Ride-and-drive events usually draw a crowd at outdoor farm shows. The ride-and-drive event that let visitors climb aboard large tractors equipped with a single wide tire instead of duals was very popular at the 2016 Farm Progress Show.
“We’ve got a new concept tire, but you really have to see it in action to appreciate it,” a spokesperson at the Titan Tire exhibit inside the showgrounds told me. I normally stay inside the grounds. Going outside the gates to the ride-and-drive area takes extra time. Fortunately, I had most of my assigned area covered and had unearthed dozens of new products. What the heck? If they were this pumped about a tire, maybe I should go see it.
So they carted me off to the demonstration area. Scott Sloan, ag product manager for Titan International, was showing potential customers the new tire in action. He was hopping on and off tractors, each time letting a visitor actually drive the tractor.
Driving is believing
All the fuss was about a super-wide tire for the LSW Series. The John Deere 9 Series 9470R articulated four-wheel-drive tractor I was eyeing was equipped with four LSW 1400/30 R46 Titan tires. You can’t buy them — at least not yet.
"LSW stands for low sidewall," Sloan explained. The reason for building a super-wide tire is to replace duals in the biggest tractor applications. The goal is to provide a smoother ride and more flotation than can be achieved with a typical set of duals on each axle. Since these aren’t row-crop tractors, per se, extra tire width doesn’t matter. These tractors are used for the biggest, toughest jobs where lots of horsepower is needed to pull tillage tools or complete other tasks.
“Climb aboard,” Sloan invited. So I did, and he joined me. I was in the driver’s seat. After a 30-second lesson on gears and such, I started off. It didn’t take long for me to realize that for such a big tractor, it was a smooth ride.
“It’s like riding on air,” I said, almost without thinking. Sloan laughed.
“We get that a lot when people drive it for the first time,” he said. “It feels like you’re just gliding along."
You might not want to hire me to drive your biggest four-wheel drive just yet. When I backed the tractor into the parking spot after the drive, it was a bit jerky. But it wasn’t because of the tractor or the tires. I had never operated an articulated tractor that big before.
This particular tire isn’t on the market yet. Sloan noted there were still some things to tweak in the design before the tire would be ready to go to farmers’ fields.
“We wanted people to see what we are working on,” he said. “We feel it’s pretty exciting.”
It’s exciting indeed. Keep your eye on this one!