Conversations with Big Rich

Tire guy, Jeff Cummings shares tremendous knowledge and insight on Episode 155

March 23, 2023 Guest Jeff Cummings Season 3 Episode 155
Conversations with Big Rich
Tire guy, Jeff Cummings shares tremendous knowledge and insight on Episode 155
Show Notes Transcript

Tire guy, Jeff Cummings, is a great storyteller; it must have been a prerequisite at BFG – listen in as he shares some great insight on tires and life. From Wisconsin farmer to Baja Pro, Jeff brings life to every story. Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

2:34 – My grandfather probably qualified as the Farmer in the Dell

14:00– you’d put a paint stripe where the rubber started and where it ended and then initial it so you got credit

27:18 – Lord, it was painful, you had these Robert’s Rules of Order, and you couldn’t really talk unless you understood all of those things 

43:13 – “that kid’s too stupid to sell tires”

54:46 – “you know, you do some things that really irritate folks, but as long as I don’t catch you sitting still, I can cover up any of your ills.”

1:10:43 – “what do you know about rockcrawling? …she proceeded to let me know, Goodyear is winning everything there and I want you to stop that”

1:30:34 – the best tire in the world misapplied is a piece of crap

2:05:54 – I either credit or blame Rod Hall with my move to Nevada

Special thanks to 4low Magazine for support and sponsorship of this podcast.

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.


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[00:00:00.860] - Big Rich Klein

Welcome to Conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviewed are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talk to past, present, and future legends, as well as business owners, employees, media, and land use warriors. Men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle we call offroad. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active in offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world that we live and love and call offroad.


[00:00:46.400] - Big Rich Klein

On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have the infamous Jeff Cummings. This is Jeff from BFG Michelin in the tire industry that I know of over 40 years. I can't wait to hear all of his stories and who he's worked with and what life has been like on the asphalt and in the dirt. Jeff, thank you so much for coming on board and being part of conversations with Big Rich.


[00:01:15.430] - Jeff Cummings

Well, I guess it's about time. You bug me long enough and I'm finally sitting still. So you got me.


[00:01:23.140] - Big Rich Klein

Perfect. Everybody kept asking me, So when are you getting Jeff on? When are you getting Jeff on? And it's when we saw each other at the Aramhoff Inductee dinner and you said, Yeah, I guess it's about time. And then I gave you a call and you had time. So it was really good. Thank you.


[00:01:45.060] - Jeff Cummings

Well, persistence pays off.


[00:01:46.750] - Big Rich Klein

I guess. Oh, yeah. Hopefully, it pays off with some others, too. I got to bug the hell out of people, but hey, it's fun. So let's get started and let's find out where you were born and raised.


[00:02:01.870] - Jeff Cummings

Well, I was born and raised in central Wisconsin. Grew up outside of a sprawling metropolis called endeavor, Wisconsin, but we didn't live in town because we couldn't deal with the congestion. That was about 300 people. P art of early on, I discovered that I really liked living on a farm, but I didn't like working on a farm. There's a real big difference there.


[00:02:29.340] - Big Rich Klein

What were you guys... As a kid, what were your parents farming?


[00:02:34.430] - Jeff Cummings

Well, my grandfather, at one point in time, had the second largest poultry operation in the country. I remember as a kid on vacation one year, going to the LA farmer's market and seeing poultry that had come out of my grandfather's operation. So we had a little bit of everything. My other grandfather would have probably qualified as a farmer in the Delta because there was everything from sheep to pigs to goats to cows to you name it. He had it and raised it. But man, what an awful lot of work.


[00:03:18.480] - Big Rich Klein

What age did you start helping or having chores at the farm?


[00:03:25.060] - Jeff Cummings

Oh, man, probably about as early as I can remember. My father had this you're eating, you're working approach to things.


[00:03:33.290] - Big Rich Klein

Well, that's good. We could probably use more of that nowadays.


[00:03:39.700] - Jeff Cummings

As much as I hated it then, it was absolutely invaluable because you're right, if the world operated on the you want to eat, you ought to be doing some work. And there's a lot of different scales of work, but doing something productive with your time, that was a pretty important lesson from the entire family. My mother likes to joke about the fact that my father built a gas station due to the fact that it was pretty apparent that farming wasn't going to be my calling, but decided, Okay, well, I'm going to build this gas station, and that'll keep me busy about 18 hours a day working there. From that point on, the beauty of growing up living on a farm is you got to drive stuff at a really early age. With the programs that I've been doing for quite a number of years at work, I'm dumbfounded by the folks that have no idea why there's three pedals in a vehicle. I'm not exactly certain, but I believe between me and my next youngest brother, we learned how to drive a manual transmission at ages seven and eight. Although it was a pretty easy deal because it was a 49 F 100 with a granny gear.


[00:05:14.010] - Jeff Cummings

So it was pretty easy to get to the pretty easy to learn that clutch operation at a pretty early age and live on a farm as long as you could drive something from point A to point B and get it hooked up to a trailer properly, you got to drive stuff. So that was pretty cool. Got me started dealing with that stuff.


[00:05:37.520] - Big Rich Klein

I know some people that have grown up on farms. One, she had a chicken as a pet when she was younger. And even though they raised chickens, I think they were... I don't think it was a big operation, but she won't eat chicken. Is there anything off the farm you won't eat?


[00:05:59.920] - Jeff Cummings



[00:06:00.660] - Big Rich Klein

Not. Perfect. You didn't name any of them, right?


[00:06:06.470] - Jeff Cummings

I wasn't big into the cattle end of things as my younger siblings were. I recall getting this lecture, me and my two younger brothers, as we were about to have our first meal from my little sister's prize heifer. And around the dinner table, it was, You clowns don't say anything about what we're about to eat. And I don't know, about halfway through dinner that night, my little sister says, Wow, clementine is really good. And my mother was like, Oh, my God. My baby is like the rest of the of this brood that I've got here. So a lot of things got named. There was a reason they were being raised. A lot of people don't understand that. It was just the environment that I grew up in. It doesn't mean that you're going to have any less respect for that animal or treat that animal any more poorly. I watched my little sister feed that animal out of her hand for a while, but time has come. We raised you to eat you.


[00:07:44.740] - Big Rich Klein

There you go. That's another good life lesson. If you're not on the right side of the food chain, you get eaten.


[00:07:56.370] - Jeff Cummings

Yeah. The people that... Oh, it's cruel to those animals. I think most of the people that are much closer to it take great care of those animals, whether they're moved or not, to make certain that they get the outcome they want. It's one of those things that boggles my tiny little brain. But nevertheless, that's the background that I had. The cool thing about growing up on the farm, like I say, is there was stuff to drive and places to drive. My mother was reminding people the other night when she was out here of... When I came home with my first car, she was trying to decide whether I was 11 or 12, but I had bought this car from an older brother of a kid I was going to school with for $50. They were quite horrified when I came wheeling down the road in it. But living out where we did, it wasn't like there was a big time traffic. It was a $50 car, which I proceeded to take apart and go racing around the fields and doing... Getting my butt chewed for running over alfalfa or any variety of other things that were attempting to grow up there.


[00:09:15.910] - Big Rich Klein

What was the thing you hated to do most on the farm? One particular chore.


[00:09:24.160] - Jeff Cummings

Putting up hay.


[00:09:26.730] - Big Rich Klein



[00:09:27.810] - Jeff Cummings

Putting up hay. And my grandfather wasn't a big guy. He wasn't a tiny guy either. But he would whip those bales around like it was nothing. And I was in reasonably good shape as a kid was on the wrestling team, stuff like that. It'd kick my ass. He'd be out there all day in 90 % humidity, 90 degree heat. He'd go at it all day long. And after about an hour, I was...


[00:10:04.660] - Big Rich Klein

Had that old man strength.


[00:10:07.420] - Jeff Cummings

Oh, buddy. Well, he also knew what he was doing. I managed to get out of that by the time I finally realized there's different ways of tossing that stuff around. I wasn't the sharpest pencil in the box when it came to applying any amount of, I want to learn to do that better because I really hated to do it. I figured out that you didn't want to be real good at something you didn't want to do again.


[00:10:35.390] - Big Rich Klein

Shelly has that philosophy. She'll do something and I'm like, All right, just stop. I'll take over. S he smiles and walks off. One day, she told me, she goes, I always realized that if there's something I really don't want to do, if you're not very good at it, people won't ask you to do it. I'm like, Oh, I see. Okay, yeah.


[00:11:01.800] - Jeff Cummings

I definitely learned that working on the farm. I also learned that responding with, I don't want to do that, was the wrong answer. Generally, it was like, Okay, yeah, I'll jump right on that. Then shortly thereafter, as people were going, Oh, my God, that kid's too stupid to do that. I would be relieved of that duty and moved on to something else.


[00:11:23.600] - Big Rich Klein

Did you do any FFA or 4H or anything like that?


[00:11:30.290] - Jeff Cummings

I did 4H. That was pretty much... I can't say that I know anybody that didn't do it. I don't think it was necessarily mandatory, but that's what you did. But I wasn't in it all that long. But yeah, the rest of the family got deeper into it than I did. I was I was working my way towards something that was going to have an internal combustion engine in it just as rapidly as I could in the rest of it. I was happy to leave behind. That meant being at that gas station for 18 hours. That was way better than spending a two hour day doing a chore on the farm from my standpoint.


[00:12:23.850] - Big Rich Klein

How old were you when dad bought the gas station?


[00:12:30.230] - Jeff Cummings

He actually built it from scratch. I helped lay out the concrete forms. Nice. I think that started when I was maybe 12 and up and running by the time, I think, before I turned 13. Little gas station and restaurant that paid a lot of bills for the family and made certain that there was no shortage of things for us kids to do, even if there wasn't.


[00:13:01.340] - Big Rich Klein

Farming to do. Back in those days, we're talking full service, washing the windshield, checking the oils as people came in, and filters, and that stuff?


[00:13:15.100] - Jeff Cummings

Oh, yeah. I like to taunt people. I'd pump gas for 19 cents a gallon, and if you got more than eight gallons, you got a free glass with it.


[00:13:27.130] - Big Rich Klein



[00:13:28.360] - Jeff Cummings

Yeah. So you definitely wash the windows and check the oil and on occasion, would check the air in the tires and the whole smear. Yeah, that was self service gas station. That hadn't been invented yet.


[00:13:48.540] - Big Rich Klein

Laziness in America hadn't hit.


[00:13:50.850] - Big Rich Klein



[00:13:53.820] - Big Rich Klein

First experiences with tires probably came from that gas station. Did you guys have a tire machine to mount with?


[00:14:00.160] - Jeff Cummings

No, we didn't. My first playing with tires, it wasn't like we had a real racetrack around. But what we called the river road was where you would go out to demonstrate however much horsepower you had. We like to keep track of that thing. It wasn't really like it was scripted out, but you'd go out and do burnouts, and then you would put down a paint stripe where the rubber started and where it ended and then initial it so that you could get credit for it after the rubber would wear off the road. So I would go down to the implement dealer in town and would change tires down there to get scrap tires because there was really no good reason to be putting tires on with a lot of rubber because the bald ones were the ones that made the best black marks. The things that made the best black marks, which I started learning a little bit more about tires, is there were big sod farms in the area, and they ran on these sod farms with basically slicks so that they weren't tearing up the turf, but they were all recaps. And oh, buddy, did those make nice black marks.


[00:15:35.980] - Jeff Cummings

But the problem is you're doing burnouts with those, you would get them a little too warm and they would come apart. I started realizing that there were some differences in tires from that standpoint pretty early on. But that was my initial... There was a couple of things. Which tires made the best black marks? And which tires did I have the toughest time getting myself stuck out running around in the fields? Because the whole array of first vehicles that I had, I fell into Volkswagen bugs because they were easy to work on. They were pretty lightweight and you could rip the fenders off of them and put just about however big of snow tires you could find. So there were tires that were harder to get stuck with, and there were tires that made better black marks on the asphalt. So those were the two real differentiating things from my standpoint early on.


[00:16:44.990] - Big Rich Klein

Right. The bugs, it's amazing. I was just talking to Marti Fioca, and his start was in Volkswagen bugs, as was mine.


[00:16:58.370] - Jeff Cummings

There was really no plan there. The kids at the next farm over where I was the oldest, the guys that were my age were the youngest and had four older brothers. So those guys were all car guys and they had a very dim view of Volkswagen. But to help out their brothers, they were constantly trying to build things that would get to compete with the Volkswagen that we would run around. Oh, my Lord. They built some Mr. Toad's wild rides. They at one point in time, they had a small block Chevy with a two speed power glide automatic transmission and a driveshaft that was probably 6 inches long with a bent seat right over the rear axel. And it it's amazing that nobody lost a leg riding in that thing because it would doing things like balancing. This was all welded up in the repair shop on the farm. It wasn't like it was sent out and put on a lathe. So we managed not to kill one another. But even when they did finally get it dialed in, the Radiator would load up with the grass and stuff and overheat. Then they decided to build them a couple of core of air attractions, which also couldn't quite hang with the Beatles or what was left of the Beatles.


[00:18:41.220] - Jeff Cummings

Mostly I'd strip the bodies off of them and got a big lesson. I was maybe 14 by that point in time. I started to build roll cages, decided I'm really going to haul ass with these things. So starting to build roll cages. And the first time that I rolled one and got myself pinned into what was left of the erector set. My dad, who was always good about teaching me things, mostly after the fact, pointed out that...


[00:19:11.920] - Big Rich Klein

You're going to be stupid.


[00:19:12.730] - Jeff Cummings

Let's be stupid. Yeah. That was it would save him a lot of explanation time up front of just making a point. That was when I learned that you're an idiot. You can't weld galvanized pipe. Oh, well, I did. Yeah. You made sparks and there's a difference between making sparks and welding. So that was one of those life lessons I hadn't progressed to where I even knew there was something like Crow Molly out there. And it made me think, welding is one of those things left to people that are a little brighter than me because I'm pretty fearless when it comes to jumping into things like that. But I've also learned a few lessons as one of my coworkers, many, many years ago while we were laying out in the desert and I was attempting to get us moving again, reminded me of the fact of just because you have tools doesn't mean you're a mechanic.


[00:20:18.620] - Jeff Cummings



[00:20:19.640] - Jeff Cummings

Real. I let them know at that point in time that, Well, I'll either turn into a mechanic or you're going to turn into a marathon hiker, so hand.


[00:20:28.570] - Big Rich Klein

Me this. Exactly. yeah. So then when you were in school, did you drive to school? School close by? Did you have to bus?


[00:20:41.840] - Jeff Cummings

Well, grade school was four miles away. So yeah, we were bussing. And then when I went junior high in high school, we went a long way away. That was nine miles away. We went to big city then. That was Portage, Wisconsin, which was, I don't know, at the time, 7, 8,000 people. And by the time I got my driver's license, which was, I don't know, probably 18 hours after I turned 16, I would drive to school because we weren't required to stay at school the entire day at that point in time. They had this experimental, we were young adults and we could be responsible for managing our own time. So you only had to be in school when you had class. And not wanting to dedicate my life to any more academic time than necessary, I would go to class and then I would, one of two things, go out to get involved in some mischief, but more times than not, jump in and come home and go to work at the gas station because you could either be working and making money or you could be screwing off and wasting money. So you had to keep those things in balance.


[00:22:03.350] - Jeff Cummings

And by the time I got to be that age, my parents had already ruined me and instilled a little work ethic in me.


[00:22:14.660] - Big Rich Klein

So the gas station, high school?


[00:22:18.370] - Jeff Cummings

I got out of high school by being great in the auto shop. Nice. First off, none of the teachers wanted me back for any more semesters than necessary. And it was amazing by doing a tune up or a break job or any variety of things on teachers' vehicles to make certain that you got a passing grade and moved on, rather than hanging around.


[00:22:50.280] - Big Rich Klein



[00:22:50.670] - Jeff Cummings

Frustrated my mother, something fierce. It's like, if you're smart enough to figure that out, you could just go to class and get good grades. And I was like, mom, really?


[00:23:01.980] - Big Rich Klein

My grandfather, he had some words of wisdom to me one time, and he said, If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. And that stuck through with me through my high school and college years because every time I had to write some an essay or something like that, I didn't spend a lot of time studying, but I knew enough to just word vomit. I'd make a great politician nowadays with that word vomit, but never really had anything precise or concise to say. And it got me through that and being the photographer on your book.


[00:23:51.380] - Jeff Cummings

I would be a no show anytime that I was supposed to be up in front of class talking to anybody. I hated that. That was not one of those things that was ever going to happen. But I had figured out the system and made my mother so mad, she's like, you know, wouldn't hurt you to actually get your grades up every once in a while. And I actually got on honor roll for one semester just to make her happy. And went right back to my old ways. I said, you get the same credit for a D as you get for an A. So if you got four credits for an A, that would make sense. But you don't. And all I need is X number of credits to get out of here. And that's the mission that I am on. As I look back, there was probably one or two things that I probably should have spent a little time trying to get a little better grasp of. But I pretty much had math nailed and spent as much time in Auto Shop. Back then, Auto shop was like real Auto shop. We got to take things apart and we were expected to put them back together.


[00:25:17.620] - Big Rich Klein

Working wise, yeah.


[00:25:20.510] - Jeff Cummings

Yeah. What a concept. I could go off for days on my view of the educational system and what they try and teach people that may or may not allow them to efficiently feed themselves. But it wasn't like I was going to a high school that was a trade school. But we had industrial drafting and woodworking to where the guys, by the time their senior year, they were out framing up houses for high school stuff. So it's certainly different times. And as I look back, very fortunate to have those opportunities to really learn. When I got out of high school, which I was so happy to do, that was suggested that I should maybe go into some advanced level of education. I thought people got to be kidding me. When I went to school, got an associate degree in automotive technology. Perfect. Basically, going to have a piece of paper that said, you are a mechanic, and had a great time doing that. Here again, got to learn a lot of stuff. And as I look back, while I haven't been trying to feed myself twisting wrenches and good Lord, getting close to 50 years at this point in time, the things that I learned have served me very well, particularly the suspension things that I learned and the basic understanding to go into the other things that became very important from a tire standpoint.


[00:27:18.590] - Jeff Cummings

It was during that point in time that I came out of my shell because they were trying to get somebody to be on the the technical college student Senate from the industrial group, and nobody wanted to do it. One of my instructors said, Well, I think you should run for it. I go, I don't want to run for it. Well, I ended up getting elected to the college student Senate. That was an eye opener because the other campus was all of the... I guess in today's view, I would call them the liberal arts students, but they were not the people that were learning to weld and be diesel mechanics and things of that nature. And it was, oh, Lord, it was painful. Had these Robert's rules of order, and you couldn't really talk unless you understood all of those things. One day, I had finally had enough of the BS going on and threw my chair back against the wall and stood up and told them what I thought while the guy running the show was banging his gavel, telling me that I was out of order. Our next meeting, I got elected vice president.


[00:28:38.210] - Big Rich Klein

See how that works?


[00:28:41.850] - Jeff Cummings

Yeah. Because what I realized, what I had done that day is I'd actually pulled my hands out of my pocket and apparently had raised them over my head like I was volunteering.


[00:28:53.820] - Big Rich Klein

He's got both hands in the air.


[00:28:57.440] - Jeff Cummings

Mostly I was shaking them at him.


[00:29:02.670] - Big Rich Klein

When you were in college, were you still working at the gas station?


[00:29:07.360] - Jeff Cummings

Oh, no. Actually, by the time I was in my senior year or getting between my junior and senior year, I was actually commuting over to town about 30 miles away and working part time at a car dealership over there. Once I went to Madison to go to technical school, I got hired on at a Volkswagen dealership. I would start at school at 530 in the morning and would do school until p oorty in the afternoon, and then would start work at the car dealership also at noon, which was pretty interesting because I finally got it down to about six minutes between school and work. That was pretty enlightening. There was a big difference between the things I was learning to do at school and then going to work at a car dealership that worked on flat rate. And for anybody that doesn't know how flat rate works, the book says you're getting paid X to do this job. And if it says you get paid for an hour to do the job and you can do it in 45 minutes, that's great. You still get paid for the hour and then you get started on the next job.


[00:30:39.470] - Jeff Cummings

It takes you two and a half hours to do it. You still only get paid for that one hour. So that was pretty interesting trying to blend what I was learning from a technical standpoint at school and the reality of, okay, I could be making more at a fast food place than I am here. But it was a great opportunity to figure out that while I loved working on vehicles, it wasn't going to be my life's calling. Took a lot of the fun out of it. It was... And part of it was the people that own the cars, in many instances, were not into the cars. There's a big difference, which has helped me over the years, understanding that there are folks that are basically looking to get from A to B. And the vehicle itself doesn't make any difference.


[00:31:51.770] - Jeff Cummings

I just need it to start and get me there and get me back. And then there's folks that really have some passion and excitement about the vehicle. So there would be times that, Let us do this to your vehicle and you're going to be way happy. We're not doing that. Do just enough so that it'll get me back from the store. Which is also something that I've carried with me because my view of the tire industry is followed that same path. I have been very fortunate from the standpoint of the tires that I have dealt with over the years. I've been in a position to concentrate on the tires that people buy because they want their vehicle to do something fun or better. And the people that just want something that holds air and keeps the belly of the vehicle from dragging down the road, I've dealt with them a little bit. But fortunately, the folks that I have worked for have decided that I have such low interest in those things to keep me out of them and let me concentrate on the stuff that I really have an interest and passion about. I was very fortunate from that standpoint.


[00:33:19.950] - Jeff Cummings

I worked at that dealership, I want to say, two and a half years, almost three years. And then the economy went south and I was still a low man on the totem pole. So when they were cutting back, I was one of the first to be let go. But that wasn't the problem because it was right at the start of hunting season. So the ducks and geese and deer caught hell that year.


[00:33:48.300] - Big Rich Klein

Perfect. And about the time that was winding down, it was suggested that I maybe should find myself a real job. And out of all of the unusual things, I ended up going to work for the Wisconsin State Patrol.


[00:34:08.270] - Big Rich Klein

Really? Yeah. Now, that's a surprise. As a mechanic?


[00:34:12.720] - Jeff Cummings



[00:34:13.820] - Big Rich Klein

You were law enforcement?


[00:34:15.980] - Jeff Cummings

I was law enforcement. Specifically, my main duties were setting up and managing motor vehicle.


[00:34:32.290] - Jeff Cummings



[00:34:33.090] - Jeff Cummings

For the state of Wisconsin, which I managed to get out of jail free cards for a whole bunch of my friends because we would put together these things of, Well, what modifications can be made to vehicles and have them still be safe? There was endless folks that I ran around with that had done all kinds of wonderful things to their vehicles that that wasn't the way they left the showroom floor. Part of the deal that I negotiated was they'd get a little card. For whatever vehicle violation they might get stopped, they could pull out this little thing from the Wisconsin state patrol saying, No, they're okay. Carry on.


[00:35:25.620] - Big Rich Klein

Oh, yeah. I could have used a friend like that.


[00:35:28.740] - Jeff Cummings

Yeah, it was I unfortunately fell out of favor with the Colonel fairly early on because when I went through things, they had asked me about my driving record, which I do to this day remember, I told them. I said, Well, it's not too good. They went, Okay. I had been there, I think, two months before I came in, and I could tell when I came into the district that morning to sign in and get my car that something was up. My captain was standing out in the hall, which had this look of, Oh, man. You are making my life miserable. Come on in. The colonel was sitting behind his desk and they had that old computer paper that had all the dots in it that would print things out. He had this whole big stack of paper in front of him and he's flipping over it. He's looking over his glasses at me and flipping it over. And then, I'll say exactly what he said, but something to the effect of, You said your driving record was not too good.


[00:36:43.540] - Jeff Cummings

That was an understatement.


[00:36:45.620] - Jeff Cummings

There's not an employee in the entire state of Wisconsin that has a driving record that could rival what you have racked up. So I was public enemy number one from the top at that point in time. Fortunately, my captain, out of one of the vehicles that he had was an old Volkswagen Beatle. I used to go work on that for him, and we would go out and tip a few and had a great time with him. But I pretty much figured out within a year that law enforcement probably wasn't really my calling. Although I learned some very valuable things there. I remember the one instructor when he chucked a shell into the pump shotgun, he goes, That's a pretty distinctive sound. Oh, yeah. He goes, The criminal is still moving after you hear that sound. You better be ready to use this because criminals are born knowing what that sound is. And I also learned the importance of seatbelts because when we were doing the driving instruction stuff, we had big old Plymouth vinyl bench seats, and you'd go out with the driving instructor and no seatbelts on, and you'd roll out onto the little course that they had set up.


[00:38:27.700] - Jeff Cummings

And the instructor would like to spike the brakes, which would bounce you off of that dash like you've been throwing off down a slide of stairs. And I said, you know, that won't happen if you had your seat belt on. And the next thing I learned about seatbelts was when it came time to go out and drive, if you were belted in, you could actually concentrate on what you were doing with your hands driving because you were held behind the wheel and held in front of the pedals. And we got a chance to play with that enough to... If you didn't figure that out in the first hour, there was really no hope for you. And then, of course, they gave us the really important thing to encourage people to wear seatbelts is when you go to write up an accident, you don't have to be looking for.


[00:39:20.820] - Jeff Cummings

The bodies.


[00:39:22.350] - Jeff Cummings

It was probably rather grim, but those are the things that I still to this day remember. I went through lessons that stuck with me.


[00:39:33.280] - Jeff Cummings



[00:39:33.670] - Jeff Cummings

Awesome. To this day, if I'm rearranging vehicles in the driveway, I still have my seat belt on before I will back out into the street and park the vehicle in front of the house. It's probably one of my only really good habits.


[00:39:52.930] - Big Rich Klein

That is something that my wife would like to see me do. I always tell her, I say, She goes, You're going to put your seat belt on? I said, Yeah, I will when we get on the interstate. She goes, More people get hurt or killed in their cars real close to home. I said, That's because they are not.


[00:40:13.920] - Jeff Cummings

Paying attention. All of that is entirely true. But it's literally just one of those things that I do.


[00:40:25.070] - Big Rich Klein

No, that's perfect.


[00:40:26.100] - Jeff Cummings

That's great. Maybe my only good habit. I learned it there. So it wasn't one of those things I didn't get out of there. I got into the tire business then, quite by accident. I had stopped at this gas station and was harassing one of the guys that I'd gone to school with, which was like the second assistant manager there, and the guy then owned the place, besides yelling at me for parking out in front where customer should be parking instead of having a state patrol vehicle there, said, I want you to run my tire store. I laughed at him and said, Yeah, right. And he goes, No, I'm serious. I want you to run my tire store. I said, You don't have a tire store. He goes, No, but I'm going to. I want you. He goes, I'll even take you out to dinner. I thought, Oh, free food. So about three days later, I went to dinner with him, and he laid out his grand plan of starting this tire store from scratch in an abandoned car dealership, this huge building. I turned in my resignation papers and I got into the tire business.


[00:41:55.740] - Jeff Cummings

It was pretty interesting. By that point in time, I had moved on from knowing that there was tires that I wouldn't get stuck in the field and tires that made good black marks. There were tires that were wide and fat and cool, and they were skinny, boring ass tires. I hadn't really progressed to where I knew that there were radial and bias and bias belted and all of those things. But I went to work for that guy for $50 a week, plus commission. And it was a one man show. I sold the tires, I mounted the tires. I had a wrecker there. So if I got a wrecker call, I would lock the door and go and pull the vehicle to wherever it needed to go. I was pretty skinny back then because I think I made nothing more than the $50 a week for the first three months that I was working there. My rent was like $200 a month. I was getting the point where I was having to sell stuff just to feed myself. A big turning point, and I got real good at buying tires. Oh, my God. It was amazing.


[00:43:13.480] - Jeff Cummings

Every tire seller and guy on the planet would come by and all I had to do was buy 50 of these or 100 of these. It was a huge building, so there was no shortage of place to put these tires. That also came to a head about three months into it because I had a building full of tires that I had sold precious few. The 90 day terms were all looking to have them paid for by that point in time. I got pretty good at loading trucks to haul tires away. And it was at that point in time that the Goodrich rep that had sold me some tires sat down with the guy that owned the place and said, That kid's too stupid to sell tires. And I probably should have been offended by it, but he had a point. And I was really questioning how much longer I was really wanting to do that. But he introduced the owner, he goes, Goodrich has got this training program and maybe we can teach him a little something. I got involved in that and they sent me to Chicago. Goodrich had company owned stores at that point in time and spent a week working at an honest to goodness real tire store that was doing big business, which would have been really helpful if I'd done that before I'd ever unlocked the door the first day because a lot of things that should have just been second nature.


[00:45:03.490] - Jeff Cummings

I was clueless. Went back and started selling some tires. I figured out that I really wasn't interested in the normal end of the tire business. But the big fat stuff, that was fun. That's what all my buddies were into. And none of the normal tire stores at that point in time, the industry has changed so much. But you'd go into a tire store with an aluminum wheel and they would just about run you off, let you know, well, we're not responsible for anything to do with working on that stuff. And that became my niche. I wanted to work on that stuff. I chased a lot of the rest of the business that I probably should have had. I remember the Goodyear guy telling the owner, he goes, You're missing out on 90 % of the business out there. You're selling all these things that we don't know even what people are doing with them, but why aren't you buying any of the rest of that? Why do you want to deal with the rest of that? And we would do whatever it took to get a set of wheels and tires to fit your vehicle.


[00:46:24.800] - Jeff Cummings

And it's funny, one of the guys, my roommate after a while, worked there at the shop, and he still laughs. He goes, It's hard to believe that we didn't end up in jail for the things that we would do. Because if you wanted to put that set on, we would move molecules to make them fit. I had a couple of buddies that were in the body shop business and folks that had nicer vehicles that's like, Well, we can grind and cut this, but this is pretty nice. You might want to get a little nip and tuck from a real body shop to help this. So I kept my buddies in the body shop business fairly busy. At that point in time, the 70 Chevy trucks with the squared off fenders were a real thickness problem because the fenders curled underneath and ate up all of the room that should have allowed you to have a good turning radius. So they got real proficient at doing section cuts in them and opening it up enough so you could put three sizes bigger tires on without any rubbing issues. And that really became my deal. And I had spent just a little bit of time getting to know some of the folks at the main office down in Chicago.


[00:47:53.600] - Jeff Cummings

And Goodrich, at that point in time, was getting involved in a variety of motor sports. They were doing road racing stuff that far from me at Road America. So if I'd go up to Road America, I could change tires for three days and generally walk away with a couple of free T shirts and a jacket, maybe even a hat. And so I was scab labor for those things. Here again, got to start meeting some folks in the company, spending time with the engineers, going over the pit wall with the pad of paper to write down the temperatures when they were out there with the pyrometers, trying to help teams with the setup. So I got exposed to a lot of things that really fascinated me like that pretty early on that didn't necessarily always relate to a run in that store. But you don't necessarily need to be Einstein. But if you know a little more than anybody else around, you'll start attracting the folks that got questions or at the very least, it's like being the tallest elf. You're still not very tall. That end of the business appealed to me greatly. The other part of it didn't.


[00:49:21.870] - Jeff Cummings

By the time I'd been there a year and a half, I had 26 people working for me because I had figured out how to run some pretty successful promotions and my ability to sell tires and wheel packages and fill the service department because as I brought people in, we had the facility to do it. By that point in time, we were doing engines and transmissions and you name it, we were full service. I was a horrible manager. Oh, my God. I can't believe somebody didn't kill me. Probably should have. And that was when the guy that owned it decided that he was going to come over and we were going to be co managers. And he was a grumpy old guy. I think he was.


[00:50:12.660] - Jeff Cummings

Maybe 40. I know nobody who's a grumpy.


[00:50:17.490] - Jeff Cummings

Old guy. Yeah, he was maybe 40. And he was a pretty good guy, but he was not as passionate about getting out of bed early in the morning as I was. He would, on a pretty regular basis, show up well after we had opened. We used to have some spectacular battles out in the shop when he'd come strolling in. I, thinking that we were co managers, didn't quite equate with the employee, employer deal with light into him. If you're going to work here, you're going to get your ass out of bed and show up when everybody else does. I got fired on a pretty regular basis. That didn't last for an hour or two until somebody came in and was looking for something that he had no idea what they were talking about. I was busily packing up things that I had stashed in various quarters of the place. I'd go, Well, I'd go talk to him, but I don't work here anymore. We'd have amends and I'd go back and sell something and he would look at me astonished of, I don't know how you manage to do that. But I finally got fired for good.


[00:51:42.750] - Jeff Cummings

After I'd gone on vacation, I came back and business had been horrible while I was away, which I expected was I had a huge sale right before I left and now figured, well, that way I got all my customers taken care of. I came back and he's like, Well, I can't afford to pay you for your vacation. We debated for a while whether I quit or was fired, but I wasn't getting paid for my vacation. I looked at it as I got fired and called one of the guys I knew at Goodrich and said, I was just out in Montana. I think I'd like to move out there. Anybody looking for help? That's when he said, Well, we know somebody who's looking for help, but why would you go to Montana? I said, Well, it's pretty cool. I said, Well, we might have something for you in Ohio. I went, I don't think I want to go to Ohio. I said, Well, nothing's done and we'd like to put you on the list. I said, Well, okay. If you wanted me on the list, well, we couldn't tell you this when you were working for one of our customers.


[00:52:53.460] - Jeff Cummings

I said, Well, how long is this going to be before you decide? They went, Well, it might be a few months. I went, Well, I'll go to work for this guy. I'm pretty certain. They went, No, you don't understand. You can't go to work for another tire dealer. So I went to work in a body shop. And about a week after I went to work there, they determined that giving me a piece of one out sandpaper and a broom was really where my talent slide. Although I built a paint booth big enough to pull a tractor.


[00:53:24.320] - Jeff Cummings



[00:53:24.920] - Jeff Cummings

In. Nice. Yeah. It had the biggest box of bolts. That box of bolts had probably filled three quarters of my office. I built that during the time that I was there. Went to Akron, Ohio in a borrowed suit from my dad because my mother was insistent, This is a big company. They'll want you in a suit. I said, No, I've met these guys. Did none of them ever wear suits. Well, I was meeting them at the track doing events. That was the land of the repeat suits and ties and shiny wing tips. So mom's advice was good. Managed to get through the interviews and actually only lasted about three months at the headquarters office because even then they determined that my office skills were not great. I needed to be out doing things and I did everything from... We started doing everything from car shows to road racing stuff. Goodrich had gotten started in off road racing at that point in time. So you'd go out with the sales guys during the week talking about tires during the week. And come Friday morning, you were jumping in the car or the van or jumping on an airplane and heading off to an event.


[00:54:46.540] - Jeff Cummings

And it was a seven day a week deal. I got good at putting up tents and any variety of things. I had one boss who said, you know you do some things that really irritate folks around here, but as long as I don't catch you sitting still, I can cover up any of your ills. Which was like getting handed both ends of the rope. And we had the access that we had to the tire engineers and designers and the chemistry guys doing the compounding. And the whole facility there was pretty fascinating. And when you weren't out doing something, you could walk down the hall, get on the elevator, go down to the basement to watch... The first time I watched high speed testing was me and a couple of the other guys. One that I know that you've crossed paths.


[00:55:52.820] - Jeff Cummings



[00:55:54.850] - Jeff Cummings

Richard Winchester. Absolutely. Richard and I and another guy that we worked with are down there. We'd all had similar misspent youth of cars that we drove way faster than we should have. We're watching this tire as they're increasing the speed and they're increasing the speed and the tire starts deforming. They keep wickening it up and pretty soon with the strobe light, the tire, instead of looking round, looked more the shape of a stop sign. They're monitoring the temperatures on the sidewall and the tread. There's all kinds of fascinating things going on. We're looking at this and it was one of those moments we looked at one another going, Holy crap. Because we had all experienced trying to balance tires on our various vehicles of go fast. I had a big black cyclone GT that I swear to God, I couldn't keep the thing on the road much over 140 miles an hour because it would shake so violently.


[00:57:07.200] - Jeff Cummings

Now you knew why.


[00:57:09.030] - Jeff Cummings

Now I knew why. I would go back, take them off, put them on the bubble balance or move the weights around, go back out. Sometimes it'd be a little better. But the fact that the tire didn't have the integrity to stay round, so the part that was flat against the ground was still flat when it came back around. And when it hit the pavement, that would cause what they call standing wave. And you'd watch these little shock waves go up the sidewall. The tread area of a tire is the part where heat is generated. And the sidewall of a tire is where tires vent the heat out. They're like an air cooled engine from that standpoint. When you start getting that standing wave going up the sidewall, the sidewall now becomes a heat generating part of the tire as well. The next thing that happens is what they lovingly refer to as catastrophic air loss. For us, it was an extremely loud sound and pieces of stuff flying around on the other side of the glass. It's one of those things I get pretty preachy with folks when they come off the trail and are going to head to town of, you spent a lot of money on that set of tires, don't ruin them by not putting air back in them because you don't have to go very far very fast.


[00:58:35.670] - Jeff Cummings

And the same principle applies. You're turning that sidewall into a heat generating source instead of a heat venting source. I don't care if it's a cheap tire or an expensive tire or what company made it. It's one of those things you got to get the heat for. For as much as I've gotten to play with a lot of stuff, trying to help it live under abusive situations, heat still kills more tires than anything else out there. It was those things that got me even more fascinated. When you look at a tire, and I don't care who made it, it's literally some fabric that could have ended up in a tent or a shirt and some rubbery glue that could have been sealing a windshield and some wire that could have maybe been in the screen door. And it's mixed together in a fashion that goes out and withstands incredible dynamic forces. Five years into this, I thought I knew everything there was to know about tires. I'm just now scratching the surface and the things that they keep learning. It's one of those things that I looked back and thought, man, I wish I would have been a better student because academically, I could have gotten a much greater understanding.


[01:00:12.240] - Jeff Cummings

And I have been very fortunate that the engineers tolerate my endless array of questions of, okay, so you've taught me that this is a constant. So now that I've done this, this is resulting as smart as I think I get on some things. They sometimes go, Okay, you were right up there at about 95 %, but you missed that other 5 % that greatly impacts the next piece of it. I've been really fortunate, those guys in particular, taking the time with me. I had finally gotten to the point where they would ship me tires to let us know what you.


[01:01:04.730] - Jeff Cummings



[01:01:06.960] - Jeff Cummings

Of these. Nice. Yeah. And apparently, the more good answers you came up with, the more often you would get to do that. Just one of the last projects that I did last year is I did a project for the legal department, the history of all terrain tires as they exist today. And even when I was working at the retail store, the Armstrong True Track was that was it. That was the it tire to have. I look back now and I'm like, Boy, that thing was nothing special. But at that point in time, the thing had a tread design that worked pretty good. They were horrible to drive on. They weren't round. They were tougher as nails. They made all kinds of noise. But it was the best thing that the industry had produced. And most of the rest of the industry had such little interest in the recreational offroader at that point in time, nobody had really paid them any attention. Armstrong had managed to come up with a tire that far and away exceeded what anybody else in the industry was offering at that point in time. But I also continued to use them as an example with folks that will listen to me because they probably had 90 % of the market share when I was working in retail for folks that wanted tires like that.


[01:02:41.230] - Big Rich Klein

Armstrong tire doesn't.


[01:02:44.410] - Jeff Cummings

Exist anymore. They didn't grow with technology.


[01:02:49.100] - Jeff Cummings

They didn't put their money. They got to the top of the plateau, and that was the end of the R&D. My guess is there were probably designers and developers that went, Well, let us work on something else. I'll cast a vote that there was a bean counter somewhere going, We're making money now. We don't need to be spending more money coming up with.


[01:03:16.730] - Jeff Cummings



[01:03:18.070] - Jeff Cummings

Else. Exactly. I've been pretty fortunate working for an outfit that outspans the rest of the industry on R&D. I teased him. I said, I work for an engineering firm that unfortunately has to produce a product to feed the engineering beast. I do truly believe that because I think in some instances they would work on a project their entire career of, we're this close to another breakthrough. Okay, well, you've already hit all the targets for this product. How about we draw a line in the sand and we start building some of those? That's one of the other things in the industry is the industry has progressed. There's still you got to have the ability to build it because you can design it. You can have guys that can build, well, we can build a dozen of these this week. Okay, now that's not going to cut it. We need to be building like 10,000 of those a day. Yeah, I don't think there's really the equipment or the facility that will allow us to do that. So there's always that part of the equation that needs to be to be brought into play of just because the guy with the huge brain was able to engineer it and build it in a lab, you've got to then be able to put it into production so that you can get it out to the consumer.


[01:04:46.610] - Jeff Cummings

This industry, like everything else, and the impact of COVID, the product shortages have been absolutely ridiculous. The last three years, I've spent as much time looking for tires as I have just about anything else in my job, which really isn't on my job description in any way, shape or form. But I'm going to go do a track event. I'm going to need 60, 80 tires. We don't have any of those. Well, how about this? We don't have any of those. You go through eight sizes to try and come up with enough tires to just go out and do the events. It's been ridiculous. And it's not like the plants were closed down. It's just inability to keep up because people kept buying tires. I think for the enthusiasts, the folks that were going to go out trail riding or the guys that were going to go out racing or go out and do solo one events or road race or whatever the case might be, they were still doing that stuff and still needing products to go do with it. And I know other guys in the industry that I'm not certain if they were worse off or better off than we were, but it was and still is way too much of a battle of trying to keep up.


[01:06:20.870] - Jeff Cummings

And part of that is the complexity that's happened in the industry. And I like to look at the example of you go to one of the high tech soda dispensers, and there's a barbecue place that we go to that's got one of them. And when I was a kid, you could get Coke. Now, you could get it in a couple of different sized bottles, but you could get Coke. I believe there's somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 different varieties of Coke, depending upon which combination of buttons you press on this machine. Get it with caffeine, you can get it with lime, you can get it without caffeine, you can get.


[01:07:13.320] - Jeff Cummings



[01:07:14.140] - Jeff Cummings

With Any flavor. Yeah. So the complexity there when the first Goodrich radial all terrain that I sold, and for the first almost two years that Goodrich produced that tire, they made it one size. It was a 12R 15. So when you were building them, you were building that one size. Well now, I believe there's 73 different skews in just the K02 family.


[01:07:47.890] - Jeff Cummings



[01:07:48.870] - Jeff Cummings

Tires. Wow. So while you're able to be far more specific in the fitment, instead of doing what I was doing of, Well, we're going to end up cutting your fenders. You want this tire? We'll get it underneath there, but it'll involve moving some molecules. The number of different options that come into play certainly ties up plant capacity because every time you change, you're shutting down for a shift to change molds. Now, instead of having a few molds at the end of the line, you've got the capital investment from a tire manufacturer standpoint. Tires are certainly not inexpensive, but I can tell you from the inside, it's not the thing that if you were doing a business thesis and you said, Okay, I've got a billion dollars and I'm going to go out and I'm going to get involved in an industry and make a big killing. If you went in to your final professor and said, I'm going to start a tire company, they'd laugh you out of the room because the margin based on the investment is certainly money to be made, but it's one of those things. I'm a consumer, too. I just got myself a set of 37 inch KM 3s for the truck, and I get a pretty good deal.


[01:09:25.700] - Big Rich Klein

It was still breathtaking. Right. I think looking at what you guys have done with that BFG Michelin, when you guys came into the rock crawling scene, especially, is where I saw it is you guys really outthought and out promoted the brands that were existing. At that point, it was TSLs and Goodyear had tires that most everybody was competing on. And you guys.


[01:10:03.040] - Big Rich Klein



[01:10:03.710] - Jeff Cummings

In... And then you guys came in and said, We're going to do things a little differently. And it is a great lesson if anybody wants to learn how to take over a sport, what you guys did, at least in the rock crawling side of it. I wasn't familiar with the desert racing side. I know that there's a lot more tire companies involved in the desert racing or short course than there are in the rock crawling anymore. But you guys still came in there as... I mean, Goodyear did not want to see you guys pull.


[01:10:43.200] - Jeff Cummings

Into town. Well, understand, we didn't know anything. We were dumb as a box of rocks. I got a call over Christmas holidays from the lady that was in charge of BFG light truck tires. She apparently had used up all of her vacation, so she was actually in the office, which over the Christmas holidays was probably like a ghost town and was sitting there flipping through magazines and called me up and said, What do you know about rock crawling? And I went, Well, I think Richard's done something with that down in the Southeast. I said, I went to one up in Cedar City and was pretty surprised because people were driving up stuff that... Back when I was backpacking, I'm not certain I would have tried walking up this stuff, let alone driving on it. And she proceeded to let me know, Well, Good year is winning everything there, and I want you to stop that. I went, Okay, what does that mean? Well, I want you to stop that. Okay. And she was pretty serious, and I always liked working for her. She was one of the folks that I had a lot of respect for in the office, so she was not mincing any words.


[01:12:20.130] - Jeff Cummings

My charge at that point in time was to figure this out and called my partner in crime, Frank. I was an expert in rock crawling compared to Frank because I'd actually bent to one. And we spent a couple of days talking about it. I had come to know the Curry family. I thought, you know what? I'm going to call Ray, see if I can get John's number. I started talking with John and he was incredibly, incredibly patient and helpful answering questions, making recommendations. Got back with Frank, worked on a little more. Like I say, John would answer more questions. And we had a guy inside that was one of the, as they lovingly referred to some of them as tire nerds, that was anxious to do something really special by the name of Gary Interline and told this lady, Well, here's what we think it's going to cost us. And at that point in time, our budgets are already set for the following year. So that wasn't like we were going to get a king's ransom to go out and buy things up. But we came up with a plan to, first off, we need to develop some credibility in this arena, which means we need to get out there and meet these folks.


[01:14:02.450] - Jeff Cummings

And the best way to meet these folks is to do what we had done in desert racing is we go out there to help everybody compete, whether they're on our tires or anybody else's. Because when the word spreads that you've got a guy that's a great mechanic and you got a guy that's a great welder and you got the ability to help get people back in the game, people will come introduce themselves to you. Right. And we had the opportunity to learn a lot from our potential customer base just by showing up and be willing to help. I had learned, particularly with short course offroad stuff, because I'd done quite a bit of that, but it was all about the edge. You need to get the right sharp edge going in the right direction because if you could go figure out the track and do the right grouping pattern prior to an event, you could give your guys a real advantage. And so I had that going in while it didn't take me long to realize, you know what? It's not about the edge, it's about getting contact. It was Tracy Jordan that really hammered that into my thick skull, playing with some new tires with real sharp edges and tires that he had burned all the edge off to bevel the face of the block element so that when it would grab an edge, there would still be more contact to it.


[01:15:55.590] - Jeff Cummings

And the dynamics of rock crawling, I'd still find it surprising because there's a lot of people that have been pretty good at it that I don't really understand the fact that gravity plays a big role in the traction a tire can provide you with. The load you place on that contact patch greatly impacts its ability to generate grip. And when you're trying to go up something and you look at how gravitational forces work and you draw a straight line down through that tire, and sometimes where gravity is going to have its greatest impact, that area of the tire might have already left the surface. So you're trying to get whatever grip you can out of the last little tail end piece of that contact patch, because the rest of it, that big slab of rock that you're trying to go up, gravity isn't sucking.


[01:17:02.170] - Jeff Cummings



[01:17:02.790] - Jeff Cummings

Into it. True. It's doing everything it can to prevent you from doing that because you're no longer concentrating the gravitational force against the center of the contact patch. So there is, for as much as I wasn't ever cut out to be an academic achiever, learning those principles helped a ton in terms of why isn't this working and why is that one going to work? And the number of people that took our existing product that really nobody was using after we showed up were willing to give us a shot of... Maybe the stuff we're already making is pretty damn good at this, which it actually proved to be the case. Lance Clifford and Mike Shafer went out and won ARCA the first year on the existing mud terrain, which was both good and bad. It was one of those things where some of the folks in the house where we were trying to get them to spend a little more money on a very limited product from a development standpoint. It's like, well, we've already got a tire that apparently we can win it. And I had one boss's boss that we didn't necessarily see eye to eye because I remember in one meeting I was in there and I was not very happy.


[01:18:34.850] - Jeff Cummings

We had just come back from a desert race and we had won 14 out of 16 classes. And I was pretty upset because I thought we were going to get a clean sweep. And I was informed that it was unrealistic for me to expect that we would win everything there was to win. And I informed her that day that you can't seriously be sending us out there to finish second. If we were going out there to finish second, we ain't going. And there was a number of other people sitting around there with, Okay, this is why you will never be vice president here because you are cutting off your nose despite your face. But fortunately, the folks that I was much closer to within the organization had the same passion for things. And while what she was saying might have been realistic, it wasn't a mindset that any of us were willing to operate with and don't to this day. If you've got any competitive spirit, you've got to believe you've got a shot. If not... One of.


[01:19:46.050] - Big Rich Klein

The things that I noticed that you guys did, it was up in Vernell for an ARCA event, I think it was, is when I really realized it, or Washington or whatever that town was up there. You guys were putting BFGs on anybody that would run them. And it was basically, anybody who wants to run them, we're going to sponsor. And then as time went on, you guys knew who the winners were going to be, the best. And you took those guys and those guys really became sponsored. And you ended up taking the majority of the best drivers and getting them on your tire, which you had a superior product anyhow, especially once the Crawler was out there, and then having those best teams, you guys would be across.


[01:20:47.960] - Jeff Cummings

The podium. Well, actually, Rich, you might have seen us put a lot of tires on a lot of people's vehicles, but we also took those tires back. We would put you on a set of tires for an event, but those weren't your tires to take home with you because we had tires that went on lots of different people's vehicles during the course of the season. It was one of those... This is a horrible thing to say, but we were like the guys giving out drug samples down by the high school. The first sample, this one's on me. So before you go throw down a bunch of your money, go and run a set of these for the weekend and see how you like them. That was something I had already learned from, not necessarily competition, but when I started going to Moab, we would... And there we would have them mounted up on wheels. So we'd maybe have 30 sets of wheels and tires. And you could come up and sign up in the morning. We'd jack up your rig, bolt on a set, and you could go run whatever trail you were going to run and come back at the end of the day and we would take them off and put your wheels and tires back on.


[01:22:22.100] - Jeff Cummings

So you're right. There was a lot of people that... Look, it probably looked like we were giving away a lot of tires. I can tell you, as I was the guy that was managing that inventory, a scant few went out and stayed out. And you're absolutely right. There were guys in the process of doing that that we learned pretty quickly were the folks that were more capable of giving us good feedback. It's sad to say there were some folks that would come back and you'd start asking, Okay, well, how did they do this? How did they do that? I think they're about the same as what I was on. Okay, well, and weren't really drivers or all that into it. Were they out there hoping to win? Yeah, but they weren't out there honing their craft, coming up with a plan to win. And in the process of doing that, it became pretty apparent. Not everybody was equal from both what they were doing vehicle wise, but the intriguing thing was how creative the people were from the vehicle designs and applications and the things that they would come up with. It was pretty astonishing to watch the sport evolve there as we were playing with the different tires.


[01:23:53.540] - Jeff Cummings

I know we had more than one person tell us that there's no way you can you can even think about competing because you don't have a 44 inch tire. So isn't the best we can tell the objective here is to get up that face, get around, maneuver through those cone, get back down through here and do it cleanly and also in a reasonable amount of time. Well, yeah, but you can't do that unless you got 44s. Well, as well. As people started seeing, Whoa, a 37 inch tire is in the right hands for the right reasons is doing that better than the 44s started poking some holes in that argument. Depending upon the obstacle, there's no substitute for increased radius, but if you can't control that increased radius, that was another big hurdle as our 37s were on 17 inch wheels and we had huge push back from so many of the folks. If you made a 15 inch, which is what I really need. But as you extended that sidewall, your ability to control the tread face diminished. And with the angles and everything else that was involved there, you needed to be able to control that tread face and get it to do what you wanted it to do, not have it flopping around out there on the end of this very long sidewall.


[01:25:44.970] - Jeff Cummings

There was a time where I was beginning to think, Man, if you guys are trying to make certain that we can get more share here and increase our likelihood of being successful, it'd sure help if we had that 15 inch. And they go, Nope, here's why, and we're sticking with this. And I was glad I listened to the guys with the big brains because they ended up being not a big surprise. That's why the guys with the big brains, they were right. And long before 17s in today's market is hardly viewed as exotic. But if you remember back then, 17s were like, Why would we do that? And the things that they do from a construction standpoint to allow the contact patch or the footprint of the tire, so many of the tires, and we still see it in the industry today, particularly when you're dealing with big mud type tires. You're going to build something that's going to drive down the road. Well, you've got to create some on center feel. So it's not like a big mush ball and it'll track somewhat true down the road. And the easiest way for most folks to do that is to use fairly long center blocks within the footprint.


[01:27:05.240] - Jeff Cummings

If you look at the progression of just the Goodrich mud terrain family, and if you set them one next to each other, the length of those block elements from the first generation to the current generation, first ones were probably three times the length. And that was the way they were designing the tire. And based on what we thought we knew at the time, that was a great way of doing it. But if you want to ensure even greater development capabilities of the tire, you don't want that footprint buckling and actually reducing the footprint. And unfortunately, unless you got some pretty sophisticated stuff or a solid glass rock that you can look up at and see how it's working, it's hard to figure out that, oh, I've actually reduced the rubber that I've got wrapping around that rock because those block elements are binding up and pulling that part of the tire I can't see anymore off of the obstacle. And that comes back to what we mentioned earlier about the R&D. Having guys that are passionate about the stuff to get out and see what it is that you ultimately want it to do and then go back to the lab and design tests and capabilities of sorting out some of the shortcomings of existing product to further enhance the capabilities.


[01:28:46.780] - Jeff Cummings

The latest edition, you get no lift out of the footprint, whether you're at 65 pounds or 4 pounds. The only thing you get is a much longer contact patch. There's absolutely no binding or interference in those block elements as you air down. And it's only taken 27 years. It happened overnight. But the incremental carbon out of target, having the right target for the right audience, and then let the guys with the big brains work towards those ends. I'm very fortunate from that standpoint. The amazing thing looking at the industry is the bad tires and the good tires have all gotten so much better. The tough thing that happens at the retail stores for consumers is the consumer doesn't do a great job of focusing on what they really want or need the tire to do. They get caught up in what's it going to cost me? And the guy at the store gets lazy. Some of them will start out with good intentions of asking the right questions, but they get lazy, and then they get into the what's it going to cost? And you miss out on doing a great job of targeting the exact right product for that consumer's needs.


[01:30:28.760] - Jeff Cummings

You know the best? Best tire in the world, miss applied is a piece of crap.


[01:30:34.790] - Big Rich Klein

I see that a lot across the industry as a whole, off road. I've got a lot of friends or know a lot of people that have shops, retail outlets, whether they're just... I got my start at Sears and went through training with Michelin and BFG and Pirelli and Yokohama and all the different companies of tires that we sold. I went to training classes and learned about construction and why one tire would perform better than maybe another tire. The same holds true for suspension, steering, any product out there. And you always have, say a lift company, you have such a variety of lifts and how to get a vehicle lifted. You've got the run of the mill, lower end guy wants a mall crawling that's going to be lifted and it's never going to take it off road. You have a low dollar entry point for that guy. Then you have 10 different product lines in between to where all of a sudden the guy's at a stage 4 or 5 or whatever a company might call it, where you have all the cool stuff that will make it perform even better. Tires are no different than that.


[01:32:02.840] - Jeff Cummings

Every tire, every... It's the exact... You're spot on with it. I remember a suspension engineer from a company that I was doing some stuff with, and I was being fairly critical of something that they had just come out with. The guy said, Wait a minute. Do you understand why we built this kit? The way that we built this kit? I go, No, I don't. Because obviously, this is not working, Hink us. We built this kit so that the guy that buys it can put some of your Godawful great big tires underneath their vehicle so that when they go down to the 711, the folks at the 711 go, Wow, man, look at that. That guy is not probably going to jump a curb with your tires or this suspension kit. Hopefully. Yeah, because you don't... Because that suspension got way too much kick to it. He goes, No, you need to understand the right product to do. And the guy that buys that lift kit that decides that he's going to go out and run up for Vice Creek Trail with it and have the articulation and the loading that he wants is... Well, hopefully he's invested well in a winch and has some buddies that will help.


[01:33:28.440] - Big Rich Klein

Him get up to camp. Exactly. One of the things that I've noticed in the tire industry is that people don't understand sticky compared to soft. Somebody will say, Well, I've got softer tires out there. My derometer rating is this. I'm like, It isn't about how soft the compound is, it's about how the rebound characteristics of the compound is. They look at me like I'm talking Martian or something. I give them the old thumbnail or imprint into the tire to see how fast it fills itself back in. Then I say, Okay, now compare the best tires out there on the market for competitive rock crawling or even just trail riding, and now do it with this tire that claims to be the softest tire, and what do you see? That's one of the things that I thought you guys did a really good job at was figuring.


[01:34:29.340] - Jeff Cummings

Out that rebound. Yeah. How rubber compound and that goes back to some things that I guess the first that I was getting schooled on that goes back to road racing because all the road racing that we were doing early on was on treaded tires and you wanted to make the things sticky. That's what... Whether you're road racing or rock crawling or auto crossing, you want to make the thing stick. Well, soft barometer, pretty ancient way of trying to get something to stick. And with a softerometer on a treaded tire, you could think you were going to stick and you'd go hauling butt at speed around the corner and you could watch pieces of your tire head off towards the outside of the turn. So developing the chemical characteristics to get that rubber to absorb that energy. And you probably remember, I used to carry around a bunch of strips of rubber from different tires, and we would take and cut sections out of them and twist them up like a pretzel. And some you'd twist it up like a pretzel. And as soon as you let go of one end of that strip, it would snap back like a rubber band.


[01:36:02.190] - Jeff Cummings

And there were others that you could twist up and set on the workbench. And it might be the next couple of minutes before it would finally get itself back.


[01:36:21.070] - Jeff Cummings



[01:36:21.790] - Jeff Cummings

Its original shape. And you could have literally the same durometer hardness across the board in all of those. But I couldn't spell this to save my life and probably will mispronounce it, but the hysteretic properties of how the rubber compound absorbs and releases energy plays a big role there. It's one of the big challenges the industry is facing now with trying to further reduce the rolling resistance in a tire for an electric vehicle to effectively extend its range. And so it's an area that's getting tremendous amount of attention currently because you still need those vehicles to have the ability to stop on wet roads, dry roads, snow covered roads. So you can't take what people would think as well, just make a rubber compound that's like a bowling ball and reduce your rolling resistance. So the ability to manage that energy effectively is a far greater thing. And trying to think of a reasonable analogy here, but if you were to look at a tire that we would develop with what the consumer may call the sticky compound, that might cost you a couple of miles per gallon out on the road. And it's not necessarily because it's like bubble gum stick, it's because of the way that it deals with managing the energy in the footprint, if that makes sense, which I should have a better analogy than that.


[01:38:13.840] - Jeff Cummings

But that's what you're fighting there is you're skewing the dial over to, okay, we want this to absorb the energy. I had an opportunity years ago. We had five different tires and we were all playing at Moab. And we had this one that was fantastic. We could put them on the vehicle and we could start up the bowl and we would then measure how far up the bowl before they would break loose. And that set of tires, that compound out climbed anything else that we had. But once we once you had the least amount of slippage, you went to the bottom of that bowl in a blink. I mean, it was like, first time it happened, we were lucky we didn't flop the vehicle on its side because it was like, wow, look at it. Boom. Just no control, no feedback. And the compound that was like third from the highest was by far the compound that everyone preferred because you could pull it up to that point and you could just play with it. You could add a little more juice, you could take a little more juice away, you could turn the wheel to try and get it to find another path up there.


[01:39:53.780] - Jeff Cummings

And all maintaining control. And that was all about the property of that rubber compound, not the durometer softness that allowed you to do that. I got a chance to spend a little time with one of the compounders Saturday down at the Mint 400. I always like to tease those guys. I said, You guys all look like normal guys. Whenever the murder mortals were around, I said, But the last time I was in the lab down there at Mark, I said, I got done and thank the guys for spending some time with me. I said, Well, now that we're going to leave, you guys can put on your cloaks and your pointy hats and go back to standing around the cauldron, chanting and throwing in pinches of this and that. And they all stood there and looked at me with this, you're not supposed to know that look on their face. When I was telling this guy that, he just gave me this.


[01:41:00.590] - Jeff Cummings

Little wry smile.


[01:41:02.600] - Jeff Cummings

Like, so? It really is a pretty magical thing that those guys do. And it's a constant chase. You have to do... You have to design that rubber compound. Everybody wants a tire that will last a million miles.


[01:41:24.940] - Jeff Cummings

And certainly the...


[01:41:26.330] - Jeff Cummings

Most consumers do. And the technology exists to do that. If you look at tires that we would produce for 18 whalers, they'll maybe, I don't know, run 250,000 miles. And then that casing is guaranteed for three recaps afterwards. So you need to look at does the compound have enough grip for its intended use? And then matching that up with a casing design that will last that long. So as you look at a light truck tire, 50, 60,000 miles seems to be the target that everybody in the industry is shooting at. Well, you also want to make certain that you've got a carcass that will last 50 or 60,000 miles because if you've got tread rubber that will last 50 or 60,000 miles. But the carcass won't.


[01:42:33.320] - Jeff Cummings



[01:42:33.550] - Jeff Cummings

What good is it? I don't want to play after about 40, but you also don't want to necessarily have a carcass that will last 150,000 miles in a rubber compound that's gone in 50. So there's so many things that the guys, when they're trying to bring all the different pieces together to make... Because whether it's the company I work for or any of the rest of them, they don't want to be the next Armstrong. They want to be around for another... At BFG, a couple of years ago, we celebrated our 150th anniversary. They plan on being around for an awfully long time. So you got to make certain that you're making wise decisions to make certain that the products at the end of the day... I'm a hardcore capitalist. There's nothing wrong with being profitable, but you also need to be competitive and you need to have a product that is a good value for the consumer. And that's all the things that the guys with the big brains are charged with trying to hit all those targets so they can deliver on the marketing people's promises who aren't need to necessarily tire people. It's better.


[01:44:04.380] - Jeff Cummings

When they are.


[01:44:05.990] - Jeff Cummings

It is. We get into things where... And I expect this trend to grow, quite honestly, just by nature of the consumer. But we now have tires that have a different design on one side than they have on the other. I think that started when we had white wall on one side and black wall on the other or raised white letter on one side. Well, now we've got stuff on the sidewall of tires. You've got different stuff on one side wall than you've got on the other side wall. That's okay. There's really nothing wrong with it. But is it esthetics.


[01:44:45.620] - Jeff Cummings

Or is it function? I think it's a.


[01:44:50.620] - Big Rich Klein



[01:44:51.650] - Jeff Cummings



[01:44:53.300] - Big Rich Klein

Is what it is. I have taunted some of the big brain guys with, So if you made it look like this on one side and then on the other side, and they just look at me with, I thought you wanted it to do this, well, we do. Then why would you want the other side to not do what we've designed this side to do? Well, one of.


[01:45:19.420] - Jeff Cummings

The things with design...


[01:45:21.430] - Big Rich Klein

I don't see us doing that anytime soon, but there's a market for it. Oh, yeah. And who am I to say it's wrong? It's form of a function, certainly from a traction or durability standpoint when you look at light truck tires. That I am pretty firm.


[01:45:43.690] - Jeff Cummings

On viewing. Right. With the magazine, I try to do tire tests, and so I'm not always running the same sets of tires on my vehicles. It's amazing, especially with the Raptor, the difference in how tires handle on the pavement. You don't see it so much when you're in the sand or in the snow or on dirt roads. But when you're on pavement at speed, a tire will hold itself, what I like to call hold itself in line going down the road without a shimmy. And then you get another tire, or you take that same tire and you go above the suggested speed limit of the United States, and you'll start to feel that tire start to shimmy. And then you get another tire that has no shimmy at any speed that you drive it. And what I've noticed is the way that that tire is designed in tread block design, whether they're squared or whether they're stacked or angled, stacked or angled tread blocks don't shimmy as much because the properties of a triangle over a box is more stable is the easiest way to explain it. And it's.


[01:47:13.640] - Big Rich Klein

Actually the things that you can't see that probably play an even greater role in that stuff, Rich. They can tweak the court angles ever so slightly and change those kinds of characteristics in a tire pretty dramatically. I've for the long time, I talked, I say, we ever evolve as an industry to where tires are clear, the low end of the tire business will go away. Because you look in there, because now you look at the sidewall and it says, okay, well, there's polyester and steel in there. What you don't see is, does this have 0.038 gage wire with three wraps or four wraps? And does it have eight cord ends per inch, or does it have 19 cord ends per inch? And I could go on and mind numbing stuff that I have been exposed to there, but the differences are pretty staggering. And you look at even going back to the development of the Crawler, we were already making Bajatiers, which were the it tire for desert racing. And one of the things that helped it become the it tire for desert racing was the spring rate that we had developed and designed into the sidewall.


[01:49:03.030] - Big Rich Klein

The tire was certainly the standard at that point in time in terms of toughness and durability. When we first tried rock crawling with those, it was, Oh, my God. These are horrible. Well, that spring rate. That spring rate, while, okay, you're not going to rip the sidewall out of one of these rock crawling with it, it's not that you can't, but you will have earned it by the time you do, we had to get rid of that spring rate and still maintain all of that durability. So the things that you can't see because the sidewall looked virtually identical early on, it was the things from an interior reinforcement standpoint. So when you're looking at what your priorities are, and as the company is always working on next generation stuff, particularly with some of the really popular tires, I know one of them that they're scrambling away now. And on the top of the PowerPoint for the design criteria are big letters.


[01:50:29.270] - Jeff Cummings



[01:50:29.530] - Big Rich Klein

Screw this up. It's like we're selling millions of these things, but we know you guys can make it better.


[01:50:39.000] - Jeff Cummings

But understand...


[01:50:39.810] - Big Rich Klein

Don't screw it up. Don't screw it up. I've had, over the years, people go, When are you going to have something new? When they hit all the criteria, and would I like it today? Sure. Will I have it tomorrow? Maybe. It might be two years from now. The deal that we always had with them is, don't put us in a position to be making excuses for you guys deciding, well, this is good enough. It doesn't have to be just good enough. It has to be what it needs to be. And that's over all the time that I spent with the company was pretty frustrating at times because we'd have competitors that would come out with.


[01:51:32.970] - Jeff Cummings

The new it tire. And it's like.


[01:51:34.410] - Big Rich Klein

When are you guys going to... That tire you've got six years old, eight years old, when are you going to come out with something new? The thing that I am so thankful of working for the company that I did is that you talk to the guys at the retail point and say, Well, you were selling a bunch of those. Yeah. Well, how many of those people came back in and bought a second set? And we have been blessed with consumers that... I run into more people that are probably on their fifth or seventh set of our tires than first sets anymore. And there's people that win at the competition. I've always loved the competition because it makes certain that people don't get complacent and become the next case study of Armstrong. Well, we got it all. We can just sit back and as is the case with I was lucky. I figured out what I wanted to do with the company. I didn't want to be vice president. I wanted to be in a position to go out and play with tires. And literally right up to the end of my last event, we were out demonstrating two different tires, A versus B.


[01:53:07.870] - Big Rich Klein

Which one do you like better? Working for a company that would allow me to do that and make certain that the marketing claims were being fact checked. I guess I hear that in the news a lot. Well, this has been fact checked. That the product was fact checked against what its application was. Then you just hope the guy at retail doesn't turn around. We had a product years ago that I had three friends that put them on their vehicles and raved about them. And it was probably one of our less successful tires because people were selling it for all the wrong reason. They were selling it as a less expensive alternative to the Goodrich All Terrain. And it wasn't an all terrain. It was a use a light truck tire that would allow you to go off the pavement, which my view of going off the pavement is a lot different than going off road. And of course, the consumers that went, oh, this is, I don't know, pulling a number out of my butt, $30 a tire less, I'll take those and then go, Well, these didn't do anywhere close to what I expected them to do.


[01:54:27.910] - Big Rich Klein

And you'd start looking at the application, said, okay, so the guy that bought him to put him on his truck that he towed his boat was thrilled because they had all the traction. He wanted to pull it up that wet boat ramp. He wasn't out trying to show off on his favorite black bear section of trail out there. There's a lot of things that can go right. Just think back to rock crawling and as people thought about biting edges and the time that people would spend to go out and have their tires siphed, and the number of people that lived down there, you wanted to just cry. They'd go out and they'd buy a new set of tires. They'd take it to some truck tire guy and say, I want to get these siphed. And they would sip the bejeezes out of the tire. And now you got 17, 30 seconds of rubber that's been cut up that has all the stability in that block element of overcooked spaghetti. And they'd go to do a climb. And it was like, Oh, my God. But this is supposed to help. Well, yeah, it could have helped a little bit if you would have maybe put that sip about two, 30 seconds, maybe at the deepest spot.


[01:55:59.990] - Big Rich Klein

But when the tire wore down, well, then you'd have to go do that again. Well, I didn't want to spend the money doing that over and over again. I said, Well, now you got $2,000 worth of stuff that... It doesn't work. Yeah. Put them on your boat dock because that's going to be where they're going to really provide you with the greatest use going forward. So it's one of those things where it is siping good? Sure. But you got to know the why you want to do it and is it the right application and to what degree. The compromises that the tires and they've it's amazing that they have reduced the compromises as much as they have over the years. I am blown away. We're making all season tires that are going original equipment on C 8 Corvettes. And I never thought I'd live to see the day that something like that would happen. Now, my first experience with all season tires was back when I was working retail. And the guys that sold them to me said, well, these are going to be great. They're good in the snow. They're good in the rain. They're good in the dry.


[01:57:28.290] - Big Rich Klein

And I can still picture the sidewall of that tire because it had four little squares on the sidewall and had a bright sun. It had a little square with a snowflake.


[01:57:38.770] - Jeff Cummings

It had.


[01:57:40.160] - Big Rich Klein

A raindrop. It had the raindrops. And then it had the fall leaves. And after about six months, I got to know all those customers very well because it was a winter that there were no more snow tires to be had. And I thought, Well, I'll sell some of these. And generally, work in retail when you have somebody coming back through your door 48 to 72 hours later, they weren't coming in to say, Jeez, Jeff, thanks for selling me some of those. These are the best things that I have ever spent any money on, and I feel so good about how safe and sound my family is as a result of what you put on the car. So I always had a jaded view of all season tires as a result of that because the only good thing I can say about those tires is that as bad as they were in the snow, in the spring rain, in the Midwest, they might have been worse. And once the sun came out in the summer, they basically dissolved like a popsicle on the sidewalk. So we really didn't have to find out what they dealt with in the fall.


[01:58:49.090] - Big Rich Klein

I got that jaded view of all season tires very early on. Every time we have come up with a new version, it's been treading out on very thin ice. The last two years, I have been doing track events on all season tires. A lot of people go, Oh, my God. Is that really what you... I said, Oh, no, it's not the right application at all. But the fact that we have now developed an all season tire that will work over that wide temperature range and give you traction at cold temperatures and hot temperatures and doesn't self destruct when you start pushing their limits. And they do have limits in that situation. Even the tires that we're putting on the Corvettes at this point in time, they will get to the point where they're not doing everything that you would want them to do. But as guys with some pretty incredible ability behind the wheel will point out to me, you could drive as hard as humanly possible back and forth on your favorite on ramp and off ramp until your arms were ready to fall off and you'd never reach the level of heat that we're able to get out here running time trial laps with these things.


[02:00:20.070] - Big Rich Klein

And they're not giving up on us until we've done that for about six laps in 100 degree ambient temperatures. So the likelihood of f you're going to take your sports car out and do weekend track events, probably not the best tire, but you're not going to have them self destruct on you. You're just not necessarily going to be overly fast and you'll be buying them a bit more readily than you otherwise should. So it's extraordinary how they've engineered many of those compromises out. I would have bet the family farm, the industry would never reach the ability to do that. And there's a few of them out there now that will. I say that as I tell people, I said GM didn't decide to put that tire on that car.


[02:01:09.270] - Jeff Cummings

To make us look good.


[02:01:12.820] - Big Rich Klein

Right. That's not how that works. They're all about selling that car with it's got this acceleration number and this cornering number, and the shoes that they choose to put underneath it are either going to deliver or it'll be somebody else's product underneath it. The fact that you now have the ability to do that and have cold weather capabilities is really a testament to comes back to the compounding guys and what they're able to do with that energy management in those rubber compounds.


[02:01:49.680] - Jeff Cummings

The guys in their wizard suits standing around the cauldrons. And who.


[02:01:54.020] - Big Rich Klein

Knows what we'll see in the next... It's been 46 years since I started trying to feed myself with tires and I am astonished at how the industry has changed and evolved. I envisioned today, I tell the guys now, I said, I'll be long gone here, but there will come a time in the not real distant future where that vehicle is probably going to start itself up and drive it to a facility where it will be determining what tires are being put back on it, and it'll drive itself back to where it was parked so you can go on your merry way. But the one end of this business that's going to be the same is going to be the enthusiast. And whether it's the offroad enthusiast or the pavement enthusiast, the people that I've been fortunate enough to work with and work on promoting and demonstrating those tires, the group of people that wants more, whether it's cooler, faster, jumping higher, going through nastier stuff, that group isn't going away. No, it's not. That audience is going to continue to be there. My first official day at BFG with the personnel people, one of the ladies I was going over the paperwork with, looked me in the eye and made it very clear.


[02:03:42.930] - Big Rich Klein

She goes, Once this performance tire fad goes away, we really don't see you fitting into the corporate environment here. I go, What do you mean? She goes, Well, people are not going to be buying these big, wide tires or these knobby things. That's going to be a passing fad. And I went, Oh, okay. How long do you think that's going to last? And she goes, I don't know, maybe two, maybe three more years. And I went, oh, cool. Because at that point, that'd be about as long as I'd been employed doing anything else. So I was all in. That was looking like long term employment. As long as there are consumers out there that want more, I'm pretty certain that my employer wants to be at the forefront of trying to meet their needs. And that was the fun part of my job. It was all about helping the guys with the big brains hone in on the targets and then getting the tires. That was a tough thing about actually finally saying I would retire because I spent 90 % of my time out showing off tires with folks going, Wow.


[02:05:08.440] - Jeff Cummings

Getting paid to drive.


[02:05:09.780] - Big Rich Klein

This is your job. Well, it's not much of one, but it's what I do. And there would always be somebody in the accounting going, Why are you buying tires? We make tires. Well, yeah, but we don't make those. So if I'm going to go out doing stuff, I want some of ours and some of theirs. Okay, does your boss know this? Well, yeah.


[02:05:37.890] - Jeff Cummings

He signed it. You can't compare apples to apples and expect to get oranges. You've got to try different things and then figure out why something may be working when you're.


[02:05:54.810] - Big Rich Klein

Maybe down. Well, I was so lucky. When I operate on the East Coast when I started and then back to the Midwest and then I guess the second half of the 80s, getting out West. And I either credit or blame Rod Hall with my move into Nevada. I would go out with Rod. It was always an adventure because we would go out and we would get stuck and we would get hung up. Being a big fan, I'd be over there in the right seat thinking, Well, who am I to be barking at the grand master? And this guy's won everything that there is to win. And finally, one day I couldn't take it anymore. Finally, I said, Jesus, Rod, how in the hell do you ever want to race? And it doesn't seem like we can't be out here for more than a couple of hours. And the next thing I'm out pushing and digging, and Rod looked at me like, What a stupid thing to say. He goes, Everybody gets hung up and stuck. He goes, When it happens to most people, they just get out and go, Oh God, what am I going to do?


[02:07:00.770] - Big Rich Klein

He goes, It's one of those things you got to practice at, so that you get yourself stuck in every conceivable fashion. Knowing the man, it's not that big a deal. You know how you're going to get yourself out.


[02:07:15.430] - Jeff Cummings

True. And we.


[02:07:16.450] - Big Rich Klein

Would go out with different vehicles with different tires. Well, Rod being the driver and me being the, generally, behind the back bumper pushing, looking at how the different tires acted on the different surfaces. And the day that Rod said, Well, you drive. I want to look at that. I thought, You're kidding? But I had fascinated him enough with what I was seeing from one tire to the next on the different surfaces that Rod wanted to see with his own eyes. I, unfortunately, did not Excel at throttle control to the same degree that Rod did, but he helped me get better at that. And that was like going to an advanced degree of playing with tires with Rod. And I was one of those people that hated mud tires in the sand. Rod's like, Well, the mud tires way better in the sand. I go, No, it's not. I said, You put those on and you go in the sand, you're stuck. And Rod finally taught me how to drive in the sand because the only reason you don't like them is that you have no feel in your right foot. And there's a reason you're stuck.


[02:08:38.990] - Big Rich Klein

And it's not the tire. And changed my attitude considerably. And I find there's an awful lot of people that still think the way that I did of, well, you don't get stuck as easily with an all terrain versus a mud type tire in the sand. But if you can drive or have some throttle control, the difference is pretty astonishing. I've now gotten over my blatant, I shouldn't say fear of the Dunes, but it was one of those things where if I could find a way to stay out of the sand because I knew there was work ahead if I got in the sand. Now I try and make certain I got the right tires on. Like most people should. I've got at least two sets of wheels and tires for everything here, as I like to tell people, well, you wear different shoes to go out and.


[02:09:42.970] - Jeff Cummings

Do different things. Yeah, that's true enough. What is next.


[02:09:48.160] - Big Rich Klein

For Jeff Simmons? I started laughing, but I'm thinking spending some more quality time down at the airport because one of the great joys doing this over the years was the introduction of the TSA to my life and the amount of time that they would steal from me, making certain that they weren't about bothering travelers like me. So I'm thinking going to the airport with some of my less than stellar looking vehicles and turning off the battery switch that I'm stalled out behind them at shift change when they're panicking, trying to get someplace in a hurry and watching them have little melt downs would be a great use of my time. I should probably do something a little more productive than that. I'm still going to do some, I don't know what the right word is, contracting, consulting with BFG on some things. I went out, bought myself a new toy, seen as how I needed to complicate parking a little more here. Now I have a pair of Broncos and a pair of Raptors. Nice. There's no scratches on the new Raptor yet, so that'll probably be something that unfortunately lies in its future because I didn't get it to go driving over the speed bumps at the mall faster than the Honda.


[02:11:32.370] - Big Rich Klein

Now that I'm not going to be quite so focused on helping my partner get up to speed, probably look to get into a little more time down in Baha, working on access roads and such. I had a couple of people this weekend of like, You should just write a book that you could sell to all of the teams for roaming around Baha. I'm like, I'm not certain it would pay off from a sales standpoint, but I've always been intrigued on how do you get over that hill and what does it connect to? Right. Do some.


[02:12:11.060] - Jeff Cummings

More exploring.


[02:12:11.590] - Big Rich Klein

See a.


[02:12:12.680] - Jeff Cummings

Little of that in my future. Excellent. Well, I hope to run across you out there doing that. We just might have to go r aptoring. I like the AC and.


[02:12:27.900] - Big Rich Klein

The heat. I'm old and slow and I try not to break.


[02:12:32.990] - Jeff Cummings

Things I don't want to fix. I agree. I like to at least get it home. It can clunk and clank and all that, but as long as I can get it to a trusted mechanic to actually do the wrenching, I'm happy. Not that I can't do it myself. It's just how deep do I want to do it.


[02:12:52.580] - Big Rich Klein

In my driveway? Well, the guys that roped me into being one of the drivers on the team for the BAA 2000, and for six months I said, Man, I know guys that are looking for a ride. They're great drivers. I can put you in touch with them. And they're like, No, we want you on the team. And one night after a few adult beverages, they were working on me again. I said, Listen, you guys really want to drive with us? Now, we get to deal with the aftermath of your excursions pretty frequently. We want you to drive the last leg because no matter what's left of that truck by the time that we get it to you, we know that you are too lazy to just stop and walk out. You will somehow figure out a way of limping it to the end because you brought things back to us that were like, Holy shit.


[02:13:53.010] - Jeff Cummings

Should have.


[02:13:54.050] - Big Rich Klein

Been on a trailer. How long ago did that happen? About four days ago. And you're having... So that was the one time that I actually signed up and I finally said, You know what? Okay, so you're using sound judgment for why you want me to drive the truck. Fortunately, they literally broke it in half before I had to get in.


[02:14:16.880] - Jeff Cummings

So you didn't have to worry.


[02:14:21.510] - Big Rich Klein

About maybe.


[02:14:23.100] - Jeff Cummings

Having to walk? Yes. That's awesome. Well, Jeff, thank you so much for spending the time and talking and going over your vast knowledge. I really enjoy having these conversations with you from time to time when I see you. I really hope that if you're going to be staying in the Vegas area, we'll just have to get.


[02:14:49.040] - Big Rich Klein

Together and do.


[02:14:50.130] - Jeff Cummings

Some exploring. Good happen. All right. Well, sounds good. Thank you so much.


[02:14:57.470] - Big Rich Klein

For spending the time. Well, you're welcome. I'm probably about bored to tears at this point.


[02:15:03.700] - Jeff Cummings

No, not at all. Not at all. All right. Have a good one.


[02:15:08.140] - Big Rich Klein



[02:15:08.420] - Jeff Cummings

Right, Jeff, thank you so much.


[02:15:11.070] - Big Rich Klein

Bye bye. You're welcome. Bye bye.


[02:15:13.060] - Jeff Cummings

Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on, or send us an email or text message or Facebook message, and let me know any ideas that you have, or if there's anybody that you have that you think would be a great guest, please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember, live life to the fullest. Enjoying life is a must. Follow your dreams and live life.