..." - Debbie W., Northern Arizona
The Next Step

If you are interested in joining one of the 2016 Ghost Divide Expeditions [Original or II], please email nmbackroads(at)gmail.com for full details, pricing and registration information.

NMBR’s Long-term BFGoodrich KO2 Review: 15,000 Mile Report


In March, New Mexico Backroads [NMBR] began the 2015 guide season with a new set of BFGoodrich 37x12.50R17 KO2 tires mounted on the NMBR Rubicon for a yearlong review. “Is it time to come back to an all-terrain tire?”—this question would serve as the running theme for New Mexico Backroads’ ongoing review and feature of the KO2. Would an overlanding based professional or enthusiast be willing to give up their big block mud-terrains for BFGoodrich’s next generation aggressive all-terrain tire? As of November 2015, the KO2 tires have over 15,000 miles of use, the majority of which has been off pavement and on dirt at 14PSI. NMBR’s 2015 adventures have included an expedition hosted for American Expedition Vehicles, two Ghost Divide Expeditions, traversing the historic Butterfield Trail with Overland Journal, the Gila Legends Expedition, the Camino del Tesoro Overland and a host of other rugged field work across the backcountry of the Southwest. The tires have been subject to every possible surface condition with the exception of ice. As mentioned in the (May) 2,000 mile KO2 review, the tires provide exceptional traction in a variety of challenging conditions and terrain while still maintaining excellent pavement manners. These strong characteristics have remained unchanged over the past eight months and 15,000 miles.
Tire Review Background: Coming from my excellent experience (zero failures) with a half dozen sets of BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrain tires since their 2008 release, the KO2’s had some big shoes to fill. My early expectations for the new KO2 All-Terrain tires were that they would be a better all-around tire, but could possibly fall short of the KM2 in the most challenging situations or terrain. So far, my early assumption has been proven wrong—read on. Sidewall Durability: In technical off-pavement driving situations where the tire tread is not in full contact with the terra firma, and using the sidewalls for traction is necessary, the BFGoodrich KO2’s sidewalls hold strong. The KO2’s sidewalls feature sipes, a serrated shoulder pattern and an aggressive side lug design that provides ample bite when steering precision is critical. The sidewall material has been improved over the previous KO tire with BFGoodrich’s new Coregard Technology which provides a more durable rubber composition that resists bruising and cutting. For added protection, the durable sidewall rubber compound and side lugs of the KO2 extend farther towards the center of the tire. Hundreds of miles of both dry and flowing riverbed roads have been traversed by the NMBR Rubicon with the KO2. Hundreds, if not thousands, of rocks (football to VW Bug in size) have manhandled the sidewalls. When airing up, I always inspect the vehicle’s underside and tires for damage. Despite the heavy rock rubbings that lead all the way to the wheels; the sidewalls show no sign of cuts or gouges. Some of the harshest sidewall contact has come from fallen ponderosa snags in burn scar areas, where baked branches extend onto the trail like spearheads. While driving over such hazards on purpose is not advised, the splintered timbers have not compromised the KO2’s sidewalls. It was noted in the May 2,000-mile review that the KO2 sidewalls were stiff and the preferable off-pavement PSI was 12.5 PSI. In the months since, the sidewalls have broken in a bit, providing greater flexibility and a more pronounced sidewall “bulge” at low PSI. At 15,000 miles, 14 PSI now provides optimal (overall) off pavement stability and tractionfor NMBR Rubicon. 

Traction, Tread & Mileage: It is official, the BFGoodrich KO2 has equal or better overall traction characteristics as the BFGoodrich KM2. While the majority of the mileage I log is off-pavement, 4WD is only engaged when necessary. Many of the routes NMBR covers are three or four hundred miles between fuel stops where fuel conservation is critical. With the KO2 tires, I’ve been able to travel more miles in 2WD than with the previous KM2 tires. Whereas with the KM2 tires I used to arrive in Reserve, NM for refuel on fumes, after three days traveling along the Gila Legends Expedition route, I’m now arriving on a bit less than a quarter tank with the KO2 tires. The increased mileage could be attributed to enhanced traction and reduced 4WD engagement and the tighter (lower rolling resistance) tread pattern of the KO2—when comparing to the KM2. Either way, I’ll take it! Traction while climbing loose steep inclines is on par with the KM2. Spin out and breakaways are minimal when the differentials are both open in 4-low and non-existent when the differentials are both locked on the loosest and most angled terrain. The quality of traction the KO2 tires provide in these difficult conditions rival that of the knobbiest mud terrains on the market—a big statement for an all-terrain tire. The extensive siping found throughout the KO2’s iconic interlocking tread block pattern provide enhanced traction beyond the aggressive treads themselves. While the tread edges remain sharp and unphased after 15,000 miles of hard use, the sipes edges themselves display slight rounding—this indicates that the sipes are working hard and essential to the tread pattern’s performance. Between the treads are small pyramid shaped risers that promote the ejection of stones and debris to optimize traction by keeping the tread gaps open and prevent drilling (or embedded stone caused tire damage). Pavement Manners: The BFGoodrich KO2 remains predictable and stable. Cornering is excellent for a 37-inch tall tire. Since the May 2,000-mile review, the preferred street air pressure has come down to 28 PSI. This puts all but a quarter inch of the tread in contact with the pavement while providing a decent ride on New Mexico’s pothole riddled byways. While the tires were fairly quiet rolling down smooth highway when brand new, they produce slightly more noise with 15,000 miles of use—not really a concern or complaint, just an observation. The KO2’s are still quieter than a new set of KM2’s. Balancing has been undramatic; no tire cause wandering, negative feedback or vibrations can be detected.
Tire Wear Characteristics: While keeping the basic overall interlocking tread block appearance of the previous KO all-terrain tire, BFGoodrich has heavily modified the tread rubber compound of the KO2 to provide a 100% longer on dirt tread life expectancy with the new KO2—a figure derived from extensive Baja development and third party testing. Given the hard life the NMBR Rubicon’s BFGoodrich KO2 tires have lived in a relatively short period if tune, the treads are in good condition. The tread depth of the tires new was 15/32 of an inch, at over 15,000 miles; they now measure an impressive 12/32 of an inch. It should be noted that the spare is still unused and will not be included in the regular 3,500-mile rotation and balance schedule. The NMBR Rubicon’s frontend alignment schedule has been every 5,000 miles. As far as trail related wear, only a half dozen nicks the size of a fingernail are present in the tread blocks—no chunking, splitting or cutting is evident. The tread block edges are still sharp and unphased. The siping within the tread blocks display minimal rounding—evidence the sipes are hard at work providing maximum traction. The wear exhibited so far would be the best I’ve seen of an aggressive all-terrain tire. The 15,000 mile KO2 review photos (displayed here) provide the best feedback on wear—the images say it all. The NMBR Rubicon’s KO2 tires are not even halfway through their service life.  
Rough Roads Ahead: As the fall sets in on the Southwest and temperatures cool, NMBR will be heading into the desert and hitting the rock strewn trails of Southern New Mexico. Will the KO2’s hold their own as the underdog all terrain or will the KM2’s be going back on? Stay tuned for the next installment of NMBR’s yearlong test and review of the BFGoodrich KO2.

For full BFGoodrich KO2 All-Terrain tire speciefications visit BFGoodrich's website HERE. For more information about New Mexico Backroads upcoming guided expeditions and overland adventures email nmbackroads(at)gmail.com or visit NMBR's trip planning page HERE


Editor's Note: In early 2015, NMBR reached out BFGoodrich to provide (at no charge to NMBR) a set of (5) KO2 All-Terrain tries in order to conduct a year-long detailed, candid, and subjective review of the tire. BFGoodrich agreed to NMBR’s long-term review and provided a set of (5) KO2 All-Terrain at no charge. Since NMBR’s final 1-Year (25,000-mile) review conclusion, the tires (as of September 2016) passed the 40,000-mile mark on the Dusy Ershim Trail. NMBR has since purchased at their own expense (and at no discount) two sets of KO2 All-Terrain Tires—a replacement set for the NMBR Rubicon and a set for the new NMBR Prospector.

Thursday

New Mexico Backroads 2015 Camino del Tesoro Overland

Camino del Tesoro Overland | Fall 2015 | 4 Days | 350 Miles | Elev. 6,500 to 11,200 ft. (will be offered in the summer and fall for 2016)

Sunday

New Mexico Backroads Guiding and Photography Featured in Fall 2015 Overland Journal

Fall 2015 –"The Most Dangerous Stagecoach Ride in the World: Butterfield Route", a story written by Overland Journal’s Dr. Jon Solberg, charts NMBR guide Jake Quinones and Solberg’s adventures across West Texas as they retrace the historic Butterfield Overland Mail Stage Line from the Pecos to the Rio Grande. The duo’s 700-mile traverse and collaboration yields a rich narrative and vivid imagery that captivates the rugged people, precarious roads, spectacular landscapes and history that surrounds the Butterfield trail.
Overland Journal is the publication for environmentally responsible, worldwide vehicle-supported expedition and adventure travel. LINK 

Saturday

NMBR’s Long-term BFGoodrich KO2 Review: 15,000 Mile Preview

BFGoodrich Tires 37x12.50R17 KO2 after six months and 15,000 miles beneath the NMBR Rubicon. Over half the miles logged on these tires have been on dirt, aired down between 11 and 14PSI. Tread depth is currently a bit over 12/32nds; the tires measured a bit under 15/32nds when new. No punctures, no failures. Stay tuned to www.newmexicobackroads.com for the 15,000-mile/6-month (midpoint) update in the yearlong KO2 review series. Wheels: American Expedition Vehicles 17" x 8.5"JK Salta in Black (dust not included).

Monday

NMBR Announces the 2015 Camino del Tesoro Overland - Monday, October 5th through Thursday, October 8th

Are you ready for your next great adventure? Registration is now open for the 2015 Camino del Tesoro Overland.

 
The Experience: This fall, New Mexico Backroads will be guiding a four day [275-mile] overland adventure that will traverse the Land of Enchantment’s spectacular and rugged high-country. NMBR’s Camino del Tesoro Overland route was featured in the Spring 2014 Overland Journal story Finding Forrest’s Treasure by Dr. Jon Solberg. The story charts Dr. Solberg and (NMBR guide) Jake Quiñones’ journey across the mountains and canyons of northern New Mexico in search of Forrest Fenn’s hidden (multimillion dollar) treasure. The Camino del Tesoro Overland route features golden foliage, high-altitude shelf road, cold water creeks, prairie, historic sites, high-desert plateau, dense forest and wildlife viewing opportunities. Route and remote camping location elevations will range in altitude between 6,400 and 10,900 feet. Areas of exploration will include the Sangre de Christo Mountains, Cimarron River, Valle Vidal, Taos Plateau, San Juan Mountains and Continental Divide. Nights will include elk bugling, camping under the stars and chilly temperatures—far from the beaten path. As snow can fall as early as September in New Mexico’s high-country, and the Camino del Tesoro Overland route is over 75% dirt, challenging backroad and camping conditions are likely. 

Where & When: The Camino del Tesoro Overland will take place Monday, October 5th through Thursday, October 8th. Participants will meet the morning of Monday, October 5th in northern New Mexico; the exact departure time and location will be provided during the registration process. Planning & Preparations: The Camino del Tesoro Overland will require participants to be self-supportive with regards to vehicle, equipment and supplies. All nights will include camping and enjoying the company of fellow overlanders deep in the backcountry. Services of any kind, including cell, fuel, or anything remotely civilized, will be unavailable for stretches of up to 225-miles. In the time leading up to the Camino del Tesoro Overland, participants will be provided with helpful information on how to prepare for the adventure and what to expect. An extensive list of essential and recommended supplies, equipment and gear will be provided; accompanied with advice, tips and tricks. The self-sufficient aspect of NMBR’s guided expeditions, overland adventures and 4WD trail runs challenges and prepares participants for their future 4WD based endeavors—to go boldly, prepared and with confidence. 

Important: Services of any kind, including cell, fuel, may be unavailable for stretches of up to 225-miles. No Persons under 12-Years of age. 

Details & Registration: Email NMBackroads[at]gmail.com for full trip details, pricing and registration information


Camino del Tesoro Overland experience preview PHOTO GALLERY LINK.

Sunday

Images from the 2015 Overland Expo West [Part 2]



New Mexico Backroads' Ghost Divide Expeditions offer an outstanding way to enhance your 2016 Overland Expo WEST experience with a 5 day, 500 mile professionally guided overland adventure.

Two separate Ghost Divide Expeditions will be offered for 2016. The Ghost Divide Expedition [Original] will take place the week before Overland Expo WEST, departing from Southern New Mexico and ending at the Overland Expo WEST. The Ghost Divide Expedition II will take place the week after Overland Expo WEST, departing from Mormon Lake, AZ and ending in Southern New Mexico. The Ghost Divide Expeditins will cover three unique and rugged areas; Gila National Forest, White Mountains and Mogollon Rim. Scenery will include desert, canyons, grasslands, creeks and forest. Over two-thirds of the 500-mile Ghost Divide Expeditions route will be comprised of unpaved roads. All nights will include camping and enjoying the company of your fellow overlanders, deep in the backcountry.

Email [NMBackroads at Gmail.com] for full Ghost Divide Expedition details and registration information
Photos: Classic BMW Ride, 5.11 Tactical Sportsmobile, 4wheel Camper Fuso Project, BMW F650GS DAKAR, Overland Journal & HEMA Maps BJ74 Project Vehicle, Heavy Duty Moto Trailers, MOPAR Jeep Wrangler Africa Concept, Trials Bike & SMB, 2015 RAM Rebel 1500 (front view), 2015 RAM Rebel 1500 (rear view), Salsa Cycles Bucksaw Full Suspension Fatbike

Saturday

NMBR Announces the 2015 Gila Legends Expedition - Monday, August 31st through Friday, September 4th


The Experience: This summer, New Mexico Backroads will be guiding a five day [375-mile] expedition that will traverse New Mexico’s loneliest and most rugged backroads. NMBR has guided this route for American Expedition Vehicles, overland enthusiasts and a host of adventure based companies. The Gila Legends Expedition is NMBR’s most remote and rugged route currently offered. This “expedition of a lifetime” includes a diverse range of scenery, historic sites, terrain, and backroads found nowhere else in North America. The 5-day, 375-mile expedition route features desert, grassland, chaparral, canyon bottoms, and lush forest with elevations ranging from 4,400 to 9,600 feet. Areas of exploration include Black Range of the Gila National Forest, Plains of San Agustin, Mogollon Mountains, Tularosa Mountains, Elk Mountains, Continental Divide, and Chihuahuan Desert. The Gila Legends Expedition route will traverse the northern end of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range as well as the Southern end of the Rockies, all while skirting the world’s first established wilderness areas—the Gila Wilderness & Aldo Leopold Wilderness. Road types and conditions will include canyon bottom narrows, washboards, rutted two tracks, primitive non-maintained, graded, mountain shelf, and [least of all] paved highway. The Gila Legends Expedition will feature outstanding vistas, dozens of water crossings, historic landmarks, wildlife viewing opportunities [including Mexican grey wolf territory], and aggressive elevation contours [between 4,400 and 9,600 feet]. 

Where & When: The Gila Legends Expedition will take Monday, August 31st through Friday, September 4th. Participants will meet the morning of Monday, August 31st in Southern New Mexico; the exact time and departure location will be announced to Gila Legends participants on July 1st. Planning & Preparations: The Gila Legends Expedition will require participants to be self-supportive with regards to vehicle, equipment, and supplies. All nights will include camping and enjoying the company of fellow overlanders, deep in the backcountry. Services of any kind, including cell, fuel, or anything remotely civilized, will be unavailable for stretches of up to 225-miles. In the time leading up to the Gila Legends Expedition, participants will be provided with helpful information on how to prepare for the adventure and what to expect. An extensive list of essential and recommended supplies/equipment/gear will be provided accompanied with advice, tips, and tricks. The self sufficient aspect of NMBR guided expeditions [and other 4WD based adventures] challenges and prepares participants for their future 4WD based endeavors—to go boldly, prepared, and with confidence. 

Gila Legends Expedition Route Preview: CLICK HERE

Details & Registration: Email NMBackroads[at]gmail.com for full trip details, pricing and registration information.

Wednesday

Images from the 2015 Overland Expo West [Part 1]

Photos: Overland Expo volunteer out on the Ural, Toyota 4Runner equipped with AT Drawer System and fridge/stove slide, Over Lander Adventure Rig, Jonathan Hanson's ex-MOD 110 Defender, Land Rover Defender 110 with rear window storage compartment & shelving, American Adventurist Tacoma ,Turtleback Trailers, Arizona Land Rover Owners, Chazz Layne's 2004 Land Rover Discovery HSE 

Saturday

NMBR’s Long-term BFGoodrich KO2 Review: Week Six

2,000-Miles of Dirt, Sweat & Gears 

New Mexico Backroad’s guiding season kicked off in May with a five day [400-mile] traverse of the Gila National Forest with American Expedition Vehicles, followed by the two Overland Expo West based Ghost Divide Expeditions. The Overland Expo West based Ghost Divide Expeditions covered New Mexico and Arizona’s roughest backroads to and from the event [five days and 500-miles each]. With a few backcountry scouting assignments scattered in between the NMBR guided expeditions, the NMBR Rubicon’s total off-pavement mileage with the new BFGoodrich 37x12.50R17 KO2 tires is currently over 2,000-miles.

Impressions to Date

From the rock filled canyon bottoms of the Black Range, to the snowy shelf roads of the Mogollon Mountains to the gumbo mud of the Overland Expo West’s lakebed camp, the KO2 tires have traversed most every condition an all-terrain tire could expect to encounter in the American Southwest. Sidewalls: The sidewalls of the KO2 are stiff for an all terrain. This adds a level of stability and control given the sidewall height of the 37-inch tall tire both on and off pavement. The NMBR Rubicon’s previous tires were BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrains with an average off-pavement PSI set around 14. With the KO2, I’ve dropped down the PSI down to 12.5 to obtain the same [sidewall] bulge, traction, and ride comfort as the KM2. I’ll be interested to see if the KO2 sidewalls “break-in” in the coming months and my preferred off-pavement PSI rises. The aggressive sidewall lugs of he KO2 provide excellent traction in dry river beds and mud—they have been un-phased by a few overreaching sharp rocks and fallen snags. The true sidewall test will come when the tires are subject to the obstacle rich trails of Southern New Mexico later this season. Traction

Coming from experience with a half dozen sets of KM2 Mud Terrain tires since their 2008 release, my early expectations for the new KO2 All-Terrain tires were that they would be a better all-around tire, but could fall short of the KM2 in an extreme off-pavement situations or environments. So far, my early assumption has been proven wrong. In mud, the tires clear quickly and provide excellent traction in the worst muck [think Overland Expo West lakebed]. The tread impression left by the KO2 in mud is shallower and less distinct than the impression left by the KM2 in mud. In this, it appears the KO2’s tread width provides more outer tread surface area and flotation in mud versus the KM2. In the snow [hard pack and slush], the KO2 was predictable and provided ample forward movement. On sections of ice covered two-track, the KO2 didn’t veer or spin when transitioning from higher traction surface, such as mud or snow, to ice patches. In the boulder strewn, water filled canyon bottom roads of the Gila, the KO2 maintained grip [both tread and sidewall] while navigating these rough and slippery sections. On the well-groomed dirt highways of New Mexico’s rangeland, speeds of 60MPH can easily be obtained. At high [off-pavement] speeds, the KO2 was predictable and stable. The firm sidewalls held well on curves, cattle guards and dips. Overall, the KO2’s traction characteristics were on par, or possibly better in some instances, with the KM2. 

Pavement Manners 

Although the NMBR Rubicon’s primary mileage is on the dirt, the pavement in between the backroads is often winding, two-lane highway and wide open interstate [I-10 and I-25]. After first mounting the KO2 tires, it was instantly apparent how much quieter and smoother the NMBR Rubicon rode than with the previous KM2 tires. Road vibration and tread feedback in the steering wheel and driver seat was substantially less than the previous KM2 tires—this, obviously due to the KO2’s less aggressive and tighter tread pattern. Unrelated to tire performance, the volume on my stereo has come down considerably due to the quiet riding KO2. Under hard cornering, the KO2 remains planted to the road and undramatic despite it’s substantial sidewalls. Under hard breaking, the KO2 is predictable and agile. With the previous KM2 tires; average on-pavement PSI was set at 28PSI. With the KO2 tires, the PSI has been increased to 32 to maximize handling and ride characteristics.

Rough Roads Ahead

Although my initial impressions of BFGoodrich’s KO2 All-Terrain tires are overwhelmingly positive, a vast amount of challenging off-pavement miles will unfold before the year is out. The demanding terrain the NMBR Rubicon regular covers generally results in a relatively short service life for tires [one to two years on average]. The next challenge for the KO2 tires will include Southern New Mexico’s notorious 4WD trails and many more miles of rugged backroads. Stay tuned for more features on NMBR’s yearlong review of the new KO2 tire.
Photos: NMBR Rubicon equipped with AEV JK DualSport RS Suspension 4.5" System, AEV 17" x 8.5"JK Salta Wheels and BFGoodrich 37x12.50R17 KO2 Tires 

UPDATED: NMBR’s Long-term BFGoodrich KO2 Review: 15,000 Mile Report


Editor's Note: In early 2015, NMBR reached out BFGoodrich to provide (at no charge to NMBR) a set of (5) KO2 All-Terrain tries in order to conduct a year-long detailed, candid, and subjective review of the tire. BFGoodrich agreed to NMBR’s long-term review and provided a set of (5) KO2 All-Terrain at no charge. Since NMBR’s final 1-Year (25,000-mile) review conclusion, the tires (as of September 2016) passed the 40,000-mile mark on the Dusy Ershim Trail. NMBR has since purchased at their own expense (and at no discount) two sets of KO2 All-Terrain Tires—a replacement set for the NMBR Rubicon and a set for the new NMBR Prospector.