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Old 12 Mar 2004
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Desert tyres, XR650L

OK people - I'm in a position to start thinking about my tyres.

I have had really good experiences with the Conti TKC80 Twinduro, but I don't think they are aggressive anough for the desert. For very hard tracks, or 50/50 with surfaced roads, these are what I would use. In 5000 miles I couldn't see any wear on the rear of my XT600. Amazing! I think a 140 might be the biggest rear (in tube format)??

Michelin Deserts are reassuring and extremely tough (almost puncture-proof), but they are also £160-180/pair - a LOT of money! I have also heard that they are very inefficient / slippery on tarmac. And pretty hard to fit!

Metzeler MCE Karoos are brilliant tyres, IF you are riding off-road. I had a pair on my Tenere and they were ruined in a few hundred miles on the autoroute. The carcass is almost as stiff as a Desert but the compound is softer; they come in a 150 rear. They are very good value for money, especially in Europe.

There is another Metzeler tyre that nobody seems to use: the "Six Days 3". It is toughened, but still lighter than a Karoo. The blocks are widely spaced, but not quite as large as a Karoo (FIM Endure rules mean they can only be 13mm high). Only problem is a 140 rear maximum size...

And finally, the Pirelli MT21. Seemingly standard fitment front tyre for Saharan veterans. Is it really that good? I have heard that they are extremely vague and treacherous on the tarmac, especially in the wet. I had a look at some, and the carcass didn't seem very robust to me...

For the ride to Tunisia I will be finishing off a pair of Avon Distanzias (brilliant tyres for the road). If there's anything left in them, I may even post them to Istanbul, to fit on the return leg. This is what they're like:

Any ideas? Suggestions? Experience? I am riding a heavily-laden XR650L on this route:


Thanks people. Really appreciate it.

Lewis: www.PM-04.com

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Old 12 Mar 2004
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Just found this - may be useful as a quick guide?


Edit: The Metzeler Karoo only comes in a 140 section for 18-inch rear rims. The 150 is a tubeless 17-incher (BMW GS??). Will probably still use them though. Latest price is £122/pr in the UK.

More attractive considering the fact that several people have not been able to get the Desert to compress enough at low pressures to give good traction. The slightly more supple Karoo should get round this without being too prone to punctures.

More as I know.

[This message has been edited by POB/London (edited 12 March 2004).]
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Old 13 Mar 2004
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I've had good luck with Kings (made in China) for wear but also have run the Mitas that looks alot like michelin desert you have listed above and works good as a paddle in sand

[This message has been edited by scooter1100 (edited 12 March 2004).]
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Old 13 Mar 2004
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On my desert trips I've used Michelin Desert front and rear for the pistes and would use them again.

I'd be interested to know which model Mitas is a dual purpose tyre like the Michelin Desert or MT21.


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Old 14 Mar 2004
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Your comment regarding the MT21 washing out in the wet certainly doesnt ring true in my experience. I know they are predominanly off road tyres but I have seen people rack up huge mileages on wet tarmac with mt21's and they seem able to ride pretty safely and quickyl to me. I used a set in the Sahara a few years ago and they were ok during a wet crossing of the atlas. They are certainly better than a 'desert' front.

Death on a stick, with a flag and cherry on top, in the wet!!!


[This message has been edited by davidlomax (edited 14 March 2004).]
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Old 14 Mar 2004
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David's right. MT21 are ace on the road in the wet. go get yer knee down!

I suggest you limit yourself to 140 section or you'll be rubbing the rear against the sub-frame under max compression.

having been delighted off-road, I was very disappointed by the Karoo on-road. it just evaporated! still, it was surprisingly handy in sand even on the canvas!

my votes are MT21 front and 140 Desert rear. take it steady in the wet, but give it berries (on the obligatory cocktail stick) off road
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Old 14 Mar 2004
usl usl is offline
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In my opinion Karoo is great for all kinds of offroad tracks. Mud, gravel,sand, etc. Carcass is so strong, its almost flatproof.

The only time i had any trouble with it was, on tarmac with rain just dripping. Under normal or heavy rain its no problem.

Experience with MT21 was as above.

I cant say which one is better but they definetly wear fast on tarmac, so fitted Sahara for the coming trip.

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Old 15 Mar 2004
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I used Deserts on a recent Atlantic route trip to West Africa on an XR600 . Conclusion - rear lasts forever but even 5psi does not flatten it out for sand use. Never had a puncture with them but its just as well because (17") they are b***ards to fit - a good reason to use fully synthetic oil, you'll need it to get them to slide over the rim!
Wet grip is not as good as MT21 that I used before but then I've not fallen off either! 17" is no longer available so its 18" or nothing now
21" fronts are different - much easier to fit, flatten out ok at low pressure but wear much more than the rear with road use.
By the time I got to Mauritania the rear was virtually untouched but the front was getting on for bald in the middle - both new from the UK
Deserts seem to whine more than other knoblies I've used and they're louder at low pressure - not so good if you've spent a day or two off road at low pressure, hit some tarmac and wondering what the hell the noise is.
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Old 15 Mar 2004
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Michelin Desert are still avalaible in 17"
The only real alternative to Desert (a tyre 100% offroad but tough enough) are Pirelli MT18 HD -note the HD , because the MT18 are medium MX tyres, MT18 HD are Street-legal but have totally a different structure (4-ply reinforced) and more wear-resistent compound
of the 80 dirt-20 road tyres I rate top T63 and MT21
second TKC80
third Karoo, that are pricey and worse than T63

I'm also trying the MEFO stonemaster (www.mefo.de) it's practically an old MX tyre , like Pirelli MT16 or Metz unicross, but street-legal and very hard to wear -even on road , but - in difference with the others- I haven't made tenths of thousands of kms with...
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