A big adventure bike is the ultimate compromise on two wheels. Is it a touring bike? Is it a dirt bike? Is it a canyon carver? Is it a 2up bike? Is it a track bike?The answer to all the questions and quite a few more is yes. To a degree. They are designed to be the Swiss Army knives of motorcycling. But, as you wouldn’t carve the Thanksgiving turkey with your Swiss Army knife, at least you wouldn’t easily carve it, you may not ride the Elsinore Grand Prix on your adv bike. You could do it, but it wouldn’t be much fun. A big adv bike is about compromise. And with these types of bikes there is no bigger compromise then tires.
With the couple of adv bikes I’ve owned so far, I have found two things to be the bible on tires. 1) The stock tires suck (this could be said for most bikes though), in my Tigers case these were the extremely road biased Bridgestone Battle Wings and 2) Above all you have to look the man (or the woman) in the mirror and ask em how you really are gonna ride this bike, when it comes times to throw down your cc on a tire purchase.
When you start looking around at tires you immediately start hearing a lot about the tires dirt to street ratio. “This is an 80/20 tire” “This is really a 90/10 tire”, “This is a for real 50/50 tire!”. You start calculating your own riding to see where you fit. Well I really like the looks of tire x but it says it’s a 50/50 tire and I’m really more of an 80/20 rider. But really when your honest your really a 95/5 rider. It really starts to become a tough decision. To compound it, very few of these tires are cheap and most of us will need to pay a shop to mount and balance them (more on this later). So a tire choice is a tough choice.
Since I’ve been into these bikes, there been 3 big dogs in the adv tire market. The Meztler Tourance, which is king of the more road biased 90/10 tires, the psuedo-knobby Heidenau K60 Scouts king of the mixed surface touring 80/20 tires, and the knobby Continental Twinduro TKC-80, which is the king in the dirt heavy 50/50 tires. I’m gonna make a guess not backed up by any hard data but based on my observations throughout the years of going to bike events and say that 80% of big adv bikes have one of these tires on them right now. A lot of positives can be said for all 3 of these. The Tourances handle great on the road and have exceptional longevity (I believe MJ would enthusiastically back that claim up if she reads this), however they can be very sketchy off pavement on anything but hard pack dirt. The Heidenau’s were the one’s that interested me most. Made in Germany wear big bike adv touring is huge, these tires are made to go some long miles, but still are aggressive enough for almost all off pavement fun except for maybe deep sand and mud. They are known to howl on the road though and lots of reports of them getting scary loose in the turns when they get long in the tooth. The TKC-80’s are outstanding off pavement tires and due to the big wide blocks are surprisingly decent on the road (this I know from many miles rolling on them on my old KLR). However you can maybe get 4k miles out of a rear and they can be very squishy when pushed hard in the twisties. The big problem for me is I’d say you have to figure around $300/$350 for a set of these in GS\Tiger\Super Tenere sizes. Then mount and balance blah, blah.
If you’ve made it this far, and recall way back when you read the title, you know I chose not to buy any of those tires. Instead I decided to take a flyer on the Full Bore M40\M41 ADV Tires. The main reasons I chose these was 1) My Battle Wings barely had 2k miles on them and were still looking brand new (and to be fair really good road tires), 2) Given #1 it was hard to plunk down $300 plus, and 3) Although a relatively new brand the Full Bore tires were getting some positive write ups, 4) Being honest with myself. I wanted the knobby’s but for the money and the type of riding I am doing with this bike, they’d wear out quick and be a waste. Who the hell is Full Bore you ask? Well they are an “American” company that has their tires manufactured in Korea by Shinko, which makes all their tires with the tooling and designs they bought from Yokohama when they scrapped their motorcycle tire business. Full Bore claims that all their tires are made to their specifications though. Who knows this is a global economy right?
So for a scant $156 delivered for the both, I became the owner of 1 Full Bore M41 90/90-21 front tire and 1 150/70-17 Full bore M40 rear tire. You may ask why is one a M41 and why is one an M40. Well the reason is the M41 is a bias ply tire, the M40 is radial. For some reason Full Bore only makes the bias tire for 21 in front rims. In fact I have found that very few manufacturers make radial adv tires for 21 in rims. I guess maybe it’s because a 21 in rim usually for a dirt bike and gets a knobby, or for a chopper type of bike and is a street only tire. My Battle Wings were both radial’s and this did give me some pause. But despite that, and my manufacturers claims that mixing bias and radial tires on a bike could bring a premature end to the world, I went for it anyway. Just couldn’t beat the price. I would put these tires at the previously non-categorized 70/30 ratio. Only cause why not? All this labeling is ridiculous anyway.
Here’s a couple of comparison pics with the stock Battle Wings still on and the brandy new Full Bore’s:
So up the bike went up on my jack, off came the wheels and I’m headed for my local non-manufacturer affiliated local moto shop (Motorcycle Madness in Lafayette, NJ. Don’t go there for a tire change!) for a mount and balance. The back M40 radial took a quite a few stick on weights to balance out. The guy at the shop told me it was because they were a “blemished tire” and that’s what I should expect buying a cheap tire from the evil internet. Fuck this guy! Whatever. I’m buying my own tire changing rig. I’m sick of getting fleeced by these aholes that aren’t just satisfied taking money from me to do the trained monkey job of changing tires and balancing. They need to make money off of me on the tires too. They’re all the same! Rant over.
The finished product:
Right now I have about 2k miles on them. I did the whole Hunter mountain trip with them which was pretty much all rain highway and back roads. I’ve done 2 300+ mile day rides on them, one on a ton of twisties in the Catskills and one in PA Coal country. I have done my 100 mile two-way slab commute to work multiple times. I have done most of the local fire\gravel roads around here. And I have to say I love them! They are way to good on the road for how they look and the price point and that can be said in the dirt too. This past Sunday I switched bikes for a while with Marcus who still has the stock Battle Wings on his Tiger. And when we switched back we both said wow are these Full Bore tire WAY better! i have been running the manufacturers suggested 36 psi front and 42 rear and have not yet felt, for the dirt I have been riding that I needed to lower the pressure. I can see lower them a bit when I ride up in the dirt in the spring in VT though. Based on the wear so far, I’m and thinking I will get at least 6 to 8k out of the rear and maybe 10 out of the front. And despite that prick telling me they are blemished tires, I have had no vibes or hopping of any kind. There is a bit of knobby type rumble at low speeds from the front but nothing to cry about.
I have to say for $156 a pair these may be the absolute best deal on the market for big adv bike tires!