Metzeler Karoo 3 Tires | Gear Review

Metzeler's Karoo 3 tires are designed for 60/40 on/off-road use. Photos by the author.
Metzeler’s Karoo 3 tires are designed for 60/40 on/off-road use. Photos by the author.

If you walk remote hiking trails, you don’t wear running shoes. If you point your motorcycle onto dirt roads, it’s best not to wear street tires.

I regularly leap off perfectly good paved roads and onto unpaved, rutted trails. My 90/10 enduro tires (running shoes) clearly aren’t the right footwear for such terrain; my Super Ténéré needed a pair of hiking shoes. Enter the Metzeler Karoo 3.

An aggressive tread pattern with large, aggressive tread blocks and wide, deep grooves define this 60/40 design. Are these hiking shoes or clodhoppers? 

Rolling slowly, the handlebar pulses as tires roll from tread block to gap. At speed, things smooth out and the tread is less noticeable, except the din of the aggressive treads on pavement is a bit like the all-terrain tires on my truck. A low hum, most pronounced at 60 mph, is never intrusive (the asymmetrical tread design helps cancel noise, says Metzeler), but is a constant aural reminder of serious treads below. Consider it the call of the wild, inviting exploration.

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On pavement, handling is duller than the 90/10 variety, but the Karoo 3s stick like glue and deliver impressive cornering stability, thanks to large tread blocks at the tire’s edge. Set a conservative entry speed and the bike can be driven hard out of corners, although heavy throttle tends to trigger the traction control—likely due to vast gaps between tread blocks.

Metzeler Karoo 3 tires.
Metzeler Karoo 3 tires.

With two different carcass designs fore and aft, the front delivers on-road confidence without compromising off-road cred. The rear tire was made for durability, puncture resistance and all-terrain handling. Vee-shaped tread on both ends permits larger tread blocks for greater on-road stability, better traction and handling, plus improved wear.

What’s the dirt when pavement ends? On a mix of tar and chips, broken pavement, gravel, dirt, loose rocks and some seriously rutted trails with steep verticals, the Karoo 3 duo delivered impressive grip and stability, even with tire pressures at street settings. Tractability would only improve with lower pressures.

If there’s a shortcoming it’s lateral stability, especially on heavily cambered trails or when carrying speed through loose-surface corners—likely due to the wide grooves that extend across the full width of the tire. But, in fairness, this is a multi-use tire; for extreme off-roading, a true knobby is best.

The Karoo 3 opens the door to adventures beyond what street-oriented enduro tires can deliver, while only slightly compromising on-road performance. It’s a good pair of hiking shoes that are still comfortable around town. Just don’t plan to go sprinting.

The Karoo 3 is designed for all adventure bikes, and Metzeler offers a range of sizes for 19- and 21-inch fronts and 17- and 18-inch rears. 

For more information, see your dealer or visit metzeler.com/site/us.

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