The X3 Is the tire of choice for overland travel
West Africa. Those two words alone can send shivers down the spine of even the hardiest traveler. After a half-decade-long tour of the Americas, my family and I found ourselves in Portugal, preparing for a one-year journey from Southern Europe to Southern Africa via one of the most challenging and feared routes in the world. It was essential that the vehicle be prepared impeccably as a critical failure in the remote regions of Nigeria, The Ivory Coast, or The Congo may well spell disaster.
I had been running mud terrain tires on the Land Rover Defender for a number of years, and there was a very good reason for this – we had circumnavigated South America, which included a solo crossing of the Amazon rain forest, in the wet season and have spent years in the tropics.
As I was preparing the Defender for Africa, a friend reached out to me and suggested that we change to the General Tire X3 for the journey. I say suggested, but he actually insisted and had a set of 285/75 R16 sent to us! His name is Billy, and I am forever in his debt.
Nearly a year after leaving Europe, we arrived in South Africa exhausted, scrawny, and needing a few months of recovery. We had suffered bouts of Malaria, and endless tropical flu, were very nearly kidnapped after a murder in Nigeria, and had pushed ourselves to the limit.
The Land Rover had not fared better; the gearbox had suffered a critical failure in Cameroon, a half shaft had imploded in The Ivory Coast, we suffered incurable electrical gremlins since Guinea Bissau, the vehicle ground to a halt in The Congo, and the cooling system was in desperate need of an overhaul.
The X3s, however, were absolutely amazing! We had driven 20,000 miles across every type of terrain imaginable, from the Sahara Desert to the wet highlands of Nigeria, Equatorial jungles, and the deserts of Namibia. The most challenging surface of them all was the endless potholed roads, roads built back in colonial times and allowed to crumble ever since. For thousands of miles, we would drive in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear, swerving and trying to avoid slamming into groups of potholes. Often we would be relieved when the paved road ended as we would instead bounce along a muddy track than subject the vehicle and tires to endless abuse.
Despite all of the abuse, we were astonished by the excellent condition of the General Tire X3s when we arrived in South Africa. We had not suffered a single puncture, the sidewalls were perfect, and the tread was still thick, sharp, and chunky! Unbelievable. I truly believe we could have driven up to Europe and back down again on the same set of tires. The tires performed excellently in the wet, on paved roads, in the dunes, the jungles, and the rocky desert; it is a superb all-rounder. Of all the many things that went wrong, the tires never let us down and were reliable.
Since the West Africa journey, we explored Southern and East Africa, crossed the USA, and drove across Central America in the wet season; our tire of choice? You guessed it, the General Tire X3!
Graeme Bell is the Senior Editor 4WD for Overland Journal and Expedition Portal and a Member of the prestigious Explorer’s Club. Together he, his wife, and two children have traveled five continents extensively for more than a decade. They have no permanent address.