There are two types of adventure motorcyclists in the world: those who are particular about their tires and those who don’t care what sort of rubber is wrapped around their rims. No matter which category you fall into, as long as you’re riding a motorcycle, you’re bound to burn through quite a few sets of tires as you’re ripping around on your adventure bike.
For adventure riding you want a tire that’s designed specifically for big adventure bikes and performs well on-road and off. The best ADV tires either fall into the 50/50 or 60/40 category, referring to the balance between off-road/on-road use. Like all things in the world, there’s always a bit of a compromise when it comes to choosing tires. Your 50/50 tires are going to last a little longer than the 60/40s and will inherently perform a bit better on the tarmac. 60/40 tires will give you the upper hand in the dirt, but are generally made of a softer compound with deeper treads, so you’ll burn through them quicker than a set of 50/50s.
Here are some of our favorite sets of shoes suitable for whatever adventure you have in store, plus a few Tire Pro Tips to keep you rolling in the right direction!
Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41
When the pavement is merely a means to the dirt, the Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross is a rock-solid choice for 60/40 riding. Bridgestone reworked the tread pattern and block shape for both front and rear tires to improve performance. The redesigned contact patch and tougher rubber compound increase durability and get you to the trails with ease. Finding the sweet spot between longevity and performance, the Battlax Adventurecross works with tubeless and tube-type wheels for whatever adventure bike you’re riding.
MSRP: $86.70 – $211.85
Tire Pro Tip # 1
If you’re just getting started riding off-road, try running knobbier 60/40s as you start getting comfortable with how the bike feels on loose surfaces. Though they’ll wear faster, knobbies will give you the upper hand in the dirt and smooth the off-road learning curve a bit quicker.
Continental Twinduro TKC80
No list of ADV tires would be complete without the Continental TKC80, easily one of the most ubiquitous and best performing set of skins on the market today. Also falling into the 60/40 category of adventure tires, the TKC’s block-pattern knobs excel off-road while hinting at a street-tire profile to maintain tarmac traction. What this tire lacks in longevity, it makes up for in performance. The big block pattern scares the dirt into submission and gives you tons of grip, braking power, and traction on a wide range of surfaces from loose to hard pack.
MSRP: $69.30 – $218.15
Tire Pro Tip #2
Practice ahead of time! You do not want your first tire change experience to be alone in the backcountry only to find that you don’t have the right tools or techniques to tackle the repair. Practice removing and replacing your tire in the comfort of your own driveway. To keep your skills up to par, make a regular practice of mounting your own new tires, rather than taking them into the shop.
READ MORE: GEAR COLLECTIONS: OVERLAND WHEELS
Dunlop Trailmax Mission
The Trailmax Mission Tire is one of the best 50/50 adventure tires on the market today. A relatively new addition to Dunlop’s lineup, the Mission delivers knobby-like performance off-road, has impressive grip on the street, and the darn things last forever! Dunlop claims that you’ll get an impressive 8,000 miles out of the rear tire, virtually twice the longevity of the TKC80. The tread design uses deep, widely spaced lugs cut into the tire’s profile to deliver sure-footed road carving. The wraparound tread blocks reach around the sidewall, increasing puncture resistance and traction while ripping off-road.
MSRP: $92.92 – $202.00
Tire Pro Tip #3
Tire pressure is a hotly debated topic of conversation around the campfire. When it comes to on-road riding with a loaded bike, use the manufacturer recommended PSI which is set to support your heavyweight machine at high speeds. Once you get off-road, if you find yourself struggling with forward traction, you can consider airing down, but remember, the lower your tire pressure, the more likely you are to sustain punctures and rim damage. I’d suggest airing down in 5 PSI increments until you find the sweet spot. Plus, remember to pack a portable pump, so you can air back up when you get out of the tough stuff.
Kenda K784 Big Block
Designed to meet the demands of adventure motorcycle purists, the Kenda Big Block takes you from the tarmac to the trails with ease. This 60/40 tire has powerful puncture resistance and a versatile tubeless design. Though the rear tire isn’t known for its long life, these Kendas perform on par with their more expensive counterparts, so plan on going through two rears for every front tire you replace, just like you would with the TKC80. The Big Block is designed for superior handling, even at high speeds on the heaviest bikes, and delivers great traction on the street and rugged terrain alike.
MSRP: $77.10 – $136.44
Tire Pro Tip #4
If you’ve got tube-type tires, your tire irons will be your best friend because most every repair will require that you remove the tire and patch the tube. Use caution when you’re replacing the tube and make sure it doesn’t get pinched between the rim and wheel (easier said than done, of course!). If you’re running tubeless tires, many of your repairs can be done with the wheel on, but bring along those tire irons anyhow. Even the stoutest plug kit can fall short and you’ll need to get the tire off to perform serious repairs to keep your adventure rolling.
The iconic Mitas E-07 is a 50/50 tire developed with the weight and power of big adventure machines in mind. Due to its hard-wearing bias-ply construction and optimal on- and off-road performance, the E-07 is a popular ADV tire for round the world trips and home turf adventures alike. The chevron tread arrangement maximizes biting edges with sufficient gaps between tread blocks to ensure good traction in tricky off-road situations. Suited for tubeless and tubed tires, on pavement, the versatile E-07 instills confidence when cornering and in wet conditions with stability and comfort even at highway speeds.
MSRP: $105.95- $219.95
Tire Pro Tip #5
When it comes to mounting new tires, if you have a chance to set them out in the sun to warm up and soften, it sure makes it a lot easier to wrestle those beasts into place.
READ MORE: HOW TO PACK FOR ADVENTURE MOTORCYCLING
Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR
The Scorpion Rally STR is another 50/50 tire that offers excellent grip and longevity that goes the distance. The Rally STR features a road-derived profile and a silirich compound that works well on the pavement, even in wet or cold conditions. This profile and compound, combined with a unique knob design, results in a consistent contact patch that delivers serious canyon carving performance. When your adventure takes you off the tarmac, the aggressive knobby design makes quick work of gravel, sand or dirt.
MSRP: $108.14 – $248.84
Tire Pro Tip #6
One of the biggest tire-change struggles is breaking the bead on the tire. Once you get the wheel off and let the air out, lay the wheel on the ground and drop your side stand down (or, better yet, use your riding buddy’s bike for this). Tip the bike towards you so the foot of the kickstand presses against the bead and use the weight of the bike to break the bead loose from the rim.
Tire Tools and Accessories
Tire Pro Tip #7
Keep a little bottle of watered-down soap in your tool kit for finding the cause of your flat. As you turn your tire, looking for the culprit, squirt a bit of the soapy water and look for air bubbles coming out of the tire. Don’t forget to check along the rim, too. Also, once you’ve patched your tube or plugged your tire, air up and put some of the soap on the repair to make sure it’s holding tight and not bubbling.
Stop & Go Portable Mini-Air Compressor
The Stop & Go Portable Mini-Air Compressor is so little, there’s no reason to leave home without it. The built-in gauge allows you to observe the increased pressure with a reading up to 50 psi and a built-in LED light lets you know it is receiving power. With this powerful mini-pump, your motorcycle tire will be fully inflated in less than 10 minutes. Plus with the included adaptor, you can blow up your sleeping mat in a jiffy, as well.
Tire Pro Tip #8
Your center stand will be your best friend. If your bike isn’t already fitted with a center stand, it is one of the worthiest investments you can make. Having a center stand to get your bike off the ground is infinitely valuable for doing tire repair, chain maintenance, and countless other tasks.
BikeMaster Tire And Tube Flat Repair Kit
With space of the essence when adventure riding, making your tool kit as bike specific as possible is always a good idea. That said, looking out for yourself and your buddies on the trail is always worth the extra ounces and I always carry tire repair for tube-type and tubeless tires. The BikeMaster kit comes with all the patches, plugs, and tools you need to take care of everyone on the trail, no matter what type of tires they’re running.
Motion Pro T6 Tire Levers
The Motion Pro Tire Levers have a space-saving dual-ended design with a tire spoon on one end and hex wrench on the other. Trailside tire changes are always a pain, but the clever lip design on these tire spoons makes things a little easier. The hex end comes in a variety of sizes so you can select the most useful set for your individual bike.
Motorcycle Industry News by Overland Expo’s Ambassador of Adventure, Eva Rupert.
Photos by Matt Beaty