Blacklion Guide to Off-Road Driving in the Middle East

High-quality tyres become even more important when you go off the road. They must be durable, stable and resistance to extreme conditions. Hitting the sand dunes with skinny worn road tyres can only lead to getting stuck. All-terrain tyres have larger grooves and thicker shoulder blocks, as the conditions require more traction than the asphalt.

Whether dunes or wadis or simply bumping across the desert, the most important piece of equipment you need is a good set of tyres. A high-performance SUV can only perform to its potential when it is supported by the appropriate tyres. An entry-level SUV can still make off-road adventures if it has been fitted with all-terrain performance tyres.

Off road, it may just be two or three tyres keeping you fixed to the ground

Important Performance Features of All-Terrain SUV Tyres

Tyres are all that is connecting your vehicle to the road. But when you go off road, it may just be two or three tyres keeping you fixed to the ground. Always check the Load Index rating when purchasing off-road tyres, ensuring it is suitable for your heavy SUV. Good all-terrain tyres have special compounds that reinforce the sidewall, helping them support more weight and conquer off-road challenges.

All tyres have different tread pattern designs. Large shoulder block designs enhance handling on rocky surfaces; a variable groove shoulder helps to reduce impact and shock; shield-type designs help to make a tyre puncture resistant. You might not need all these features. For example, Blacklion’s M871 Voracio is engineered for extreme off-road driving, while the BC86 Voracio combines off-road capability with efficient performance on the road.

As soon as you leave the asphalt your tyres will start to deteriorate quicker. The tread wears thin. And tread is something you need a lot of when going off road. Every tyre has an international treadwear grading, an indication of the tyre’s durability. When sticking to the road a treadwear score of 300 or 420 would be okay and help to improve your fuel efficiency. When regularly going off the road the treadwear rating should be in excess of 500.

Preparing Your Vehicle for Off-Road Driving

Make a systematic vehicle check standard before every off-road adventure. Even on a short sunset journey into the dunes you should be prepared for the worse. Check:

  • The condition of the tyres, looking for cuts, bulges or damage.
  • Engine oil level.
  • Water level in the cooling system.
  • Fuel. You should always start with a full tank.
  • Equipment

Reduce your Tyre Pressure for Off-Road Middle East Driving

Wherever you drive, the weight of your car is divided across the part of the tyre that is connected to the ground. When driving off road you want to spread the weight as far as possible. This theory applies to wadi bashing, dune bashing and any other off-road adventure.

Tyre Pressure for Dune Bashing

First consider driving on sand. Imagine if the weight of your car was balancing on a single narrow tyre: the car would quickly sink into the sand. The larger your tyre’s footprint, the more of its surface is connecting to the ground, spreading the weight and stopping you for sinking.

As soon as you hit the sand, reduce your tyre pressure.

Fitting large SUV tyres and decreasing the tyre pressure allows you to float over the sand, instead of digging trenches with the wheels. The recommended pressure will depend on your tyres, vehicle and personal preferences. As a general guide:

  • Large 4x4 vehicles – 18 psi
  • Small 4x4 vehicles – 16 psi
  • Emergency driving – 14 psi

Deflating crossover tyres any lower could cause damage to the tyre. However, dedicated off-road tyres are specially reinforced so you can deflate to an even lower pressure.

Tyre Pressure for Wadi Bashing and Rocky Off-Road Driving

When wadi bashing or traversing rocky surfaces, your tyres will bump against rocks and sharp stones. If the tyre is fully inflated, the rubber is stretched tighter. This makes it easier for a stone or rock to cut or puncture the tyre. Reduce your tyre pressure a few psi and the tyre becomes more flexible, which enables the tyre to absorb impact more effectively.

With more of the tyre connected to the ground you’ll also retain stability when driving over uneven terrain. Rather than bumping around, you’ll travel smoothly and retain traction. However, driving with a deflated tyre pressure uses more fuel. So remember to re-inflate when you are back on the road.

Middle East Dune Bashing Driving Tips

It’s hard to own an SUV and not feel the pull of the desert: soaring across dunes, racing through sand, exploring a realm that other vehicles can’t reach. Here are our easy tips for maximising the adventure when you go off road.

Reading the sand is essential to maximising adventure

Always Drive Together

With all serious off-road adventures you should drive in convoy, with at least two vehicles. Going alone is not only dangerous, it limits the fun; if you get stuck in the dunes a friend’s vehicle can tow you out.

Recommended Equipment for Middle East Dune Bashing

The following equipment is easy to find in stores and garages across the Middle East.

  • Tyre gauge – correct tyre pressure is essential to dune bashing
  • Compact air compressor – so you can re-inflate when returning to the road
  • Long-handled shovel – you may need to dig yourself out
  • Jacking plate – this prevents your jack from sinking into soft ground
  • Recovering tow strap or snatch strap – so your friend can pull you out. Look for one with one with a minimum breaking strain of 2,500kg.
  • Traction mats or recovery boards – so your tyres can generate grip after getting stuck

Reading the Sand

With the correct equipment and the right tyres you can journey into the unknown. Without road signs and warnings, reading the sand is essential to maximising the adventure. Glance at the desert and you’ll see different colours and patterns, each with their own message to you.

A rippled surface indicates harder sand, where you’ll get firmer traction. Lose sand gathers in the hollow between dunes, soft and powdery with little grip. Paler yellow sand is coarser and easier to drive on than fine grains of golden red sand.

Crescent-shaped dunes are topped with an overhanging peak which will disintegrate under the weight of a vehicle; stopping on the top of one is the classic way of getting stuck.

Momentum

The key to driving in the Middle East sand dunes is to maintain your momentum. Finding a balance between traction and momentum is the great skill to dune bashing. When you’re moving, the weight of the vehicle is spread further, so you coast over the sand. As soon as you stop, the weight is concentrated: not a problem on the road, but a danger in the dunes.

In the desert you’ll need to stop regularly, mostly to read the sand ahead and plan your approach. Always stop on firm sand, in a place you can start from. When on the sand dunes, drive straight up and down. Turning the wheel on a tune is never recommended, as it can cause you to roll or get stuck. Keep your momentum when, moving forward at an even pace, usually with your vehicle in a lower gear at higher revs. This is especially important when driving uphill. Take the momentum from the downslope into the upslope, coasting or gliding over the sand.