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Why Drive 19.5?
POSTED: May 23, 2007 | by Gordon White
Most of us don't think a lot about our wheels and tires. If they're round and inflated, we're happy. But we ask a lot of those black circles under our trucks. Like, "Can you please hold several tons while I speed down the mountain pass at 70 mph?" and, "Stop when I say stop." So, on behalf of your wheels and tires, we bring you an interview with none other than Dan Richter, President of Rickson Truck Wheels. And we ponder the big question - why drive 19.5?
TCM: How did Rickson Truck Wheels begin?
Dan: I’ve been a motor head as long as I can remember. When I graduated from college, I bought myself a new 1996 Dodge 2500 Cummins single rear wheel four-wheel-drive pick-up. That was my first truck. I went through my first set of factory Goodyear tires after 20K miles. Then I got 30K miles with a set of Michelins. The only thing I didn’t like about my truck was how it cornered and handled, and how the tires wore out. Then I saw an ad in Turbo Diesel Register Magazine for 19.5 adapters for duallies. I called them and they said they couldn’t do it for a single rear wheel truck. So I started searching for 19.5s for my truck. It turned out that UPS had developed a wheel in the 1960’s with the right bolt pattern for a single rear wheel truck. At that time I was also looking to get into business. So called a friend of mine and said, “Want to go into the wheel business?” He said, “Are you crazy?” I said, “No, hear me out…” We found a distributor, bought four wheels and tires and put them on my truck. I absolutely loved it. So we ran a press release in Turbo Diesel Registry Magazine and announced the business that we were thinking about getting into. We listed an 800 number and thought if we got 40 calls we would have something. Well, we got 200 calls. We definitely knew we were onto something. Things took off from there.
TCM: Where did you get your original 19.5 wheels from?
Dan: Our original wheel was commercially available but nobody knew about it. There were only about 1,000 wheels in warehouses in the US and Venezuela and we were buying a couple palettes at a time. Then we went to our supplier and said that we would buy them all if they would finance us. They said yes. That was our first real financing. Then we called every wheel distributor in the country and bought every wheel they had. At that point we knew we had to come up with a new wheel. It just wasn’t going to last.
TCM: Why should someone with a truck camper consider 19.5" Ricksons?
Dan: Almost no matter what sized camper you get, you’re going to overload the rear tires. So the first reason for buying Ricksons is safety. The last thing you want to do is blow a rear tire on your truck with your family in it. The second reason for Ricksons is stability. If you’re overloaded, the sidewalls on a 16” or 17” tire will flex. There is a tremendous improvement with handling and margin of safety with Ricksons. And from a practical standpoint, you’ll get much better tire mileage.
TCM: What does it feel like to drive with Ricksons?
Dan: Driving with Ricksons feels like there’s something really substantial under the truck. It’s an improvement in cornering and handling. In a turn, a light truck tire will flex and the truck will move. Commerical tires are more point and shoot. Your truck will be much more responsive. Trucks with Ricksons take bumps differently, sometimes better, sometimes worse. Typically we don’t see adverse ride quality problems. If we do, they are fixed with shock absorbers. We recommend replacing the original shocks. Overall, driving with Ricksons is a more confident feeling.
TCM: What percentage of your customers would you say are truck campers?
Dan: I would estimate that probably twenty to thirty percent of our customers are truck camper customers. It’s our single biggest user base. There’s no better application for Rickson’s than with a slide-in. Truck campers are so big and getting bigger. They’re getting heavier too. The bigger and heavier campers get, the more our products become a necessity.
TCM: What trucks are good candidates for Ricksons?
Dan: We do all the ¾ and 1-ton trucks. We can make wheels for ½ tons by special order, but if you need Ricksons for a ½ ton you probably need more than a ½ ton truck. We really haven’t seen any ¾ or 1-ton trucks that aren’t good candidates for Ricksons.
TCM: Are most of your clients single rear wheel truck owners?
Dan: Yes. I'd say 60-40. So many people don’t want a dually as their daily driver. Duallies won’t fit into the garage, they're difficult to park, and often the wife won’t drive them. We do a lot of duallies, but many more single rear wheel trucks. Ricksons are almost essential for single rear wheel trucks with truck campers. Unless you have an eight-foot camper, by the time you have your stuff and are wet you’re probably overloading the tires.
TCM: Aren’t there some things you can’t do with Ricksons, like go on the beach?
Dan: Our biggest downfall is the beach. These are commercial tires designed for commercial duty delivery trucks. They don’t air down well. They have a steel side wall which you’re bending back and fourth if you air them up and down. Ultimately the sidewall breaks. We have had customers go on the beach successfully but we don’t recommend it. That’s the only place where our product doesn’t excel. We tell customers that we have the best product to get you to the beach, just not on the beach. Ideally, you’d have a utility trailer and you’d just swap tires.
TCM: Talk to us about the different kinds of Ricksons.
Dan: We started selling steel wheels and then we got requests for aluminum. You either want aluminum because of looks or weight. They are twenty-five pounds lighter. Steel wheels are stronger and a lot of customers don’t want aluminum. They’ve had a bad experience with aluminum or they don’t want to have to polish their wheels. It comes down to look and money. Aluminum wheels are almost twice as much.
TCM: Tell us about Vision Wheels.
Dan: The Visions came out and I thought, “We might as well carry it.” They are a decent product. We wouldn’t sell them if they weren’t a good product. And they are inexpensive compared to a forged steel wheel. Selling them gives us the opportunity to educate the customer about forged steel wheels. The Visions are made in China and our customers, more than the average wheel customers, often see the value of things made in America.
TCM: How do you advise your customers about choosing commercial-duty tires?
Dan: First, we ask customers what they want to do with their truck. What are they hauling and how heavy is it? What do they want to do with their truck and camper? What do they want from 19.5’s? The only decisions then are steel or aluminum, what size 19.5’s to go with, and tread patterns. Our most popular size by far is 245/70R19.5. That gives more capacity than anything anybody’s going to need.
TCM: What about spare tires?
Dan: We are recommending more and more that people get spares. If you get a matching spare and rotate it, you will get much more life out of your set. The likelihood of a flat with 19.5s is much less than a regular tire. The tires are much more resistant to cuts, punctures, and damage. They are made to be bounced off curbs and abused by commercial delivery truck drivers. Our customers don’t abuse them like that. They’ll take a lot of punishment before going flat.
TCM: Do the larger wheels effect your speedometer?
Dan: Yes. If you go to a larger sized tire, it effects your speedometer. With 245’s you’re going as much as 3-4 percent faster. If you’re speedomenter reads 55 mph, you’re going more like 60 mph. Of course you can go with 225/19.5s which are the same diameter as stock tires and then you won’t effect your speedometer. Every truck speedometer can be fixed. Some are programmed by your dealer. Some need a new speedometer gear. Others can be changed electronically.
TCM: Speaking of fuel economy, do Ricksons change your truck's fuel economy?
Dan: We typically see an increase in fuel economy of zero to ten percent. Commercial tires are designed to be fuel efficient with less rolling resistance. The only time we see a decrease is if somebody doesn’t do a lot of highway driving. For trucks with a 4.10:1 gear ratio, the increase can be as high as ten percent.
TCM: What do Rickson’s cost?
Dan: Wheels and tires on a single rear wheel truck can be anywhere from $2,500 to $4,000 including shipping. That range is between steel or aluminum and what tire you choose. Most of our single rear wheel orders are in the $3,000 to $3,500 range. A dual rear wheel can be anywhere from $3,500 to $5,500.
TCM: How does someone buy Ricksons?
Dan: We do both retail and through tire dealers. Discount Tire and Les Schwab Tire Centers are authorized through corporate to buy from us. We recommend buying direct from us because our mounting and balancing is second to none. We can ship whole wheel and tire assemblies and have them installed by a local tire dealer or you can install them yourself.
TCM: What’s your vision for the future of Rickson Truck Wheels?
Dan: I see us expanding our manufacturing and doing more specialty type wheels. We’re in the position, as a manufacturing company, to make small production runs that wouldn’t be enough volume for overseas manufacturing. We can build a couple hundred wheels a year for specialty niche markets. On the distribution side, we will continue supplying other companies and growing our own distribution. And we’ll get more into service and vibration issues with commercial trucks.
TCM: Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you would want in your interview?
Dan: We know that we’ve had delivery issues. We couldn’t really get the quality and quantity we wanted from our manufacturers. That’s why we brought our manufacturing in-house. The choice was to bring manufacturing in-house or to go overseas and import as distributors. I really felt strongly about manufacturing in-house, for control over quality, process, and timing. It’s been a fun, but painful process. As of now, we’re typically running about one to two weeks plus shipping time. If we’re having issues getting the raw materials for your project, it can be as long as six to eight weeks – especially for aluminum dually wheels. Ultimately, we will solve our delivery time issues.
For more information about Rickson Truck Wheels, visit their web site at www.ricksontruckwheels.com.