Choosing the right tire for a dual-sport tour isn’t easy. You need good cornering traction and high mileage for the paved stretches, and good dirt grip and durability to get you into—and out of—the backcountry. The test trip for the ContiTrail Attack tires on my BMW F800GS is a good example of why no single tire can be the best choice for all the conditions you’ll find on a tour that includes those little dashed lines on the map. Two friends and I rode world-class twisties through the local mountains and held a high-speed cruise across California’s steamy Central Valley before spending a weekend exploring dirt roads in the southern Sierra. Surfaces ran the gamut from graded dirt to rough-and-rocky two-track, with a smattering of sand, snow and mud thrown in to increase the pucker factor. A few miles of thick gravel rounded out the experience before we headed home.
Had the sand, snow or mud been more extensive, I would have wanted a knobbier traction solution like Conti’s TwinDuro TKC-80s. As it was, the Trail Attacks were a perfect match for the milder dual-sport conditions I encountered. They stuck tight on the pavement, giving me easy roll-in and sporty traction through the endless curves, and they didn’t flinch when the substrate turned to rutted dirt. The Attacks also handled a full load of gear and fast cruising in hot temperatures—I saw 105 degrees on my onboard thermometer during the return trip across the valley.
Conti applies its continuous compound rubber technology to enhance tire mileage while providing excellent traction at any lean angle. The tread layer goes on as a uniform compound, but variable temperatures applied during the curing process harden the rubber in the middle for extended wear while keeping the sides softer for better cornering. The rubber is also said to have good wet traction. While the tread pattern looks up to the task, I did my testing during California’s dry season and can’t comment on wet-weather performance.
Continental promotes the Trail Attacks as a “dual-sport touring radial,” an accurate description that emphasizes their on-road bias while recognizing their limits in gnarly terrain. Zero-degree (circumferential) belts on the rear tires are designed to reduce tire growth and enhance stability. I tested the 150/70-17 69V TL on the rear of my GS and a 90/90-21 54H TL on the front, using tubes in the tubeless rated tires. The four-ply rear radial, with one steel, one rayon and two nylon belts, is rated for 715 pounds. The bias-belted front tire gets two plies of nylon and a 467-pound rating. I got a chance to test the strength of the rear carcass when a slow valve-stem leak let the pressure drop to 11 psi before a friend pointed out my GS’s low tire at a rest stop. The bike had been handling fine, running through corners without a wobble and tracking steady on the straights. You’d never want to run a tire that low, but it’s good to know the Trail Attacks can handle the abuse if necessary.
The Trail Attacks come in three front sizes (one 21-inch and two 19-inchers) and four sizes for the rear (three for 17-inch rims and one for 18-inchers). Suggested retail for my Korean-made front tire is $95; the made-in-Germany rear is $175. These Contis find their mark where the riding emphasis is on stretches of asphalt (twisty or otherwise) interrupted by miles of moderate off-pavement exploration. If that describes your next dual-sport tour, then give ’em a gander.
For more information: See your dealer or www.conti-moto.com