Motorcycle tires are a science on its own. You could be reading a whole book about this topic… fact is that opinions, brands, riding styles, weight of luggage, solo or 2 up, terrain and off-road vs. on-road preferences differ a lot from each other. Consequently, the choice in finding the right dual sport motorcycle tire is quite difficult and the choice on the market overwhelming. While overlanding the Americas with my BMW 700 GS, I drove more than 69’300 km during a period of 21 months. I tried out 5 different set ups of tires, will give you my personal opinion on the performance and tell you how to choose the right dual sport motorcycle tire.
Choosing the right dual sport motorcycle tires
The first question you should be asking yourself is how much off-road vs. on-road do you want to ride? Do you have any preferences? If so, this will determine the ratio of the profile of your tire.
At the beginning I had no choice but to ride the tires which came with the purchase of my motorcycle.
The Michelin Anakee III has a 90 % on-road / 10 % off-road profile and is advertised as a Dual Sport tire which can be used for both riding scenarios. The tire has a great performance on-road and is literally sticking on the asphalt which makes riding long distances and curvy asphalt roads a lot of fun. It gives the smooth feeling of riding a sports tourer 🙂
However, If you just go slightly off-road you won’t be happy anymore unless it is a well maintained solid dirt road. It might just do an ok job. This changes dramatically on slippery surfaces or gravel in which case you definitely need more grip!
I started my trip in São Paulo (Brazil) and had to change my tires in Lima (Peru) after a bit more than 10’000 km. I could have extended my ride for another 1’000 or 2’000 km (rear tire) but I felt more comfortable of having completely new tires again. The front tire was still doing a good job but I decided to change front and rear tire at the same time.
As a consequence, I decided to purchase a tire which was more suitable for both terrains – on-road and off-road.
Let me introduce you the famous “Heidenau K60” tire. The biker community is highly recommending the use of the K60 which has a 50 % on-road / 50 % off-road profile. After changing the tires I could immediately feel the difference on the road – not as smooth as the Michelin Anakee III and I needed to get used to the new type of tire. Especially in curves I felt the difference the most (not nearly as smooth as the Anakee III) and was initially a bit skeptical if I indeed made the right choice.
This changed immediately when I hit the first gravel and dirt roads. It gave me directly a lot more confidence as well as grip on this kind of terrain, in comparison to the Anakee III. It’s a great compromise in between both riding styles in case you don’t have a clear preference for either on-road or off-road terrain. It does a great job on both and I highly recommend to purchase them.
Starting to ride the Heidenau K60 tires in Lima (Peru) I had to change them again in Punta Arenas after approx. 10’000 km. The rear tire was absolutely worn out but the front tire was still very well maintained. The route had a lot of off-road gravel sections like Carretera Austral or Ruta 40. I found a great mechanic who was selling used Heidenau K60 tires which were still good to bring me back to Brazil.
Later on in Campinas, I bought another set of Heidenau K60 tires with a similar performance – 20’000 km for the front tire and 10’000 km for the rear tire.
In Bogota (Colombia) I had to change tires again. I was planning to ride the Guajira dessert and Baja California in Mexico and decided therefore to put a more aggressive set of tires on my BMW GS. The Metzeler Karoo 3 with a 70 % off-road and 30 % on-road profile.
When riding through sand and gravel of the Guajira desert I was more than happy with the choice and the performance. It is a great off-road tire with a lot of grip and I had the time of my life. In Costa Rica I had my first puncture with the Karoo 3 which is another general disadvantage of off-road tires. They might have great grip but are at the same time more proned to punctures due to the profile. Objects such as nails, thorns or barbwire can enter the tire more easily compared to a 50/50 tire.
This great off-road performance came with another trade off. The durability is horrible, lol. I had to change the tires already in Mexico again and I was struggling to find a motorcycle shop which had the rear tire in stock. I only made around 6’000 km until the rear tire was worn out (I changed the front tire after 10’000 km even though it could have made some more kilometers). Since I got a good deal on the costs of the tires I was overall satisfied with the performance and recommend to purchase them (for the purpose of off-road).
Luckily, I found at least a Continental TKC 80 tire and gave it a go. This answered also my question whether or not it was possible to ride two different kind of tire brands or profiles. It is absolutely possible – even though it might not be the ideal choice but sometimes you simply have to improvise on a trip like that.
The TKC 80 looks really cool and I always admired the BMW 1200 riders who had this kind of set up on their bikes. It just makes you want to go off-road 🙂
Keen to see the performance I made a quick calculation and saw that I had another 10’000 km to ride before arriving in Alaska. Somehow I thought I could make it with that set up of tires… NOT!
Without taking the characteristics of a soft 70/30 off-road tire into account (as I had before with the Karoo 3) as well as the merciless heat of Mexico (more than 40 °C) and the consequently increased rub off, I only made it until San Diego, CA. As a result the tire only made 4’500 km which was really disappointing. The few sections of off-road in Baja California do not allow me to give a proper feedback on the characteristics. I had in general a good grip but due to the poor durability I would not recommend to purchase this tire.
In San Diego, I had the choice to purchase the Heidenau K60 again. Due to the great experience I was almost about to purchase them when I saw the Shinko 705. From other overlanders, I heard they were doing a good job compared to a low price. Indeed, the front and the rear tire cost me less than a single Heidenau K60 tire.
I spontaneously gave it a try. It was great to have a 50/50 profile again as set up and I enjoyed the smooth ride over Highway 1. I was absolutely satisfied with the performance of the “budget tires” – both on-road and off-road while hitting also gravel roads later on in Alaska. The Shinko 705 tire might not look as cool as the Heidenau and has definitely less durability (rear tire only lasted 6’000 – 7’000 km) but the price/performance ratio is unbeatable.
The choice of the right dual sport motorcycle tire depends on a lot of different factors. For the purpose of a long distance motorcycle trip like overlanding the Americas I would recommend the Shinko 705 and Heidenau K60 tires. Both are having the ideal characteristics to overcome the challenges of different kind of terrains – they are the “allrounders” for long distance motorcycle trips.
If durability is more important than price I would definitely choose the Heidenau K60, but if you are looking more on the price-performance-ratio than it is the Shinko 705.
I hope you liked the article. Please leave me some feedback in the comments field below… What is your opinion and what tires do you recommend riding?