A tremendous tyre adventure in the Transkei

General Tire’s Grabber is one of the country’s most popular all-terrain tyres. Now the company has introduced a new version, which is aimed squarely at the overlanding market. To prove its off-roading chops a group of journalists recently set off on an awesome trip through the Transkei and Anton Willemse Jnr went along for the ride.

When my dad bought his first double cab bakkie back in 2015, he decided on a Toyota Hilux D-4D Legend 45. The first thing he did was to change the tyres to General Grabber AT3’s which were, at the time, highly underrated. It turned out to be a great choice and we have been recommending the brand to overlanders ever since. So, you can imagine how excited I was when General Tire invited me on a what they billed as an #AnywhereIsPossible adventure to Transkei, for the reveal of its all-new ATX tyre.

It was late-afternoon, when I boarded a flight to East London, alongside a few motoring scribes. I had only been to the Eastern Cape once before, and had never been to Transkei or East London. I couldn’t wait to find out what adventures awaited us. At the East London International Convention Centre, we were ushered into a room with a fabulous ocean view. After a meet and greet, we were briefed on what to expect on the trip and it became clear that three days of great fun, heaps of banter and an extraordinary adventure lay ahead.

Beautiful and barren Transkei

During the briefing we were informed that the driving plan had been changed slightly. Instead of crossing the Kei River mouth on the first day, we had to take a detour as the river was in flood. However, we were unphased since – according to my more mature travel companions, at least – the majesty of the Eastern Cape lies in the fact that the surrounding area is a barren and beautiful wilderness. They did not lie – I lost my heart with each passing kilometre… We were still only on the N2, carving our way through the mountains, parallel to the Indian Ocean.

While travelling on the smooth and slightly damp N2, my co-driver, Charl Bosch, noted how exceptionally well the new ATX performed on tar. It was then that I realised that there was virtually no road noise. I later learned that this was thanks to General Tire’s acoustic tread pattern. The multi-pitch design provides a quiet and comfortable on-road driving experience while also offering exceptional off-road grip. The ATX also has an absorption layer under the tread, which isolates the vehicle from road disturbances for a more pleasant ride.

After a comfortable and quiet cruise on the N2, we found a bit of gravel, and this is where the Transkei – one of the most beautiful biomes in South Africa – really started revealing its beauty. The rivers flowing into the warm Indian
Ocean create some glorious river forests, surrounded by vast grasslands. These grasslands spread across rolling hills and over tremendous dark grey cliffsides. There are clusters of aloes scattered everywhere and as you travel over these
beautiful rolling hills; you suddenly spot the ocean peeking over the crest. Just when I thought that I had seen all the beauty southern Africa has to offer, the Transkei surprised and delighted me. It is a truly gorgeous area!

After travelling a short distance on the gravel with tyres at 2 bar, we stopped to deflate them slightly. Even at optimum road pressure they performed solidly on the rough surface though, providing a relatively comfortable ride despite the pressures being wrong for the situation. However, once deflated, the tyres really came into their own. We were driving an Isuzu D-Max, which has one of the best standard suspensions on the market. With that being said, a lot of what
determines the quality of vehicle’s ride is the tyres. The General Grabber ATX has one of the best sidewalls currently on the market. The LT (light truck) construction has enough flex to absorb harsh conditions while supporting the weight of the cargo and passengers. The ATX also has white lettering on the tyre, which gives it additional aesthetic appeal. When we stopped for lunch at Mazeppa Bay, I enjoyed staring at the Isuzus with their ATX tyres almost as much as I enjoyed the views of the ocean and coastline.

After lunch we headed toward our final destination for the day, the Wavecrest Hotel. Before that, though, we went to marvel at a beautiful waterfall nestled in a valley running to the coast. It was in the middle of nowhere, and it was simply stunning. After a fantastic day filled with incredible scenery, fun driving and heaps of fun, we arrived at the hotel, and after some downtime, we met for drinks and enjoyed the sun setting over the Indian Ocean.

Your link between turf and machine

We were up bright and early on the third day and, if the driver briefing was anything to go by, we were in for some truly hardcore and technical sections. The fun started almost immediately as we meandered down a valley toward a river slicing through the Transkei. We descended through the river forest over some sharp and very menacing-looking rocks. Today I was piloting an Isuzu D-Max fitted with AT3 tyres. Both the ATX and the AT3 are designed for good performance on tar as well as off-road. That became abundantly clear after the first few obstacles. I did not struggle with traction once, nor did I feel that the tyres were near failure. I made a mistake that, with some other tyres, would have cost me a side wall. However, the LT construction protected me from my mistakes and gave me the confidence to tackle the rather harsh conditions.

The road became increasingly daunting as we cruised along, but the scenery also got more beautiful. I was filled with a sense of gratitude every time I crossed a river or climbed a hill because I saw beaches, cliffs and scenery reserved only for people willing to take the road less travelled; people who love overlanding and adventure. And through all of it, the tyres performed immaculately. The previous evening General Tire’s Ryan Visagie spoke of the importance of choosing the correct tyre. The tyres are your vehicle’s only link to the road surface. As we were going through some very challenging and muddy sections, I grasped the importance of this statement. I am convinced that overcoming these technical sections wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t been on ATX and AT3 tyres.

As we continued to explore the Transkei, we got closer and closer to the main event of the day: the crossing of the Great Kei River. As the pontoon was not ready yet, we stopped for a milkshake and a quick walk on the beach first. I had done a river crossing on a pontoon before, but not on this scale. The river was in flood, and at the crossing point it was at least 400m wide. We then headed to the Morgans Bay Hotel, which sits right by the seaside, overlooking the Indian Ocean.

The day’s challenges were far from over, though. When we arrived at the hotel, we were ushered to the dining area immediately and there, waiting for us, was a table full of ingredients. We were tasked with making snacks for our hosts in a MasterChef-type challenge. My driving partner and I had a slow start, but before we knew it, our snacks were ready to be served. I must admit we didn’t do a great job with the aesthetics, but we were confident that it would be edible…
Well, we hoped! Turns out, based on feedback from our fellow adventurers and judges, it was rather tasty!

After our MasterChef session, we drove up to the picturesque Morgans Bay Cliffs. We parked on the cliffside, marking the end of our amazing journey through the Transkei. Cameras and cellphones out, we captured the incredible beauty
before heading back to the hotel for the evening’s festivities. Our incredible #AnywhereIsPossible adventure had come to a swift end, but we were left with memories that will last a lifetime. Cheers Transkei, and well done General Tire –
anywhere is indeed possible!

More about the ATX

The General Grabber ATX is a 50/50 split on-road/off-road tyre. It is a great alternative to the popular and award-winning General Grabber AT3 and was designed with overlanders in mind.

Comfort balance technology
The tyre utilises an acoustic tread pattern with a multi-pitch design that allows it to operate quietly and comfortably, without compromising its off-road grip. The tread of the tyre is also cushioned. It has an absorption layer beneath the track, isolating the vehicle from road disturbances and allowing for a more comfortable and pleasant ride.

StabiliTread technology
The General Grabber ATX utilises a robust tread compound which ensures good performance both on the road and off, while at the same time protecting the tyre from cuts and chips. A key difference between the AT3 and the ATX is the optimised pattern stiffness and the flatter tread profile of the latter. This minimises wear-causing distortion in the footprint, while the flatter profile allows for even pressure distribution to provide good comfort and confident handling

DURANGEN technology
The robust compound of the tyre prevents cuts and chips while also extending the lifespan. The tyre design also has a broad and flat contour, providing a wide, flat footprint that promotes even wear across the tread. In addition to the compound and design, the ATX also features ultra-high strength steel belts. This allows for exceptional penetration resistance and even footprint pressure for stability under approved load conditions.

Additional off-road features
The General Grabber ATX features more aggressive traction notches, which allow for additional grip on dirt and loose surfaces. The grip is further improved by the five-row tread pattern. In addition, the ATX boasts large shoulder blocks, which allow the tyre to support heavy loads. The tread pattern has stone bumpers to help release rocks and debris from between the notches and aid the tyre’s self-cleaning mechanism.

Off-shoulder technical features
The off-shoulder tyre utilises alternating shoulder scoops, which open up a large gripping area for additional grip on rocks and hard edges. The off-shoulder also features stacked deflection ribs to protect the upper sidewall area against penetration by deflecting obstacles away from the tyre body. Sidewall protection lugs provide additional protection. These large pads alternate in and out to provide extra side grip for extreme off-roading while at the same time protecting the tyre body from damage.

*To find your nearest dealer, visit http://www.generaltire.co.za

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