We test out the offerings from a new player to ATV and UTV market
There are a few key areas that most powersports vehicle owners will address immediately when seeking to quickly and effectively increase performance and customize their rides with bolt-on parts. The laundry list of common mods may include an aftermarket exhaust system for improved power and a more muscular sound and suspension upgrades for a smoother ride quality over undulating terrain.
But aftermarket wheels and tires are among the easiest and most visually striking bolt-on modifications that ATV and UTV owners can make to their machines. Fewer items scream out “Look at me!” to the casual eye than a new set of hoops mounted with meaty treads designed to take a bite out of terra firma.
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Of course, most savvy ATV and UTV owners head on over to their local dealer or shop among the specialty powersports suppliers on the internet when making such purchases. But there is a new option from a surprisingly large tire chain that might otherwise fly under the radar, Discount Tire. With 900+ locations throughout the United States, Discount Tire (America’s Tire in some areas) is a certifiable giant among replacement automobile tire retailers, which means there is probably one conveniently located in your neck of the woods. On top of that, the company’s size and scope gives it tremendous buying power – or in this case, manufacturing power – to offer whatever wheels and tires necessary to maintain its competitive advantage. The good news for ATV and UTV enthusiasts is that Discount Tire has now committed to our market, and it is doing so with its own in-house brands, MB Wheels and Rage tires.
With its new MB Wheels 11 custom wheels, the company boasts that it has created innovative ATV/UTV wheels that not only look great but function just as well. The cast-aluminum wheels feature what Discount Tire refers to as a mesh styling, with the outer edge of each wheel featuring eight V-shaped alternating with eight D-shaped windows, with blacked-out scallops to add a nice custom detail to the overall appearance of the wheel. Actually, the wheels’ styling reminds us of the tough-looking race-style wheels that we see rolling on the Trophy Trucks and Class 1 buggies in the SCORE Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races south of the border.
Measuring 7 inches wide, the MB 11 wheels are available in 12-inch and 14-inch diameters in a variety of bolt patterns to fit most popular ATV and UTV models. The wheels are designed to be sturdy, with a load capacity of 1150 lbs for the 12x7s and 1300 lbs for the 14x7s.
For our purposes, Discount Tire shipped us one set of 12-inch wheels and one set of 14-inch wheels along with two sets of its Rage Storm radial off-road tires to match the wheel sizes. We then cruised over to one of our local Discount Tire stores in Orange, Calif. to have the tires mounted to the wheels and then balanced. With Discount Tire’s expertise – this particular store mounts about 30 sets of wheels and tires per day – and its laser-guided, computerized balancing machine, our wheels and tires were quickly run through and ready for mounting to our Suzuki King Quad 500 AXi ATV and Honda Pioneer 700 UTV test units.
Well, almost. One of the coolest aspects of the MB 11 wheels is the nylon scratch guards, which look like honest-to-goodness beadlocks but in fact do not have anything to do with clinching the tire bead to the rim. However, the scratch guards are more than just a decoration. They actually do serve a purpose, preventing rocks, roots and other objects from dinging the outer lip of the rim, which keeps the rim looking good longer. Protection aside, they’re also paintable, giving the user the option of spraying on his or her favorite color for that extra special personal touch. The scratch guards are lightweight, but they’re also beefy and durable. Even so, if one should get seriously rashed by a rock or a stump, a replacement scratch guard can be ordered though Discount Tire. Each wheel comes with a lifetime warranty on the structure of the wheel, to be free from defects in workmanship and materials, and a one-year warranty on the finish.
We did run into a minor issue when bolting on the scratch guards – which come with 16 zinc-plated grade 8.8 bolts per wheel to secure them in place – and then only with the 14-inch wheels at that. The scratch guards did not clock properly on the bigger wheels, running as much as a quarter hole off when we tried to bolt them down. Thankfully, they’re not made of metal, so getting the holes to line up was simply a matter of grabbing a screw driver and carefully prying the scratch guards to line up the bolt holes. Once we got all the bolts started, running them in with our cordless impact driver was a snap.
The only other issue we had was a simple matter of a shipping error. The wheels did not come with the required accessory lug nuts, and the stock lug nuts simply will not work because the thicker aluminum wheels feature recessed mounting holes for the lugs. The holes are wide enough to allow the lug to be started, but there is not enough room to snug them down, even if you try to use a thin-wall socket. Unfortunately, we didn’t find this out until we were out in the desert and ready to do our wheels swap after evaluating the stock wheels and tires, so we blazed on over to Chaparral Motorsports in San Bernardino, where we were lucky enough to score two sets of accessory lug nuts that fit our needs. Finally, we mounted the 12-inchers to the Pioneer 700 and the 14-inchers to the King Quad 500, capping them off with the sharp-looking monogrammed wheel caps that are supplied with the wheels. The tires sizes were 26 x 9.00 R12 (front) and 26 x 11.00 R12 (rear) on the 12-inch wheels, and 26 x 9.00 R14 (front) and 26 x 11.00 R14 (rear) on the 14s.
Swapping on the MB Wheels and Rage Storm tires made a noticeable difference in traction and handling on both the King Quad and the Pioneer. One of two tire models currently offered by Rage, the Storm is designed as more of an all-terrain tire whereas the Thunder is more of a mud-terrain tire. The Storms were a perfect match for the sun-baked adobe, silty sand and rock-infested trails of our Southern California testing area. They feature an aggressive tread pattern that still delivers a smooth overall feel instead of a tractor-like ride quality. The tires certainly dig in like a tractor, however, offering excellent traction in the desert.
Handling of both vehicles, neither of which came with electronic power steering, was also sharper with the MB 11/Rage Storm combinations than with the stock wheels and tires. The beefy six-ply sidewalls of the 12-inch wheels (they’re up to 8-ply on the 14s) helped prevent the tire from flopping during hard cornering, which helps to give a more direct feedback through the steering wheel or handlebars. The sidewalls also prevent the tire from collapsing inward excessively if you should happen to tag a rock, which helps prevent flat tires. And yet the tires still offered acceptable tread compliance, which only helped to eliminate unwanted wheel spin.
From a performance perspective, we have no complaints about the MB 11 wheels or the Rage Storm tires from Discount Tire. They both offer a more aggressive look, and the tires delivered improved traction on our test vehicles. Best of all, they should be well within the budget of most folks planning such a wheel/tire swap already.
For more information on the MB 11 wheels and Rage Storm tires, visit http://www.discounttiredirect.com/.
MB 11 Available Wheel Sizes
12-inch 12 X7 4-110.00 4+3 SLMCBA 12 X7 4-156.00 4+3 SLMCBA
14-inch 14 X7 4-110.00 4+3 SLMCBA 14 X7 4-115.00 4+3 SLMCBA 14 X7 4-136.00 4+3 BKMTXX 14 X7 4-156.00 4+3 SLMCBA 14 X7 4-156.00 4+3 BKMTXX
Rage Storm Available Tire Sizes
12-inch AT26 /11.00R12 71J C1 BSW AT26 /9.00 R12 65J C1 BSW AT27 /11.00R12 74J C1 BSW AT27 /9.00 R12 67J C1 BSW
14-inch AT26 /11.00R14 76J D1 BSW AT26 /9.00 R14 66J D1 BSW AT27 /11.00R14 77J D1 BSW AT27 /9.00 R14 69J D1 BSW AT28 /10.00R14 76J D1 BSW