Sand (Paddle) Tires 101 - Choosing The Right Tire
Chaparral Motorsports has ALL KINDS of Sand Tires! We have sand oriented knobby tires, traditional paddle tires, V paddle tires, offset paddle tires, hybrid paddle tires and tires with no tread pattern at all. These various types of sand tires allow ATV, UTV's and even motorcycles to easily traverse the sand. When it comes to sand, flotation is the key. Flotation. Flotation. Flotation. But what will fit your vehicle? Let's explore the best way to find the perfect size tires for your ride.
Sand tires, for the most part, are sized the same as ATV / UTV or motorcycle tire sizes. Some sand tire manufacturers only give the tire height and rim diameter, but for the most part, they are sized as follows:
ATV / UTV Sand Tires
Sizing will be a three-digit sequence on the side of the tire. ATV tires will be smaller, but will read just like this UTV tire size: 30x14-14. The first number (30) is the overall height of the tire in inches from the sand to the top of the tire. The second number (14) will be the width of the tire in inches from sidewall to sidewall. The last number in the grouping (14) is the wheel diameter in inches the tire will fit.
will have a size displayed like this: 110/90-19. The first number (110) is the overall width of the tire in mm. The second number (90) will be the height of the sidewall in comparison to the width, this is measured as an aspect ratio. In this case the height of the sidewall of this tire is 90% of width (110mm). The last number in the grouping (19) is the wheel diameter in inches the tire will fit.
Typical wheel diameters for ATVs are 8", 10" and 12" while most UTVs are now running 14" and 15" diameter wheels. Common wheel widths for both types of vehicles are typically 7", 8" or 10". When it comes to sand wheels, you have the choice of going with a standard wheel or a bead lock wheel.
Standard wheels have a bead; a rolled bead and they rely on the internal air pressure to push the tire's bead firmly against the rolled bead of the rim. This pressure keeps air from leaking out of the tire, as well as to keep the tire from slipping or rotating in the wheel. For most vehicles, this is a perfectly fine arrangement as tire pressures are high enough that even under spirited riding conditions, the tire does not slip inside the wheel, or let the bead pop off the rim.
Bead Lock Wheels
Off-road applications often require very low air pressures say down into the teens to gain better traction in sand, loose dirt, rocks, snow or other rugged surfaces. Drivers often "air down" or deflate their tires with the goal of increasing the size of the contact patch of their tire to the surface they are traversing. This allows them to have much better traction while making the tire less prone to puncture due to the increased flexibility. Another positive side effect of airing down is the "suspension" that the soft tire provides.
This is where beadlock wheels come into play. Those who intend on driving onto terrain requiring serious traction may need to air their tires all the way down to as little as three to six psi, or even lower. If you're going to do that, you'd better be doing it with beadlocks that will physically lock the tire bead into place, so that the tire doesn't slip off of the rim.
There are many different variations of beadlock wheels, but the most common to off roaders (which are the ones we refer to in this article) are beadlocks with outer-facing rings. The rings face outwards because, generally, if a tire slips off a rim, it usually comes off of the outside bead.
There are models that have rings on both the outside and inside of the wheel, but those can be much heavier, expensive, and more difficult to maintain and mount tires to.
Traditionally, beadlocks come with anywhere between 16 to 32 bolts, and sometimes more.
Choosing A Sand Tire
Now that you have your wheels dialed in and you know what size sand tires you will need, it is time to choose the best sand specific tire for your application. There are many, so we hope that these descriptions help you choose wisely.
Rear Sand Tires (Paddle Tires)
Practically all rear sand tires incorporate paddles. Why? Paddle tires are designed to slide into the sand like a shovel and then scoop into the sand before pushing away causing forward momentum. There are two main types of rear paddle tires: Strait Paddles and V-shaped Paddles.
Straight Paddle Tires
Straight paddles hook up in sand the best. Their design allows them to bite the terrain and propel your vehicle forward. However, they tend to require a larger turning radius. Sand riders who prefer dragging or hill climbing tend to gravitate toward straight paddle tires as they are better suited for moving straight ahead with the most speed and power.
V-Shaped Paddle Tires
V-shaped sand tires don't hook up as well as straight paddles as some of the sand is pushed to the side instead of straight back, causing a loss in momentum. But, they are often a top choice for dune runners and they are much easier to turn. For this reason, riders who prefer maneuverability over outright speed will often stick with v-shaped paddle tires.
Off-set Paddle Tires
This style of paddle will have offset straight paddles, which will alternate inside to outside positions. Off-set or staggered paddle tires are best for high performance cars looking to have lots of paddle with minimum weight.
Hybrid Paddle Tires
These tires have paddles on the outside with ribs in the center and a smooth inside tread. These tires are great for 4 wheel drive vehicles as the paddles on the outside dig for momentum, the ribs help the vehicle steer and the smooth inside limits the amount of sand thrown back into the vehicle when the wheels spin under hard acceleration.
Front Sand Tires
Front sand tires generally use either a minimalistic tread pattern such as a rib or two or no tread pattern at all. Let's dig a little deeper.
Minimal Tread Pattern Front Sand Tires
These tires will be an ATV / UTV style tire with a lower profile and more subtle tread pattern.
Ribbed Front Sand Tires
Ribbed sand tires come in several forms such as solid center ribs, intermittent center ribs, ribs towards one side only and the hybrid with baby paddles towards the outside and smooth on the inside.
Treadless Front Sand Tires
Completely treadless tires also referred to as smoothie tires have less drag on the sand then any of the other tires. This will allow for better top speeds but will make the vehicle more difficult to turn when at full speed. These tire like to be steered from the rear or, you can let off the gas, putting weight onto the tires, turn and then hammer the accelerator. This technique will give you the best of both worlds.
How Many Paddles?
Another thing to consider is how many paddles the tire has. Tires with more paddles will provide more traction. However, in the sand, the most traction isn't always a good thing as it can cause your machine to bog down and be slower instead of faster. Instead, you should try to find the right level of balance with the level of power horsepower or output that your vehicle is capable of. The majority of sand tires come with 14 paddles which seem to perform well in most situations.
Aside from your ATV's power output, the type of sand can also be a determining factor in choosing the number of paddles. Some sand is fine; other sand is coarse. Some places are dry; others are moist. The location you ride at is a factor. If you aren't sure how many paddles you should go with, check in with local riders from your riding area to see what they're running.
Motorcycle paddle tires typically come with either 8 paddles or 10 paddles. If you run a 250 or smaller bike, the 8 paddle will be best. For larger displacement bikes, a 10 paddle tire will be the best choice.
Fuel Mileage - A Welcomed Side Effect
True Story: Running a set of Tensor Regulator AT tires on a RZR 1000 next to an identical RZR 1000 running proper sand tires is a great way to show the efficiency of power delivery when running a paddle tire in the sand. The Tensor Regulator AT tires are great all around tires, but they do not get the grip that is needed to put the most effective power to the ground. In a drag race, the paddled tire obviously gets the win. Cruising across the dunes, the paddled tire runs lower RPM's at the same GPS recorded speed. After a 25 mile run, the paddled car was registering a fuel level reading of 2/3rds of a tank of fuel while the car outfitted with the Tensors registered just 1/3 of a tank!
Factoring fuel mileage into your tire purchase as well as the increased amount of vehicle control and the increased fun factor, proper sand tires seem like the best decision. Now, which of the tires we discussed above are the best tires for your style of sand riding?
Sand tires can be tricky, but once you have them dialed in, your safety and the fun factor of your outing will be enhanced. Chaparral Motorsports has the largest selection of sand specific tires and you can shop the best priced sand tires on-line at ChapMoto.com, you can call our 800 number 1-800-841-2960 or you can visit our 160,000 sqft retail showroom.