Adventure bikes fulfill a really unique purpose. They’re big, heavy, and have a ton of horsepower. Many of us love the dual-sport nature of adventure bikes. They’re well equipped for daily commuting, cross country touring, and weekend off-road adventures. They’re fun to ride and capable of carrying a ton of gear and equipment and they’re comfortable in the upright neutral riding position.
The problem many of us dual sport riders face is striking the perfect balance between daily commutes and weekend adventure tires. Finding the balance all comes down to equipping your ride with the best dual sport adventure tires to serve your purpose.
Classification Of Different Dual Sport Adventure Bikes
Most dual sport adventure bikes can be classified into two categories. Some guys look at adventure bikes in the same way they see your typical touring bike. Other riders tend to treat an adventure bike as though it’s an oversized enduro dirt bike.
A quick way (although not always accurate) of identifying the type of bike and riding a person plans to do is by looking at the size of the wheels. Generally, you’ll find two sizes. A 17-19 inch combo and the 17-20 inch combo. The larger front tire is geared better for aggressive dirt riding as it rolls over obstacles with more ease than the smaller 19” which is more comfortable for road riding, although still capable of handling off-road terrain just fine, with the right rider controlling the machine of course.
In this buyers’ guide, I will recommend the best tires for both categories so jump to the review section that best describes your intended use.
Lightweight Off-Road Dual Sport Adventure Bikes
The first type of dual sport bike is your typical single-cylinder off-road enduro trail bike. Many adventure riders will convert something like a KTM 500 exc, Yamaha wr250r, a Honda CRF450L, or a Suzuki drz400 into a street-legal off-road adventure bike.
Straight off the factory floor, many of these bikes are sold either as dirt bikes with knobby tires or as road bikes with dual-sport tires, blinkers, headlight and brake light as well as a plaque for your bikes registration plate.
The most commonly used tire sizes for this kind of bike will be your 18 inch rear and 21-inch front. The larger front diameter allows the front wheel to easily roll over logs, rocks and other obstacles on a dirt trail – which means the purpose of these bikes is mainly for off-road riding and your tire selection should match the time spent on the trails vs on the roads. Look for a set of tires that meet the 50-50 ratio or less. 40-60, 30-70, and even 20-80 ratio if you’re a really aggressive off-road rider.
Heavyweight Dual Sport Adventure Bikes
The second category of adventure bikes I’ll be tackling in this article is the heavier option with larger engine capacity. Typically these bikes are used as more of a commuter bike as they tend to be a bit more comfortable on the road. The heavy nature of these bikes also make them a bit more technical for harder off-road terrain and wouldn’t be advised for a beginner or someone just starting out with off-road adventure riding.
Bikes like the BMW R1200GS, Kawasaki KLR650, Suzuki DR650, or the big Africa Twins would fall into this category. I’m by no means suggesting that these bikes are ill-equipped for technical terrain, but they’re definitely going to be more of a handful than the lightweight category. At the end of the day, it comes down to the skill of the rider, not the machine.
The most commonly used dual sport tire ratios on the big boys are the 50-50, 60-40, 70-30, and 80-20 ratio if you seldom touch gravel paths.
On these types of dual-sport bikes, it’s really important to make sure that you’re equipping your ride with the best dual sport tires for your riding journey. Opting for a more aggressive off-road ratio like a 40-60 split will mean that for the 40% of the time you’re on the roads or pavements you’re most likely going to deal with a lot of slippage of the back wheel (particularly in the wet and gravel paths) as well as a lot of vibration and road noise at higher speeds if you don’t get the right tread pattern. The good news, we’ve found the best dual sport tires for each of these scenarios.
What Dual Sport Tire Ratio Should You Buy?
To answer this question you need to ask yourself how much time do you plan to spend on road vs off-road? This key concept is ultimately how dual-sport tires are defined and produced. They come in a wide variety of specs but the most important spec to consider is the road vs off-road usage ratio.
Typical ratios range anywhere from:
- 20-80: Very aggressive off-road tire
- 50-50: Even split between road and off-road usage.
- 80-20: Road focused tire with light off-road capabilities.
Any ratios in between these will aid in striking the perfect balance for your riding terrain. A 60-40 ratio is geared more towards road use, but in this case, you want to make sure you’re picking up a tire with the right tread pattern for longer road rides. Lookout for tires that have a more balanced center rib. A 40-60 tire should not be considered for road use. You’re going to find too much vibration, and too little grip in the corners, wet roads, and gravel paths.
In addition to looking at these ratios’, you should also consider the tread pattern as it plays a major role in your ride comfort and grip across different surfaces.
Best Tread Pattern For Dual Sport Tires
Some tires have huge horizontal cutouts which are perfect for more serious off-roading as they make gripping rocks, logs, and burms that much easier. They’re also ideal for riding in mud as they large gaps prevent any thick mud build up in the tires.
However, these cutouts will make for one hell of a noisy ride with all the vibration running through the road surface at a higher speed. They won’t offer as much cornering and braking grip around winding roads as a tire with a flat center rim which is more suited to upright road riding.
Dual Sport Tire Sizes Explained
Besides looking at the tread pattern, and the ratio, you need to make sure you’re buying a tire that will fit your bike. When looking at tire dimensions you’ll see three numbers, for example, (180/70-19).
The first number (180) refers to the width of the tire in millimeters measured across the horizontal plane. The second number (70) refers to the sidewall of the tire or the aspect ratio in the vertical plane. The third number (19) refers to the size of the rim, in this example, the rim would have a 19-inch diameter.
Best Dual Sport Adventure Bike Tires.
The choice of dual-sport tires ultimately comes down to your preference. Here is the list of best dual-sport adventure tires for every type of riding.
Kicking things off we have the Continental Twinduro TKC80. This tire has been considered the gold standard for a long time by many many riders. This makes for a great base comparison for all the tires that follow.
You may be wondering why I recommend this tire as the best dual sport tire for new riders, let me explain.
The TKC80 has a 40-60 ratio. 40% geared to road riding, 60% off-road. This is also one of the more knobby adventure tires on the market and possibly the best knobby dual-sport tires. You might even say that going any more knobby than this would be considered a full dirt tire for enduro trails, which by the way is not road legal.
What’s great about the TKC80 tires is the tread pattern for offroad use. It features really large gaps (which is where the 40% comes from). These gaps are ideal for rocky, muddy, slippery, overgrown paths as they allow the tire to warp and wrap around all these obstacles. These are great if you spend a lot of time in the dirt, and even better if your off-road riding is on the more extreme side.
Too much road use will result in poor mileage. In actual fact, too much offroad use will result in equally poor mileage as well. But the offroad performance is second to very few other tires.
Because these tires are so great at hooking up in the dirt and gripping rocks and trees, they make for a great set of tires for new or beginner adventure touring riders. Particularly good for riders that are entering the world of off-road riding for the first time where every little bit of grip counts.
When it comes to road use, these wouldn’t be the ideal for long-distance, high-speed riding. Firstly, because these tires tend to wear relatively fast, and secondly because of the tread pattern.
The centerline of the tire is broken up by the tread cutouts. This means that as the tire rotates, it will constantly lose and regain contact with the road surface. As the tire loses and regains contact with the surface, vibration and road noise pick up.
The Continental TKC80’s come in a wide range of sizing options so make sure you pick a set that fits your rim.
The Kenda K784 Big Block tire is the closest competitor to our benchmark – the Continental Twinduro TKC80. It has very similar specs as well as design. When it comes down to measuring the off-road performance, the truth is that they both offer a very similar ride quality. The main difference is the attractive price point of the Kenda Big Block tires.
The Big Block tires are perfect for new or beginner riders that are just getting into off-road riding for the same reasons mentioned above. These are also great for riders that use their bikes frequently for road use but are looking for a relatively cheap set of dual sport tires to swap out when you’re in the mood for a dirt bike adventure.
These are heavy-duty tires that would fit well on something like BMW 1200 GS. They may not be the most durable, but you could push these to around 10,000KM before you need to replace them. Even though they don’t have the best mileage, they’re the best dual sport tires for the price.
Don’t be surprised if you get a bit of vibration and some howling noises if you ride into the triple digits, the tread pattern is relatively flat but not ideal for frequent road use at high speeds, but they’ll do the job nonetheless. Ride balance feels pretty stable all the up to 65mph, so long as you’re running the correct tire pressure.
Release some air for loose gravel, sand roads, and forest sections and you’ll have plenty of traction.
A great alternative to the Kenda Big Block dual sport tire is the Mitas Dual Sport E-09 DAKAR Tire, although Kenda is still the best for the price.
The Heidenau K60 Scout is a fantastic dual sport tire. Not quite as great as the benchmark TKC 80 but they have slightly different purposes. The Heidenau K60 Scout is the best 50/50 dual sport tire for adventure riders that use their bike frequently on the road as a commuter bike, and for fun over the weekends in the dirt.
The TKC80 is better suited to more extreme off-road terrain while the K60 Scout with it’s 50/50 ratio is a great performer both on the road and off. What sets the Heidenau road performance ahead of the Continental tire is the solid center rib.
Having a solid center rib makes for a great road tire. Unlike the TKC80 and the Kenda Big Block tires, the K60 scout maintains permanent contact with the road surface when cruising in the upright position. Less vibration, less road noise, and better mileage.
This is a great tubeless 50/50 adventure tire that delivers optimal road performance while still being able to handle well in the wet and on gravel paths. You’ll be fine in the sand and mud as well, but if enduro trails are your goal, you’re better off with the Kenda Big Block or Continental Twinduro.
If you ride the way these tires are intended to be ridden, half road, half off-road (not extreme off-road) you’ll find these to be among the best wearing dual-sport tires.
More Adventure Bike Tire Options
Metos EO9 Dakar tire 80 20 very knobby dirt tire – extra sidewall reinforcement for hard terrain
Mifo Explorer – more 50-50 chevron pattern tread is popular and effective. Best price point. Perfect for unknown rides. Road and dirt.
Avon trail rider – Mostly pavement. Good for supermoto. Fine for occasional gravel. Quiet long-wearing tire good to rail corners.
Shenko 244 tire: On-offroad tire. Great budget tire. Similar performance to OEM tires. Cheap.
Avon track rider AV 84 and AV 85 tire – big chevron pattern. Avon’s first attempt at an off-road tire. They waited a long time to enter the market and did their homework before getting in. Years of road tire experience is evident in a really quiet road tire. Prioritizes road and quiet tire over mileage and dirt.
Michelin pilot road 4 trail tire – similar to trek rider but more extreme. Doesn’t look trail-capable and it’s not. Pure street-based tire in adventure bike sizes. Made in 17 and 19 sizes. Quiet, last long, great grip. Pilot road 4 is perfect for riders hammering road corners.
More Road Focussed Tires Adventure Bikes
80-20 Michelin mp3 – super fast – rare tread design usually seen in supermoto world. Hard cornering, braking, mad acceleration. Quick but linear turning, strong grip capable of hanging with sport-tourers. One complaint is the single rubber compound – walls and rim are equally as hard. 17000 miles – load after 100km h – not ideal for long roads. Terrible in wet dirt. Bad puncture strength. Awesome for high-speed corners.
Best 70-30 tires: Shenko 705 and Continental TKC 70. Out of these 2, Shenko is better and cheaper. Handles better in the dirt. Handles better than TKC70 which has a solid center bend. Reasonably long-lasting at around 12000km. Handles well on pavement, not as loud as you’d expect. Aggressive tire profile. Be careful pushing to the limit – corner grip is there, but not ALL there.
Riders often prefer tkc80 because of the radial sizes which is rare for a 70 30 tire. It also has dual-compound construction which is better for cornering and it’s also smoother on the straights and lasts longer because of the solid center belt BUT the TKC often wobbles on the front which is disturbing and why we suggest the Shenko.
Motoz Tractionator GPS – Best 50 50 tire. Even without considering ration – One of the best tires on the list.
Reversible tire. 50 50 in one way, flip it around and you get a mostly off-road road. Bumpy and loud on the road but ripped and sweet in the dirt. Offroad corners not affected much. Most tires with a slick center belt like the Hideneaut k60 scout struggle with upright traction in wet surfaces.
Motoz doesn’t have this problem in offroad mode but it does have a similar issue in the 50 50 orientation. Wears very long – better than Hidenaut, can reach around 20K km which is insane. Lsat long because of the tread depth. SUPER deep. Also because the smooth center belt is spread across largest surface area which is great for road but also for wear and tear. Takes a while to warm up – don’t push too early. Less grip at the limit than k60 scout. Otherwise better 50 50 in all ways. More durable, longer-lasting on the pavement, and better performing in the dirt.
40-60 tires: Shinko E805 is a Korean rip off of continental TKC 80. Lower cost. Tread blocks in paddle formation, smoother and quieter on the pavement, and makes it last longer than continental. Cornering grip is equally good on the corners because both use soft rubber compounds which is why they handle better on pavement than the road. But they do have bad longevity. Paddle tread means the rear wheel tends to slip a little while tkc80 sticks a bit better around corners. Shino is better because of mileage and off-road ability and cheaper
Dual Sport Tires For Lighter Bikes 650cc And Under.
50-50 Tires: Kenda K270 and Shinko 244. Visually they look very close. Both are tailored for on and offroad. Both have faults in mud (50 50). Similar mileage at 10K km. Both load on the road. Great mileage for money but handle differently in the corners. Kenda is softer because of cutouts on the side and more cornering edges because of cutouts in the knobbys themselves. That means K270 has better feedback in cornering grip. Shinko is stiffer and fewer ridges. Better for paved corners. Shinko for pavement, and Kenda for dirt. Both tires wear fast and cost little which is great if you don’t mind buying new tires more often at lower prices.
Really aggressive offroad and lightweight dual sports get 20-80. Dunlop D606 and Pirelli MT 21
Dunlop – last longer, better on paved corners, better puncture protection & durability
Pirelli – Better paved upright grip, better dirt corners, softer sidewalls, and easier to change.
D606 is a bad rep for following ruts and wondering on wet roads. Ideally, you could run MT21 front and D606 rear although if you don’t want to mix – get the Perillis.
Thanks for stopping by at First Checkpoint!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure bike tire guide and it’s helped you on your quest to find the best dual sport tires for your riding style. After all the research that’s gone into this guide, I would personally choose the KENDA Big Block K784. They are one of the most commonly used tires with both road and off handling capability. The K60 Scout tires also fit into a mid-range budget, ideal for all riders.
As always, if you have any questions, feedback, thoughts, or advice for the First Checkpoint team and our readers, I encourage you to drop a comment below.
Stay safe and stay on two wheels!