Friday, February 3, 2012

Comparison: ITP TerraCross R/T, Maxxis Bighorn and Interco Reptile

Comparison: ITP TerraCross R/T, Maxxis Bighorn and Interco Reptile

First things first: I am by no means an expert rider, but I like to think that I can hold my own.  That being said, I know a good amount about tires and their characteristics and have sort of an obsession with them.  For this comparison the test bike is my ’07 Kawie Brute Force which I’ve been riding for just about five years (got it in April of ’07).  This quad has allowed me to grow significantly as a rider while allowing me to modify it as my ability improves along with my love for the sport.

This point of this comparison is to draw conclusions about the similarities and differences between the 26” ITP TerraCross R/T (not the newer HD model), the 25” Maxxis Bighorn (original version, not the lighter 2.0), and the 26” Interco Reptile Radial, and also to outline their strengths and weakness when compared to each other.  Though the tires on my quad have changed over time, the trails they are ridden on have remained fairly consistent, providing an equal playing ground.

It’s easier for me to compare the tires in more of a story-like way, as I switched tires over time instead of comparing them all at once.  Here’s how everything played out.

ITP TerraCross R/T
I put a set of used 26” ITP TerraCross R/Ts tires with 14” C-Series Type-7 wheels on the Brute less than a month after I got it.  They drastically improved traction over the worthless stock wheels and tires, especially on the wet rocks.  Handling got astonishingly better due to the stiffer sidewalls and added width, with much less push in the turns and a more confident steering feel.  Additionally, it increased the stability of the quad and made it feel less “tippy” on off-camber sections.  There was a good bit of power loss, but that’s to be expected when going from a light, stock 2-ply tire to a heavy 26” 6-ply all-terrain tire with 14” wheels.

I abused the hell out of these tires for 4 years.  All-around, they were an incredible trail tire that provided huge levels of traction on any wet or dry surface.  Slow-speed crawling, high-speed fire roads, tight woods trails and rocky climbs were no match for the TerraCross.  They performed flawlessly in all of these conditions.  Not to mention, they looked great, with an aggressive tread pattern and wide stance.

That’s not to say that the TerraCross was perfect.  In sloppy mud or any muddy water deeper than about a foot deep they gummed up quickly and didn’t like to clean out.  More than a few times I would come out of a mud pit with the tires looking like brown drag slicks.  But in the time I spent with these tires I only got stuck a few times, and they were in mud pits where guys with 28”s barely made it through.  But if somebody else gets stuck and you have to pull them out in the mud, get ready to break out the winch…the Terras just spin and dig getting you nowhere.  The snow was a similar situation…lots of spinning and very little cleaning out leads to little traction.

Another downside was the power loss, but I barely had the stock tires on long enough for this to make a difference.  And while the 14” wheels looked great and made the quad handle like it was on rails due to the smaller/stiffer sidewall than a 12” wheel, it seemed like they caught every single rock out there.  Finally, although some people complained about the softness of the original TerraCross, not once in 4 years did I get a flat (though all 4 tires did have tubes in them from when I bought them used).  The wheels and tires got beat to sh**, and there’s punctures and rips all over the sidewall but they never lost air (thank you, tubes).  Sure, the tires wore out faster than I would have liked, but that’s what happens when you sacrifice longevity for the sake of traction and grip (a trade-off I’d take any day).  The burnouts might have had something to do with this too though…

All in all, the TerraCross was an incredible tire.  If the TerraCross/SS108 combo had been less expensive I wouldn’t have even hesitated when it was time to buy the new set.  Other than the mud/snow performance and power loss, it was an incredible setup and very few times did I wish there was another tire on my quad.  For the casual rider, it’s hard to beat the TerraCross.  I’m anxious to try a set of the HD’s once my current tires wear out; I loved the TerraCross that much.

Maxxis Bighorn
Eventually the TerraCrosses became too worn and it was time to order another set of wheels/tires.  The old 14” C-Series wheels were too broken/dinged to keep using, so after months of research and a tough decision, I went with 25” Maxxis Bighorns and 12” ITP SS108’s.  Why the 25”s?  After reading that the 26” Bighorns measure more like 26.5-27” and that they’re a very heavy tire, I was swayed towards the 25”.  The promise of gaining a little power back vs. the 26” TerraCrosses was the main reason for this, and the lower price as compared to the 26” sealed the deal.  Order placed, ready for them to show up…had very high expectations.

First thing I noticed about the Bighorns was how small they looked compared to the TerraCross.  Sure, the tread pattern was fairly aggressive, with huge knobby chunks and the badass white-letters out, but these tires were narrow.  They reminded me of the stock tires more than the 26” Bighorns, and when I measured them with 5 PSI in them and mounted on the quad, they stood at only 24.5” tall.  Disappointment #1.

But DAMN did I gain a lot of power back.  The front end would lift at what felt like any speed and the acceleration was absurd.  Gas it on pavement and you point at the sky.  Floor it on hard pack coming out of a turn and it would stand right up.  This was good and bad (wheelies are fun), but if you hit the gas a little too hard on a rough uphill or on some rocks you better hold on.  (Gaining power back was far and away the thing I liked most about the Bighorns).  Oh, and the back end would slide like it was a full-blown drift machine.  With this setup it was easier to steer by going into a turn hard, braking late, flicking the handlebars one way then the other fast, and gassing it to swing the rear around and power through the turn…similar to oppo-lock if you’re drifting a car.  This could have been a result of the skinny front tires though.  After getting so used to the wider TerraCrosses, the narrower Bighorns pushed more when entering the turns and made the steering feel more disconnected.  And disconnected = bad when you’re riding on rocks and over ruts where you need to know exactly where the tires are.  Disappointment #2.

In the mud, the Bighorns were a disaster.  This is probably because of how narrow they were, but they couldn’t even compare to the very-worn TerraCrosses that they replaced.  Honestly I thought they would do better because of how deep the tread was but this couldn’t help them overcome the narrowness or the decreased height.  I didn’t get a chance to test them in the snow, but if it was anything like my experience in the mud, the TerraCross blew them away (again, could be a result of the 25” size…this may be very different for the 26” Bighorn).

Rocks were another story.  At slow speeds, they gripped great and only the relative narrowness limited them vs. the TerraCross.  In some spots, they gripped like hell and felt great.  But they were still too easy to break loose and one slight misplacement of the tires meant you could lose your entire line.  And wet rocks were…interesting…As in you never knew what would happen next.  Sometimes they would slip here-and-there, sometimes they’d grip the whole way up an obstacle, and other times I basically had to spin the tires to get the quad up a rocky section.  Like I said before, I’m sure the 26” Bighorns are significantly better in these situations, but the 25” was very disappointing.  This could be because of their harder composition as compared to the TerraCross though, which leads me to the next thing…durability.

I literally tried as hard as I could to break the Bighorns.  Everything I read said they’re almost indestructible, and I just had to test this myself.  Hitting rocks, roots, branches, etc. at high speeds barely phased these tires.  A couple times I thought I literally ripped the tire off the bead based on how hard the impact was, but the Bighorns showed almost no signs of wear.  Definitely a big positive to these tires, especially if you’re doing a lot of rocky trails.

But in the end I was disappointed by the Bighorns.  To me their performance was surprisingly bad for all the hype they get.  And everybody is a different rider, so what works for many might not work for you.  It certainly didn’t for me, and I got rid of the Bighorns after only a few months.  Maybe it was the power of the Brute, maybe it was the narrowness of the tires, who knows, all I know is they weren’t anywhere near as good as the TerraCross, so I gave them to my brother , and they’re now on a Yamaha Wolverine 450 4x4, which they’re much better suited to.  Next up: Interco Reptile.

Interco Reptile Radial
When I went to order the next set of tires for my quad, I knew I wanted something that wouldn’t break the bank.  The Reptiles were very well priced and got high praise from a lot of people as well as Mike at Dick’s ATV, so I figured I’d give them a try.

Compared to the 25” Bighorns, the 26” Reptiles looked absolutely massive.  Not only that, but the trail-oriented Bighorns made the Reptiles look like an all-out mud tire.  With big, open lugs and a directional pattern, it’s easy to tell these aren’t aimed directly at knocking the Bighorn/TerraCross off the King-of-the-Trail-Tires perch.  The Reptile’s tread wraps around less on the side, there’s more spacing between each lug, and they have that aggressive, “I can take whatever you throw at me” look.  They reminded me more of a cross between a SwampLite and a Mud-Lite XTR than anything else…not a bad combination by any means.

Surprisingly, the Brute didn’t lose a lot of power after going back up to a 26” size.  This could be due to it only being about 3-4 pounds different at each corner, but the added traction contributed to this significantly.  The increased width and contact with the ground out back made the acceleration smoother and less violent.  With the 25” Bighorns the Brute would break traction almost too easily, and if you floored it from a stop the back end would be all over the place.  With the 26” Reptiles the Brute went more forward than anything else, and only marginally slower than with the smaller, lighter Bighorns.  More tread hitting the ground = more traction.

Mud is where the Reptile shows its greatest strength over the TerraCross and Bighorn.  This tire pulls hard in muck where the others would just spin and gum up.  They also do a very good job of cleaning out as long as the mud isn’t too sloppy.  With all of these tires I have been up to/past the exhaust in watery mud and also in thick mud that crests the top of the tires on numerous occasions.  I’ll cut straight to the point…the Reptiles absolutely put the others to shame.

Somehow on the rocks the Reptiles do well.  Not as good as the TerraCross, but I’d say they’re better than the 25” Bighorns.  They don’t flex especially well and there is no grip on the sides like the Terras and Bighorns have, but for a directional tire they do surprisingly well.  Maybe it’s because they’re wider than the Bighorn, but I’d take the Reptile any day when rock crawling.  Only problem here is that they have a tendency to “float” over rocks, so the tire feels slightly disconnected from the ground and the handlebars.  Sometimes when you try to turn the front end feels very light and you don’t get a lot of feedback, but this is nitpicky and only at higher speeds.  At slower speeds I really can’t complain about their ability on the rocks, and would sacrifice a marginal amount of grip on the rocks for the extra ability in the mud any day.
In the snow the Reptiles do a great job moving forward, but turning is another story.  Big, open lugs help the quad move in a straight line very well, but because the tread is doesn’t wrap around that much, the quad doesn’t like to turn unless you use the back end to drift.  Not a huge deal for me, as the only snow my Reptiles have seen so far is plowing the driveway and riding across my front lawn, but something to consider if you do a lot of snow riding.

I can’t talk much about durability of the Reptile because they’ve only been on the quad for a couple hundred miles, but so far they’re definitely staying true to the softer-wears-faster idea.  I’ve done everything so far that I intend to do, with the exception of maybe a little more rock crawling and deeper mud, and the Reptiles aren’t wearing terribly, but the rears have worn down a fair amount for how few miles I have on them.  Gotta expect this though.  OH, and since they’re fairly flat in profile, they slide very well.  Maybe this is why the rears have worn down so much, but drifting the quad is too much fun to give up.

Summary / Conclusion

So how do the tires stack up, and which of the three is best?
TerraCross: Great trail tire, soft sidewalls but that was supposedly fixed with the new HD model, decent in the mud, excellent handling, incredible on rocks, very stable, somewhat heavy and power-killing, all-in-all perfect for the Northeast.  Freakin’ loved these tires.
Bighorn: 25” is too small for big-bore 4x4s…that being said: unstable, very light (good for wheelies, bad for staying planted on fast trails with rocks and roots), awful in mud, look awesome, decent handling, wish I had tried the 26”.  Don’t buy the 25” unless you want to be disappointed.
Reptile: Great all-around tire, rides great on all trails, pretty darn good on rocks (float a little at higher speeds on rocky trails), great in mud, push a bit in the turns but not too bad, damn-near-perfect cross between a trail tire and a mud tire, great value for the price.

Final Thoughts
The Bighorns truly disappointed me.  Maybe I had expectations that were way too high or maybe they just didn’t work for my riding style, but they could not compete with the TerraCrosses that I loved so much.  The 26” size might have been another story, but the 25”s were way too small for the big Brute.
If there is a perfect tire for the trail rider who can’t resist a mud pit, it’s the Interco Reptile Radial.  Other than being a little sketchy on the rocks at higher speeds, these tires do everything you want them to do short of being good on a motocross track or running in the mud with 32” Silverbacks.  Climb a rocky mountain, blast down a fire road and then hit a mud pit and you’ll be impressed and surprised by how well-rounded these tires are.  And they’re the cheapest of the three to boot.  For a while I worried about running a directional, more open-lug tire on the trails, and the added weight concerned me as well.  But after a couple months of riding on the Reptile Radials, I’m convinced that there is such a thing as a do-it-all tire.
Bottom Line: I’d take the Reptiles over the Bighorn any day of the week and twice on Sundays.  The TerraCross might have been great, but as mud becomes more and more fun and tire prices continue to rise, the Interco Reptile Radial has earned its spot on my Brute for many more rides, and hopefully many trouble-free miles, to come.

- Roody

Update: 9/2012

I take back what I said about the Reptiles being the "perfect combo" for a tire that's equal meant for parts trail and mud.  Everything about the mud still stands; these tires are great in the sloppy stuff and haven't failed me yet.  Trails...well that's a different story.  They do fine on dirt, sand and loose terrain, but can be downright scary on wet rocks.

UPDATE: 10/3/12 - I posted a more detailed update which can be viewed here.

UPDATE #2: You can read the continuing story here.

Update: 7/23/13 - Pictures disappeared, fixed 'em.


  1. Roody, great review and thanks for the info. Although I did not here you mention anything about balance at higher speeds. I ride some hard packed roads and tire wobble is an issue. I really like the Interco reptiles and am leaning into buying them for my 2013 Polaris 850. I also plan on balancing the tires at the time of purchase, any info you have on this issue would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Pocono Gunner.

    1. Pocono Gunner,

      The main reason high-speed balance was not included is because it is a very minimal part of the riding we do (assuming you consider high-speed riding 50+). Most of the trails are too tight to really open it up that much, and when it does happen it's in shorts bursts; as such, low-speed bite is much more critical to me.

      However, I have done some higher-speed riding with all of these tires. Put simply, the TerraCrosses did well and provided a good amount of feedback and communication as to where they were moving the quad, the Bighorns were very similar if not a little less stable (harder tread; narrower contact patch), and the Reptiles float quite a bit unless you're on pavement. On harder pack surfaces, the softer and grippier TerraCrosses did the best, the Bighorns right behind them, and the Reptiles way back in last, as the front tires really had me worrying; sometimes they will take you where you point them and others they do as they please without letting you know until you're veering to the wrong side of the trail. Unfortunately, the Intercos really don't inspire confidence if you're cruising at high speeds...

      Hope this helped!


  2. Great review. Leaves me wondering if there is really such thing as a trail tire that does well in the mud? I consider myself mainly a trail rider, and even though it only happens in short bursts I love to hit high speeds to get my thrills. I don't intentionally seek out mud when riding but when I encounter it I want to be able to go through it and play in it the odd time too. I was going to buy the Bighorns (the originals), I love the look and the white letters and I ran a set of the 2.0's last season which don't have the lettering but the more I am reading on forums and now your site I find I am getting more confused because everybody's experience is different.

  3. Trail Rider, thanks for the compliments. My advice would be to check the forums to see what people are saying work well on your machine (if there's no specific site like Brute or Grizzly Central, try places like High Lifter's forum) and to give something a try. If you're looking for something a little better in the mud, maybe try the original Bighorns...from what I've seen they do very well in everything except the deep mucky stuff.

    The new, smaller companies (such as GBC and STI) are also starting to offer tires that look like they're good all-around. I may try one of these in the spring when I get rid of the Reptiles.

    Unfortunately there's no "best tire" for everybody, but you will find a "best tire" for you...but the only way to find it is to give tires a try until you find one you love.