Adventure-touring riders are faced with a potentially bewildering variety of tires for their bikes from which to choose. Fortunately, most of us have a pretty good idea how much off-road riding we actually do with these versatile but large and heavy motorcycles, and can use that as our guide. Serious off-roading requires barely street-legal knobbies and lower speeds on the street, especially in the rain. For a roughly 60/40 mix of street and dirt, go with blocky in-between tires that perform OK on either. Most of us fall into the third, 90/10 on- and off-road category, however, needing tires that are basically high-performance wet/dry street radials with somewhat larger tread grooves and more chip resistance for riding graded dirt and gravel roads at a cautious pace. The more street-oriented the tire, the longer they will last, and the faster you can ride on the street in the rain and in corners.
Since most of their owners rarely take them off-road, bikes like the big BMW GS, KTM Adventure, Ducati Multistrada and Triumph Explorer tend to come with these dual-sport touring 90/10 tires as standard equipment. For 2014, the KTM Adventure 1190 will wear Continental’s new ContiTrailAttack 2 tires, and the BMW R 1200 GS will include the TrailAttack 2 among its OEM tires as well. Based on a two-day blast through the German and Austrian Alps on those bikes and a Ducati Multistrada and Triumph Explorer XC wearing TrailAttack 2s, I’d say they made an excellent choice.
In addition to tires, Continental makes motorcycle instrument panels, accessory control units, ABS hydraulic modules, final drive belts and much more at its plant in Korbach, Germany. It’s the fourth-largest car tire manufacturer in the world and ranked among the 20 largest companies in Germany. Motorcycle tire manufacture in Korbach is focused on radial tires, and Conti’s bias-ply rubber is outsourced to other countries. According to Uwe Reichelt, Continental’s Head of Sales & Marketing, Motorcycle Tires, because motorcycle tires account for a small fraction of the company’s business, his division is able to be more flexible. Low-volume electric-motorcycle makers Zero and Brammo recently signed on to use Continental tires, for example, and Continental rubber is 100-percent OE on the high-performance KTM Adventure, RC8 and 690 Duke.
The ContiTrailAttack 2 introduction was anything but standard fare as well, a blitzkrieg through the German and Austrian Alps on all kinds of roads and surfaces (except dirt), including ton-up speeds on the autobahn. This was followed by the opportunity to lap a dedicated wet skid pad belonging to the ADAC (Germany’s AAA) right behind our hotel. Continental had to meet several engineering goals with the new TrailAttack 2, chief among them a 260 km (162 mph) speed rating for the powerful KTM Adventure 1190, and the precise on/off-road handling traits required in the wider sizes for the new BMW R 1200 GS. The first thing I noticed about the tires, in fact, was how the R 1200 GS models we rode did not exhibit the tendency to understeer that our test bikes wearing different tires suffered at the U.S. model introduction.
Besides developing a new tire contour and tread-groove pattern to complement the handling of big-bore adventure tourers, Continental combined new and existing technologies to improve the TrailAttack 2 over its predecessor. A zero-degree steel belt in the rear tire enhances stability and comfort, even at high speeds and with high loads, and a reinforced carcass in the front tire complements a new tread pattern for precise handling and optimized wear. Continental says the revised carbon Black Chili rubber compound offers more than twice the wet grip of the previous TrailAttack, as well as excellent mileage for long trips. Continuous Compound Technology also allows Conti to use a single compound in the tire by controlling the curing process to enhance shoulder grip and center longevity to make the tire wear evenly. Finally, Conti’s “Traction Skin” provides a pre-broken-in, roughed-up tread surface for maximum cornering and stopping confidence, even when the tire is brand new.
Steering feel, turn-in, dry traction and stopping grip from the TrailAttack 2s were all exceptional on the BMW R 1200 GS, KTM Adventure 1190 and Ducati Multistrada 1200 that I sampled on our two-day ride. The tires also gave me a lot of confidence on the wet skid pad, cornering in a tight circle at speeds up to about 40 mph without a slip. We did not have the opportunity to try them off-road on this trip, but we’ll follow-up with an off-road performance report as soon as we do.
Overall, for adventure-touring riders, Conti’s description of the TrailAttack 2 as a “dual-sport touring tire” is apt, playing up its street prowess without completely discounting its dirt capability. And they look the part, too.
Continental TrailAttack 2 tires are available in sizes for most large-capacity enduro and adventure-touring motorcycles. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Pricing is below; for more information, see your dealer or conti-moto.com.
(This Gearlab review was published in the December 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)
Trail Attack 2 Sizes and Retail Price Ranges:
Description: Retail Price Range:
100/90-19 57H TL, front $89.00 + USD/CAD
110/80R19 59V TL, front $170.00 + USD/CAD
120/70R19 60V TL, front $185.00 + USD/CAD
90/90-21 54V TL, front $110.00 + USD/CAD
120/70ZR17 58W TL, front $195.00 + USD/CAD
130/80R17 65H TL, rear $215.00 + USD/CAD
140/80R17 69H TL, rear $220.00 + USD/CAD
150/70R17 69V TL, rear $230.00 + USD/CAD
170/60R17 72V TL, rear $245.00 + USD/CAD
180/55ZR17 73W TL, rear $285.00 + USD/CAD
190/55ZR17 75W TL, rear $290.00 + USD/CAD
150/70R18 70V TL, rear $230.00 + USD/CAD