The sky was overcast when we made our way up to Big Bear Lake, California. In a part of Southern California that’s high up in the air, snow was still visible on some peaks, even in the middle of summer. The sun wasn’t beating down and didn’t look like it would – on this day, rain clouds passed in and out of the area. Though we were in a spot known more for skiing during the winter, Big Bear Lake is also host to a slew of off-road trails that offer everything from beginner-level fun to expert-level skill.
Big Bear Lake was also where Nexen Tire hosted a ride and drive event to promote a new tire, the Roadian MTX. The tire company partnered with the Jeep 4×4 School, founded and run by Don Alexander, to give participants the best possible experience. They also sent along Senior Motorsports Manager, Paul Jho, who’s an avid off-roader and friend of Don’s. With sure footing and firsthand knowledge of the trails taken care of, the only thing we drivers had to do was assess the tire’s performance.
We met up in the morning and picked out our Jeeps – a lime green Wrangler JKU and a silver TJ – and headed out. Our primary trail would be Gold Mountain Trail, which has the distinction of being one of 42 trails in all of the U.S. that has an official Jeep “Badge of Honor” status. “It’s as close as you can get to the Rubicon Trail down here,” commented Don.
Nexen Roadian MTX Fast Facts
- Dual sidewall design allows customization of looks
- High off-road traction
- Stone ejectors in shoulder blocks cut down on clogging in tire tread
- Siping in tread blocks improves wet traction
- Standard three-ply design
- Load rating – F
- Patented tread block design minimizes road noise
- Nexen Senior Motorsports Manager Paul Zho: “My favorite aspect of the its functionality. The dual sidewall, F Load rating, and reduced road noise all play a part. Its strong sidewall enhances durability, but at the same time able, it’s flexible enough to increase the contact patch. So far, the grip level of our tires has been experienced by many and left them all surprised. We’ve also tested the tire against other brands and found it to be a better option.”
As Good As Gold
As we got to the trail, Don hopped out and deflated the tires. Our Wrangler was equipped to deal with the legendary terrain, spec’d out with Currie axles, air lockers, and hopefully, these spiffy Nexen Roadian MTXs. A light drizzle came down and thunder was heard from far off. The excitement built as we made our way further along the trail.
We came to a rocky patch of steps called “Waterfall.” Erosion made the section of the trail tricky to navigate, but Don knew his way around. As the TJ came up, I got the opportunity to hop in the driver’s seat and jumped at the chance. I put it in four-low and tried to get up the first step, but the Jeep couldn’t keep its traction. The three of us couldn’t figure out what the deal was until Don saw it – the locking hubs on the front axle weren’t engaged. He clicked them on and I was good to go, clambering over rocks with ease.
We kept going, our two-Jeep convoy exploring the wilderness some 8,000 feet in the air. Rain came down and made the rocky sections a little more challenging, but with that came a greater feeling of accomplishment once we made it through.
Perhaps my favorite part of the day was checking out a large quarry known as “Rock Garden.” Rocks on top of rocks on top of yet more rocks – it was some of the most trying terrain to get through, especially with rainwater slicking up every jagged edge. I was in the driver’s seat of the JK at this point, and Don was coaching me through it. I could feel the Jeep jerking forward and backward, left and right, as its pitch and roll changed from section to the next. Don was calm and capable throughout, giving sound advice on where to turn, where to brake, and where to work the throttle.
After a brief stop for lunch, our group kept going. We came to a sweet little rock section. It had large boulders and rocks all over the place. Their random placement made for an intriguing obstacle course.
The green JK was up first, with Don driving. He made it through without a problem, picking good lines and trusting his machine (and the tires) to take care of the rest. And take care of the rest they did. More than once, the front tires would come up against a jutting rock that I was sure would make the Jeep stop. But Don knew better; with the kind of skill one attains after years and years of experience, he made it up and over, making it look easy as he did so.
On the silver TJ, the driver was a bit new to off-roading, so Don parked his JK and guided the driver through. Even when teetering to a near tip-over, Don proved that a driver could get out of anything if he trusted the spotter and obeyed his instructions. It was amazing to watch the TJ make the same journey the JK did. The Jeep ambled over enormous rocks, using momentum, steering, and precise timing to make its way up.
Our final stretch of off-roading brought us to a gentle dirt road, dotted with occasional puddles. The kid in me wanted to charge through each one, but Don’s careful driving avoided the water whenever possible, only blasting through them when they spanned the full width of the trail. Thankfully, I got out ahead of the Jeeps to watch them do it back-to-back. No regrets there!
The end of the trail came not long after, and we took pavement back to the headquarters. Looking back, it was awesome to drive over so much in just the span of a few hours. From tricky rocks to puddle runs and mud, the experience of driving in rainy Big Bear trails was something I wished to do again and again.
The Nexen Roadian MTXs were a treat, too. They found grip in the craziest spots and kept us from getting stuck. With Don at the helm throughout the day, the group made it through without a scratch. And that goes for the Jeeps, too.
We tip our hats to Nexen Tire and the Jeep 4×4 school for planning out a fun day trip. Be sure to check out more from Nexen on its website, and if you’re ever looking to do off-roading in Big Bear Lake, be sure to check out the Jeep 4×4 School.