Over the past few months I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide what exactly it is that makes a tyre ‘good’. Not in a ‘yeah, nah I loved ’em mate’ kinda way either. I'm talking about an unbiased, completely objective version of good, something that’s quantifiable. Is it a specific amount of material in the sidewalls? A measurable offroad ability when things turn south? Or something more arbitrary, like a sexy sidewall design.
After pounding out around 30,000km on the Kumho MT51s I’ve come to a rather odd conclusion, and one that took me by surprise, too. The best tyre is one that’s almost forgettable. I don’t think I’ve ever taken on a hill climb and thought to myself, “Oh boy you can really hear the unique tread pattern digging in”. I just think, “Well hell, drove up that well, I must be really talented”. You see, as much as the marketing gurus would have you believe a new set of shoes will bring you fame and glory, the reality is they’re something that just needs to work, not tell you you’re pretty.
The realisation hit me like a tonne of bricks a few weeks back. I was fully loaded in the Ranger, caravan on back, weaving my way through the Snowy Mountains as herds of wild horses galloped along beside me. I’d pounded out huge amounts of kays on the Kumhos in all sorts of terrain, and had nothing exciting to report. They just always worked!
Alright, so I suppose some details might be important, too. The first thing I noticed after having them fitted is they were surprisingly well behaved, especially considering how aggressive the MT51s are. Kumho counts it as a mud tyre, but compared to its hyper-aggressive KL71 range the MT51 fits better as an aggressive all-terrain, and that’s how I used it. They’re reasonably quiet on road, without the howl we’ve come to expect from any tyre more aggressive than a beige sweater. Push them to their limits on the blacktop and you rarely find the point they start moaning in complaint.
With the Ranger tipping the scales at 2.5 tonne and some of the best back roads in the country right at my doorstep you best believe they were pushed to breaking point. Despite all that they remained composed in wet and dry, without any barks of complaint when I jumped on the picks. They just shut up and got on with the job.
Kumho has thrown a whole heap of weight behind the offroad ability of the MT51, boasting a whole heap of Aussie R&D to make them suit our 'unique conditions'. There’s a heap of marketing buzzwords thrown in there such as: “3 level height block improves its stiffness.” I’m not 100 percent sure what they’re trying to say, but I do know they just flat out worked throughout everything Cape York had to throw their way.
As we hit the first dirt I reached for the tyre gauge and dropped pressures down to 18psi. That’s basically where they stayed for the next month. On the high-speed dirt tracks including Battlecamp Road and the Bloomfield Track, the MT51s proved more than up to the task. The Ranger remained poised through winding switch backs, undulations, corrugations and even a little bull-dust thrown in the mix. Pushing it hard into corners it’d stay planted too, the aggressive pattern cutting through the soft top layer and digging into the more hard-packed terrain underneath.
DRIVING ON SAND
The soft-sand of Pennefather Beach was another serious test for the MT51s. Of the five cars in our convoy every single one of them got bogged. Surprisingly, being one of the heavier vehicles in the pack, the Ranger actually made it further onto the beach than others before finally succumbing. A quick squirt with the tyre gauge again, pressures down to 12psi and the Ranger pulled itself up and out of the hole, then set about recovering everyone else. Once we were out I bumped them up to 18psi, which is where they stayed for the next few thousand kays until we were back at Lakeland, just a few hours out of Cairns on the return leg.
While they’ve zigged and zagged through countless beaches and river crossings in the weeks between, the big stand-out for me is they remained damage free. No torn tread blocks, no punctures, barely even a knick out of the tyre face. As they’ve worn down, the noise levels have increased, but only to that of a typical mud tyre.
The Kumho MT51s might not be the most exciting tyre on the market, but tyres are something you want dependable reliability from, not a bunch of marketing gimmicks.
Check out the full review in issue #123 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.