Adventure-bike tires are always a compromise, so they’re often categorized by their intended “mix of usage,” e.g., 50/50 for a tire that is good for someone who rides 50% on-road and 50% off. Know anyone like that? Neither do I, especially among riders who pilot larger ADV machines. For most of us, spending even 10% of our time off-road would be a challenge, but few riders want a “90/10” tire that just barely cuts it in the dirt.
We could just run 50/50 tires all of the time, but the good ones wear out too fast, and the bad ones suck on the street. What we really need is a “60/60” tire, one that works 60% as well as a full-on knobby off-road and 60% as well as a sport-touring tire on the street, with the longevity of 90/10 tire on the rear.
After two years of development — a year spent on the aggressive Staggered Step tread pattern and compound alone — Dunlop has plugged the “50/50” hole in its ADV tire lineup with its new Trailmax Mission tires. Using the criteria I suggest above, these are really 60/60 tires, since they deliver close to DOT knobby-like performance off-road and footpeg-dragging levels of grip and stability on the street. They also promise better wear — Dunlop says independently contracted test riders got 8,000 miles out of a rear on a Suzuki V-Strom 1000.
Designed and manufactured at Dunlop’s factory in Buffalo, New York, the Missions start with a rugged bias or bias-belted construction rather than radial, since the tread area and sidewalls are a single tough unit and can be thicker to resist cuts and punctures. Construction varies based on fitment — some sizes have reinforcing belts and others don’t depending upon how much load capacity and/or compliance is required — but all can be used with or without tubes.
Some elements of the Mission’s tread design were inspired by the Wildpeak light truck tire from Falken, Dunlop’s sister auto tire company. In combination with the large stepped tread blocks and deep grooves, the Mission’s prominent side lugs shared by the Wildpeak are said to add rigidity and durability in rocky terrain; allow lower pressures off-road with less risk of pinch-flatting; help provide steering stability in sand, mud and gravel surfaces; and help steer the bike out of ruts off-road, even on big ADV bikes.
Mounted on my Honda Africa Twin and ridden on rocky, rutted fire roads in the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead, California, I found the Trailmax Missions delivered nearly as much traction off-road as a competitor’s knobby 50/50 tire on the same bike. That may change in muddy conditions I have yet to ride, when a grooved tire is more likely to pack up than a knobby, but the Missions have wide grooves and a 60/40 land/sea ratio, so they should still do quite well in the sloppy stuff.
Although not as road performance-oriented as Dunlop’s 90/10 Trailsmart radials, after several hundred miles of interstate, highways, surface streets and twisting back roads I found the Trailmax Missions offered all of the grip and stability I could use on the pavement, even with the 21-inch front/18-inch rear combo on my Africa Twin carrying loaded panniers. It helps that Dunlop engineered a specific tread pattern for the 21-inch Mission front, which has larger tread blocks that don’t require hollowing-out to achieve enough grip like the 17- and 19-inch sizes do. The Mission fronts also have a symmetrical tread pattern that helps reduce uneven wear.
Dunlop Trailmax Mission tires are available in a wide size range that covers most ADV bikes, scramblers and crossovers. According to Dunlop, sizes will arrive in phases, with most available in November and the rest landing by January 1, 2020. MSRP ranges from $131.21 to $285.23.
For more information, see your dealer or visit dunlopmotorcycletires.com.