Side by Side Tires – What tires should I buy?

Ever find yourself asking, “what tire should I buy for my UTV?” One of my favorite accessories to admire on UTVs is the tires. There are a plethora of awesome side by side tires out there these days, which is great. However, it can make the process of choosing a tire more difficult. Today we’re going to discuss the different types of tires you may want depending on the terrain you plan to ride. We’ll also be pointing out some of the more popular tires on the market.

MotoHammer Tire

Selecting the right type of tire

There are several variations within each type of tire, but tire type can be broken down into 3 main categories.

  1. Mud Tires
  2. Sand Tires
  3. All-Terrain Tires

The first question you have to ask yourself is, “what type of terrain am I planning to ride?” Mostly mud? Mostly sand or dunes? or is it going to be a combination of rock, dirt and maybe even highway? Let’s dive into the different styles.

Mud Tires

When mud is the main thing you plan to tackle, a mud specific tire is the only way to go. Mud tires are designed with taller lugs or knobs to give you grip when diving into the slippery stuff. Some mud tire lugs are as deep as 1.5 inches! The lugs are spaced out a little more and angled to allow the tire to clean out the muck and get another bite. Most mud tires are directional, meaning tires need to be mounted a certain direction, which allows for better clean out on the wet terrain. Many riders like to run mud tires a little taller so they have more clearance to dig down into the nastiest mud holes.

Several companies make radial tires, but there are still several mud tires that run the bias-ply construction. Radial tires are constructed in a way that allows the sidewall and the tread to move independently from each other. Bias-ply tires have the same layers on the sidewall as they do on the tread, meaning sidewall movement can affect the tread position and visa-versa. This causes them to have a rougher ride and a less even wear pattern than radials. However, due to the sidewall having the same number of layers as the tread, the bias-ply sidewall is stiffer and generally stronger that of the radial. For this reason, some manufacturers still use bias-ply construction on mud tires. When you’re slashing through the mud, you never know what could be hiding in there waiting to destroy your tire.

Here are some of the more popular mud tires for side by sides. More in depth discussion about individual tires will be coming in future posts. For now, I just want to mention a few of the many options that are available.

  • Kenda Bear Claw
  • Kenda Executioner
  • ITP has several popular mud models
    • Mud Lite XL
    • Mud Lite XTR
    • Mud Lite II
    • Mega Mayhem & Monster Mayhem (the most aggressive)
  • Tusk Mud Force
  • Gorilla ATV Silverback
  • Maxxis Zilla & MudZilla
  • Maxxis Mud Bug
  • Sedona Mudda Inlaw

There are many tires that would be considered mud tires, but also fall under the all-terrain category. These tend to be popular mud tires because they allow for more versatility. We’ll talk more about those another time. The tires mentioned above are (mostly) considered pure mud tires.

Sand/Dune Tires

Sand tires are probably the most simple tires. Basically they are designed to help your machine stay up on top of the sand so you can glide along effortlessly on the dunes. These tires are designed to be very light. Fronts are usually very basic in that they have no tread or just a simple ridge down the middle to improve steering. Rear tires have ridges or v-shaped scoops running perpendicular to the circumference of the tire. These scoops dig into the loose sand to propel the machine forward. Most all sand tires are 2-ply bias because they do not need the sidewall to move independently from the tread like tires used for rocks and rougher terrain.

Here are some of the popular sand tires on the market.

  • ITP Sand Star
  • Skat-Trac Hauler
  • STI Sand Drifter
  • Kenda Sand Gecko
  • Sedona Cyclone Sand
  • Pro Armor Dune
  • GMZ Sand Stripper
  • Sand Tires Unlimited Sand Blaster

Not all riders buy sand tires for the dunes as these tires are very specific to sand. If dune riding is all you’re going to do, then these tires are great. Many all-terrain tires will go good enough in the sand for the occasional dune ride.

All-Terrain Tires

This is the most popular type of tire on the market. There are many variations within the all-terrain tires. Some are more aggressive and will perform better in mud and some are built for longer tread life or highway use. Remember, if you plan to use your UTV on the highway, tires need to be DOT approved. The reason all-terrain tires are so popular is that they perform well on a large variety of surfaces. So, riders are able to tackle most any obstacle the trails can throw at them.

Most of these tires are 6-ply or 8-ply meaning they are going to hold up better to punctures and damage on rough trails. As I mentioned, some of the all-terrain tires are better for mud than other all-terrains. These usually have deeper lugs and a little more spacing between lugs, just not as much as the mud tires. Tires build more for rocks have a softer rubber and lugs are usually closer together to maintain better contact on the rocks.

Maxxis Bighorn Spare

Once considered one of the best aftermarket all-terrain tires on the market, the Maxxis Bighorn is now standard on most of the factory models. The Bighorn has a harder rubber and has deep, wider lugs making it more of a mud skewed all-terrain. Here are some of the many new tires vying for the title of “best aftermarket all-terrain tire.”


  • Non-DOT Approved
    • Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 – a softer, lighter version of the Bighorn
    • STI Roctane XD
    • Sedona Rock-A-Billy
    • Arisun Gear Buster
    • BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR2
    • CST Behemoth
    • Douglas Moapa – also available in a 12-ply run flat (can run flat for 30+ miles at 35 mph)
    • GBC Grim Reaper
    • Pro Armor Crawler XR
    • ITP Ultracross R Spec

The side by side tires designed to model light truck tires are quickly becoming the hottest tires on the market. For a while many riders were actually using truck tires on their UTV due to their versatility on hard and soft surfaces. However, the extra weight of the truck tires caused problems with some of the drive components breaking more often.

Time to choose a tire!

I know there are still hundreds of tires to choose from, but hopefully you have a good direction on where to start. Just remember that when choosing side by side tires, consider the terrain you plan to spend the most time on. Really, you can’t go too wrong with tires these days as most manufacturers make great tires due to the technology available. Tires are now more resistant to punctures, have smoother ride, better load capacity and so much more. Good luck on you tire search. Let us know what tires you’re running and how you like them.

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