Adventure Tire Buyer's Guide

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

Searching for traction in all the wrong places

As mentioned in our first installment of adventure bike upgrades, tires are one of, if not the, easiest ways to transform the handling of your big adventure bike. As adventure bikes have grown in popularity, so have tire offerings for them. With the plethora of tire choices to choose from these days, one can almost pinpoint exactly how much dirt versus road you plan on doing and choose a tire that meets your riding expectations.

When I first purchased my 1190 Adventure R, it was my only motorcycle, and I was commuting on it every day. Though I had dreams of off-road adventures on my Adventure, I couldn’t justify slapping on a set of TKC80s and shredding them on the 405 freeway. I chose to run the stock ContiTrailAttacks for quite a while until I bought my Tuono, then I was able to start swapping in more aggressive tires on the KTM since I wouldn’t be using it to commute all the time.

The adventure tire buyer’s guide we’ve put together includes nine brands with one road-biased and dirt-biased offering from each. Yes, we know there are other brands and other tires, but we had to draw the line somewhere. If your favorite tire isn’t listed, leave it in the comments section to share with other readers.

Table of Contents

Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41

The Bridgestone Adventure A41 is said to perform very well in wet conditions without giving up stability in the dry. A 90% street, 10% off-road tire, the A41 doesn’t make any promises it can’t keep off-road, but as Brent stated in his review, he came away rather impressed by just how good a tire like the A41 could be off-road. I suggest checking out his review for a thorough explanation of the tech behind the tire.

MO Tested: Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41 And Sport Touring T31 Tire Review

Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41

The all-new Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 dips into a new micro-segment of adventure tires for Bridgestone. The tread pattern and block shape has been optimized for better traction and wear life to give adventure riders the best of both worlds. This tire falls into the 60% off-road/40% on-road but as always, your mileage may vary.

Continental ContiTrailAttack 2

When I first purchased my 1190, it came with the ContiTrailAttack as the stock rubber. Those tires provided excellent grip and longevity. I burned through one set of this new version on the 1190 as well, but those ended with a couple of punctures and the decision to put a more aggressive tire on my bike. The ContiTrailAttack 2, in my opinion, is probably the most street-focused tire on this list, and it handles pavement extremely well. Off-road, it left me wishing for more traction in almost every situation.

Continental TKC80

There have been many imitations of Continental’s extremely popular 40% street, 60% dirt adventure tire, but so far, none have managed to gain as much traction as the TKC80… pun intended. OE equipment on KTM’s big Adventure R bikes, the TKC80 does its job remarkably well. Stable on pavement thanks to its standard tire profile, while having large well-spaced lugs that do a great job when the pavement gets gone. A billion* adventure riders can’t be wrong. Can they?

*this number is made up

Dunlop Trailsmart

For 80% street, 20% off-road, the Trailsmart from Dunlop will provide excellent street handling with its silica-fortified compounds which enhance grip in both wet and dry weather. The Trailsmart takes inspiration from the Trailmax TR91, maintaining a similar V-shaped groove pattern that provides grip in all conditions.

Dunlop Trailmax Mission

The Dunlop Trailmax Mission tire is Dunlop’s first foray into what it calls the 50/50 adventure tire segment. After attending the press introduction for the tire, speaking with engineers, and having the opportunity to put 2,000 miles on a set of Trailmax Missions, my view of the tires hasn’t changed much since the intro, that is, aside from the impressive wear resistance they offer. If you’ve read the aforementioned reviews (or read into the slight snark in the first sentence here), you’ll know that I wouldn’t consider these tires a 50/50 option. More like 30/70 or 40/60 (dirt/pavement). The fact is, these tires do not work as well off-road as they do on-road which means they’re not truly a 50/50 tire. What the Dunlop Trailmax Mission is is an undeniably good tire. For what it is, it’s great. The rear always surprises me with how well it hooks up, and after pounding out thousands of miles over all sorts of terrain, the tires look unused. This is the kind of tire I wish I had on my own adventure bike because it doesn’t see a lot of dirt these days (for reasons that might be obvious). If you want a tire in the 30/70 range, the Dunlop Trailmax Mission should foot the bill for many miles. 

Dunlop Trailmax Mission Tire Review – First Ride

MO Tested: Dunlop Trailmax Mission Tire Long-Term Review

Dunlop D606

Definitely one of the most off-road focused tires on this list, I would rate the D606 at 10% street, 90% off-road. A full-depth tread pattern designed for rigorous off-road use which should yield excellent traction on everything from hard-packed fire roads to soft single-track trails. Dunlop also claims the tire has been engineered for good highway wear and grip, but I would suggest keeping it off-road mostly unless you love changing tires.

Heidenau K76

The K76’s tread pattern is similar to the Metzler Tourance which did surprisingly well on slippery muddy fire roads while offering great traction on paved roads. While we haven’t tested these, we hope the similarities in tread pattern bode well to the Tourances we enjoyed.

Heidenau K60 Scout

When the K60s came onto the scene they garnered a cult following for 50/50 tires that offer longevity never before seen on this type of tire. The “chevron” style tread pattern provides lots of open space between the tread blocks to route sand, mud and water from the contact patch while constantly keeping some rubber in contact with the road as the tire rotates.

Metzler Tourance

The last time I was on a bike with Tourances was the BMW G310GS. At the press introduction of that motorcycle, I was surprised by how well these tires hooked up on the slippery muddy fire roads we were on during our test loop. I had expected them to be slipping around, yet everytime I braced myself for a flat track-esque slide, they held traction much better than I expected in those conditions. They also worked well on our wet and dry street rides. A solid choice for a more road-bias adventure bike that will also hold its own when the going gets dirty.

Metzeler Karoo 3

The Karoo 3 from Metzler is said to provide rally-raid off-road traction while also offering high-speed stability and excellent mileage. The tread pattern is reminiscent of a paddle tire with the large spacing between the v-shaped grooves which should give solid off-road performance while the large blocks and stiff carcass provide stability needed on-road.

Michelin Anakee Adventure

The Anakee Adventure is meant to build on everything the Anakee 3 was while increasing performance in nearly every category. New silica compounds provide better grip in the wet, while the new Bridge Blocking Technology connects the lugs to enhance stability on-road. With much wider blocks and a more aggressive off-road tread pattern, the Anakee Adventure is ready to tackle whatever the trail might throw at it without giving up stability and longevity on the pavement.

Michelin Anakee Wild

Michelin’s Anakee Wild is designed to be a 50% street, 50% off-road tires with long-lasting compounds derived from its Desert Race tire while still providing stability and comfort on-road. Off-road performance is gained by the offset block design and curved tread grooves. I’m planning for these to possibly be the next set of tires I test on my 1190.

MOTOZ Tractionator Adventure

The MOTOZ Tractionator Adventure is what we chose to use in our EZ ADV Upgrades series to showcase the impact a more aggressive tire can have on your big bike’s off-road prowess. The claim to fame for MOTOZ is that the tires are said to last up to two times longer than similar adventure tires. We can’t substantiate that claim yet, but we do hear good things from customers who have spent more time with them. Traction with the rear is pretty solid, though the tight tread pattern on the front didn’t bite the way we hoped.

EZ ADV Upgrades: The Ever-Present Hunt For Traction

MOTOZ Tractionator Desert H/T

MOTOZ describes the Desert H/T as a 15% street, 85% off-road tire that has been designed to handle hard terrain, fast rocky fire roads, gravel roads, and desert hardpack with sandy variations. The tread pattern on these tires should offer ample grip during off camber sections, cornering, and braking. As with all MOTOZ tires, they are also engineered to be long-lasting, but really that depends on how and where you use them.

Pirelli Scorpion Trail II

Pirelli’s Scorpion Trail II offers touring tire level grip on-road, great wet weather drainage due to specially designed side groves, and a surprising amount of grip off-road. We would call this an 80% street, 20% dirt tire. Pirelli says they have brought over touring technology from their flagship tourer, the Angel GT, which in my experience is a great tire and what is currently rolling on my Tuono, to help add on-road grip and longevity. The Scorpion Trail II is a solid choice from a performance-oriented brand if you find yourself on-road more often than not.

Pirelli MT 21 Rallycross

I’m currently running the Scorpion XC Mid Hard on my KTM 500 EXC and I love those tires. The MT 21 Rallycross are probably some of the most hardcore off-road focused tires on this list and the closest DOT Pirelli to what I’m running on my dual-sport bike, which is fine if you plan to do most of your mileage off-road. I would rate these 10% street, 90% dirt and if you run them on the street much, you’re going to be changing tires more often that you might like. The tradeoff? Substantial off-road grip for your big ADV bike.

Shinko 705

Shinko makes great tires for budget-minded riders. The four-ply radial construction of this 80% street, 20% off-road tire is meant to offer great wet weather grip on road while remaining stable and smooth and also giving decent grip for off-road excursions.

Shinko 804/805

Shinko created the 804 and 805 specifically for larger adventure touring bikes. The big block pattern has been proven to work well for other manufacturers cough* Continental *cough, both for on-road stability and off-road traction. So if you’re looking for a blocky affordable ADV DOT-rated tire to wrap your wheels with, the 804 and 805 are a good wallet-friendly bet.

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Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.

More by Ryan Adams

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2 of 6 comments
  • RevD RevD on Jan 27, 2021

    I'm really surprised the Dunlop Trailmax Mission didn't make the list.
    I've found them to be the best all around tires I've had on my V-Strom over the last 4 years. I'm extremely happy with them in the wet, the dry, on hard pack fire roads, loose gravel and rocky terrain.
    Nice and quiet at speed and I have zero issues leaning them over in the twisty stuff.
    I measured the tread the other day and should get my average of 15000 km out the rear and twice that out of the front.

    • See 1 previous
    • Ryan Ryan on Jan 29, 2021

      A glaring oversight on my end (particularly because I've published two articles about the Trailmax Mission). This Buyer's Guide is actually an update (apparently not as well updated as it could have been) to one published previously on the site. Thank you for pointing out the exclusion. It has been added to the list.

  • Patriot159 Patriot159 on Jan 28, 2021

    For sure lots of fine options for ADV riders these days. I prefer a bit more aggressive front and longer lasting rear so often mix models and brands to get the right combo.