Are inexpensive all-terrain tyres any good? We road-tested a set of Windforce Catchfors All-Terrain tyres to find out. As it happens, for a weekend warrior, the Windforce A/TII tyres certainly have some redeeming qualities.
If there are two constants with four-wheel driving, it’s that highway terrain rubber stinks off-road, and that all-terrain rubber is expensive. At Unsealed 4X4, we’re often happy to pay for quality, especially when it reflects quality and performance. And let’s face it, where the rubber hits the road is an important place. It’s important for occupant safety, off-road ability and longevity. And while this time around, we’re not testing the latter (longevity), we certainly look at the other attributes.
Why am I mentioning all this? Well, here we have an all-terrain tyre (the Windforce Catchfors A/TII) that measures 33-inches in height, and costs – wait for it – just $240 a corner. Check out the cost of, say, a BF Goodrich KO2 All-Terrain, measuring LT285/70R17, and it will set you back around $185 more per tyre. Assuming that you need five tyres (as few vehicles come out with 33-inch rubber as standard) then that’s a saving of over $900.
But the price is just one factor. The Windforce Catchfors A/TII (certainly not the catchiest name) is designated as a light truck tyre. Windforce claim seven steel and fabric plies. The tread is made up of two polyester and two steel plies along with one nylon. While the sidewall is made up of two polyester plies. Prior to fitment, I have to say that the tyres were fairly heavy to pick up, and the sidewalls certainly felt quite meaty. Not exactly scientific I know, but let’s just say they didn’t feel different to their more expensive counterparts (as some Chinese tyres have in the past).
The tread itself features stone ejectors, and there are plenty of sipes cut in for wet weather tarmac traction. The outer edges feature longitudinal what Windforce term ‘notched shoulder tread design’, which is supposed to improve traction in sand and mud. The tread is on the conservative side of all-terrain, with more rounded shoulders and less sidewall tread than some.
ON THE ROAD
After whipping off a set of heavily worn Cooper STTs, the move to the Windforce rubber was incredibly pleasant. Sure, they didn’t look as sexy as the muddies, but their on-road performance was a marked improvement. They are incredibly quiet and offer plenty of grip in the dry. The cabin noise was comparable to that of the stock road tyres that came with the Triton.
In the wet, where they’ve been tested comprehensively this summer, they show impressive traction. I’d put this down to the generous sipes cut into each tread block. Even with no load in the ute well, they hold on remarkably well through the twisties.
Our donor vehicle for this test was my 2019 MR Triton with a 2-inch Outback Armour suspension kit. Although minimal, there was some scrubbing on the body under full compression. This, however, is not limited to just the Windforce, as you would most definitely experience the same issue with any set of 33” inch tyres. These tyres were fitted to a set of 17-inch ROH ‘Diesel’ wheels. Another surprise when switching to the Windforce All-Terrains was that there was no noticeable change in average fuel consumption when switching from a set of 32-inch mud-terrain tyres. An issue I did encounter was that the spare tyre didn’t fit underneath the vehicle which has been somewhat inconvenient. This can be expected from any set of 33” inch tyre and is easily fixed by getting a larger bracket for the tyre.
Another bonus with this tyre fitment on the MR Triton is the fact that the Catchfors A/TII have a nice tall stance. They look good, and they don’t protrude out the side of the Triton (which means no flares are required).
Off-road, the Windforce Catchfors were competent performers. These all-terrains were surprisingly capable for their price and were able to tackle some difficult 4-wheel drive tracks without skipping a beat. We drove a selection of terrain in my kitted Triton, including some deep puddles and water crossings, steep and rocky inclines and along long dirt roads without any issues at all. The majority of the off-road testing was done around Lithgow, a 4-wheel drive Mecca in the Blue Mountains, NSW. The tracks around Lithgow have vast variations in terrain which allowed me to test out the tyres on loose rocky hills, sheer rock faces and boggy mud holes. After several weekends in this terrain, it became apparent that the Windforce Catchfors are incredibly capable off-road.
It definitely helped to run the appropriate tyre pressures off-road. In the Triton, I ran between 22-26 psi off-road and 32-40 psi on-road. When running lower tyre pressures, the sidewall on these tyres was sturdy, with little ballooning. The lack of ballooning in the sidewall gives me confidence that the sidewalls would cope with heavier outback touring loads. We’ve yet to hit the beaches with them yet, but I’d say they will confidently handle much lower sand pressures.
After 3 months and around 9,000km, the wear on these tyres was minimal. Tread depth remains even shoulder-to-shoulder, and despite the regular off-road forays, they’ve developed no battle scars worth mentioning.
Most weekends since fitting these tyres was spent on unsealed dirt roads and out bush. Despite these rough conditions, I didn’t experience any punctures or any other issues concerning the quality of these tyres.
THE BIG QUESTION
So is the Windforce Catchfors AT/II on par with the bigger brand all-terrains like BF Goodrich KO2? Not quite, but the differences are far slimmer than I first imagined. For someone on a budget, or with a long 4X4 accessories wish list, that $900 price saving is nothing to sneeze at. Do we know how they’ll go in the long term? Not yet, but we’ll keep you posted here at Unsealed 4X4 as we continue to put them through their paces.
For more information visit www.windforcetyresaustralia.com