Killer Apps: Top Tech Picks At Off Road Expo 2015, Part 2


LOORELEADART_1When you’ve had a nibble of something delicious, you’ve got to have more of it. That’s how it WAS when we attended the Off Road Expo this year and found too much good stuff to just leave to one article. We covered Part One, where we touched on how companies including Wilco Offroad, Mastercraft Safety, Body Armor 4×4, and Gibson Performance Exhaust are improving and enhancing the off-road experience for everyone, whether they own a Raptor, YXZ1000R, or other epic off-road machine.

IMG_2395We wanted to round out the list of our top tech picks in this article by discussing those who run a little closer to the core of off-road essentials – wheels, tires, drivetrain, and suspension, to be specific. Out of everyone who displayed their wares at the expo, the following entries were the ones that made us pause and want to dig a little deeper.

Selections from the show brought us great new items from the likes of Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, OMF Performance, Bilstein, Eibach, J.E. Reel, and Dynatrac. If you saw what these companies had at the event, then this will likely fill in some informational questions you may have. If you couldn’t make it, then prepare yourself for a special treat. Either way, let’s dive in and see what’s moving and shaking in the off-road world.

Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels – Baja MTZP3 And Dick Cepek Extreme Country


Decades of experience and innovation have made Mickey Thompson one of the foremost sources for seeking off-road equipment, especially where it concerns tires. The company’s brand new Baja MTZP3, which launched in August of this year, carries on the legacy of Thompson’s devotion to ever-capable, ever-trustworthy rubber that will take on all players when it comes to off-roading. On the flipside of the brand name is Dick Cepek Tires and Wheels, which released its own awesome tire in the form of the Extreme Country.


The Baja MTZP3 tire from Mickey Thompson.

Speaking with the company’s Kyle Neubauer, we learned more about the tires and what they mean within the current Mickey Thompson/Dick Cepek lineup, starting with the MTZP3. “The new MTZP3 is a phenomenal tire,” he commented. “It has a cut and chip-resistant compound, so its mileage is great, and our signature SideBiter sidewall offers better handling on any surface.”

Compared with its siblings in the lineup, the MTZP3 is a mud-terrain design that’s geared more toward the extreme crowd. As Neubauer explained, “We wanted this tire to meet the demands of our hardcore customers. Anyone who’s going through Moab or the Rubicon Trail will want to use the MTZP3 because it can handle harsh, jagged terrain, but still have great road manners when it’s time to go home.”

The MTZP3 ranges in size from 31 to 37 inches in diameter, and fits wheels ranging from 15 to 20 inches in diameter. Mickey Thompson infused its PowerPly three-ply sidewall into the tire for added durability and protection.


The Extreme Country tire from Dick Cepek.

In the same booth, we also found the Dick Cepek Extreme Country tire drawing its fair share of attention as well (Off Road Xtreme‘s review on the tire is coming soon, so keep an eye for the article in the near future). With an adjective like “Extreme” in the model designation, expectations are high that this tire will deliver on its promises, which include enhanced off-road grip and longer treadlife.

“We went all-out with the Extreme Country,” said Neubauer. “It has a soft compound for a quiet ride to and from the trail. It has aggressive designs for the sidewall and tread pattern, and as you can see, it has steps in the tread blocks that keep the noise down on-road, while helping with excavation off-road.”

Siping in the tread assists in wet-weather performance, while wide outer voids and tight inner voids – a trademark of off-road tires – offer great traction and self-cleaning ability that enthusiasts have come to expect when considering tires. Stone kickers in between tread blocks stop the buildup of rocks from reducing the tire’s effectiveness, too.

The Extreme Country ranges in size from 31 to 35 inches in diameter, and fits wheels ranging from 15 to 20 inches in diameter. It uses a two-ply high-tensile body ply cord for reduced weight, rolling resistance, and ride harshness.

OMF Performance – F1 Forged Wheel


Our friends at OMF Performance were also out in force at the Off Road Expo. This year, the team brought along its new F1 forged wheel. With an eye toward rock-crawling and prerunning purposes, the wheel had all the earmarks of yet another awesome product from the Riverside, California-based company. On hand was Daraugh “Bones” Flynn educating folks on its features and benefits.

IMG_2562“This is our new one-piece offering for the true off-road guys out there,” said Flynn. “It starts with our spun aluminum barrel, which is then welded to a forged aluminum center. All the pieces are made in America. We can machine it for multiple bolt patterns, brake clearances, and backspacings, as well as giving it a number of finishes to suit the customer’s preferences: natural, brushed, polished, powdercoated, and so on.”

Sizes and widths for the F1 forged wheel vary from 15 to 20 inches and six to 14 inches, respectively. As always, these wheels can be ordered with the trademark OMF beadlock ring, or the Sim-U-Lock ring for those who want just the look of a beadlock.

Bilstein – 8125 Series Coilover Shock Absorbers


As one of the premier suspension companies in the world, Bilstein has its hand in a variety of motorsports and consumer-grade applications since 1957. Its off-road presence is one that continues to evolve and grow over the years. Seeing the company at the Off Road Expo demonstrated that it was still in the business of improving and revolutionizing suspension products for the more adventurous drivers.


Bilstein’s 8125 Series has the goods to work long and hard on extreme off-road vehicles.

Bilstein’s Shane Casad was available to talk about the hot new 8125 Series, which was made to give off-road enthusiasts a sweet, rebuildable coilover to keep up with spirited, fast-paced driving. Among its noteworthy features are the threaded body with dual rate coilover hardware, as well as the remote reservoir offering long-lasting performance through improved heat dissipation.

“Making the 8125 Series rebuildable for owners lets the shocks go farther,” said Casad. “If the seals wear out or a user wants to revalve the shock, the 8125 series can be taken apart in the field and put back together, and the driver can keep on going. We offer the series in travel ranges from five to 16 inches, and 46 mm or 60 mm monotubes to suit individual needs.”

While Bilstein’s 4600 and 5100 Series shocks handle the tamer, entry-level user who wants something to replace stock dampeners, the 8125 is meant for the more dedicated crowd. “We want these shocks to take care of enthusiasts with extreme tastes,” said Casad. “They’ll have to locate their own springs to use with the 8125 Series, and we recommend checking with retailers for advice on spring rates and cost effectiveness.”

The 8125 Series come in 46 mm and 60 mm monotube housings. In either setup, the piston rod is 22 mm thick and is case hardened to resist sand blasting or rock chipping, while the housing is zinc-plated to deal with the worst Mother Nature has to offer.

Eibach – PRO-UTV Performance Spring Systems


Speaking of springs, the good folks at Eibach happen to know a thing or two about how the things work. The company’s presence at the Off Road Expo was refreshing in more ways than one, as they packed along some goodies not just for the truck and SUV crowd, but the UTV enthusiast as well.


The PRO-UTV display shows different heights of springs that can be used in the kit. Note the new adjustable sway bar surrounding the PRO-UTV systems; yet another cool product to use on a hardcore side-by-side.

David Cardey was at the booth to enlighten us about one of company’s the latest offerings, the PRO-UTV system, and how it would help these spunky vehicles push the envelope farther than ever before. Available in three stages, the PRO-UTV system has a kit to fit any RZR, Maverick, or other side-by-side on the market.

“All of the kits, no matter what stage you choose, come with springs, sliders, stop rings, and instructions for installation,” explained Cardey. “Stage One is an OE replacement which basically comes with OE spring rates. These fit well on two-seater or four-seater UTVs, and are great to get rid of sagging suspension.”

“Stage Two is more for the four-seater models, due to its ability to handle higher loads and additional passengers,” continued Cardey. “They’re more aggressive in terms of spring rate, and are better at maintaining balance than Stage One. It comes with an adjustable lockout collar to allow fine tuning of the dual spring transition point. You can adjust to ride gently over rough terrain, or firmly to prevent bottoming out.”

“Stage Three is no-holds-barred and is best used for hardcore folks,” concluded Cardey. “You’ve got spare tires, passengers, ice chests, repair tools and whatnot? You’ll want the Stage Three, since it’s built to handle a lot of extra weight.”

J.E. Reel Driveline – H2O Joints


Renowned drivetrain expert Jim Reel has had a strong connection in the off-road industry for decades, and if J.E. Reel’s presence at Off Road Expo was any indication, it’s that there are no signs of slowing down. One of the company’s biggest advancements is in the creation of the H2O U-joints for Jeeps, trucks, and SUVs.

“The H20 U-joints have positive seals that have a two-fold job,” explained Reel. “As the temperature changes, they stop water from seeping in, and keep grease from seeping out. They last longer and work better for anyone who wants to go through water without worry.”

In addition to those terrific seals, the H20 U-joints have a higher-content alloy that’s cryogenically treated to increase strength and rigidity. This helps them rate 40 percent better in terms of durability than OEM versions, and makes them a higher-quality part overall. “They fit the Dana 44 axle and Jeep JK 44 axle,” said Reel. “We have them in 1310 and 1350 ratings.”

Dynatrac – ProRock XD60


The hardcore Californians from Dynatrac (based out of Huntington Beach) always have a great booth at the Off Road Expo. Last year, they impressed us with the ProRock 80, and this year, it was the ProRock XD60 that had us clamoring to find out more. Speaking with the company’s president, Jim McGean, we didn’t hesitate to approach and ask the nitty-gritty questions.


The ProRock XD60 is one mean mother of an axle.

“This is basically a whole new generation of housing,” commented McGean. “We had a number of goals in mind: we wanted to make it lighter, stronger, and also keep the high ground clearance that we’re famous for.”

Dynatrac managed to meet all those goals, and then some. In place of the 9.75-inch ring gear normally found in a Dana 60, the XD60 features a 10.1-inch ring gear. And where the old-style axle housing doesn’t lend itself well to link conversions, XD60 does with its integrated mounting points and seats for coil springs.

The axle tube diameter is 3.75 inches, the largest of any axle tubing currently on the market for a Dana 60-type housing. “That bigger diameter allows us to give the customer a much more rigid beam strength with a thinner wall,” explained McGean. “Therefore, weight is removed, and strength is increased.”

One nice feature about the axle is its differential cover. Past experience proved to Dynatrac technicians that bolts and rocks do not mix. “We got reports of customers getting their bolts rounded off while out four-wheeling,” said McGean. “To fix this, we  recessed the bolt holes on the bottom so the cover will take the brunt of the damage as opposed to the bolt heads.”

That’s All, Folks! (Or Is It?)


If we said it once, we’ll say it again – going to the Lucas Oil Off Road Expo is like eating your favorite meal. Once you’ve had a bite, you’ve got to have more. Combined with Part One, we found 10 distinct products from all aspects of the off-road industry that were worth a second, third, and fourth look.

When the Expo rolls around again next year, you can bet your bottom dollar Off Road Xtreme will be out in Pomona, California once more for some killer apps that the world needs to know about. In the meantime, stay tuned and brace yourself for the blowout event of the year – the SEMA Show – which is just around the corner!


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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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