For most adventure bike riders, choosing the right tires boils down to a thoughtful assessment of the types of riding you actually do versus the extremes of which your bike is capable. If that assessment includes some off-road riding, among Continental’s lineup for example, there’s the well-known TKC 80 knobby for 50/50 on- and off-road riding, the ContiEscape for a 70/30 mix and the TKC 70 for roughly 80/20 paved/dirt. I’ve had experience with all three, and though they sacrifice varying amounts of on-road performance in order to work to some degree off-road, most riders won’t miss it at all, even in the rain.
On the other hand, if that self-assessment reveals that you love your adventure bike but care very little for riding it in the dirt and want the most wet/dry on-road performance you can get, the best choice for its shoes would be a 90/10 tire like Continental’s new TrailAttack 3. Although a skilled rider can dance on them in the dirt fairly well (assuming there aren’t steep hills, or lots of mud and sand), tires like these primarily have increased “chip resistance” and self-cleaning ability as their 10-percent off-road component. This lets you take them on a graveled or mildly rocky road without damage or collecting a quarry’s worth of pebbles and mud in the tread. The flip side is that 90-percent of their design is devoted to on-road wet/dry grip, agility, comfort, stability, a quick warm-up and maintaining handling over time/wear, important properties for both touring and sport riding on the street.
TrailAttack 3s are made in Korbach, Germany, starting with a radial carcass wrapped in a zero-degree belt for high-speed stability. A new compound offers 8 percent more wet grip than the TrailAttack 2 and still uses Conti’s MultiGrip curing process that results in longer wear in the center and more grip on the shoulders of the tire. “One-hundred percent trust in the tire from the start” was a big design goal this time around–in addition to Conti’s Traction Skin, a micro-rough tread surface that eliminates the need for mold-release agents or break-in, the new compound is said to achieve full warm-up in less than a mile. The TrailAttack 3’s carcass construction, tread pattern and MultiGrip design also help them maintain consistent performance even after thousands of miles, which means your bike will corner just as well after 3,500 miles as it did when the tires were new. In addition to all of the usual testing for wear, agility, grip, comfort, bump absorption and so on, today tire companies also have to contend with electronic intervention systems on modern motorcycles like traction control, ABS, MSC and their cornering components that put huge loads on tires.
I got to witness firsthand how the TrailAttack 3’s deal with such interventions–and rain, mud, gravel, high speeds and hard cornering–several times during our daylong test ride on the mountainous Greek island of Crete. We were greeted with perfect Mediterranean weather upon arrival, but the next day Zeus opened the floodgates, dumping several inches of rain on the test route. No one in the large group complained, though, because the conditions were perfect for tire testing. Continental had teamed up with Edelweiss Bike Travel to provide a fleet of BMW R 1250 GS models for the ride, a good representative choice as it’s a big, powerful ADV bike with large load capacity expectations and different riding modes, traction control and cornering ABS. Coincidentally I had just finished a U.S. road test of the bike, so I knew what its stock tires felt like.
Crete had been lashed by several powerful storms prior to our arrival, and many of the mountain roads were damaged by slides and lined with snow in places, and we frequently had to ride across swaths of mud and rocks. These bikes were not equipped with Dynamic ESA, which could make tires carved from stone feel compliant and comfortable, so I got to experience their bump absorption and comfort straight up and in corners without any interference. Both on the wet pavement and in the slippery mud the TrailAttack 3s did their job without fault, giving me the confidence to ride a little faster and more aggressively as the day wore on. Their grip “from the start” is indeed excellent, a good thing since the cool wet weather and frequent stops meant several starts on cold tires. Pushing into each corner and braking a little harder each time, they stuck fast and gave excellent feedback, and I felt the front in particular is more agile than the BMW’s stock tire. Although we still need to try a pair on some dry, clean roads and corners to fully gauge their grip and wear, overall I’d say that Continental’s TrailAttack 3s are a perfect match for the demands of today’s large and powerful adventure tourers that are primarily ridden on the road. See the website for available sizes.
For more information see your dealer or visit Continental’s website.