See also Road Touring Tyres and Off-Road tyres
Updated Summer 2020
The big image below compares the tread on some of the best-known, currently available do-it-all travel bike tyres. A similar set of images appears in the new edition of AMH. Along with price, tread is the first thing we look at when choosing a tyre. This page covers the best adventure biking tyres suited to travel in the AMZ where the road infrastructure can be irregular.
Over the years I’ve tried at least half of them from most brands One thing’s for sure: the range and quality of tyres today is a whole lot better than when I first started my bike travels in the early 1980s (right).
And what’s more, wireless technology has enabled inexpensive tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS, right) kits, the vital metric which has been missing from our dashboards all these years. I’d take built-in TPMS over traction control any day.
When an unfinished highway turns to dirt, is washed-out by floods or is under repair for miles, these do-it-alls are the tyres that’ll give you the confidence to get stuck in. And along with their all-road attributes, from many of the less knobbly versions, 10,000 miles from a rear is easily possible, while still behaving predictably on wet roads. That sort of mileage probably matters more than dirt-road grip, especially when replacements aren’t easy to find and when carrying a spare is a pain.
All are clearly oriented towards road riding – some much more than others, but these tyres have deeper and wider gaps between the blocks than road tyres. As I found the other month, the difference between a road-style Anakee and some do-it-all Mitas, Motoz or Metzelers shown below is that on bends sprinkled with loose gravel (or jelly beans), the blocks may briefly skim sideways over the gravel but the blocks soon grip the tarmac between the gravel. A smooth, shallow-treaded road tyre would just keep rolling sideways. It’s the same on dry gravel tracks: predictable and controllable small slides, not rolling around on marbles. In deep sand or mud some won’t be much better than a road tyre unless you drop the air pressures.
Judged on looks alone, I’d designate a few like the Dunlop D605 and Motoz Rail Z at 70/30 road/dirt, The Michelin Anakee Wild I used in Morocco on my Himalayan (below) certainly worked great on loose, dry surfaces. But most are in my opinion 80/20 road/dirt or less, despite manufacturers’ claims. In terms of actual mileages covered, I’d say 80/20 is still a higher ratio of road-to-dirt than most long overland trips cover, but like other ‘all-terrain’ aspects of an adventure bike (big wheels, wide bars, low gearing; good clearance), when you need them you’re glad they’re there.