Car owners typically look at cost verses tread wear when choosing new tires. The same cannot be said for dirt bike riders. In fact, choosing the right tire to address the type of riding and the ground conditions is paramount to a successful and enjoyable day on your bike.
If you try riding the dunes out in the desert with a tire designed for a hard-packed track you're not going to get very far. Similarly, a dual-sport tire built more for the trail wears quickly if used primarily on asphalt. Before long, you'll be shopping for new tires.
We fully understand that dirt bike tires tend to elicit the same passionate response from fans as a discussion on who is the Greatest of All Time. Finding the right dirt bike tire can be almost an art form. If you've found a dirt bike tire that works and you're happy with it by all means stick with the tire you found that suits your riding style and terrain.
If you're new to riding or looking to replace a failed tire or simply want to try a different grip then this guide is your first stop. MotoSport's Dirt Bike Tire Buyer's Guide is designed to help you narrow down the broad scope of available tires to a manageable purchasing opportunity.
Dirt Bike Riding Style
Dual-sport riding is both off-road and street-legal riding.
These bikes feature street-legal equipment such as:
Bikes can be registered and licensed. Some models are geared towards street use and others towards off-road use.
Motocross events take place on closed course dirt race tracks featuring jumps and other man-made dexterity testing obstacles.
Motocross tracks characteristically do not include elements like large rocks, tree roots, water crossings and other off-road and trail riding obstacles.
Off-road trail riding varies from tight single track trails in the mountains, down to high speed wide open desert riding and everything in between.
This will be the most diverse riding displaying many terrain types and naturally occurring obstacles.
Enduro riding has found a core following in recent years and involves riding dirt bikes on long off-road courses littered with obstacles ranging from large boulders to tight pathways and features varying terrain from water-logged sand to hard pack. Enduro bikes use a smaller wheel circumference in the rear (18-inches vs. 19 inches for Motocross) and require a wholly different set of tires than any other type of dirt bike riding.
Dirt Bike Tire Design/Pattern
Dual-Sport Tire Design/Pattern
Tire design for dual sports range from DOT approved knobby tires that look very similar to a Motocross or off-road tire to one that looks applicable to a Sportbike.
Therefore, the design dictates the type of riding. A knobby Dual Sport tire is primarily for those who use the streets to get to the trails. On the other hand, the sportier tires adapt best to road riding and can manage pretty well on dirt and gravel roads.
Motocross Tire Design/Pattern
Motocross tires bring the tread. These knobby type tires vary based on the type of track. Soft loamy dirt, sand and mud get a harder compound rubber tire composed of taller and wider-spaced knobs that create a paddle effect and keep mud from packing in between the knobs.
Firm terrain requires a softer rubber tire that conforms easier to the ground. Knobs are closer together and shorter to prevent flexing which creates a larger contact patch for better grip. In the middle you get intermediate tires - the most common selection. These tires tend to work well in most conditions.
Off-Road/Trail Tire Design/Pattern
Typically, off-road specific tires provide a heavy duty framework for durability. Off-road tires vary comparatively to motocross tires for knobby layout. In muddy and loamy trails a soft-terrain tire with wider and taller knobs is best. Trails exhibiting lots of rocks and a harder floor need a harder terrain tire with closely spaced and shorter knobs to improve traction.
Desert riding poses a challenge as terrain can vary from incredibly deep silt to a hard base and lots of rocks. There are certain desert tires similar to an intermediate motocross tire to address varying terrains.
Off-road tires look similar to Motocross tires and many riders pick a Motocross tire for off-road riding.
Enduro Tire Pattern
On the surface, enduro tires look a lot like Motocross or regular off-road and trail tires with thick knobs and aggressive tread. However, enduro tires use a different rubber composition to offer more traction for the varying degrees of terrain. Standard enduro tires come either "hard" or "sticky." The hard enduro tire performs well in muddy conditions but the sticky tire acts more like a "trials" tire and conforms to rocks, roots and other ground-based obstacles that interfere with traction. Enduro tires ensure optimal traction in all areas and should help increase a rider's confidence on technical terrain.