If you've never seen one in action, then you're not really going to get what we mean when we compare the new Dick Cepek Mud Country to a trials bike tire. Basically, trials bikes are those low-slung motorcycles piloted by crazies hopping all over and around impossible rock obstacles. The tires have to bite hard at weird angles and provide instant traction. With that intro, you pretty much get our sentiments on Cepek's new rollers.
We had a set of five 285/75-16s mounted and balanced on five Cepek 16x8 DC-1 chrome wheels and put them on our '99 XJ Project JR to burn up some road miles. Our test tires were D-load range with a max weight capacity of 3,305 pounds per tire. As such, the sidewalls were a little stiff and noticeably translated small bumps and potholes to the cabin. We did appreciate the round construction and the fact that our tires took very little weight to balance, which seems to be a common trait in Cepek tires. The deep tread blocks don't slap the pavement like the lugs of a Swamper, but they do make themselves known. Overall, it's not an objectionable ride on pavement, but you are aware that you're rolling on tires that are more aggressive than those of an all-terrain.
For the off-road stuff, we transferred the tires over to our flattie and put them to work on the trail. The dry California climate gave us no opportunity to test them in the mud, but we found plenty of sand, rock, and dirt (both loose and hard pack).
The performance in deep sand was just adequate; not stellar, but certainly not disappointing. Loosely packed dirt could be handled fairly well, but if the soil was on the damp side, it tended to clog the tread blocks, requiring a blip or two of the throttle to clear. The stepped lugs help, but really sticky soil is best left to a tire with wider lug voids.
However, where these tires really shine like few others is in hard-packed dirt and rock. The smallish siped lugs just take hold of rock (from smooth to rough) and hold on for dear life. Even at 10 psi, these tires hook up better in the hard stuff than some others do at 4 psi. The lugs are exceptionally flexible and conform to the rock even without the carcass needing to bulge and envelope obstacles. We could stand to see a bit more sidewall tread because the sculpted DC blocks did little to help the sidewalls climb obstacles, but proper tire placement always kept the momentum up. The lack of thick, protective tread blocks running down the sidewall had us fearing punctures when testing started, but by the end of our time with these tires off-road, we were running them into obstacles with reckless abandon. The 3-ply sidewalls seem to take a lot of abuse, even if they don't offer any biting tread.
If dry terrain is your game, these are the tires you should be running.