A bead lock is a safety feature for tires that’s primarily used in off-road racing, especially four-wheel drive vehicles. Several designs are available, depending on the particular type of vehicle and its drive train. The Trail Ready Beadlock Wheel is a highly-rated brand of bead lock specifically designed for competitive racing; but does it deserve your hard earned money? Let’s lock it down.
A tire bead is the edge of the tire that’s placed against the wheel rim. Air pressure inside the tire pushes the tire bead against the inside of the rim when the tire is inflated. This air pressure combined with the soft rubber of modern tires is normally sufficient to keep the tires in place. However, tires can easily separate from the wheel under extreme conditions such as off-road racing. A bead lock prevents tire separation by mechanically securing the tire bead to the rim, rather than just relying on air pressure to perform this function.
Bead locks were introduced on military trucks shortly after World War II, and the military currently uses Trail Ready Beadlock Wheels on its special operations off-road vehicles. Marsh Racing Wheels manufactured the first bead locks for racing in 1980 after testing them for years. Several specific designs of modern bead locks are currently available, depending on the type of vehicle. A bead lock made for a car or truck is a metal ring with 16 to 32 holes around its circumference. Bolts are then placed into these holes to clamp the tire to the wheel. Motorcycle bead locks are more precisely known as bead stoppers or rim locks. These devices are curved plates that are held in place by a single bolt.
Bead locks help prevent the tire from dislodging during hard cornering, and they also reduce the possibility of it slipping off the rim during high acceleration and braking. These functions are especially helpful for racing on dirt tracks, where tires must be under inflated to increase traction on loose surfaces. The tires used for dirt racing have coarse treads, but it’s still necessary to increase the contact surface by reducing the air pressure in the tires.
However, under inflation creates a safety hazard since the air pressure may not be sufficient to keep the tire on the wheel by itself. The forces pushing the tire to the side of the wheel are greatest during cornering, especially on the rear outside tire. The rear tires have greater stress because they’re pushing the truck and the outside tires have more stress because the truck’s weight shifts to the outside during cornering. Under inflated tires are also more likely to overheat due to the increased friction with the ground.
Even with bead locks, tires can still slip on the rims without coming off the wheel. This can occur when the traction between the tire and the ground is greater than the friction between the rim and the tire.
The Trail Ready Beadlock Wheel Features
The Trail Ready Beadlock mounts to the outside of the tire bead on one side of the wheel. The package also includes a set of beads that you can place inside the tire well. These beads settle in thin spots on the tire, thus improving its balance. This bead lock uses 24 mounting bolts that should be fastened in a crisscross pattern to distribute their tension evenly. Trail Ready bead locks also have a locking ring that overlaps the wheel for additional security. A flat tire won’t damage these parts. Take a look at the image below, from TR Beadlock Wheels Facebook page, which shows their high quality materials; it speaks for itself.
TR Racer Brian Shirley of Lucky Dog racing demonstrates the advantage of a US made cast wheel. Our wheels are counter-pressure cast at nearly twice the pressure of the imports resulting in a part that shares some strength characteristics with forged wheels. Brian killed this wheel running a whole race lap on a flat tire, then hammered it back into shape, keeping it for a spare. Try this with a China wheel and you’ll need a bag for all the pieces. Thanks for the photo Brian.
– TR Beadlock Wheels
Bead-lock wheels are generally designed for high performance and durability, since they’re often used in racing. The Trail Ready Beadlock Wheel is especially capable of handling almost any condition, including heavy off-roading. It can perform well on many off-road surfaces such as dirt tracks, rocks and deserts without compromising ride comfort on paved roads. They’re also available in a particularly wide variety of colors, sizes and styles. These are just some of the reasons that Trail Ready Beadlock Wheels are the first choice of competitive off-road racers, and should be considered when looking to spend those hard earned dollars.
All photos credit to: TR Beadlock Wheels Facebook Page