Scramblers are difficult to discuss because they can mean many things to different people. Some buy them (or say they do) because they want something that does it all (daily/trips/light off-road). Others are fashionably focused and like the daily riding aspect, but are more than happy to leave playing in the dirt to a proper dual-sport machine.
Whether you’re looking to actually take your scrambler down some trails or just keep it looking a certain way, here are five great options we love for both types of riding, and two more we can’t wait to try out.
Continental’s TKC80 dual-sport tires are king of the hill when it comes to dirt performance. They’re the first (and really only) thing we turn to when outfitting adventure bikes for a big trip or comparison tests, and they provide a ton of grip for big bikes in almost any sort of off-road conditions. And they’re actually pretty good on the street (as good as a dirt-focused tire can be). If you’re really trying to give your bike The Walking Dead look or plan on doing some proper off-roading, these are the tires to get.
It’s worth mentioning that Pirelli’s Scorpion Rally tire has made leaps and bounds since Ducati began fitting them on Multistradas, and I was impressed with how well they hooked up…until I rode them back to back with the Continentals. We’d just strongly urge you not dig deeper than these two in this category.
The Pirelli MT90 is a popular tire among ADV riders because it’s far more quiet and stable on pavement and at higher speed, while sacrificing some of the sand and mud performance of something like the TKC80 or Pirelli Scorpion Rally. It has a similar yet more aggressive pattern than the popular Pirelli MT60, which comes stock on the Ducati Scrambler.
The MT90s are ideal for anyone looking for a beefier version of the MT60 or who wants something for the road while still providing some grip on trails. Pirelli’s unique tread pattern is likely better for riders with bikes trying to be a little more Mad Max than those with an On Any Sunday vibe.
The Bridgestone Trail Wings have been around for decades, most commonly seen as the stock tire on the Suzuki DR-Z400. They earned the nickname “deathwings” as they’re a pretty poor dirt tire but, surprisingly, they make for a really solid street tire despite having fairly aggressive-looking knobs.
If you’re looking for a proper looking dirt tire, but that doesn’t come with the shaky side-of-the-tire performance of a real dirt tire or something like the TKC80, the Trail Wings could be the tire for you.
The Metzeler Tourance tires come stock on the Triumph Street Scrambler and BMW R nineT Urban GS and have impressed me with their ability to maintain a bike’s classic looks while providing decent performance. They’ve hindered my riding, at times, but mostly because I think it’s reasonable to drag pegs chasing sportbikes the whole way to Joshua Tree and then skip the pavement for a few miles of sand wash trails to really give myself a good scare. If you’re smarter than me, you’ll stick to fire roads.
Outside of fringe riding, they’ve impressed me a great deal. I stupidly ran them at stock pressures when I tried my hand at riding/racing flat track for the first time, and they make for an exceptionally nice ride for daily use. Of all the tires I’ve ridden, these provide some of the best on-road performance while also having one of the most classic “scrambler” looks.
The Pirelli MT60 dual-sport tire come stock on the Ducati Scrambler, and it pairs Pirelli’s very-specific aesthetics with enough tread for fire road work. I haven’t ridden with these on anything except the Ducati, so I can’t determine whether my lackluster experiences on the side of the tire are due to the tire or the Scrambler’s suspension—but these will certainly get the job done for most kinds of daily riding.
Of the five tires I’ve spent much time on, I consider the TKC80s or MT90s for more off-road performance (with the TKCs for a more classic look and the MT90 for that Mad Max look), and the Tourance or MT60s for more on-road performance but with some off-road looks (again, the Tourance has more of a classic look and the MT60 a more Mad Max look).
Tires We’re Looking Forward To Trying
The Escape dual-sport tires are Continental’s answer to the Metzeler Tourance or Pirelli MT60 tires. Continental claims they’re designed for 70 percent on-road and 30 percent off-road use—but they look like a more aggressive dirt tire. Given Continental’s success with the TKC80, I’d be very keen to see how these less aggressive tires performed on the trails and in the streets.
The Metzeler Karoo Streets are a brand-new, more streetable version of the Karoo 3 tires that come stock on the BMW R nineT Scrambler—a tire poorly received by reviewers since the bike’s release. Motorcyclist’s Ari Henning ditched the Karoo 3s on his long-term loaner in favor of the Tourance tires that come stock on the R nineT Urban GS and noted immediate improvements in the bike’s handling.
This new Karoo keeps a similar tread pattern, but the knobs are not as tall and are spaced more closely which means less confidence-zapping flex being translated to the rider. The Karoo pattern has always interested me, but the poor on-road performance has always kept me from giving them much thought. Stay tuned for a comparison between the Karoo Street and Karoo 3 tires.