When Safety and Performance Really Matter
A review of Cooper Discoverer STT PRO™ Tires
By: Rick Harrmann, Fleet Manager and Jeep Tour Guide for Colorado Jeep Tours
When you’re responsible for the comfort and safety of up to 9 people (including small children and dogs!) on a lifted, safari-modified Jeep, safety is critical! And at Colorado Jeep Tours safety comes first.
I am a tour driver and the Fleet Manager for Colorado Jeep Tours, a hugely popular and successful off-road Jeep tour company in the Pikes Peak and Royal Gorge Regions of Southern Colorado. Our off-road Jeep adventures carry visitors from all parts of the world over jagged rocks, steep switchbacks and when conditions dictate, very muddy terrain. Safety is paramount!
Holding two positions for Colorado Jeep Tours, my roles are a little conflicting. As a tour driver, I want great traction for my guests on trails that are changing all the time. I don’t want to worry about tires or any other potential vehicle issues for that matter, and quite frankly I shouldn’t have to. So I am not as interested in how long the tires last.
However, as Fleet Manager, I am much more concerned about how long our tires are going to last. I still want great traction for my guests, but my concern now extends to my fellow drivers and their guests as well – and the possible consequences if something were to go wrong on a tour, such as a flat tire on the trails. Changing tires on a trail is very difficult, expensive, and very inconvenient to guests who often don’t have the extra time or desire to sit in broken down jeep in the wilderness waiting for a driver to change a tire. It definitely casts a shadow over a great company reputation! Plus, taking a jeep out of commission for a day is lost revenue. Finding the optimal tire becomes very important…and tricky.
We’ve used several different brands of tires for our tours, with varying results. And we’ve done comparisons between all-terrain (A/T) and mud & terrain (M/T) tires with conflicting results. A/T tires tend to last longer but don’t really provide the grip (or the sidewall protection) we need, especially in wet conditions; and they don’t instill a lot of confidence in our drivers or guests. M/T tires, on the other hand, tend to grip very well in all conditions, provide excellent sidewall protection, but wear rather quickly considering our jagged, rocky trails and the excess road and off-road miles we put on our jeeps. We really needed to find a sweet spot; a tire that would balance the needs of the trails and the durability to last.
Enter Cooper Discoverer STT PRO™ Tires
According to Cooper Tires, the “Discoverer STT PRO™ is the most extreme all-season, off-road tire Cooper® offers to date, providing remarkable off-road performance without sacrificing on-road traction.” Considering our needs, that is an appealing claim. So we put the tire to the test.
Our first look at the Cooper Discoverer STT PROs on a Jeep was quite favorable but guarded. They certainly looked like a good tire for our needs, but we’ve had tires before that looked really good and just didn’t last. In fact, these tires were replacing tires that also looked really grippy but didn’t even last a full season. A simple first look wouldn’t be proof enough.
The Ultimate Traction Test
This spring, we put a set of Cooper Discoverer STT PROs on our “Gold” Jeep. (All of our jeeps are named after minerals… sort of: Gold, Silver, Copper, Emerald, Charcoal, and Pewter.) We were holding a “boot camp” to train new tour guides/drivers and were scheduled to do some training on a couple of steep switchbacks. Being located in an Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trail system, these switchbacks get chewed up by several kinds of off-road vehicles throughout the year. So you never really know what you’ll get, until you get out there. Because of that, they tend to intimidate new drivers, even when they’re dry, and we tend to avoid them when they’re wet and muddy. But when you’re training new drivers, muddy makes for a great training opportunity.
My first drive up those switchbacks on the Cooper tires was quite impressive. I watched out my window as the tires methodically gripped their way up the switchbacks, keeping the Jeep moving forward. Another Jeep sporting a new set of Cooper tires followed behind with the same result. This was a huge confidence booster for us, as this is one of the most challenging locations for drivers. Cooper Discoverer STT PRO™ tires passed that test with flying colors.
The Water Test
Always a possibility in Colorado, especially during our monsoon season – and another challenge for newer drivers – is a water crossing. They are relatively rare in our part of the state but in what seems to be an instant, rainwater coming off of the mountains or burn scars can make dry creek beds flow like raging rivers.While water crossings are not a part of our normal scheduled tours, they can come into play when we take customers on private and custom tours, so it’s important that our guides are ready for anything.
Being a rather dry time of year, we decided to put together a custom tour to test the Cooper Discoverer STT PROs in the rocky current of the Arkansas River. Crossing the Arkansas creates some interesting dynamics. In an upstream crossing, the current works against the jeep and pushes it downstream. The tires attempt to grip onto slippery rocks that are rolling underneath the tires. The more you speed up the tires to fight the current, the more likely you are to throw rocks from under the tires and create less traction. And having no traction can mean serious trouble.
The Coopers performed very well! On a river crossing, no tire will grip 100% of the time. Rocks will roll under you no matter what. The Cooper Discoverer STT PROs did a great job of maintaining grip as we slowly traversed the river. When we crossed into faster waters, the tires provided me ample traction to increase my momentum against the current, without additional slipping and gave me the confidence to know that crossing would be no problem. At its deepest, the water was about 15” and still I had great traction.
I don’t recommend that others buy these tires – any tires for that matter – and take a drive across a river, but I am very impressed with how these tires handled for me.
The Longevity Test
So far, the longevity test is looking pretty good for these tires as well. Our first use of these Coopers began last summer and are the tires shown in our river crossing. There is some wear on this set since they were used during the last half of the tourist season last year. Keep in mind that all tires on our Jeeps are subjected daily to sidewall scraping, getting chewed up by stepping up and driving on jagged rocks, washboard gravel roads, and some highway miles as well – with added weight of up to nine guests – and we have never experienced a problem: no flats, no traction issues, and no excessive sidewall wear.
Our standard of longevity is likely not the same as most users of Cooper Discoverer STT PROs. So far, however, we are very pleased and intend to keep them as our go-to tire.
It’s Cooper Discoverer STT PROtm for Colorado Jeep Tours!
After putting these tires through tests of mud, jagged rocks, river crossings and repetitive, daily use, these tires have become the chosen tire of Colorado Jeep Tours. As I said earlier, safety is our primary concern, but we cannot sacrifice durability for safety. We needed to find a tire that not only provides great traction in all conditions – and consequently safety – but we also needed a tire that will last. The Cooper Discoverer STT PRO Tires have proven to be the best of both worlds for us, because safety and performance really do matter at Colorado Jeep Tours.