Building up the Bear: Bigger is Better

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Truck in field

We’ve put some miles on the Bear now. We’ve crossed a few train tracks and kicked up our fair share of dust. As I pointed out from the beginning, everything about the Bear is meant to take our family to further places. And, as a truck ever-evolving, it needs updating and improving. This is based on our increase in skill, knowledge and also experience.

Boy in back of truck

One such piece of experience is the limitation of our suspension. At a hefty 7,500 lbs, the six inch lift and improved shocks can only help increase the Bear’s ride and smoothness so much. I know I’m losing about half the audience here so don’t worry, stick with me and I’ll explain what this all means in a second. The point is that our experience led to inquiries and those inquiries led to knowledge. My newly acquired knowledge led me to a small change. Bigger, it turns out, is better.


My 35″ BF Goodrich All Terrain tires were about the ‘average’ size for my truck. You see, the truck came with 18″ wheels when we bought it (that means that the metal part that holds the tire was 18″ across). This is not a bad thing. However, when the inevitable switch from the stock tire to the higher quality BF Goodrich tire came, I based my sizing off the 18″ wheel. This meant that the largest tire I could get was the 35″ tire.

After visiting the Overland Expo, I realized I had made a mistake.

Baby in tent

Despite the increased performance and traction of the 35×12.5 18 BFG AT, I was missing one very important quality that I longed for in our family truck. Dampening. When driving off of the pavement, you run into variables most people don’t know are there and don’t even consider. When Samuel F. B. Morse helped make his contribution to the telegraph in the mid 19th century, he certainly didn’t intend for Morse code to be sent from the road via vibration to the passenger of a motor vehicle’s teeth. That, however, is what we experienced.

Speedy truck

I learned that with a larger tire and smaller wheel (rim) you can let out some of the air and increase the sponginess of the tire, thus reducing the roughness of the ride. What was even more surprising to me was that letting out some air can increase tire traction performance up to around 250%. This is due to the lower-pressured tire having more contact with the ground.

Tire on pavement

The chattering of my mandible helped me discover that our friends at BF Goodrich did make a perfectly-proportionate tire for my truck. The all new BFG All Terrain, which came in a 37″. This tire had 20% better sidewall strength and improved longevity.

Rims in box

However, it required a 17″ wheel.

Truck equipment in truck bed

Fortunately for me, I get all my tire and wheel work done by our sponsor over at Discount Tire. Their in-house wheels are great looking and inexpensive. I stayed with the Discount Tire MB Wheel series and with the matte black style, but offset my wheels to -12 this time so they would stand outside the fender just a bit more. With that small change, my new and larger tires had more room to turn.

Truck with silhouette of sun

Another fun fact I learned is that Discount Tire will actually deliver their tires and wheels directly to you. This way, you can get your things in order before heading down to the store. If you live rurally like we do, it also means that you don’t have to make unnecessary trips into the store fronts.

Truck gears

Finally, I learned I may have chosen an onboard air compressor that was a tad small for what I wanted to do. This was easier to remedy. The air compressor is simply the tank that fills your air with tires, so we worked with VIAIR to upgrade our system to the larger-capacity 444C with dual compressors. This decreased our fill times offroad significantly, which is good since Chelsea prefers to spend time in the air conditioning as opposed to outside filling up tires.

Truck with sky in background

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Truck with sunset

Hands down, this upgrade was the best move I could have made. We noticed an immediate improvement in the way the Bear handled offroad during our first trip to the Sierras. I was happy that airing down was not only possible, but with the larger tire and smaller wheel, I was able to do it more effectively. And with BF Goodrich’s new All Terrain, even the edges of the tires had a grip on the ground. The traction was tremendous and the ride was smooth.

With the VIAIR onboard compressor, it’s like I have my own mini Discount Tire built right into my truck.


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