Do You Need Paddle Tires in Sand Dunes?

If you are planning your first trip to the dunes, you might be wondering if you need to have paddle tires. This is a common question that people ask and I am going to explain exactly what I have learned from riding in the dunes with paddles and without them. 

You do not need to have paddle tires to ride in the sand dunes. Most people prefer to use paddle tires because they provide more traction in the soft sand. Riding with sand tires makes it easier to climb faster and go up larger dunes. While you can ride in the sand with dirt tires, having paddles is recommended since it makes riding the dunes easier and more fun. 

Since paddle tires are not required to ride in the dunes, this can make the decision to have sand tires or not a little more complicated. While the majority of people at the dunes prefer sand tires, here is everything that you will need to know to help make your decision easier. 

What are Paddle Tires Used for?

Paddle tires are used for riding in the soft sand. Paddle tires are also called sand tires and they consist of a smooth surface with large rubber cups (or paddles) attached to the tires. There are different sizes, makes and types of paddle tires for sand rails, ATV’s, UTV’s, and dirt bikes to gain more traction in the sand. 

Front and Back Sand Tires

There are two main types of sand tires that are made for riding in the sand, front sand tires and rear (paddle tires). Front sand tires, also called smoothie tires, are smooth rubber treadless (or minimal tread) tires. They allow less drag in the sand at top speeds. 

Since you are new to riding in the dunes, you shouldn’t worry about front sand tires. Most people actually just use regular dirt tires or knobies on the front. Not having to worry about switching over the front tires will also make getting ready for the dunes easier. 

Since dirt bikes, UTV’s ATV’s and sand rails get their power from the rear tires, having a rear sand tire (or paddle tire) is what will give you the most traction in the dunes. The paddles are made so that they scoop into the sand and create forward momentum.

Sand Paddle Tires vs. Dirt Tires 

Since dirt tires are not made for deep sand, they tend to just push off the sand rather than scooping into it. You can still use dirt tires to get around most places in the dunes, there are just a few disadvantages. 

It will take a bit longer to take off and gain speed with dirt tires. When using a dirt tire at higher speeds on small dunes or flat sand, you will get around just fine. It is when you are at slower speeds and when you need more momentum to get up larger hills that you might not have as much power as you need. 

Paddle tires make riding the dunes easier and give you more power. When using a dirt tire, whatever you are driving will have to work harder to get through the sand which will cause you to use more gas and you just won’t have as much traction and power as you would have with paddle tires.

Check out this quick video that shows a test of a dirt bike in the sand with a paddle and without a paddle. It’s a great visual example of using just a dirt tire vs. a paddle tire in the sand. 

Sand Riding Style

What is your riding style? Are you going to the dunes because you just want to see the sand and ride on smaller hills, or are you wanting to do fast riding and go up all the steep hills? 

If you just want to explore the sand dunes and go for a nice ride, you don’t even need paddles. If you are wanting to get fast speed, traction and try to get to the top of the biggest dunes, then you will want paddle tires. 

Sand and Climate Conditions

The weather, season, and location of the sand dunes that you are visiting will determine the sand conditions that you will be riding in. During the winter and spring, the sand will tend to have more moisture. When sand is wet it provides much more traction and is easier to ride in than dry sand. 

If you are heading to the dunes right after it has rained you will get more traction without a paddle tire and it will be much easier to get around on just a dirt tire. Keep in mind that during the summer months or if you are going to dunes that don’t receive much rain, the sand is going to be loose and dry making it more ideal to have a paddle tire. 

Pros and Cons of Paddle Tires

While we have covered many of the great things that paddle tires provide such as traction, easier riding, more momentum, and being able to go up larger dunes, there are some cons that come with the decision to run paddles in the dunes. 

First you will have to purchase paddle tires. A paddle tire for a dirt bike is very affordable and can normally be purchased for about $50-150. If you have an ATV, UTV it will cost a bit more since you will need to buy two paddle tires. UTV and ATV paddles are normally about $80-$300 each. Sand rail paddles are the most expensive and are between $150-400 each. 

Another disadvantage of running paddles is that you can only use them on the sand. If you are only planning on driving on the sand, you won’t have to worry about switching out your paddle and dirt tires. 

If you ride your dirt bike, ATV or UTV in the sand and the dirt, you will need to put on paddle tires everytime that you go to the dunes and switch it back to dirt tires after the dunes. This can be costly and takes more time and planning. 

Are paddle tires worth it?

Paddle tires are 100% worth it. They make riding in the dunes easier, allow you to go faster, gain and hold momentum up the biggest dunes, and provide more traction in the sand. You will burn less fuel and won’t get stuck as often. Riding in the sand dunes with a paddle tire is much more fun than using a dirt tire. 

Don’t worry if you cannot purchase a paddle tire for your dune trip. Just air down the tire pressure on your dirt tire and you will still be able to ride the dunes. 

I have personally rode my dirt bike in the sand dunes with and without a sand tire. Both times I got around just fine, but after riding with a paddle tire, I would never want to go back to riding using just a dirt tire. The traction, ease, and fun that you will have with a paddle tire in the dunes is worth the extra cost and time and preparation.