On the left, my Yamaha XT500 travel bike in 1982, fitted with Dunlop K70 and Avon Speedmaster tyres. Both are now classed as ‘vintage’ but they got me to the Sahara and back.
Fast forward a few decades past the invention of adventure motorcycling, and the tyres listed below from long-established brands are often what you’ll get fitted to a new adventure-style bike. They include:
- Avon Trailrider
- Bridgestone Battle Wing and some Trail Wings
- Conti Trail Attack (right) and TKC70
- Dunlop TrailSmart or Max (below left)
- Metzeler Tourance
- Michelin Anakee (Adventure)
- Pirelli Scorpion Trail II (yellow bike, below)
They may have sexy names shared with genuine off-road tyres from the same brands, as well as a token wide and shallow blocky pattern (below). In dry and consolidated conditions it’s amazing how well they work (as will any street tyre) and just a 15% drop in road pressures can make a big difference. But in deep sand or mud don’t kid yourself: they’ll be no better than an actual road tyre. Some, like the TKC70 self-designate themselves as 70/30 road/dirt. I’d say they’re more like 90/10 at best – in other words, virtually the same as a regular road tyre.
The better-known brands in radial and tubeless are suited to heavy, powerful bikes sticking to the road (in both senses); they’ll give excellent mileage, run cool and quiet, and grip securely in all conditions. Just don’t be under any illusions that they possess any special attributes off the bitumen just because they have the word ‘trail’ in their names.
If you’re heading out on a long overland trip into the AM Zone where transportation infrastructure is less developed, think about fitting ‘do-it-all’ road and trail tyres instead. They can last as long, grip nearly as well providing you’re not seeking to get your elbows down, and behave much more predictably on the loose surfaces you’re bound to encounter from time to time.
Below: an old F700GS on Anakees. Left, a 750GS on the same. Both worked fine on familiar, dry desert tracks providing I took it easy. But on mountain roads commonly sprinkled with gravel or other loose detritus, they can roll sideways and slip a little in bends. In the same situation, a shallow-blocked, wider-gaped ‘do-it-all’ tyre slips less and grips more.