Voetspore Diary With Johan Bandenhorst
You’ve spent a couple of hundred thousand rands buying a 4×4. You’ve had it properly equipped at your nearest Megaworld and you’ve made plans for the next safari. But have you considered probably the most important part of the exercise? Johan Badenhorst of Voetspore fame explains
Four areas, each a little bigger than the palm of your hand. That is how much contact there is between your vehicle and mother earth. If you don’t get this one right, the rest is all in vain.
Tyres are one of the most discussed issues when it comes to 4×4 driving, and rightly so.
There are many theories, ranging from the tyre pressure to the speed at which you should drive to avoid punctures and have a comfortable ride. Also, how not to get stuck!
One of the most interesting theories I’ve heard is that in Namibia, on its gravel road, you should never drive at exactly 55 km/h. The reason? Because at that speed the front tyre picks up a rock at such an angle that it is in a perfect position to cut into the rear wheel. So if you drive on Namibian gravel roads at 55 km/h, you are looking for trouble!
What are the best tyres to put on your vehicle? I don’t know. I can only speak from experience.
A few years ago we fitted a certain brand to our vehicles on a journey from Kilimanjaro to Cairo. We were told that with those tyres we would become fundis. We did — fundis in repairing flat tyres!
In Khartoum, at the Blue Nile Yacht Club, I can remember Rey and Gideon fixing puncture number 30. Needless to say, I never used that brand of tyres again, not even if they were prepared to be a sponsor. I decided to go for the brand I trusted and used on my own, private vehicle. I fitted BF Goodridge All Terrain tyres to the vehicles for our Gansbaai to Gabon adventure.
BF Goodridge All Terrain is a good, all round tyre. We had very few punctures – so few that I could count them on one hand.
On the Casablanca to the Cape expedition, I fitted another type of BF. This time we went for the Mud Terrains. I can honestly say that we never made a wiser decision than this one. They were the best tyres we’ve ever used.
This is an aggressive tyre. Some people complain that it is too noisy, but that is only if you drive an ML or a Cayenne. These are not vehicles in our league.
On the 24 000km journey from Casablanca to the Cape we had only two punctures, both in Namibia — probably because Gary and Francois were both travelling at 55 km/h!
This year, for the Agulhas to Alexandria expedition in the Amaroks, I decided to go with BF Goodridge once more. There was one problem, though. The Amaroks have 17-inch wheels, and there were no BF Goodridge Mud Terrains or All Terrains in that size. I had to look at something else.
BF manufactures another tyre — the Rugged Terrain. This has only a two-ply side wall, compared to the three-ply of the Mud and the All Terrain. They were available for 17-inch wheels. I decided to take them. I trusted the brand.
Before we set off, we first took the vehicles to Serendipity near Mookgopong to see if everything worked. They were fully equipped. We had the BF Rugged Terrains fitted.
On Johan Kloppers’ 4×4 tracks, we had five punctures – two in the side walls and three others. This BF was not the same as its older brothers. They were made for a different application. Exactly what that is I’m not sure, but definitely not for what we had planned to do.
When I got back to Pretoria I spoke to Andre Roux and Andre Niemand at Menlyn Tyres. “Please get me the real stuff,” I told them. “I’ll even change rim sizes on the Amaroks.” And that is what we did. Now were travelling on two sets of Mud Terrains and one set of All Terrains.
It is clear that there are different tyres for different applications. High speeds require a special tyre. So do rocky terrain or desert sand. But in our experience, the best all round tyre is the BF Goodridge Mud Terrain.
Tyre pressure is another issue. Too hard and you’ll cut the side walls. Too soft and you’ll also cut the side walls.
It seems as though there are as many opinions as there are different brands. Our experience is that one should inflate the tyre as little as possible. You realise very soon if it needs a little bit more. The vehicle feels as though it is drifting in the corners. Try to get the pressure just above that level. In this way you look after your vehicle and your passengers. Make the tyres assist you in getting a smoother ride.
When you approach an obstacle, there is only one rule – deflate. If you are stuck in mud, or struggle to get over a dune, or find it difficult to cross a river, or think it impossible to get over a rocky area – deflate.
On our current trip we’ve been introduced to something new — something that I’d thought was a gimmick. We were given a set of tyre monitors. This is an instrument that constantly measures the tyre pressure and temperature. It has been a while since I saw a gadget as handy as this one. You are always aware of the condition of your tyres. You can even set the monitor to warn you if you have a serious drop in pressure, or increase in temperature. This gadget, at less than the price of one new tyre, is a really worthwhile investment.
There will always be differences in opinion on which tyres are the best — the best value for money, or the best application. The important thing is to have faith in your choice once you embark on a 20 000km journey. The last thing you want is to end up repairing tyres while the other guys are having a cold one.
Your tyres keep you moving. Without them you are going nowhere.