If you want to immediately improve the performance of your side-by-side, look first a changing your tires. Sometimes the most significant improvements can be found in the basic features.
The editors of Dirt Toys took the time to do head-to-head comparisons of ITP Blackwater tires and Hurricane wheels with stock tires and rims found on the 2015 Arctic Cat Wildcats. We basically took two similar side-by-sides and put the ITP tires and rims on one and road the stock tires and rims on the other. Then we compared them in head-to-head performance on gravel, dirt and rocks.
Although the differences were very subtle, when you jump back and fourth between the test vehicles, you can start to feel significant difference in handling characteristics between the tires on various trail conditions.
In a quick overview, the ITP tires were much more aggressive, thus held their lines down the trail and through the corners much better than the stock tires in both 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive applications.
And the most significant difference was in the braking capacity of the ITP tires. Not only did they stop the vehicle quicker, but they also showed significant improvement in maintaining control of the vehicle while braking through corners.
ITP Tire/Rim Specs
First, we chose the Blackwater Evolution tire because it’s a versatile 8-ply rated tire. ITP has added two larger sizes—32-inch and 34-inch sizes to expand the Blackwater to 17 sizes to accommodate all types of ATVs and side-by-sides.
A Tough Tread rubber compound increases cut and chip resistance, and the Sidewall Armor adds an extra layer of protection to the vulnerable shoulder area. The Blackwater Evolution offers a smooth, stable and predictable ride.
We matched the Blackwater to ITP’s Storm Series Hurricane wheels. ITP has multiple wheel sizes in it’s Storm Series, including a new 14-inch with a 6+1 offset to adhere to states’ 50-inch width trail restrictions.
The Hurricane wheel features ITP exclusive Rock Armor inner wheel lip to provide unequalled structure integrity. The eight sets of X-shaped wheel spokes makes the Hurricane a very attractive rim for any ORV. And it doesn’t hurt that these wheels feature a lifetime structural warranty.
First thing to note is that the ITP tires and rims are heavier that the stock tires and rims … by about seven pounds each. With all four tires on the scale, the stock tires weighed 123 pounds and the ITP tires weighed 150 pounds. Although rotating mass will rob a little power from the side-by-side, we didn’t notice any significance in performance between the two test units.
On the gravel road (basic country road surface for all types of motorized use) the stock tires tended to show some slippage while riding down the road. In corners, slippage was much more significant. In 2-wheel drive you could feel both front and back losing grip and a slight loss of vehicle control. In the corners you really noticed the side slippage of the rear tires, especially while accelerating out of the corners. Riding the same surface in 4-wheel drive showed significant improvement in control for the stock tires, even while cornering. It also bridged the disparity of control between the stock and ITP tire.
The ITP tires showed significantly better control on this surface in 2-wheel drive. There was less slippage, even through corners and during acceleration. In 4-wheel drive, the ITP tires allow the vehicle to travel at slightly faster speeds without sacrificing control.
On dirt trails, both stock and ITP tires maintain excellent control of the respective test vehicles, even at “faster-then-trail” speeds. The ITP tires felt a little more secure in 2-wheel drive, yet felt a little too aggressive in 4-wheel drive. Stock tires where a tad loose in the corners in 2-wheel drive, yet extremely smooth in 4-wheel drive.
Both types of tires felt much more comfortable on dirt trails than they did on gravel roads. And the ride was much smooth for both.
When riding through portions of trail that featured rutted mud holes due to recent rains, the ITP tires did a much better job at driving out of the ruts and maintaining their lines. The stock tires sometimes failed to grip the sides of the ruts so you had to battle your way out of them.
Another noticeable item was how mud packed into the treads and how long it took to clean out. The Blackwaters did not throw as much large globs of mud up into the air (and sometimes into the cab). They seemed to clean out much quicker. The stock tires hurled larger globs of mud for a longer period of time. We found ourselves having to slow down for several hundred yards until the tires cleaned out.
In the rocks, particularly while climbing a steep ridge, the ITP tires were able to maintain grip better than the stock tires. We purposely tried to crawl up the slope to force the tires to grab rather than allowing speed and momentum overcome tire deficiencies.
The steep slope was littered with large embedded rocks that could jar your vehicle, along with loose fist-size rocks that created unstable traction. In 2-wheel drive, the stock tires started slipping and forced our test riders to build momentum to make it through the steep parts. The Blackwaters never seemed to lose grip on the slope, even through the loose stuff. We were not forced to increase speed to maintain control.
In 4-wheel drive, the stock tires performed much better, but still fell short of the total dominating control of the ITP tires. And when we came off the steep trail, the ITPs definitely shined with their braking ability. With the stock tires, you would actually have sections in the loose rocks where you where looked up yet still sliding down until the slope leveled a bit. Not so with the Blackwaters.
Summing things up …
Test Rider Remarks
Steve: In two-wheel drive, the back end of the stock tires get a little loose in gravel. On dirt they hold better. The front tires seemed to hold the line well in two-wheel drive. Once you put them in 4-wheel drive, the stock would hold the corners a lot better, both gravel and dirt. However, I did feel a little more front slippage in corners in 4-wheel drive … likely because the tires were spinning and couldn’t hold the line as well.
Clayton: I was driving the stock tires and felt like in the 2-wheel drive in gravel I couldn’t go nearly as fast and maintain control. In 4-wheel drive I could go much faster and felt under control. Where I really noticed the difference between the stock tires and the ITP tires was in braking. I also noticed in chasing the side-by-side with the ITP tires that it was much more difficult to keep up in 2-wheel drive without riding out of control. On the ITP tires, I could easily maintain the pace of the stock tires while driving in 2-wheel drive, but not visa verse.
Steve: Going down the grave road it held the line real well with only a little side spin when I cracked the throttle in the corners. Once I put it in 4-wheel drive, even in the corners the back end would stay put. On dirt I though the ITP tires would spin a little easier in two wheel drive. In 4-wheel, there was very little slippage going through corners. I feel the ITP where much better on rocky surfaces than the stock tires. The difference on dirt was much less noticeable.
One thing you could tell a huge difference in both dirt and rock was in braking. The ITP tires kept you in better control while braking. You could still steer through the corner even on the brakes. The stock tires tend to slide a little more while hard braking and you felt a little less in control..
Clayton: Starting in 2-wheel drive, I thought I’d get a little side spin when I came around corners … but I got a lot less then expected. Then when I put it in 4-wheel drive, I was surprised on how well these tires pulled me through the corners. I could go into the corners faster and could feel the tires pulling me through the corners with no side spin. In 2-wheel drive I could hit the throttle and feel the tires spinning a little. But in 4-wheel drive I could hit the throttle and feel hit hook up rock solid.
Steve: The stock tires grip real well, equal to the ITP tires. I noticed in 2-wheel drive the difference between stock and ITP was very slight, other than in braking. In 4-wheel drive, the ITP tires hooked a little harder so acceleration was faster and under control.
Steve: The stock tires in 2-wheel drive—climbing a steep hill slowly, I find that there were times when I wasn’t getting the traction I needed and had to accelerate to build momentum to cover for the lack of traction. At the crest of the hill where you had to negotiate an off-camber turn in some loose rocks, the stock tires washed through the corner and I had to fight to make my line over the top. I actually thought I wasn’t going to make it. In 4-wheel drive, again, working slowly up to the top so I could feel the hook-up, the stock tires worked much better until at the very top again where I had to fight to hold line.