What are the best adventure motorcycle tires?

by Jakob Saks
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What are the best adventure motorcycle tires?

Mitas or Heidenau? Anakee Wild or TKC80? Pirelli or Michelin?

If you’re wondering what are the best adventure motorcycle tires, these aren’t the right questions to ask.

Don’t get us wrong, brands matter. Some brands make better 50/50 tires than others, some brands are better at 70/30’s, some promise longer distances out of a tire, while others still emphasize traction and grip. In other words, comparing adventure motorcycle tires by manufacturer only is a futile mission. Instead, it’s best to first figure out your riding needs, the type of riding you prefer, and the mileage you do on and off the road, take a look at your budget, and only then compare makes and models. The sweet spot of the best adventure motorcycle tire lies at the intersection of intended use, terrain type, preferred longevity, and price points.

Here's how to make adventure motorcycle tire choices easier (and make the damned things last longer):


50/50, 60/40, 70/30: What’s That All About?

Numbers like 50/50 or 70/30 mean the amount of riding you’ll do on dirt vs on pavement. If a tire is made to be a 50/50, it means it’s equally good for tarmac and dirt riding. A 60/40 tire means it’s got better off-road capabilities, but still pretty good on-road; 70/30 is an off-road oriented tire that will manage some paved miles, but you better watch out in rainy conditions on tarmac. So, if you typically ride pavement and off-road in more or less equal measure, a 50/50 tire is your best choice. If you’re a dirt maniac who simply needs to cover a few paved liaisons here and there, you’re better off with a 70/30 tire.

Some veteran adventure riders may argue the devil is in the detail and nuance: for some of us, a 50/50 tire may mean it’s equally good on road or off-road, but others may say it’s equally… useless for both. You’ll see plenty of world travelers happily covering crazy distances – paved and dirt – on 70/30 tires simply because they’re willing to sacrifice comfort on pavement for better off-road traction overall; others will swear a 60/40 tire is the best compromise when you ride both dirt and pavement and cover big miles.

It all comes down to your personal preference. If you’re just starting out, a 50/50 adventure motorcycle tire may just be your best bet: it takes time to gain experience and figure out what sort of riding you love the most, so for entry level riders, 50/50 tires are often the safest choice. If you already know you want to avoid tarmac as much as possible, opt for the 60/40 or 70/30.

Tire Life and Durability

As a general rule of thumb, road tires last longer than dirt tires for the simple reason that gnarly surfaces shred a tire faster. Because of this, you’ll naturally get more mileage out of a 50/50 tire than a 70/30 one. This is where the other factors – the type of riding you do and the distances you cover – come into play.

Let’s say you’re a weekend warrior, and you cover around a thousand miles a month riding both on and off road in more or less equal measure. Your dirt riding is mostly forest service roads or hard-packed dirt, and the rest is tarmac. For this type of riding, gnarly off-road tires are overkill, and you should be more than fine with 50/50’s – plus get some serious mileage out of them.

Enduro ride

On the other hand, if you often ride rocky, technical, unpredictable terrain, don’t expect to get away with anything less than 70/30 – and in most cases, you’ll be changing your tires every 2,000 miles or so.

If you’re embarking on a long adventure motorcycle expedition – say, riding the entire length of the TAT or going from Alaska to Ushuaia – and you plan to ride dirt and pavement in more or less equal parts, a 60/40 tire may be a great solution. A 60/40 will be slightly more capable off-road and offer better traction, but you’ll still be safe riding pavement and, most likely, the tire will last longer.

Now for the costs: the old saying that you get what you pay for is true when it comes to adventure motorcycle tires. It’s not that cheaper tires are necessarily poorer quality, but they’ll most likely won’t last long; a simple calculation here is this: is it worth buying one set of tires that will last for 6,000 miles, or three sets that will last 2,000 miles each? It depends on who you ask – and how often you’re willing to change your tires.

Finally, once you figure out your adventure tire needs, it’s time to look at the brands. The best way to go about it is looking into the manufacturer’s history and focus: are they purely off-road-oriented, aiming at motocross and enduro races? Are they primarily road-tire manufacturers? The company’s origins and mission will tell you all you need to know about the tires they make. Oftentimes, bigger manufacturers will cross over and start making all purpose tires, and that’s where research matters: if a motocross tire manufacturer starts making 50/50 or road tires, it doesn’t necessarily mean these will be of less quality, but it’s always best to buy from experienced experts. Horses for courses: you want your dirt bike tires made by dirt bike tire experts, and you want your ADV tires from an ADV-oriented company.

Last but not least, whether you get tires that last for thousands of miles or just a month of gnarly trails, you’ll need to change your rubber every once in a while. Tire changes may seem daunting, but with our Rabaconda ADV Tyre Changer kit, the job can be done easily, painlessly, and within minutes. Not sure if it’s for you? Take this quiz and find out!

by Jakob Saks


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