Since completing the MotoVentures dirt-bike school last year (see Rider, November 2008), dual-sport riding has been my new jam. Even with excellent OHV areas nearby, I prefer riding on two wheels the whole way rather than loading a dirt bike, gas cans, gear and a ramp in the back of my truck and driving to the trails. That, of course, is where dual-sport motorcycles come in.
Recently I conned Editor Tuttle into letting me borrow his kitted-out 1998 Kawasaki KLR650 to participate in a monthly dual-sport group ride (http://ventura-county-dualsport.blogspot.com/). “No problem,” Mark said, “as long as you test these Kendas while you’re at it.” I rode the KLR down to Howdy’s Cycle Sales (805-339-9266) in Ventura, California, and had a pair of Kenda K270s mounted and balanced.
Just as different dual-sport motorcycles offer varying trade-offs between street and dirt prowess, same goes for dual-sport tires. Kenda K270s are DOT-approved knobbies designed for a 50/50 split between street and dirt use, whereas others in its lineup have more aggressive tread patterns and are made for only 10-30 percent street use. Fronts are four-ply, fit 21-inch wheels and range from 2.75 to 3.25 inches wide. Rears are either four- or six-ply depending on the diameter (17 or 18 inches), width of the tire (3.5 to 5.1 inches) and intended load capacity. For the KLR, we used a 3.25-21 front and a 5.10-17 rear. See Kenda’s website for a metric conversion chart.
Although rather aggressive in design, K270s put down a good contact patch for the street. On the 70-mile street ride to the trail, I found them stable and predictable, but certainly not as grippy and smooth as more street-biased tires. With 8.5mm-deep tread up front and 14.5mm-deep tread out back, the knob blocks are tall and flex when pushed hard on the street. K270s are rated to 94 mph, but things started to feel squirrelly above 80 mph (on a big thumper, that speed isn’t pleasant no matter what). Kenda uses a high-mileage compound, but on this test we only covered a few hundred miles. Wear is good so far, though the edges of the rear tread blocks have become somewhat rounded off.
Upon arriving at the fire road in Los Padres National Forest, I reduced the tire pressure to 25 psi. Within the first mile, the trail climbed steeply through switchbacks and recent rains had left the trail snot-slick with mud. The K270 knobbies dug in capably and carried me to our first checkpoint, with the knobbies easily shedding mud along the way. Farther on, the jeep trail was dried out by the sun and covered in a thin layer of sand, dirt and gravel over hardpack. Acceleration, braking, cornering, slides—all were done with confidence. When I rode the same fire road a week later with the tire pressure at 19 psi, the tires felt too loose and had less impact resistance. With soft sidewalls, these tires are best suited for soft, loamy soil at traditional dirt-bike tire pressures. Keep the tires pumped up for hard surfaces, especially on the street, or else you’ll slide around too much and possibly damage your bike’s rims.
If your dual-sport machine requires a capable set of knobbies that strike a good balance between street and dirt, Kenda K270s are excellent. MSRP not available, so check with your dealer for pricing.
For more information: See your dealer or visit www.kendausa.com