Off-road enthusiasts enjoy going off-road for different reasons, whether it is because they are looking to conquer the great unknown racing down the Baja peninsula, or are simply enthusiasts that love being outdoors and need their truck to get them safely to the next hunting location, different people have different reasons for owning off-road vehicles. While there are countless reasons one might enjoy or need to go off-road, one thing is for sure: every off-roader needs traction.
Lift kits, shocks, wheels, and everything else people put on their off-road rig are all well and good, but the simple fact is that the only part of your truck that makes consistent contact with the earth below is the tires (hopefully). It is for this very reason that tire selection is so important when outfitting a vehicle that is going to be used for activities where the pavement ends, whatever your reasoning for venturing off-road.
If you are the kind of enthusiast that is a diehard outdoorsman, you’re in luck, because Dick Cepek Tires and Wheels is in the business of supplying off-road tires to outdoor enthusiasts. Whether your passion is for hunting, fishing, boating, racing, or just looking for that next adventure, Dick Cepek was founded in 1963 with those same interests as the core of their business model. Positioning themselves as “a different kind of tire company,” Dick Cepek works to build products that combine technology and capability for the trucks, SUVs, and 4x4s of adventurers everywhere.
With this in mind, when it came time to get some new rubber on our 2008 Chevy Silverado project truck, we had to turn to Dick Cepek to see what they had to offer since the truck is used to go off-road on a regular basis with the hopes of finding a new adventure.
Our 2008 Silverado has been used all over Southern California in the recent past both on-road and off, so we knew when looking for a new tire, we had to have something that was good at both. We called up Willy Woo, Advertising Coordinator at Dick Cepek, to get the inside scoop on the latest and greatest and to see what would fit our needs.
After telling our story to Woo, he quickly suggested Dick Cepek’s all new Fun Country all-terrain – a tire that sits between the Trail Country (all-terrain) and Mud Country (mud terrain) in the Dick Cepek lineup and offers a good mix of off-road ability and on-road manners. While the Silverado currently had a set of Trail Country tires on it, we really wanted to try the all-new Fun Country to see what it was about.
To help make our decision, we had a couple of questions for Woo. Hoping to be used as a true all-terrain tire, we wanted to know what kind of terrain the Fun Country was designed for. To this, Woo explained, “They were designed to be the ultimate all-terrain by being great performers when you want to take your daily driver off-road. The tread performs great in loose dirt, sand, rock, mud, as well as has the street performance expected of our customers. In addition, three-ply sidewalls help with vehicle stability on the road and extra puncture resistance off-road.”
Considering that was exactly what we were after, we ordered four Fun Country tires in size 305/60R18, a size that is similar to a wide 33-inch tire and a nice upgrade from the smaller tires we had on the truck, now that it had a spindle lift.
When the big brown truck showed up, we were very excited to get some hands-on time with the Fun Country tires onboard. Looking at these tires for the first time, we were very happy with the unique tread pattern, appearing like grooved short-course tires. Woo explained that the tread pattern is, “A pure hybrid design, taking the best of a proven all-terrain pattern, adding some tread depth and mixing it with a mud tire carcass. The tread pattern is certainly unique and it works really well in all conditions.”
Featuring strong lateral grooves, a nice center-block tread design for ride quality, and “DC” logos affixed to the three-ply sidewall, the Fun Country tire is even better-looking in person than in photos. There is ample tread depth cut into the rubber that feels somewhere between a soft compound and a hard compound. Woo elaborated on the compound by stating, “We use silica in the proprietary compound, but it is designed to provide excellent wear and cut/chip resistance without sacrificing traction.” With a claim like that, we had to put it to the test!
We quickly got the truck up off the ground on some jack stands, removed the existing tires from the Dick Cepek 18-inch Torque wheels, and then proceeded to compare the two. Since both the Fun Country and Trail Country are considered all-terrain tires, it’s very apparent that the Fun Country has a more aggressive (almost mud terrain-inspired) tread pattern that looks sharp. It’s not nearly as aggressive as the Mud Country tire, but it does fit in nicely as a middle ground between the Trail and Mud Country offerings.
After mounting the Fun Country tires onto our 18-inch wheels, we placed them on the balancer and they balanced up quickly with minimal tire weights – quite a feat considering some large off-road tires aren’t known to be the easiest to balance.
With the tires mounted, balanced, and looking ready for the great outdoors, it was now time to get to the fun part. It’s time to go off-road!
Off Road Performance
We wouldn’t be called Off Road Xtreme if our passion didn’t involve playing in the dirt and as such, we were very excited to see what the Fun Country tires had to offer off-road. To test the tires out on a varying degree of terrain, we headed out to some local trails that we cruise through regularly – one that unfortunately can prove to be difficult with two-wheel-drive as we have gotten stuck enough times to confirm it!
While we didn’t have any mud thanks to the never-ending Southern California drought, this section of trails contains a wide variety of terrain including deep sand, hard-packed dirt, baseball-sized rock roads, and light silt. Right from the get-go, we noticed that the Fun Country tires offer up a tremendous amount of forward bite. Thanks in large part to the strong laterally grooved pattern, the tires are able to claw and dig to get the traction you need. This became all the more apparent in the sandy section that can (and has) eat a two-wheel-drive truck for breakfast.
Even from a dead stop in the sand, the truck would move forward rather than dig down, which gave us a lot of confidence. Once speed was attained, the tires would float nicely over the terrain with delayed, yet predictable, steering input. While a lot of this had to do with the fact we only had two-wheel-drive, the sensation of not having the truck react too quickly in the sand is preferred as it allows you to have a more controlled drive across the terrain rather than having to provide constant steering inputs to correct.
The same great sand performance continued onto the hard packed dirt where we were able to really push the limits of traction with a bit too much speed! The smooth off-road ride combined with ample grip was deceiving, and we quickly found ourselves going faster than you probably should go with two-wheel-drive and only a spindle lift. This was not only fun, but it was also a great indicator of how well these tires drive on dirt – the traction is constant, there is ample forward bite, and when wheel spin or sideways maneuvers are present, it is very predictable and easy to save thanks to the side bite. This all combines to give a confidence-inspiring off-road experience.
As we made our way down the trail, we were coming up on our so-called “rock garden” or section of the trail where the path is completely covered with baseball-sized rocks. Driving through this section can be tricky at speed because the earth below the tires is shifting and moving around with the weight of the tire’s contact patch – so, needless to say, our trucks can move around quite a bit.
Despite the uneasy terrain, the Fun Country tires handled the section with ease and provided stable traction. Even better, once we stopped to check out the tires, there was no visible damage to the tread and no rocks stuck in between the blocks, meaning the tires do their job well by ejecting debris that would otherwise get stuck.
All in all, we were very impressed with the tire’s off-road ability and found them to be a nice bump up in traction over the Trail Country tires previously on the truck. With only having two-wheel-drive, vehicle speed is often needed to get through sections that a 4×4 could crawl through, and as such, we were very happy with the predictable manner in which the Fun Country tires performed.
On Road Performance
Unless you live off the grid, chances are on-road driving is going to make up the majority of your driving experience regardless of how diehard you are about the outdoors. As such, when considering any off-road tire, on-road performance needs to be one of your biggest considerations. After all, what good is a tire that works great off-road, but is downright scary to drive on-road?
Thankfully, the Fun Country tires excel in on-road performance thanks to their design and construction. With the unique tread pattern these tires have, take notice of the center section of tread blocks that are close together and made up of a lot of smaller tread blocks. This is the section of the tire that gets the most use on-road and thanks to the smaller blocks and minimal gaps, the tires drive great on-road, especially when you remember that most of the gaps run laterally across the tire.
Cruising down the longitudinally grooved California freeways at 70+ mph can historically be challenging for tires as vehicles have a tendency to wander in their lane. The Fun Country tires, however, stay nicely locked on to the direction your steering wheel is pointed, showing next to no wandering at all.
Freeway driving helped us answer another question we had upon taking delivery of the Fun Country tires – the noise. all-terrain tires are going to be louder than a street tire obviously, but considering the mud terrain-inspired tread pattern, these all-terrain tires are considerably quieter than expected. There was a slight auditory increase over the Trail Country tires previously on the truck, but even still, the truck remained very quiet and did not impede the ability to listen to the radio or have a discussion with the passenger.
The same confidence-inspiring off-road performance carried over to the streets and provided a smooth, predictable, and relatively quiet driving experience one would expect when looking to get a nice do everything all-terrain tire!
After driving on the Fun Country tires for the past month and a half, we can tell you with the utmost confidence that they are a great do-it-all tire for those of us that like to take the road less traveled. We have experienced great tread wear, no deformation or damage to the tread blocks themselves, and a great ride with lots of grip both on-road and off.
Being all-new, these tires serve as a great indication of what can happen when cutting edge technology and off-road innovation come together in an effort to make a great all-terrain tire that can do it all. From your front door to the hunting grounds and back, the Dick Cepek Fun Country tires will provide you with a smooth and predictable ride, while instilling confidence that you have the traction needed when the going gets rough.