Best dirt bike tires for hard enduro

Kitt Stringer puts six different brands of hard enduro tires to the test in some of the gnarliest terrain Canada has to offer

The right dirt bike tire can make a world of difference, especially in the hard enduro type of riding. Here, John Baley tackles some slippery terrain in the Shawnigan Lake area. — BrapSnap Moto Media photo

“What is the best dirt bike tire for hard enduro?”

Glad you asked because Kitt Stringer—who is one of B.C.’s top off-road riders—recently put six different brands of soft or gummy tires to the test in the unforgiving woods of Vancouver Island’s Shawnigan Lake area.

“This is some of the more difficult hard enduro terrain that I have found in Canada,” said Stringer, “and it is where I trained for Romaniacs. It is slower-speed, technical terrain, using mostly second and third gear.”

For this tire shootout, Stringer rode a 2017 KTM XC and primarily ran 140 tires and a 120 Enduromouse airless inner tube. Consistency is important when it comes to providing a fair review. That’s why he started by testing each brand of new tire for about 10 hours. Then, he switched them out and ran them down again later. The first 10 hours with a gummy tire, said Stringer, are the best, and if he were racing, each tire would typically last one race day.

“At Romaniacs, I used a new tire each day as was the norm for the majority of the racers who did well,” said Stringer. “The gummy tires with the softest sidewalls worked the best after the 10-hour mark. Due to the soft compound gripping the ground, this can only really be achieved by running a mousse since a tube cannot be run that low on pressure. Typically, the better wear a tire got, the less performance you get. Hard enduro, it seems, comes with a high user-pay cost. Soft tires wear quickly but perform excellent.”

Here are the results of Stringer’s Tire Shootout (the scale is out of 5 with 1 being low and 5 being high):

Shinko 505 Hybrid Cheater

Easy mounting - 4
Wear - 5
Sidewall strength - 4
Performance on roots - 4
Performance on wet rocks - 3
Traction on dirt - 3
Cornering ability - 4
Traction while braking - 4
Self-clearing of dirt and mud - 3
Performance in mud - 3
Overall predictability or tracking - 3
_________________________________
Overall score: 40

Conclusion: Overall, I’d say the Shinko 505 Hybrid Cheater was best value for the money. It was a good balance of performance with long wear. The harder rubber, however, wasn’t as good on rocks and the large lugs gave a bit of a washy feeling at higher speeds. — Kitt Stringer photo

Goldentyre GT216X

Easy mounting - 3
Wear - 2
Sidewall strength - 2
Performance on roots - 4
Performance on wet rocks - 4
Traction on dirt - 3
Cornering ability - 4
Traction while braking - 4
Self-clearing of dirt and mud - 4
Performance in mud - 3
Overall predictability or tracking - 4
____________________________________
Overall score: 37

Conclusion: This was the tire I chose to race in Romaniacs, and I had no issues with it. I’d say it was a great performer when new, and because of its soft sidewalls it had the best traction of all the tires once the lugs were worn off. I was able to get 100 hours out of one of these tires, and while it had absolutely no tire lugs left on it, the soft compound made it work very well—as long as I was using a soft mousse. — Kitt Stringer photo

Gibson Tyre Tech 7.1

Easy mounting - 3
Wear - 3
Sidewall strength - 3
Performance on roots - 4
Performance on wet rocks - 2
Traction on dirt - 5
Cornering ability - 4
Traction while braking - 4
Self-clearing of dirt and mud - 3
Performance in mud - 3
Overall predictability or tracking - 3
____________________________________
Overall score: 37

Conclusion: This is a good all-around tire with good value for money. It did not do well on wet rocks, and even worse on rocks once it was worn out. The wear was consistent and I like how long it lasted and how consistent the feel was during use. This would also be a good tire for faster races as the lug size and spacing bit in well on fast terrain. I’ve been told that Gibson is developing a new gummy tire very soon. — Kitt Stringer photo

Kenda IBEX

Easy mounting - 3
Wear - 3
Sidewall strength - 3
Performance on roots - 4
Performance on wet rocks - 4
Traction on dirt - 4
Cornering ability - 4
Traction while braking - 5
Self-clearing of dirt and mud - 4
Performance in mud - 4
Overall predictability or tracking - 4
____________________________________
Overall score: 42

Conclusion: I liked this tire a lot. I thought it was one of the better overall performers that worked consistently well in all terrain. If I had to buy a tire for hard enduro, this would be in my top choice.

IRC iX09 Gekotta

Easy mounting - 3
Wear - 3
Sidewall strength - 3
Performance on roots - 4
Performance on wet rocks - 3
Traction on dirt  - 4
Cornering ability - 3
Traction while braking - 3
Self-clearing of dirt and mud - 4
Performance in mud - 4
Overall predictability or tracking - 3
____________________________________
Overall score: 34

Conclusion: This tire was very soft and pliable. However, out of all the tires I tested, this one was the only one that failed on me, with it coming right off the rim twice—even with a rim lock. — Kitt Stringer photo

MITAS EF-07 double green stripe:

Easy mounting - 3
Wear - 2
Sidewall strength - 3
Performance on roots - 4
Performance on wet rocks - 4
Traction on dirt - 4
Cornering ability - 4
Traction while braking - 4
Self-clearing of dirt and mud - 3
Performance in mud - 3
Overall predictability or tracking- 4
____________________________________
Overall score: 38

Conclusion: This tire performed much like the Goldentyre and I feel it would be an excellent race tire as well. My riding partner had better traction than I did on wet rock while riding a 250 four-stroke, so perhaps this tire needs to be on a bike that lugs down low a bit more than my peppy XC two-stroke.

All the gummy tires I tested performed fairly close for the first 10 hours or so, with the winners going to the softer tires that had better traction on rocks. Purchasing a gummy tire will definitely give you a strong advantage over a regular soft compound tire, but you do pay for that advantage with quicker wear.

Thanks to Action Motorcycles, International Motorsports, Spunkys and Gibson Tyre for providing the tires to me at a discounted price. 

Quick Recap

Shinko 505 Hybrid Cheater: Best value for the rider who wants decent performance while getting a fair amount of life.

Gibson Tyre Tech 7.1: Best hook-up in the dirt. This is an ideal tire for spring and fall conditions where the dirt is soft with some moisture still in it.

Goldentyre GT216X and Mitas EF-07: These proven race tires are great all around, but wear quickly. The Goldentyre wins for the longest hours on the bike while still being effective.

Kenda IBEX: My overall winner for a hard enduro tire. If I had to spend money on a tire for everyday training and riding, I would pick this one. 


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