SHARP & Sailun
If your bare foot makes an unplanned rendezvous with an errant LEGO block on the living room hardwood, life momentarily transforms into a one-legged dance party for your pain receptors as you belt out colorful curses at maximum volume — likely inventing a few new ones in the process. Now, imagine an endless sea of LEGO blocks you’ve got to run across, full tilt, for dozens of miles. Also, you now weigh several thousand pounds. While your bare foot can probably survive the odd unwanted poke, footwear choices matter for anything much more serious than that.
You’re here to hear about my experience tackling some of the most brutal driving I’ve ever encountered in over a million testing kilometres and 19 years of telling stories about driving from all over the world.
For this particular adventure, the Sailun TerraMax RT was the footwear of choice. This aggressive rugged terrain tire for trucks and SUVs is 3PMS certified for winter use, features an aggressive design, and comes in 36 sizes covering 17 to 22-inch rims.
My rig for this rock-crawling adventure through Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon conservation area was trusty ‘Number Fourteen’—a red Jeep Wrangler 2-door with 4-litre straight six engine and a list of off-road modifications that reads like an off-road enthusiast’s Christmas wish-list rolling down the trail. With over 123,000 miles on the odometer, Number Fourteen was a machine that had definitely seen some sights.
Fourteen and I were part of a 16-Jeep convoy that tackled an exhausting day of brutal driving which pushed machines, tires, and writers to their limits. In a departure from the usual comforts of automotive launch drives, this launch drive (er, torture test) for the Sailun TerraMax RT would lead to flaring anxieties, rattled nerves, physical and mental exhaustion, and no shortage of dust taking up residence in each and every pore.
The intention was to take a trip to tire torture-testing hell with 16 highly-modified Jeeps, all rolling on TerraMax RTs. A cool 4-Runner dude inadvertently joined our boulder-crawling parade with his friendly Silver Lab, ‘Cash’, too. I didn’t catch his tires of choice (or name) however, having been busy stressing mostly about how much more Fourteen’s suspension could flex out before something broke.
“Oh, yeah—that’s fine!” one instructor laughed as I winced and swore, having parked one of the tires on a sharp chunk of the earth’s crust that was pushing deep into the sidewall. “You won’t hurt it, just giver!”
This was part of the trail known as the ‘Rock Garden’.
You know those oversized LEGO blocks you give babies because they’re too big to swallow? Let’s call those LEGO boulders. The Rock Garden is about a hundred thousand of these strewn carelessly along a hilly stretch of the trail. The rocks stab and grab at sidewalls, poking and prodding tires and skid plates almost every inch of the way. In the Rock Garden, with Number Fourteen listing nauseatingly to her side while twisting over a refrigerator-sized boulder, I invented a new swear word. It happened again a moment later, while watching the rear tires of Number Thirteen (ahead of me) get simultaneously stabbed, dragged and squashed against the rocks, moving a few boulders beneath it in the process. The Jeeps proved tough and reliable, with the butt-clenching Rock Garden behind us, the real abuse for driver, machine, and tire was about to begin.
Up next was an endless road of LEGOS, er, gravel—each piece no smaller than your closed fist and some random boulder-sized ones thrown in for fun. As an added bonus, heavy rain had washed out sections of this road, leaving random ditches running across it.
That rain had come some time ago — today there was no sign of moisture anywhere. In just a few moments, lips and cuticles become dry and bloody, and dust coats absolutely everything. This silty soiree stirs up dust that results in absolute zero-visibility conditions that reminded me of the worst Northern Ontario snowstorms.
I don’t know if this stretch of our drive had a nickname like the Rock Garden, so I gave it my own: Dust Hell. Dust Hell proved a punishing drive for human, machine, and tire while Number Fourteen’s suspension was walloped perpetually for an hour and a half, knuckles whitening harder and harder the entire time.
Driving in Dust Hell is just like normal driving, except the sky is dust and the air is dust and the instrument cluster is obscured by dust and everything is shaking violently as if you’re driving over a rumble strip. Imagine simultaneously being inside of a dust storm, air fryer oven and jackhammer, and you’re in the right ballpark. This was the most stressful 90 minutes of driving I’d ever tackled, mostly triggered by previous experiences with blowing a dozen or more factory-equipment tires on surfaces much friendlier than this — and that’s when I could see where I was going.
Blessedly, some pavement eventually reappeared and the time came to get the Jeeps back home via a freeway drive back into Las Vegas. Although driving an off-road modified Jeep isn’t exactly relaxing on the senses, a (relatively) quiet highway ride for the home stretch proved a welcomed touch after a day of sensory assault. Compared to the Rock Garden and Dust Hell, driving Fourteen on the highway was like a trip to the spa.
Even with her open top at cruising speed, Fourteen’s suspension, driveline and engine sounds were all apparent, but the TerraMax RTs remained appreciably quiet over the smooth Nevada tarmac. By their appearance, you’d expect a helicopter-like buzz on bare pavement, but there isn’t any — and that’s in an open-topped Jeep with no sound deadening. Point is, they’ll be plenty quiet on your 4Runner, Suburban or F-150.
In my part of the world, trucks and SUV’s are the conveyance of choice and many drivers tackle craggy backroads, remote trails, potholes and all manner of sidewall-shredding road hazard on the daily—often in areas with limited cellular coverage. Tough tires are important for confidence, safety and peace of mind.
After watching 64 Sailun TerraMax RT tires emerge unharmed from a trip to hell and back, I returned home from this adventure to Northern Ontario armed with a new real-world recommendation for friends and family and viewers who commonly ask for one when it comes to a tough tire that can stand up to the abuses of Northern Ontario driving.
If you’re starting to get into the world of off-road driving, the TerraMax RT tires should prove a compellingly-priced option for an upgrade tire with years of capability to grow into as you and your machine become more and more adventurous.