Sand season is just around the corner, do you plan on heading to the dunes? You bet we are! We get asked a lot whether or not beadlock UTV wheels are a required upgrade or just a novelty for the folks with more money than common sense. If you have a hankering for some dune time in the near future, you're going to want to read this post. Want the quick answer, skip to the bottom of the post.
First things first, you need to address the gigantic elephant elephant in the room. Although you have all the intentions of getting to the dunes, is your UTV actually set up correctly to enjoy them? Do you have enough horsepower? Do you know how to air down/up appropriately? Do you own paddles and buffs? What the hell is a buff? We'll answer all of these in our post below, stick around.
So what exactly is the allure to hitting the sand dunes anyway? If you've never mashed your pedal and hit a berm in the wide open playground of some of our nation's amazing dunes, consider yourself missing out. There truly is nothing like the experience of floating above the sand at high speeds. That being said, riding in the sand is incredibly taxing on your UTV and can quickly make one of the best days of your life into one of the worst if you aren't paying attention. The soft and sand forces engines to work much harder than normal to keep the vehicle moving and perpetual uneven terrain will force the vehicle suspension components to work extra hard to keep up.
Before you head out
- Change the oil
- Clean or replace your air filter
- Inspect CVT belt, coolants and suspension
- Invest in quality sand tires
- Get a highly visible whip or safey flag
- UTV Gear List
What are Sand Tires?
No, your worn down all-terrain UTV tires aren't the same as sand tires and YES you need actual sand tires to enjoy yourself in the dunes. Sand tires, especially the rear paddles, give you better acceleration and greater traction which translates to quicker float and higher speeds. Think of your front sand tires as steering and the rear sand paddles for acceleration.
What is the best UTV sand tire?
Unfortunately this is a tricky question to answer but in short, it depends.
- What style of driver are you? Fast, punchy and always taking the hardest line? Or are you more of a slow roller who likes to take breaks and enjoy the scenery? Know what kind of driver you invest in sand tires.
- What kind of machine do you have? Older, lower CC machines need drastically different setups than new/modern machines with high CCs.
- Where are you riding? The sand can vary from powdered sugar to coarse. Make sure you take under consideration the substrate. Is it loose and light? heavy and coarse? wet or dry?
Buffed vs. Molded Sand Tires
Molded sand tires. A molded sand tire follows the traditional UTV tire construction, meaning the surface is smooth and semi-glossy with a satin finish. Although significantly lighter than any standard all-terrain tire, a molded sand tire is still the heaviest option in the world of sand where every ounce matters. Molded tires typically have some kind of tread built in to the mold making molded tires better in corners. Because molded sand tires are manufactured similarly to all other UTV tires, they are typically more affordable than buffed.
Buffed sand tires. All buffed sand tires start out as basic molded tires but undergo a very special process called buffing to remove as much material from the tire as possible. This buffing process sheds tons of weight while also improving overall float but providing the surface of the tire with a textured surface for better grip in straightaways. The extra buffing step, although beneficial, tacks on some serious cost and can make higher end models cost double what a basic molded tire costs.
Paddle Sand Tires
How many paddles do I need? You quickly learn that paddles come in a variety of counts: 8, 10, 12, even 14+. Choosing the right amount of paddles depends on how much power your machine has. New and modern machines with turbos that exceed 1000 will need more paddles while lower CC machines will need less paddles.
Just because there are paddles with tons of paddles doesn't mean you actually need them. You have to find a balance between not enough and too many to ensure that when starting your machine from a stop in sand, you don't dig yourself a hole instead of moving forward. Paddles dig, so inherently you'll have to consider how much digging you want vs how much acceleration you need to get on top of the sand from a complete stop.
Although the perfect tire does exist for your exact setup, the myriad of options are far too vast to list them all here. We recommend calling a local shop near where you plan to ride and ask them what they recommend, they are the experts.
The first thing you do when you unload your UTV for dune riding is to immediately drop your air pressure... like, a lot. Most people recommend 3-5 psi which is ridiculously low compared to the recommended 12-15 psi on normal trail riding. Running 3-5 psi on your sand kit expands the tire footprint (contact patch) drastically improving how much of your tire is in contact with the sand. The more contact, the more traction you'll have to propel yourself forward. By dropping your PSI, you unfortunately open yourself up to a new can of worms; Will you pop a tire bead. Quick Solution: get beadlock UTV wheels. But, do you NEED them?
Do I need beadlock UTV wheels for sand
The quick answer is, No. Most drivers and their UTVs aren't going to push the limits enough to warrant the need for a beadlock. Folks have been doing the desert rat life for decades, riding all sorts of contraptions in the sand. You'll notice that while basic UTVs may or may not have beadlock wheels, sand rails ALWAYS have them. Consider what kind of CC's your pushing out and what kind of driver you are before you pull the trigger on beadlock wheels. No, not EVERYONE needs beadlock UTV wheels, no matter what your local forum or social media influencer says.
As you move up the food chain to more modern UTVs like the Polaris Pro R and Can-AM Maverick R, you will 100% need beadlock UTV wheels. The lateral pressure of the sand pushing against your tire and incredibly high speeds will inevitably force a tire bead to pop.