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Old 9 Mar 2011
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Tyres for the Sahara and beyond

Greetings to everyone,

My buddy and I are planning a trip that will follow the route from Greece via ferry to Italy, via ferry to Morocco, and from there all the way down to Bamako Mali. The first 4,000 km of the route will be mostly tarmac with the exception of a few (400-500 km) rocky pistes in the Atlas region of Morocco. Upon entering Mauri we will be dealing with a number of pistes (Nouadhibou to Atar, around the region of Atar all the way to the eye of the Sahara, and Atar to Tidjikja) and then while in Mali we will also follow pistes to and around Timbuktu. The total distance of the trip is estimated to be around 9,000 km (we are shipping back to Europe).
The bikes used will be a KTM 640 Adventure, and a KTM 690. We have been in contact with a number of people regarding which tyres would offer the best of both worlds (tarmac and off road that is). Once down in the Sahara we have narrowed down our options into using the Michelin Desert as a rear tyre, but are still skeptical about the front. One of the highest contenders is the T63, although we have read and heard mixed reviews about it, basically that it is really good on tarmac, but that can wear itself out on heavy off road use.

Note that both bikes will be loaded with alu panniers, probably a dry bag on top and maybe some extra fuel on certain legs of the journey. Also, we are still skeptical as to whether we should use more road oriented tyres (like the Metzeler Sahara, or the TKC-80) until Mauri, and then do the switch to the knobblies and dump the other ones. Of course if we can avoid this scenario that would be ideal, but we wonder whether the Deserts will be up to the task in Mauri if they have suffered some 4,000 kms on tarmac already (of course we are talking about max of 110 kph on the best of tarmacs, and lesser speeds on the rest)
Any advice as to the longevity (mixed mileage), behavior (both on and off road) of the above mentioned tyres, or any suggestions for different configurations would be more than welcome.


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Old 9 Mar 2011
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As long as you don't go spinning the back wheel up on tarmac sections TKC80s should deal with the whole trip fine. I thought they were pretty good on sand/gravel/hardpack but I don't have much to compare them to (never tried Scorpions, Michelin Deserts etc)
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Old 9 Mar 2011
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If you ride the Michelin deserts all the way down to the Mauritanian border, the tread will be less than 50% when you arrive. In mixed conditions you might get them to last 10,000kms but with a lot of road work, this will drop to about 5-6,000kms.

It is still possible to ride in sand with worn knobblies, but it would be preferable to have some decent rubber for the desert stages from Nouadhibou.

Having done it both ways before (ie riding down with Deserts on one trip, and carrying them on another), my clear preference would be to carry them until you reach Nouadhibou and change them in a campsite there before doing the stage to Atar.

Otherwise you used to be able to find used Mich Deserts (over 70% tread left) in the market in Atar, which were left over from the Dakar. I managed to find some a couple of years ago, although I suspect the supply is rapidly diminishing as the Dakar has stopped visiting.

What are your reservations with using a front Michelin Desert?

I would also suggest you think long and hard about using aluminium panniers on the Atar - Tidjikja piste. Whilst it can be done, you are significantly increasing your weight on a piste where you will also need to be carrying 50 litres of fuel + 10-15 litres of water. IMHO, ditch the panniers and ride with a dry bag only - it will make life a lot easier.
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Old 9 Mar 2011
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Thank you both for your swift replies.
Matt, the reason we are skeptical about the front Desert is because we are looking for something that will handle tarmac better (T63 or MT21), while is still capable of doing serious off roading. The Desert is notorious for being super stiff and from what I have heard and read it is not a preferable tyre for the black stuff. What is your opinion on this?

I know that having the alu panniers is adding a lot of weight, but this is an unsupported trip, and with camping gear and the rest of the things we are carrying, fitting everything in a dry bag is a bit hard. Both me and my buddy are aware of the weight issue, and are trying our best to bring our kit down to the minimum, but I think it is unlikely without the side panniers.
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Old 9 Mar 2011
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Whilst there are obviously much better tyres for the road, the front Desert is adequate for tarmac once you get used to the slight front end "vagueness". It is not particularly stable at high speed, but at the speeds you are planning on tarmac, I find it ok.

Also be aware that it will wear very quickly on tarmac, hence the suggestion to carry the Deserts until Nouadhibou and change them there.

Understood re: the panniers, but if you need the extra space, consider soft panniers instead. On a virtually identical unsupported trip a few years ago (covering both the Ndh-Atar and Atar-Tid pistes), my riding partner took panniers, whilst I didn't. He commented after the trip that if he were to change anything for the next desert trip, it would be to drop the aluminium panniers and ride with only a dry bag and / or possibly with soft panniers instead.
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Old 9 Mar 2011
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I'm just arrived in Cape Town (From Belgium) = +/- 26500 km.
Bike is BMW G650XChallenge.
I left home on Metzeler Enduro Sahara 3 and Michelin Desserts as spare.
After +/- 10000km in Mopti (Mali) I putted on Michelin Desserts.
I was lucky that I could buy another pair of Michelin Desserts of an Italian guy who did not need them.
The first pair of Michelin Desserts where used after +/- 7000km.
The second pair of Michelin Desserts where used after +/- 6500km.
At this moment I was in Namibiƫ and had to drive 450km to Windhoek to buy a new pair of tyres. They only had Michelin Desserts in the right size.

My opinion : Drive until Nouadhibou on allroad tyres and put there Michelin Desserts on.

R 1200 GS '08 en G 650 X Challenge '08
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Old 9 Mar 2011
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TKC 80's !
Take a spare rear and fit in S Morocco, the front will last the whole trip.
I did this on my 640 adv in '07, leaving uk I fitted a new tkc rear in zagora, rode around Morocco for a few weeks then back to uk. They're good on the tarmac and give sufficient grip in the sand and rocks.
Forget the Metz Sahara, the only thing good about them is the name.
Enjoy your trip
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Old 10 Mar 2011
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Another vote for changing to Deserts at Nouhadibou. On my last trip down there from the UK I started with new Deserts front and back and by Nouhadibou the rear was about 50% worn but the front was virtually bald in a strip down the middle from all the tarmac.

With a loaded up bike all the braking force is going through the smaller front knobbles so any "spirited" riding in hilly areas soon wears them out. They're totally useless in sand like that so I'd suggest wearing out something cheaper on the way down.
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Old 28 Mar 2011
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Pirelli Rallies instead...?

Hi everybody!
By the way, as Michelin Desert's are rather hard to find here in Greece, what is your opinion on Pirelli Scorpion Rally as an alternative for such a bike trip? Has anyone tested them?
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Old 28 Mar 2011
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Tyres not tired!

Have a look at MEFO super explorers.
If you want some or would like advice call Gabe at ZEN Overland - Everything Adventure & Off Road
He stocks all sorts of tried and tested trick goodies.
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Old 28 Mar 2011
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I dont like the RKC80 because if doesnt last long and if you have a strong machine and riding tarmac some nops will totaly rip off.

I used one Mitas E07 all the way from Capetown up to Europa and will never take another tire for long trips again.

Travel save, Tobi
Transafrika - Motorrad Expedition durch Afrika - Teil 1

Originally Posted by henryuk View Post
As long as you don't go spinning the back wheel up on tarmac sections TKC80s should deal with the whole trip fine. I thought they were pretty good on sand/gravel/hardpack but I don't have much to compare them to (never tried Scorpions, Michelin Deserts etc)
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