Whether you’re looking to build a hardcore off-road machine ready for constant trail abuse, or you want to tackle the unpaved road next to your yearly campsite, tires should still be the first thing you look at upgrading.
We discussed exactly that with the experts at The Tire Rack for our initial article on how to select an off-road tire that fits your needs. Then, we put our own methods into practice, helping a friend of Off-Road.com select a set of tires to fit his lifestyle.
While most of us here at the site would be going for lift, lockers and aggressive tires, our subject is not taking his stock 2015 GMC Canyon into the off-road deep end. He wants a tire that can handle in three seasons (as winter still needs its own dedicated set), deliver better than average off-road performance and give up as little as possible when it comes to fuel economy and on-road performance. After crunching all those variables, we landed on what has become, in our opinion, the obvious choice for first time off-roaders looking for rubber: the BFGoodrich T/A K02.
Fewer names are bigger in the off-road world as BFGoodrich, and that heritage comes along with lots of lessons learned, all of which have been used to design this tire. The thick shoulder tread, for instance, now extends much further down the sidewall to stop punctures in that area, while also adding more biting edges to the side of the tire. A special rubber compound was devised for this tire that helps prevent chipping and cuts. Stone ejectors do the job they are designed for after running through gravel and large sipes keep water and snow out of the tread. In fact, the K02 has the Mountain Snowflake on its side, denoting a tire that performs to a certain set of standards in the snow.
So how exactly does a set of K02s change the behavior of a stock pickup truck? The differences are small, and for anyone who is has become used to running something like a mud-terrain, the K02s won’t even register on your tire annoyance radar. But for our stock pickup truck driver, the changes were noticeable.
First, he noticed that the heavier and more aggressive tire saps a little power off the line compared to the Canyon’s stock rubber, a new trait that took a short amount of time to get used to. Simply turning the steering wheel is also slightly heavier than with the OEM tire, but again, it’s only a slight change from stock.
Next, the noise coming off the K02s is slightly more intrusive, especially over 65 mph, but still is barely enough to be named as annoying. And finally, after running the tires for about 3000 miles, the fuel economy on our friend’s bone-stock Canyon has climbed by about 1 mpg.
Seeing as these tires will spend most of their life on the pavement, these small changes for the worse were the first set of characteristics that first stood out to our Canyon driver. But more than making them worthwhile is the off-road performance.
Even driving on dry pavement, there is a newfound level of grip that wasn’t present before, and when the surface varies, the difference is more pronounced. Loose gravel roads, like the ones this Canyon will occasionally find itself on, could be enough to have the back end of the truck easily stepping out and losing grip. The added biting edges of the K02s track stops even this slip from happening, keeping the truck composed and feeling solid.
And when things get muddy or wet is when the K02s really begin to shine. We found a mud-soaked ditch and parked right in the middle of it. The ease with which the tires clawed the truck up and out of that divot explained to our newbie why these tires are worth every penny. Repeatedly crashing through the same ditch had our Canyon driver smiling from ear to ear with the newfound confidence that had suddenly sprung up in his truck, thanks to the levels of rubber grip he didn’t know was possible.
Even a standard GMC Canyon, with its less than nine inches of ground clearance and stubby ramp angles can be transformed into an off-road machine. All it truly takes is a set of tires.
Longevity has been proven many times over with this K02 as well. Born on the race course in Baja, these tires have to be tough to endure even the most brutal beatings, and though our time with the K02 didn’t see any real rigorous testing, we have done a long-term test of this tire already, where it lasted over 50,000 miles through serious off-road abuse, running underneath a heavy 4Runner towing a trailer.
The Verdict: BFGoodrich K02 Review
A common mistake when buying tires comes when owners overbuy, going for a set of rubber that it too aggressive for their needs, leaving them with annoying expensive tires that really only get proper use once in a while.
We did not want that to be the case, and it’s hard to see how anyone could overbuy with the K02. Even if your usage case is only 20 percent off-road, this tire still delivers much better than average off-road performance while delivering negligible downsides when it comes to daily driving.
Which is exactly what makes it such a good first all-terrain tire.
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