Jimny Fever: Part Two
June was weeding the spade-deep tomato beds she had prepared in the tunnel house several weeks ago, the soil warm and slightly damp to the touch, The plants still in the sunroom window, and grown from last year’s kept seed, a leggy, leafy plantation on a tray. The tunnel house is warm enough at night now, and the tomato seedlings once planted out and freed from the suffocating rub of neighbours and the root limiting sides and base of small pots, will bulk up, stems strong and long, multiple arms stretched wide, roots deep.
I’d tracked her down to get a verdict on the new tyres’ performance on dry roads: the first outing for the all-terrains I’d purchased from Auckland’s Hyper Drive tyre company and that Carter’s Tyres in Fairlie had fitted and balanced for us.
Jimny owners wanting some serious off-road action combined with a cool looking 4×4 will often sit the body on bigger, considerably heavier tyres with rugged treads; the most popular option for an otherwise factory spec, non-modified late model Jimny is the wider 215/75R15s. But I’ve read several accounts of an up to10% drop in performance – so much so that a once peppy car round town was now verging on sluggish, open road speeds took longer to reach and allowance needed to be made for the differences when cornering, overtaking and braking. The fourth generation Jimny boasts a 200 cc bigger engine than previous generations, but its 1500 cc engine (non-turbocharged) puts on a good on-road performance only when the loads kept on the light side. (It’s a mere tonne when empty and can only safely be loaded with another 400 kg.)
The temptation is still there though – part of me wants to conform to what 4×4 culture has deemed ‘necessary’ aftermarket accessories and modifications. I’d like to be able to say that I’ll never succumb to temptation – fondling fatter tyres, stroking snorkels, caressing bull bars. But what do they say? “Never say never!”
At least this time round, I felt I was making a rational decision! My mission was to find tyres that didn’t detrimentally affect its on-road performance, while at the same time improving its “off-road chops”. I also wanted the speedo to remain accurate, the gearing to be unaffected, and to keep to a minimum any increase in unsprung weight, fuel consumption and road noise.
So, after reading the manufacturer’s guff, several techy and customer reviews, and noting that two Jimnys for sale on Trade Me were sporting the tyres I was considering, I decided to replace the factory 195/80R15 H/T (highway-terrain) tyres with Yokohama Geolander GO15 A/T (all-terrain) tyres of the same size but 2 kg heavier. (The treads have an extra 4 mm of rubber depth, there’s more rubber on the sidewalls for protection and more reinforcing in general. Still, a very modest increase in weight compared to the bigger alternatives.)
Last Friday was the day of reckoning. We were taking June’s mum, who’d been staying with us for the better part of two weeks, as far as Methven, to meet up with June’s sister Karen who would then drive mum back to her home in Christchurch. With three adults and Joyce’s luggage, and with her walker secured to the bike rack, we were sufficiently loaded up to need to bump the rear tyre pressures up 3 psi to the recommended 29, while keeping the front tyres at 26.
June was in the driving seat for the 2-hour drive to Methven, her mum the front seat passenger and me in the back. There were plenty of opportunities for June to compare and contrast the feel of the two sets of tyres on the dry tarmac and gravel roads we encountered: the 2 km of shingle from our gate to Highway 79; the slow wind and climb over Mt Michael; the sometimes unpredictable cambers and undulations as you snake up and over and down for long stretches of the half hour plus journey to Geraldine; tarmac on the straights aplenty along the ‘Inland Scenic Route’; potholes to avoid and 30 km/hr crawls to traverse road works; a lengthy detour along a corrugated but thickly shingled road; 50 km/hr small towns with their fair share of stops and starts.
So, this intrepid interviewer, phone notepad and Samsung S-Pen in hand, tracked her down to the tunnel house where she was weeding the tomato beds, and asked for her considered verdict.
“Definitely some differences,” she said. “Smoothed out a lot of the rough stuff. I could travel at a faster speed on the shingle without feeling it was jumping about. Felt solid on the tarmac – certainly wasn’t any worse. Honestly, I couldn’t hear any difference in road noise. Some of that diversion we had to do – a smoother ride. Overall, seemed better even though they weren’t road tyres.”
As there were just the two of us for the journey home, I aired down the rear tyres to the recommended 26 psi – same as the front. That done, and me in the driving seat this time, I had to agree with June. (What a relief – in all sorts of ways!) Even fuel consumption, at a glance at the gauge, seemed pretty much the same.
Overall, plenty good enough for a one car couple that’ll be driving 80 percent on-road and 20 percent off-road.
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.