BFGoodrich® Goes Digital
Believe it or not, this story starts in late 1970s — the first years that a team from BFGoodrich® Tires went down to Baja to participate in the most ruthless racing event on the planet.
During its first decade of off-road racing, the team became frustrated by the high barriers to entry that prospective racers faced. Determined to help, the team formed the BFGoodrich Pit Support Program, which grew to enable more and more drivers to compete in Baja with free pit support stations and the creation of a course terrain mapbook. Methodically charted and highly coveted by racers, these racecourse maps made the task of competing in a race easier, safer, and a little less daunting for newcomers.
Books like those Baja course maps existed in the world of non-competitive off-roading as well — if you could find them. Created piecemeal by scouting organizations, government land surveys, parks boards, and others, these tools took the form of trail guides, atlases, and good old-fashioned paper maps.
Before the dawn of consumer-facing GPS devices, discovering new trails for off-roading required a friend in the know, a lucky bookstore discovery, or a library card. Early GPS devices were expensive and unreliable, but the technology evolved, and today, most drivers rely on smartphones and GPS technology to find new places to explore. While these mapping tools have come a long way, they still rely on cell service and aren’t intentionally built with off-roading in mind.
It’s Not Our First Rodeo, But It Is Our First App
Our story revs up again in 2020, when the already-thriving recreational off-road space surged. The global pandemic turned world travelers into backcountry explorers, and UTVs and ATVs flew off of sale lots as a result. Manufacturers rolled out new, headline-grabbing vehicles with off-road capabilities to stoke the trend. And as a result, a wave of drivers turned off the road for the first time, sinking fresh treads into trails around the world.
It’s an exciting time, but it also comes with challenges. (If your favorite trail has felt a little crowded lately, you’re not alone.) As historic numbers of people tried off-roading for the first time, a dedicated team at BFGoodrich Tires was trying its hand at something new as well: app development.
The idea for BFGoodrich — with its tradition of off-road enablement — to build an off-road trail app made a lot of sense. The need for a better tool was there, and BFGoodrich had the experience to build it. Plus, with decades of careful Baja mapping and more than 150 years of innovative product development under their hood, this app project was sure to be no sweat, right?
But is a truly great build ever “no sweat?”
For Off-Roaders, By Off-Roaders
Like any worthy venture, the first step to building an app is to assemble an expert crew. Meet Oscar Pereda and Travis Daines — driving members of the BFGoodrich OnTrail team.
Oscar is a leader at BFGoodrich Tires and the visionary mind behind the app’s core concept. Travis (@JeepFreeks on Instagram) is a long-respected member of the off-roading community.
Like everything BFGoodrich makes, there was a strong desire to build this app at the grassroots level. “For off-roaders, by off-roaders” was a mantra on the development team, which included many avid off-roaders like Travis. They were brought into the process early and consulted often.
“This development team was so solid. I was impressed by everyone’s dedication to build something that was not only useful but unique. BFGoodrich was eager to hear from folks with boots on the ground, so a group of off-roaders was a part of the process from day one, including myself. It’s already a fantastic tool, but I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future. I’m honored to be a part of it.” – Travis
“One group we connected with early on was Charlene Bower and the Ladies Off-Road Network. They’ve got one of the most engaging off-roading clubs out there. It’s very oriented around personal growth and finding community and belonging off-road. When we discussed the driver-to-driver connection features of the app — the ‘My Team’ feature, the community trail reviews, the sharing capabilities, and some ideas we have for the future — her group really lit up. They pushed us to focus on that aspect of the app even more, and I’m so glad we did.” – Oscar
To Make Off-Roading Easier, Safer, and More Fun
The vision for BFGoodrich OnTrail is to make off-roading easier, safer, and more fun. A suite of preparation, trail mapping, communications, and advanced search features make executing a trail run undeniably easier. And crowdsourced information about hazards and content around environmental and personal safety certainly make it safer and more inclusive. But how can an app make off-roading more fun?
For the data-driven perfectionists out there, there’s fun to be had in the “My Trips” section of the app. Here, as you use the app, a library of personal statistics begins to form. This library helps you see the bigger picture, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately level up your off-road driving game.
The discovery of new trails and the crowdsourced understanding of their difficulty level also helps you level-up your skills and push yourself in new ways. This kind of fun can also be found in the “Missions” section of the app, where single- and multiple-trail guided off-road challenges get you out on the trail and out of your comfort zone.
Perhaps most entertaining is the gamification of off-roading that the app provides. As you use the app and challenge yourself, your profile ascends in rank — earning badges and accumulating points that can be redeemed for prizes, partner merch, and even a discount on your next set of tires.
In a Space to Call Our Own
Beyond ease, safety, and fun, the most significant app feature is access to the collective wisdom and camaraderie of the OnTrail off-roading community. Having real-person trail reviews, user photos of trail features and hazards, the ability to track your progress and rise through ranks, and the opportunity to connect with other drivers are key parts of the OnTrail experience that make it valuable and unique.
“OnTrail is a place for off-roaders to connect, interact, and learn from one another that’s outside of the other noise you deal with on social media. There are no trolls or keyboard warriors who’ve never off-roaded anywhere in their life. It’s a dedicated space, built by passionate people and a brand that truly cares about off-roading.” – Travis
“This project very quickly became much more than just a map tool. The sense of community we realized we could achieve through social features gave us a huge reason to keep going — one that aligned with our larger purpose as a company and as a part of the off-roading world. A few other brands had built some nice maps, but no one had built a fun and inviting space for the community. When we realized that was the real opportunity, the project took on a new life. We had a vision. One, I’m proud to say, is well on its way to becoming a reality.” – Oscar
This is just the trailhead. The OnTrail journey has only just begun, and the possibilities are vast. The vision to build a connected global off-roading community is incomplete without active off-roaders mapping their favorite trails, posting their epic rides, and wheeling with newfound friends. If that sounds like you, visit OnTrail.com to learn more, join the community, and start building the future of off-roading with like-minded peers and BFGoodrich Tires.