Over the last month I’ve had several new local adventure/dual sport riders and some followers on my social media platforms reach out with questions about what the best tire is for adventure riding. Now I’m not an expert by any means and I haven’t used every tire on the market however, I have used several different types of tires ranging from 80/20 adventure touring tires to 50/50 street legal knobbies. I’ve found some brands that offer great performance but short longevity and other brands that offer great longevity but not the best performance. With this knowledge and experience I figured I could share some of the things that I’ve discovered.
The first tire I will discuss is the Dunlop 606 Dual Sport Tire. The 606 is a 90 percent off road and 10 percent on road tire that is DOT approved for street use. I had the 606’s mounted on my 2011 Kawasaki KLR when I first bought it, mostly because I wanted a tire that would perform well off road. From a performance perspective the 606 was great in all sorts of conditions ranging from mud, sand, gravel, and rocks. The 606 has a full depth tread pattern with some pretty beefy knobs that provide some amazing traction on everything from hard packed gravel roads to loose single track trails. My experience with the Dunlop 606 was pretty good however their were some things I didn’t like with it. On the positive side the 606 provided great off road performance and took pretty much anything I threw at it. I had 606’s mounted on my KLR when I rode the Colorado and New Mexico BDR’s and it was my main tire of choice when I lived in Colorado. The sidewalls were very strong and maybe it was luck but I never got a flat when I had them. For some negative factors, the 606’s heated up very fast on pavement especially on the highway when riding to trail heads. This heat build up caused them to last about 3,000 miles which was kind of a turn off for me in terms of longevity. Another thing I didn’t like was the cost, when I mounted them and new tubes on my KLR they ran me about $280 dollars at the time. It does seem that they have dropped in price quite a bit in the last four years so they are more affordable. The last issue that I noticed with them was their sizes. Dunlop made the 606 for most common tire sizes however they missed the boat on certain sizes for the BMW GS1200/1250 and the KTM 1090/1190/1290. Overall, the Dunlop 606 was by far one of the best off road tires that I ever used and if I was in an area such as Colorado or Utah it would be my go to tire.
In terms of a great mix of budget, performance, and longevity the Kenda 270 is a tire that I used quite a bit. The Kenda 270 is a DOT approved 50 percent on road and 50 percent off road tire. When Kenda designed the 270 they set out with the goal of creating a tire that blended off road performance without compromising wear on the street. Another great feature of the 270’s are its price point, a set including tubes can run about $120 dollars which is a bargain. Personally, I had Kenda 270’s on my Yamaha XT225 and my Kawasaki KLR. In terms of off road performance they were great on everything from hard packed gravel and dirt roads to forested single track trails. They could eat up gravel and dirt and weren’t to bad in sand or mud. On road they were good as well and Kenda’s hard rubber compound didn’t heat up so fast that limited their longevity. I managed to get 5,000 miles out of a pair on my XT225 and another 5,800 miles on my KLR. The thing that I liked with the 270’s was the 50/50 factor and how they wore especially on pavement. As great as they are as a dual sport tire Kenda doesn’t offer them in sizes for larger adventure bikes. Another unique factor is their similarities to the Shinko 244. The differences between the Kenda 270 and the Shinko 244 are pretty small and they offer the same performance and longevity as well as price. If your on a budget and looking for a solid 50/50 tire then the Kenda 270 might be something to look into.
From an adventure touring perspective the Shinko 705 is a tire that has an 80 percent on road capability and 20 percent off road. The 705 has a versatile tread pattern that provides great traction in wet and dry conditions on pavement and is pretty good off road on hard packed gravel and dirt roads. Since these are 80/20 tires their off road performance isn’t great however they can handle quite a bit within reason. These tires have a unique rubber compound which prevents them from breaking down off road and they have really good longevity with a life of 5,000 to 6,000 miles. Another great thing is a fairly cheap price point, I put a set on my KLR with new tubes for about $160 dollars. I had these mounted on my KLR before my cross country trip from Minnesota to South Carolina. On that trip they were mostly on pavement however I did spend a significant amount of time on gravel and dirt roads. Over the course of 3,000 miles they held up great in most conditions with the only issues being in sand and mud. I attribute that to the fact that the 705’s are an 80/20 tire and not quite suited for those conditions. These tires were what was mounted on the KLR when I sold it and according to the new owner he put another 1,000 miles on them and they have plenty of life left. The sizing for the 705’s is pretty good and they are able to be mounted on a large majority of dual sports and adventure bikes. If I was going to spend a significant time on pavement on a cross country trip or daily commuting the Shinko 705 would be a tire that I would seriously consider.
The last set of tires I’ll discuss is what is currently on my 2014 Triumph Tiger 800. When I purchased the Tiger I wanted an aggressive 50/50 tire that was suited for a larger adventure bike. Initially I was going to go with a premium tire brand however my local Triumph dealer had a pair of Kenda 784 Big Blocks on the shelf and with the success I had with the 270’s I figured why not. The Kenda Big Blocks were designed with bigger bikes in mind and the ability to get traction in dirt, sand, and mud, as well as pavement. With large bulky knobs and a thick sidewall the Big Blocks are pretty durable and beefy tires. Over the last 3,500 miles these tires have continued to impress me and have taken everything that I have thrown at them. I’ve been able to ride sandy ATV trails, some really muddy trails, and the typical gravel/dirt roads in the rural areas outside of Charleston. At no time has the Kenda Big Block made me wish that I had a different tire. My only complaint with them is longevity, at 4,000 miles they are pretty much shot. I think this is mostly due to how fast they heat up on pavement which was a similar issue that I had with the Dunlop 606’s on my KLR.
Wrapping up I hope I’ve been able to spread a small amount of information and experience’s that I’ve had with these tires. When I look for a tire for my bikes, longevity and price are some of the biggest factors that I consider. I know that their are several fantastic brands out there that make some great tires but usually they are cost prohibitive or they tend not last to long which is a turn off for me. I figure if I can get 5,000 miles out of a tire that can take difficult off road conditions and wear fairly well on pavement then it’s a tire that I would consider getting again. By the time this entry posts, the Tiger will actually have a new pair of Shinko 804/805’s mounted on it. The 804/805’s have been highly recommended to me by numerous riders and they should be able to take anything that I can find in the backwoods of South Carolina.