Last year a friend asked me what sort of tires he should get for his Kawasaki KLR650. His approach to dual-sporting is about the same as mine—80 percent or more on the pavement, the remainder on the dirt.
Another friend had recently put Avon Tyres Gripsters on his KLR, so I connected the two. And Ken came around a while after and told me how happy he was with the choice.
Then I myself needed some new rim-protectors on my Suzuki DR650, and thought I might actually try the tires I had been promoting. And I do like them. Now, where I live the weather is mostly dry, so I don’t have to deal much with unpleasant things like mud and wet grass, but for the dirt roads I ride, the Gripsters work great. Especially when I drop the pressure down to about 15 psi; then they grip really well on a steep, rutted uphill climb.
The Gripster story is an old one—all the way back to 1933. And even older for the Avon Tyre Company, an English outfit that began making motorcycle tires back in 1911. The first Gripster had a serious block pattern, designed for the motocross events of the era. Promotions of the time stated quite clearly that it was intended “specifically for use off the road.” In the 1950s it was called the New Gripster, with the knobs being even more aggressive, touting it as being suitable for “scrambles.” In 1990 the respected Gripster name was assigned to a new genuinely dual-purpose tire, not a knobby, though the ads were rather exalting: “Built for the latest generation of dual-purpose trail bikes which emulate the enduro machines of numerous Paris-Dakar marathons.” Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but it suits my more benign purposes just fine.
The Gripster we have now has been on the market for 20 years, with the same tread design, perhaps some minor changes in the ingredients. The front tire uses a twin-ply casing, while the rear has a third ply since that is the one that gets the most abuse. This is actually the second Gripster report Rider has done, the first appearing in 1998, with the tires still highly regarded after being on the market for 20 years.
It is the tread design that really defines a tire, and the fact that those ovalish blocks have lasted such a long time in a very competitive market; that is a great compliment. Since I do the great majority of my DR650 miles on the pavement, I’m more interested in grip on the asphalt than plowing through a sand trap. On the occasional rainy day I find the grooves do serve to squeegee the water away, but I also reduce the lean angles. And the block pattern does acceptably well on the dirt roads I ride. The tread is very directional, so you don’t want to run the tire backward. This Gripster is most definitely a compromise tire, but I can live with compromises, and the results are that it is great in the dry, OK in the wet. I have yet to determine their longevity.
Avon advertises the Gripster as good for “midrange” bikes, like the big singles. These bias-ply tires come in just two sizes, as most of the 650cc dual-purpose bikes now have a 19-inch front, 17-inch rear. The 90/90 front will fit rims from 1.85-2.50 inches wide, the rear 130/80 fits rims from 2.50-3.50. MSRP is $127.44 for the front, $160.07 for the rear.
For more information: See your Avon Tyres dealer or call (800) 624-7470