February 18, 2012 - I'll confess: this article doesn't have much to do with the Dealer Expo.
But there are an extraordinary number of motorcycle tires on display for some reason at the show, and this got me thinking...
I've been keeping an eye out for potential tire replacements for the Bridgestone Trail Wing tires on the DR650 project bike (blog).
Also, be sure to check out Chris' Continental TKC80 review.
So what better place to check out all the possibilities than here at the Dealer Expo, with the factory representatives on hand to answer any questions?
In case you haven't been following the story, the DR650 is a revelation to anyone not used to a (relatively) lightweight, go-anywhere motorcycle.
It handles much better than expected on the road and it's a heckuva lot easier to muscle around off-road than a big GS, KTM 990 Adventure or Super Ténéré.
It's also a pretty cheap way of getting into the hottest motorcycle segment going today: dual-sport riding, aka adventure-touring.
There are literally tons o' cool products and accessories available for the DR650 -- everything from big-bore kits to tubeless rims to electronic dashboards that can tell you the cylinder head temperature or the time.
But tires? Well, that's horse of a different color, as it were. The DR650 has a "normal" (for a bike with serious off-road pretentions) front tire size of 90/90-21 (90/90-21 M/C 54S, tube type, to be exact). No problemo.
But the rear is a weird 120/90-17 (120/90-17 M/C 64S, tube type). The bike comes with a pair of Bridgestone Trail Wings in those exact sizes. The Trail Wing is much better than it gets credit for, in my opinion; it provides way more grip than I expected on-road and it's not bad off-road either.
I have read some complaints that the Trail Wing front will wash out during fast riding in sand, but since the nearest sand is a couple of hundred klicks away from me, I'll probably never know. Besides, at the velocities I ride, I doubt I'd ever know the difference.
But, a DR650 owner wouldn't be worth a kilo o' salt if he or she wasn't always looking for the next big ultimate accessory, and "serious" off-road tires are pretty high up on that list.
There's plenty of discussion on this topic, so I shan't repeat it here, but it all boils down to finding an off-road tire that will fit.
The Trail Wings are maybe 70/30 (i.e., 70% street and 30% dirt) or 80/20. Many owners are looking for something more along the lines of a 50/50 or even 30/70. But any street riding means the tires must be street legal. You really don't want to be pounding the pavement on a non-DOT off-road tire.
The Dunlop D606 is a popular switch; the front is no problem and there's a D606 rear available in 130/80-17, which will fit the DR650. It looks more like a 50/50 or 60/40 or so to me, with PBK (Pretty Big Knobbies).
Dunlop lists the D606 as follows: D606 Front 90/90-21, Load Speed Index 54R, minimum rim width 1.60", overall diameter 27.70", overall width 3.50" and tread depth 14/32".
The D606 Rear 130/90-17 is rated at 68R, with a 2.75" minimum rim width, overall diameter of 26.30", width of 5.20" and tread depth of 20/32". I may try pair when the Trail Wings are worn out.
Back to the Bridgestones: I stopped by the Bridgestone booth at the Dealer Expo and the rep told me that the Trail Wing installed as original equipment is not the same as the optional Trail Wing TW301 and TW302. He even showed me photos in the official catalog that lists the two tires (OE and optional) separately.
That was news to me, as only the TW301 and TW302 pair are listed on the Bridgestone website. He said the TW301 and TW302 pair are more off-road oriented? Perhaps someone can confirm this, but I did see it with my own eyes and heard it from the source.
Unrelated to the DR650 tire issue, but related to dual-sport, off-road biased tires: while I was looking at tires I found a nice set at the nearby IRC booth that look like some of the most off-road biased dual-sport tires I've seen: the IRC BR-99 Battle Rally.
These have been around (hey, a pun!) for a number of years, but I haven't been able to find a review. The IRC rep said that the BR-99's are their most aggressive DOT street-legal tire, and one look at the knobbies pretty much confirms it.
They come in the standard 90/90-21 front (54R with a recommended rim width of 2.15"). The rears only come in 120/90-18 (65R) or 140/80-18 (70R) with a 3.50" rim recommended. Anyone using these sizes and needing an off-road biased tire might be interested in looking these up. I am interested to know if anyone has any feedback or experience using the IRC BR-99's.
Anyway, that's a long digression on an obscure and somewhat settled issue.
There are other DR650 tires available, like the Continental TKC 80 (review), which, according to the Continental website in this .pdf download, is available in the exact DR650 recommended sizes (Front: 90/90-21 M/C 54S TT and Rear: 120/90-17 M/C 64S TT with an option of 130/80-17 M/C 65S TT). The TKC 80 also comes in a tubeless version in those same sizes.
Interesting factoid: the Continental representative showed me the Continental printed catalog, which does not list a 120/90-17 as a rear tire -- only as a front. The catalog does list a 90/90-21 front and a 130/80-17 rear for the TKC 80.
Continental also makes the Conti Escape, an adventure-touring tire that looks about like an 80/20 or 90/10, in the 90/90-21 and 130/80-17 rear. I believe this is specifically designed for the KLR650 but should fit a DR650 also, but it's not as off-road biased as I'd like.
The TKC 80 is a highly regarded tire with a strong off-road focus. The center knobs on the rear tire are slightly different sizes and placed at slightly different intervals, which, according to the Continental representative, helps reduce road noise. It will be a toss-up for me next time whether to try the Dunlops or the Continentals, but since Chris already reviewed the Contis...
February 19, 2012 - I stopped by the Pirelli booth today but, strangely enough, they had only very few tires on display in a large booth. Not sure why, since motorcycle tires are pretty easy to transport or ship to a show, all things considered. Anyway, they had one pair of Scorpion motocross tires on display and that's it for off-roading.
I did talk to the Pirelli representative and he showed me a photo in the catalog of the MT 21 Rallycross. He said it's a 10/90 (on- off-road) tire that is DOT street legal, so it's about as biased to off-road riding as you'll find.
From the photos, it does look much like a motocross tire. It also comes in the 90/90-21 front (54R) and 120/90-17 (64R) rear, with the option of a 130/90-17 (68P) rear also.
Pirelli makes two more tire types that are an exact match for the DR650: the Scorpion MT 90/AT, a street-biased tire that is standard equipment on the 2012 KTM 990 Adventure (report). It's available in a 90/90-21 front and 120/90-17 (64S) rear.
It comes in a 90/90-21 front, tubeless in 54H and 54V. The rear is available as a 120/90-17 (64S) and 130/80-17 in 64S, 65S and 65H tubeless configurations.
Publication Date: February 18, 2012
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