As is the same with cars, in the motorcycle world you can find wildly difference concepts, meant for wildly different riding scenarios. One of the most popular motorcycle types, that is designed to be used both on the road and off-road. Most dual sport motorcycles are street legal, even though some of them are primarily designed for use on heavy terrains and in the dirt.
In order to get the most out of dual sport bikes, you will need a good pair of tires. The problem here is that there are a lot of different models available. Some of them are primarily designed to be used on the road, with only marginal off-road abilities, while others are great in the dirt and bad for on-road driving.
This means that when choosing a pair of tires for your Dual Sport motorcycle, you first need to ask yourself where are you going to ride your bike, what is the performance you’re expecting from the tires, and the money you are prepared to spend.
In this article, I will try to explain all the differences between various tire models on the market, I will answer the frequently asked questions about dual sport tires, and as always, give you a Top 10 list of the best tires on the market right now. In the list, I’ll give different rewards, like best tire for on-road driving or best tire for off-road driving, which means that the positions are only provisional.
Always choose tires according to your needs, and not the positions on the list.
Top 10 Best Dual Sport Tires
Best dual sport tire for both the street and the trail
If you can’t decide on where you want to ride more – on-road or off-road, then the best tire is the Mefo Explorer. This is of the 50-50 variety, which means that it is equally good for driving on the street, and for exploring the wasteland. Sure, it comes with compromises in both of them, but for the general dual sport rider, there is probably no better tire out there right now.
On the road, the Mefo Explorer provides the rider with very good handling and stability in both dry and wet conditions. Compared to any other 50-50 tire out there, I find this one the most responsive on the road, with a high level of grip even when the road is not so clean, or the surface is damp.
That said, the Mefo Explorer is probably even better in off-road conditions. The aggressive large shoulder lugs bite into everything they encounter, almost like in a pure off-road tire. The result is excellent traction on rocks, sand and even mud. The bias ply construction further gives the rider confidence that this tire will be durable and survive even the most demanding off-road conditions, plus a lot of miles on the road.
While I am at it, the Explorer is a very comfortable tire as well, so covering hundreds of miles on it will be a pleasurable experience as well.
Continental Trail Attack 2
Best dual sport tire for road use
If you ride your bike mostly on the road, there is really no need to investing in dirt tires. Sure, they may look better due to the knobby design, but in reality, they will have much worse performance on the road, they will be loud and your bike will not be as fuel efficient. For general bike riding on the road, in my opinion, the Continental Trail Attack 2 is the best tire out there.
This is a so-called 90% street and 10% dirt tire, so it is really not so good for off-road riding. That said, for the street, it is simply phenomenal. This is an ultra-high-performance tire that will provide you with an excellent level of grip on the road. For example, the rear tire is equipped with 0-angle steel belts that provide superior stability at higher speeds and admirable comfort. These traits make it a very good choice for Enduro bikes and riders who cover a lot of miles. In other words, a pair of these tires are the perfect companions for those long road trips. And the best thing about the Continental Trail Attack 2 is that it works both in dry and wet conditions.
Apart from the excellent performance, you can expect a pair of these tires to last you very long – they are certainly one of the most durable dual sport tires out there. In the end, this tire is designed to have less rolling resistance for better fuel economy.
Best dual sport tire for off-road use
For serious off-road riders, who care more about traction in the most demanding conditions, and less for handling and precision on the road, the best tire is the Mitas E-09. This one is specifically made for trail use and I find it the best solution for tackling sand, rocks or mud.
As you can already see from its design, the Mitas E-09 has some very aggressive knob pattern, that helps it achieve mind-blowing traction in the aforementioned conditions. As the manufacturer says, this tire gives carnivorous traction in difficult terrain, and I can confirm that this is true.
But, what use of great performance if the E-09 is not durable? Don’t worry, Mitas has this covered as well – this model is designed with a cross-ply construction that gives stunning strength and the ability to cover a lot of miles in the most demanding conditions. The Mitas E-09 will also resist puncture like a champ, further adding to the piece of mind.
With all that said, I wouldn’t recommend using this tire on the road like most street tires. With this one, you need to be careful in both dry and wet conditions, as it doesn’t provide much grip or responsive handling. However, being a 20% street and 80% dirt, it is still better than 10-90 dual sport tires in this regard.
Michelin Pilot Road 4 Trail
Best dual sport tire for wet conditions
The Pilot Road 4 Trail is the second tire on this list that is made largely for riding on the street, or of the so-called 90% street and 10% trail variety. It is almost identical to the Continental Trail Attack 2 in the performance department in dry conditions on the road, and slightly better in wet conditions. If you use your bike mostly on the road, this is another great solution that will provide you with responsive handling and excellent grip. The Pilot Road 4 Trail is also very comfortable – a perfect companion for long road trips.
All of this is achieved thanks to the silica-rich compound that sticks to the road in dry, wet and damp conditions. This rubber material also makes the Pilot Road 4 Trail useful in near-freezing temperatures, unlike most tires in the dual sport class that work only in warmer climates. Despite that, longevity and durability are covered with the harder center section and Michelin XST+ sipes and chamfers for even wear of the tire.
With all that said, the best thing about the Pilot Road 4 Trail is its wet performance. This is the best tire for those who live in areas with frequent rain, as it provides excellent traction and strong braking performance in both light and heavy rain, even on painted lines and crosswalks.
High performance on the street, useful on gravel
If you mostly ride your bike on the street, or on long road trips, but still want a reliable off-road performance, the Continental TKC70 is the best tire out there. This model is of the 60% street, 40% trail variety, even though it looks like it is primarily designed to be used on the road. I find it to be an excellent performer in both conditions, of course, if you set your expectations right.
Let’s start with street performance, where the Continental TKC70 can be driven pretty hard for a 60-40 dual sport tire. Handling is responsive and the grip is excellent in both dry and wet conditions. It is also very quiet – I wouldn’t mind riding hundreds of miles on a pair of these tires. And when you consider the fact that the Continental TKC70 is made for speeds up to 150 mph, you’ll know that this one is not a joke.
Despite the excellent on-road grip and handling, the Continental TKC70 is also admirable in off-road conditions. However, I’ll get back to “set your expectations right” here. This is not a tire that can be driven on hardcore off-road surfaces, like mud and rocks, but it can still provide safe riding experience on gravel. This makes it an ideal choice for riders who often visit the countryside, where some roads are not covered with asphalt.
Heidenau K60 Scout
Another great 50-50 tire for both on-road and off-road use
Like the Mefo Explorer that sits on the first place on this list, the Heidenau K60 Scout is also a great choice for riders who want the best of both worlds. This is a bias ply tire, which means that it’s strong and durable for long off-road sessions. It also comes with self-cleaning tread design and large-block tread pattern, which means that it is no slouch on rocky surfaces and on gravel. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that you can use it in the mud, the Heidenau K60 Scout will provide you with confident riding experience every time you venture of the road.
It will also be very good on the road too, thanks to the large contact patch with the road. Handling is responsive enough for most riders and high-speed stability is almost intact when compared to 60-40 tires. Braking performance is also excellent, but the same can’t be said for noise and comfort. The Heidenau K60 Scout is simply not the quietest nor the most comfortable tire for dual sport motorcycles, so keep that in mind before choosing one for those long road trips. On the other hand, durability is pretty strong here and you shouldn’t worry about replacing a pair of these even after 7000-8000 miles.
Mefo Stone Master
Best dual sport tire for extreme off-road use
We’ve come to the model that should almost entirely be used for off-road driving – the Mefo Stone Master. This tire will provide you with the best possible traction on the trail, but street performance will suffer a bit. How much? Well, consider it a tire that will only be good to take you to the trail, of course with caution in the corners and driving up to the speed limits. I may be exaggerating a little here, but seriously, this one is an off-road tire that’s legal for the road. In numbers, that’s 10% street and 90% trail.
This becomes obvious the first time you look at this tire – it is probably one of the knobbiest and extreme street-legal tires available on the market right now. This means that it simply bites into any type of terrain, be it mud, rock, or sand. And it’s not only performance – thanks to the stiff carcass, it is very durable as well, and it gets pretty good gas mileage for a 90% trail tire. It is also pretty stable on the road for this type of tire, but you shouldn’t expect miracles here. Still, better than most competitors in this class.
All things considered, if your riding experience often includes hardcore off-road riding, this is the best tire available right now, bar none.
Best dual sport tire for the desert or sand surfaces
The Mefo Stone Master is absolutely the best off-road tire for any condition, but if your ride includes mostly sand, then the Michelin T63 should be the first choice. This tire was developed for races like the Dakar Rally and is simply outstanding in those conditions. The desert or any sand surface pose no problem for the T63. It is also extremely well-suited to every other off-road surface out there and you shouldn’t worry tackling rock and even mud.
The tread pattern of the Michelin T63 is derived from the highly successful Desert line of tires from Michelin, and that’s where the sand abilities come from. This design gives the T63 excellent stability in the most demanding conditions, while the high-tech rubber compound gives the tire excellent durability and long-lasting performance.
Despite the mostly off-road oriented use (10% street, 90% trail), the Michelin T63 is very stable on the road too. It has “S” speed rating for highway use, and it also has reinforced knobs that resist tearing and abrasion. In other words, the T63 is probably the most successful dirt tire on the road, perhaps even better than the Mefo Stone Master.
Kenda K760 Trackmaster II
Best budget dual sport tire for off-road use
For owners of older motorcycles, or those who don’t have the deep pockets, the Kenda K760 Trackmaster II will do a commendable job in the dirt. Thanks to the deep tread design, this tire provides excellent traction on almost every trail, and it is also very easy to clean from rocks and mud. The price is also lower than most competitors on this list, which makes it the perfect budget choice for riders who still want above-average performance in off-road conditions.
This is a 10% street and 90% trail tire, which means that it is designed to be mostly used in off-road conditions. On the street, I find it less stellar than the best tires out there, even though Kenda designed the sidewalls so that they deliver positive cornering. Handling is simply not as responsive and high-speed stability leaves a lot to be desired.
However, the trail is where this tire really shines. The aggressive knobs create a capable knob pattern that bites into every surface, be it sand, rock or mud, and it also has a 6-ply rated carcass, so you shouldn’t worry about durability and longevity when in the unknown. All in all, a great showing for a tire that costs this much.
Best budget dual sport tire for on-road use and slight off-road use
The last tire on this list is designed mostly for on-road use and is 80% street, 20% trail rated. I find it to be excellent on the road, especially for the price. For the average driver, this is one of the best options out there, because it offers safe handling in dry and wet conditions, and also provides good traction on gravel roads.
Given the fact that it is fairly durable as well (7000 miles with one pair should be easily reachable), and that it has goo weight load capabilities, this tire is a very good option for long road trips. The design is borrowed from Yokohama tires and gives the driver good traction and grip in dry, damp and wet conditions. The Shinko 705 is not as good at the limit as competitors from Continental or Michelin, but most riders will never reach that limit, to be honest.
The price of the Shinko 705s tires is almost twice as low as other competitors in this class, so any disadvantage it has over them should be taken more lightly.
Things to consider before choosing a dual sport tire
When choosing a new pair of tires for your dual sport motorcycle, you should always ask yourself what type of surface you are mostly riding. Of course, the type of dual sport bike also plays a role here – some are made mostly for road use, and some mostly for off-road use.
To help with your purchase of the next pair of dual sport tires, manufacturers agree on ratings for these tires, with several different types available:
- 90/10 – these are mostly made for use on the street (90%), and for gravel roads (10%). They are not made for use in demanding off-road conditions;
- 80/20 or 70/30 – these offer better off-road abilities, but are still made largely for on-road driving. If your road trips are mostly contained of highway driving, but there are still off-road trails out there, these tires are the best choice;
- 60/40 – still great for the road, but you’ll lose some responsiveness and precision in the corners. Off-road abilities will be improved as a result;
- 50/50 – admirable both on the street and in the dirt. They are not the best in either condition, but for the riders who don’t know what road they will encounter, these are the best choice;
- 40/60 – street use is still very good, with good stability and the ability for higher speeds on the highway. Off-road use is further improved;
- 30/70 and 20/80 – mostly made for use in off-road conditions, but still very much usable on the street. Great for dual sport owners who want to ride their motorcycles in not very demanding off-road conditions;
- 10/90 – made purely for use in off-road conditions, but are street legal as well. Still, you will lose a lot of precision and responsiveness on the road. In other words, use them only to get to the trail, not for long highway road trips.
Other then the ratio of street and trail use, you can categorize dual sport tires by other characteristics, such as:
- Pattern shape - these are very important for motorcycles. The pattern design helps the tire have traction in wet conditions, but also when there is sand on the road or other impurities. The deeper the knobs, the better a tire will be in the rain;
- Tread depth - for off-road-oriented tires, tread depth is very important. The deeper the tread a tire has, the better it bites into sand or mud, and the better it cleans itself from rocks;
- Knob size - the bigger the knobs, the less surface area off-road conditions, but more surface area on the street. On the other hand, a larger number of knobs means that the tire has more surface area in off-road conditions and less surface area on the street. (more surface area means better traction).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What are dual sport tires?
Tires made for use both on the street and on the trail are called dual sport tires. They are to be used on dual sport motorcycles.
- Do dual sport tires need to be balanced?
As with every motorcycle tire, dual sport tires should also be balanced, and this is true even for new tires. This way you will be sure that you get a smooth and safe riding experience in every condition.
- How to balance dual sport tires?
Balancing your dual sport tires should only be made with the proper equipment, tools and instruction. If you’ve never done that, I would strongly advise against doing that yourself, as for most mechanics, it takes months to perfect the balancing procedure.
- How long do dual sport tires last?
It all depends on the quality of the tire, and the type of dual sport tire. Generally, tires that are made for street driving last longer, while those made for off-road driving are less durable. However, if you use street tires for off-road driving, they will quickly fade and lose their performance. In my experience, dual sport tires last from 4000-9000 miles, depending on the model and the type of tire.
Choosing a proper dual sport tire for your needs is not the easiest of tasks, especially with hundreds of different models available on the market right now. That said, if you choose a tire that’s on the Top 10 list in this article, and then follow the instructions in the buying guide, I think that you will be able to make a perfect choice!