Which tire is right for your adventure-touring customers?

Publish Date: 
Mar 25, 2014
By Bruce Steever

These include advanced new tires such as Michelin’s Pilot Road 3, Metzeler’s Roadtec Z8, Dunlop’s Roadsmart II, Continental’s Road Attack 2, Pirelli’s Angel GT and Avon’s Storm 2. While these tires will provide minimal traction away from asphalt, they are often the sportiest tires available for adventure-touring bikes, making them the obvious choice for customers taking their adventure bikes to a track day or a long trip carving canyon roads.

Both the new R1200GS and 1190 Adventure have adopted wider, low-profile tires to better handle their powerful motors on the street. Expect these rim sizes to spread to other machines.

Adventure bikes often feature unusual wheel and tire sizes compared to conventional street bikes. Compared to fat, high-profile tires found on most cruisers or wide, low-profile tires on most sportbikes, adventure bikes use relatively narrow tires that dig into loose surfaces, provide better large impact compliance, and improve turn-in agility. Rims are typically 17 inches at the rear, but fronts can vary from 19 to 21 inches to provide more neutral cornering performance as well as improved steering in the dirt.

The good news is that nearly every bike in the class runs this common 19-inch/17-inch combination, with Yamaha’s Super Ténéré, Suzuki’s DL650 and DL1000 V-Stroms, Triumph’s Tiger Explorer, Moto Guzzi’s Stelvio and the majority of BMW R1200GSs using 110/90-19 front and 150/70-17 tires.

This certainly makes stocking and ordering adventure tires easier, but be aware that this may be changing. Both the new R1200GS and 1190 Adventure have adopted wider, low-profile tires to better handle their powerful motors on the street. The new sizing, a 120/70-19 front and 170/60-17 rear, still provide adequate dirt grip but create a larger footprint on asphalt. As power outputs continue to increase in the adventure-touring class, expect these rim sizes to spread to other machines.

Finally, hard-core dirt riders can (and will) quickly destroy a typical cast alloy wheel, so durable spoked rims are required for aggressive off-road riding. In addition to their outright durability, spoked rims can often be hammered back into functional shape in the event of bent rim on the trail.

Even for brands that offer standard or optional spoked wheels, the aftermarket is often turned to when equipping adventure machines. Aftermarket wheels provide customization options for various colors and braking parts as well as give the customer a chance to change rim width or sizes depending upon personal preference. Firms such as Woody’s Wheel Works or Alpina Wheels USA offer new wheel options, with Woody’s also offering complete wheel servicing for spoked wheels from most sources.

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