Pass or Fail? Will Cooper Tires Keep Colorado Jeep Tours Rolling?

A post-season review of Cooper Discoverer STT PROtm Tires

By: Rick Harrmann, Fleet Manager and Jeep Tour Guide for Colorado Jeep Tours

Back in June, at the beginning of our jeep tour season, I wrote a review of Cooper Tires Discoverer STT PROtm line of all-season, off-road tires.   Because of mixed results with other brands of tires – and some previous successful experience with the Discoverer STTs – Colorado Jeep Tours made the decision to switch all of its vehicles to these impressive off-road tires for our jeep tours.  

Today, I provide you with a post-season follow-up to that review.  Did we make the right decision?   Did the Discoverer STTs make the grade?  Will they continue to keep Colorado Jeep Tours rolling?  

In this article I look at these tires from a slightly different perspective than the last.  While my last review highlighted my opinion of these tires as a driver and fleet manager, in this article I look closer at how the tires actually performed based on tire longevity and driver and guest comments.  

Tour success starts with a confident, fun driver!

Colorado Jeep Tours offers great off-road adventures that roll guests through some rugged, beautiful and peaceful areas, taking them to vistas they can’t get to on their own, also driving deep into history, geology and paleontology as well.  And it all starts with the driver guide.  

We give our tour drivers a degree of discretion to personalize or alter their tours and routes a little bit, based on the interests and comfort levels of their guests, as well as their own comfort level with trail and jeep conditions.  Our 5-star rating stems from our success providing tours that peak all sorts of curiosities, not just those of off-road adventure.  Our guests often comment on the depth of information they received that they never would have expected on a jeep tour.  And if you happened to read some of our reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp and Google, you will learn pretty quickly that a good tour driver can really enhance the experience of our guests.  

Consequently, tour drivers are definitely a key to our success, both externally with guests and internally with scheduling and timing, as well as identifying possible trail and vehicle issues as they arise. They are extensively trained in driving our off-road tour routes and trails as well as area history, geology and paleontology, and they follow a well planned blueprint for our tour routes.  Their mission is to help our guests have consistent, informative and fun experiences, keep them on time for their next adventures and keep our jeeps on schedule and ready for their next tours.  

Removing Uncertainty with Cooper Discoverer STT PROtm

There is a lot to juggle for a tour driver.  Every tour includes a number of variables and uncertainties that every driver contends with.  There are differences in guest interests and cultures, vehicle handling, possible inspection and performance issues, and unexpected trail conditions, among others.  The most stressful and uncontrollable of these variables is the unpredictability of trail conditions and whether a jeep is going to be sliding in mud or getting stuck.  Trails are just too remote and there is no way for a driver to know their condition until he or she is out there.  As you can imagine, this uncertainty can affect a guide’s ability to provide a confident tour.  

As fleet manager for Colorado Jeep Tours, it’s my responsibility to look into any concerns our drivers have about our jeeps and our tour routes, and it is very common for them to share their concerns with me.  In previous years, one of the most common driver concerns had to do with the tendency of one of our jeeps in particular to slip on wet, muddy trails or possibly even get stuck on snowy trails.  Since switching to Cooper Discoverer STT tires this spring, those comments have disappeared.       

With the pressures of consistency and being on schedule always so important, the least we as a company can do for our tour drivers – and ultimately our guests – is to remove or minimize as many of those variables as possible and help our drivers stay on schedule and focus on satisfying their guests.  One of the simplest and most important variables – and one that continues to have a huge impact on driver confidence and comfort – is to make sure we have the right tire on our jeeps; a tire that will grip in all conditions so drivers don’t feel pressured to alter their routes.  Cooper Discoverer STT PROs have proven themselves over and over again in our toughest conditions.  The ride and grip of Cooper Discoverer STT PROs have virtually eliminated concerns about safety on our trails, which instills a level of confidence in our drivers that allows them to focus on what really matters, entertaining their guests.

Guests: Curious, cautious and, by the way, very knowledgeable

A jeep tour wouldn’t be a tour at all without our guests!  We request and value their feedback as well.   We get all types of guests on our jeep tours.  They run the gamut from experienced jeepers and off-roaders to those who have no interest in adventure whatsoever, who were convinced by other more adventurous family members to ride along.  Understandably, they all come with different levels of expectation, knowledge and anticipation, and in some cases fear.

The one thing they all have in common, however, is their curiosity about our safari-style jeeps.  On a typical tour day, our guests walk right by a line of jeeps on their way to check in for their tours.  They can start sizing up our jeeps right away and they do.  How big and roomy are they?  Will they be able to see well and take great pictures?  For those prone to motion sickness, can they sit facing forward?   Naturally they have different interests, but the one curiosity most guests seem to have in common is the quality of the tires on the vehicle.  

In general, guests don’t have an interest in how our jeeps may have been modified to handle the trails we drive, with the exception of the cool safari canopy.  Many assume that any jeep is able to go where we go, and without crawling under the vehicle, they can’t see the modifications that were made to the suspension.  The tires, however, are out there for all to see.  And our guests do tend to be very knowledgeable about, and interested in, their quality and tread.  

It is very common for guests to question something that concerns them.  Those afraid of heights often ask how high we’ll be going.  Those who get motion sickness want to sit in the right direction or position and may ask about the size of rocks we’ll be driving over.  It’s natural to question what concerns you.

In my years as a jeep tour driver, however, I have been asked more about the tires we use than any other part of a jeep.  I have had guests question the apparent lack of tread on all-terrain truck tires, looking for reassurance that they will do well on the trails.  I have seen guests run their hands along tires to gauge tread depth.  I have also seen guests watching tires as I drive up rocky switchbacks and ask if they’re going to make it.    

That’s a cool tire!

Since switching to the Cooper Discoverer SSTs, however, questions and concerns about tire quality have completely disappeared.  They are visibly knobby, offer great side wall protection and instill a sense of confidence in our guests and drivers alike.  The only comments I tend to receive now are from jeepers and off-roaders who either admire these tires or wish they had them on their vehicle.  In fact, one recent guest is in the process of building an off-road crawler and is now considering purchasing these for his vehicle, having experienced and watched their grip and traction.    From a customer standpoint, these tires are huge success!

The Longevity Test 

The one test I really couldn’t speak about in my last review was the longevity test.  How long will these tires last?  Since we really just started using them in the spring of this year, we didn’t have the test of time to judge the life of these tires. 

Our tours run on a combination of paved roads, gravel and dirt roads, and jagged, rocky, muddy and snowy off-road trails.  Our experience with most off-road tires we’ve used in the past has been spotty.  They tend not to last.  In fact, one set of off-road tires we purchased in the spring of 2018 didn’t even last a full 2018 season.  That’s an expensive problem to have for a company with multiple jeeps.  

On the contrary, all-terrain tires we’ve used lasted longer and could grip on dry trail surfaces, but they posed a particular safety challenge in wet conditions.  It was a frustrating challenge; we either spend a lot of money replacing off-road tires all too frequently, or we increase safety risk and driver concerns by using tires that can’t grip in our sloppiest of conditions.  We needed a balance!

Cooper Discoverer STT PROtm are billed as offering the balance we needed between road and off-road performance, and the balance between cost and risk.  According to their website, coopertire.com: 

“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.”

Being a tour company, Colorado Jeep Tours does not solely depend on tread depth as a reliable measure of traction and remaining tire life.  In fact, it’s somewhat irrelevant.  In the case of all-terrain tires, experts recommend changing tires at a tread depth of 2/32” (1/16”).  Off-road tires require more grip, so some experts recommend changing them at 4/32” (1/8”) tread depth.  In practice, however, when you have the potential liability and risk of carrying several guests on your jeeps, and the added variable of driver confidence, the need to change tires becomes much more a matter of traction than tread depth.  

Our drivers are the most reliable source of information about our tire performance, and they are good at letting us know when they are beginning to lose traction.  After all, they are experiencing our trails every day, and they are the ones experiencing their traction and monitoring the comfort level of their guests.  So when they talk about traction, we listen and start to look at replacing tires regardless of tread depth.    

In the case of Cooper Discoverer STT PROtm tires, I have not received any comments from our drivers about traction.  And a visual review of the tires shows ample tread depth for potentially another full year of tours.  That, to me, is balance!

Keeping Colorado Jeep Tours Rolling

Having now used them for a full season, I would have to agree with Cooper Tire’s analysis of the Discoverer STT PROtm tires.  These tires are perfect for Colorado Jeep Tours; they do provide remarkable off-road performance without sacrificing on-road traction.  In fact, by changing over to these tires, I would say we have indeed eliminated our most common driver and guest concerns, traction and safety.  

The switch to Cooper Discoverer STT PROtm was definitely a smart move for Colorado Jeep Tours.  The savings in cost alone is very well appreciated, but you cannot put a price on the peace of mind that comes with using reliable tires on unpredictable trail surfaces.  We definitely look forward to using Cooper Discoverer STT PROtm next season as well.