First ride: Dunlop Trailsmart adventure tyres

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MCN have just finished riding at the press launch of Dunlop’s new Trailsmart tyres, which are aimed at adventure bike owners who spend most of their time on the road but still want to know they can handle a little light trail work.

The Trailsmart takes over from Dunlop’s Trailmax TR91, which has generally been considered as one of the grippiest road-biased adventure tyres since it was launched in 2011. Click here to read our original launch report of the TR91.

While dry and wet grip were highly regarded, the TR91’s longevity was far from the best in class, and it wasn’t available in a wide enough range of sizes. So Dunlop’s mission was to broaden the range of sizes and increase longevity without losing any of the existing sporting prowess.

The company have worked hardest on the tread pattern. Even though at first glance it looks similar to the TR91, the Trailsmart loses some grooves on the shoulder and there is a greater frequency of grooves in the centre, to help bite on loose surfaces and shed water on wet roads.

The compound uses a different type of silica, a substance that is well known for its ability to grip in the wet, and reduce heat build-up and hence improve longevity. The Trailsmart compound is now similar to that used in Dunlop’s Roadsmart II sports touring tyre.

Dunlop is staying quiet on how much mileage to expect from the new tyre, saying it is impossible to estimate because the rider’s riding style, roads used and maintenance routine will all affect the longevity of a tyre. But they say internal tests suggest the Trailsmart will last 14% longer than the outgoing TR91. Dunlop’s marketing team also say they don’t expect class-leading mileage as Dunlop’s brand is more about offering performance and grip – and top-line durability would come at the cost of those factors.

At the launch, Dunlop presented a pair each of TR91s and Trailsmarts that had been subjected to testing over 7000km (4350 miles). The newer tyres were in considerably better condition than the outgoing model and, despite starting to square off in the centre of the tread, still looked to have at least another 1000 miles of use left in them.

The launch route near Marbella was the ideal place to put such a tyre to the test, providing a hard day’s riding that combined sweeping roads, twisty bends and around 40km of unmade roads thrown in to test the tyre’s dirt prowess.

Initial impressions are that Dunlop has maintained the old tyre’s impressive performance in the dry (there was no rain in which to try them). Riding a Yamaha XTZ1200 Super Tenere, we found the Trailsmarts to be confident handling tyres which gave a consistent feel across a variety of lean angles and high levels of grip on the warm roads of Andalucia.

They are perhaps not the fastest-steering of adventure tyres (though it would take back-to-back testing to be sure), but they allowed very enjoyable riding.

Dunlop are open about the fact the Trailsmarts are predominantly for road riders, saying they will be used 90% on road, with only 10% of them going off the paved stuff. But they were proud of the TR91’s performance off-road, which they say was assisted by the fact the grooves in the tread pattern intersect to give harder bite on dirt. And they are confident they have kept that performance on the Trailsmart.

This confidence explains the longer-than-usual stretches of off-road terrain on the launch. We’re talking unmade roads rather than full-on muddy trails, where a rider would be much better served by a more knobbled tyre. But on this light terrain, the Trailsmarts provided reassurance and an enjoyable ride.

The main factor that Dunlop have worked to improve – longevity - is impossible to assess in the space of a day’s riding. It will take a longer test to investigate that, and we will fit a pair of Trailsmarts to one of our 2015  long-term test bikes to evaluate durability, as well as wet grip.

But the main point of our test was to see whether Dunlop’s work to improve durability had come at the cost of some outright grip and performance. And happily our test suggests these strengths remain intact.

Trailsmarts are available in some dealers now, and online retailers are offering them for around £225 a pair (price correct as of March 10, 2015) which makes them comparable with rival offerings from Michelin (Anakee III) and Metzeler (Tourance Next). Bridgestone and Pirelli are also launching new tyres in the adventure bike category this year, so the Trailsmarts arrive into a highly competitive arena.

Sizes available

Front: 110/80R19 59V, 120/70R19 60V, 120/70ZR19 60W, 120/90-17 64S, 130/80-17 65S, 100/90-19 57H, 90/90-21 54H, 90/90-21 54V

Rear: 130/80R17 65H, 140/80R17 69H, 150/70R17 69V, 170/60R17 72V, 170/60ZR17 72W, 150/70R18 70V.

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Tony Hoare

By Tony Hoare

Former MCN Consumer Editor