I fitted a set Metzeler Karoo 3s on the F800GS the other week ready for the Sweet Lamb Adventure Bike Academy in Wales. The Michelin Anakee IIIs I was using before were predominantly road focused and I didn’t really fancy my chances with them in the mud.
Tyre choice has come to be a defining factor of my time with the GS. It has become apparent just how important it is to pick the right rubber with this bike, especially considering the limed choice that’s available because of the 21-inch front wheel.
So I was curious to see how a set of very off-road focused tyres would work on the tarmac. I'd found the Continental TKC70 tyres that were fitted previously very unstable when riding at speed and while ok generally, they never gave me the feel I was looking for both on the road and off.
I knew that the Metzelers would be better off-road but I was interested to know just how much of a compromise they would be when I used them on the road.
I was genuinely surprised when I first used them riding to Wales. The Karoos suffered none of the speed wobbles that became synonymous with the TKC 70s when I used them on the motorway, even if they were a little noisy.
They didn’t even feel anywhere near as bad as I thought they would through corners, I was able to push moderately within comfort of knowing that the tyres were working fine. It was a great first impression for a tyre that I thought was going to be hopeless on the road. The front did feel a little heavier with them though, most likely to have to be caused by the tread pattern greatly reducing the contact patch. Importantly though, they felt very manageable.
In the dirt the Metzelers performed admirably. So good in fact that I was really able to explore the limits and true potential of the GS off-road. For a tyre that had done as well as it had on the road I was properly impressed. I even thought the Karoos could even be the Holy Grail of true adventure tyre, something that genuinely works both on the road and off.
And then it rained.
It couldn’t have been more different. It felt like I was riding on ice as the bike would spin-up under its own relatively modest 85hp. On more than one occasion I also felt the bike starting to slide when negotiating roundabouts and I lost all my confidence in them.
I had suddenly discovered the Achilles heel in the Metzelers’ ability and the Holy Grail I thought I’d found once again became confined to the pages of myth and legend.
It’s a real shame that the Karoo 3s didn’t work better in the wet; if they had I would genuinely back them as possibly the most versatile rubber currently out there to fit the 21-inch front wheel of the GS. They still could very well be that, but the wet road performance brings this reputation into question.
With a trip to Scotland looming, I’ve opted to put the Michelin Anakee IIIs back on the BMW, as the Highlands aren’t exactly known for dry weather. Though they might not allow me to explore as extensively as the Karoos, what they will do is allow me to make the most of the opportunity to explore some of Europe’s finest asphalt.
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