I've said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tires are the single biggest performance enhancement for any ADV motorcycle. By simply throwing on a set of knobby tires, the current breed of 1000-plus-cc adventure-tourers can become surprisingly off-road-capable in the right hands. But full-on knobbies have a very limited lifespan, so Continental has created a new tire called the TKC 70 that bridges the gap between its more street-oriented TrailAttack2 and the TKC 80 knobby. With off-road rubber developed specifically for heavy ADVs, it’s virtually impossible to find a high-traction tire that lasts a decent amount of time. Continental’s consumers wanted a tire somewhere between the TrailAttack2 and the TKC 80. And it’s these same consumers, says Conti, who resorted to running a TKC 80 on the front and a K60 Scout from competitor Heidenau on the rear because the TKC 80 rear would typically wear out twice as quickly as the front.

I recently learned how the right tire can transform a huge ADV machine from poser into performer. On a recent trip to Colorado for the Bonnier ADV Rally, Cycle World contributor Ryan Dudek (a Baja 1000 podium finisher) talked me into stopping at Moab, Utah, to ride its famous Slickrock trail—on a BMW R1200GS Adventure, no less. Anyone who has mountain biked or ridden this trail on an enduro can understand how gnarly it would be on a full-size ADV bike. Equipped with Conti’s TKC 80s, the bike survived, but it was harrowing. And on the wide range of terrain around Gunnison, Colorado, that we rode during the rally, many of the 4wd-only trails wouldn’t have been possible without those knobbies churning for traction in the decomposed granite, wet rocks, stream crossings, and roots. In the end, the GS and Dudek’s KTM 1190 Adventure R conquered more than any big bike has a right to. But by the time we got back to California with 2,600 miles under our belts, the rear TKCs on both machines were smoked.

Only a week later, I had the opportunity to ride the brand-new TKC 70 on road and off in the Welsh Midlands on a GS Adventure and a few other ADV bikes. Our first day was spent on asphalt, while the second was on graded dirt roads and forest two-track trails soaked by overnight rains.

The TKC 70 is unique because of its zero-degree, steel-belted radial construction (most chunky and knobby tires are bias-ply construction). Via temperature-controlled curing, Continental says it creates a harder more durable center tread and softer shoulder sections from a single rubber compound. The tread pattern is designed to provide good bite off road while clearing dirt and mud quickly.

Our first day provided a great opportunity to sample on-road grip, but also to get a feel for the tires in wet conditions after the heavens opened up and soaked the roads. In short, I was impressed with the TKC 70’s performance on the tarmac. The profile of the tires allowed every bike I sampled to handle as they would on stock rubber. Furthermore, despite fairly deep and chunky tread blocks, the tire never squirmed or felt unstable in any way when leaned over at a hot street pace. Road noise was barely perceptible, and wet weather grip proved to be excellent. On the narrow hedgerows, highways, and rough single-lane park roads—and on asphalt and concrete surfaces—grip remained predictable and good all day.

The following morning was even more telling, as we ventured out onto some forest dirt roads that must be used for the WRC Wales Rally GB. Surfaces ranged from damp and smooth graded roads to potholed, rocky two tracks with plenty of mud thrown in for good measure. On the fast, flowing gravel, grip from the front tire was predictable and easy to read, even under hard braking. Grip at the rear was almost too good, so I turned off the GS’s traction control to hang out the back end a bit and steer with the rear. It wasn’t until I hit a few very saturated muddy roads that I discovered the tire’s limitations and wished I had a knobby on the front. The front started to wander and required precise input at the bars to avoid tucking.

For the vast majority of off-highway travel, the TKC 70s are a perfect compromise for heavy ADV bikes that will spend more time on road than off. They offer far superior dirt grip than the TrailAttack2 while offering very similar traction on the road. Unless your route includes sand, mud, or very soft and/or rocky terrain, the TKC 70 is a wise choice because it’s designed to last a lot longer than a knobby. We plan to spoon a set onto ourlong-term BMW R1200GS Adventure soon. We also plan to try a hybrid setup running a TKC 80 on the front and TKC 70 on the rear, which I suspect will be the ideal pairing for the type of riding we do. We’d like to see if we double the mileage of a TKC 80 on the rear. The TKC 70 will be available in all of the popular adventure bike sizes. Fronts range in price from $105 to $175; rears cost from $195 to $240.

Source: cycleworld

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