A lot of people get sucked into the dual sport/adventure riding world with visions of off-road heroics floating through their head. The reality is, most adventure bikes don’t ride off-road that much, and even dual sport bikes like my Suzuki DR650 spend a lot of time on the street, especially if they’re an only motorcycle. When I bought my DR over a decade ago, I had great visions of exploring Atlantic Canada’s backwoods trails, and I did—but still, most of the miles I put on the bike were commuting back and forth to work, day in, day out.

Even when I started working summers full time for moto magazines, I was putting on far more mileage commuting than offroading. I kept on spooning Kenda K270s or Shinko 244s on, or when I was feeling spendy, Dunlop D606s. They were great for connecting gravel tracks between country lanes, but the on-road experience was never great.

What I really needed was a set of tires aimed at the conditions where I was laying down most of my miles, a set of street-biased tires. I got wise to that a couple of years back, and tried out a set of Shinko 705s. Then, in summer of 2020, Avon asked if I’d like to try their updated Trailrider. I was curious to see the difference, so I said sure. A few days later, a kind man driving a courier’s van dropped a front and rear tire off, and I had a shop install them.

Avon Trailriders have a familiar-ish tread pattern. They do look similar to street-biased ADV tires of the past, although Avon has updated the tread and compound. Photo: Avon

Brit rubber

Most seasoned ADVers and dual sport riders are somewhat familiar with the Avon name, even if they’ve never tried the tires. Avon is part of the Cooper family, and still manufactures tires in England—that’s where the Trailriders are made, still.

Avon’s made a wide variety of moto tires, but for on/offroad riders, its old Gripster line was a standard for bikers in need of road-oriented dual-sport tires. Unfortunately, those tires often ended up labeled as “Slipsters” due to their performance on wet pavement.

Obviously, that wouldn’t do. The updated Trailriders came out in 2015, with “New Super Rich Silica Compound using the very latest compounding technology to enhance wet grip.” (You can see the original promo video below). Avon updated the compound again, late in 2019. That might not sound like a huge deal, but it shows Avon is not re-hashing a tired old formula, which is often the case with dual sport tire manufacturers. Not only has Avon brought a new product to market, it’s updated it again since its introduction five years ago. The new triple-compound design sees softest rubber where you need the most traction, and the middle of the tire with longer-lasting, harder rubber, to extend its life.

Currently, Avon sells the Trailriders in sizes from 17-inch and 18-inch rears, and 18-inch, 19-inch and 21-inch fronts (see full list of sizes here).

How’d they work?

The short version: The Trailriders exceeded my expectations, and left me re-thinking their value as all-rounders. Avon says these are 85/15 tires (85 percent oriented to on-road use, 15 percent offroad), and I think they nailed it. In dry weather, you  might even be able to push them further.

The long version: On Avon’s website, it gives the Trailriders high marks for dry-weather grip and wet-weather performance, good marks for tire wear, good marks for handling, and low marks for offroad usability. After spending half a riding season on the Trailriders, that was my overall experience, except thanks to a summer-long drought, I wasn’t able to really test the wet-weather performance as much as I would have liked.

A couple of days after installing the Trailriders, I headed out on a three-province riding tour inside Atlantic Canada, including everything from slippery skidder trails to paved twisties to dusty forestry roads.

The Trailriders’ nemesis: greasy, slick mud. This stuff is poison for street-biased dual sport tires of any variety, and the Trailriders’ new compound can’t overcome the limitations of the tread pattern. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

I expected great grip and handling on the paved sections, and I got it. With none of the unpleasant initial drop-off of cheaper dual sport tires, the Trailriders were an absolute blast in the truly curvy stuff, and on the rare highway sections, they had much less vibration than knobbier 50/50 tires. Mid-corner, they’re not trying to upset your bike; set your line, and the Trailriders will keep you on it. I’ve even noticed they’re barely wiggly in the many, many tar snakes we’ve got popping up locally, thanks to DOT’s laissez-faire attitude towards road maintenance. All in, the Trailriders are great street tires for a sensible 650 duallie.

With street-oriented dual-sport tires, most advertisers praise up the longevity, the handling, and so on. But, if you’ve ever done all-day rides on 50/50 tires, you know they add quite a bit of vibration at high speeds, especially when they get cupped from long-term use. Street-biased tires are smoother on-pavement, and that means you get less beat-up at speed. It’s not quite as good as adding a counter-balancer to your engine, but it’s a noticeable difference. This was a major bonus for the Trailriders.

As for the offroad sections: If you’ve ridden street-oriented dual sport tires in the dirt, you know what to generally expect. In dry conditions, they’re fine, but when things get loose or soggy, they’re sketchy. The Trailriders follow that general pattern. They’re extremely sketchy on slick mud, and I steered clear of the greasy stuff when running the Trailriders. On loose gravel and sand, though, I found the tires actually exceeded my expectations. I’m not saying they turned into 50/50 tires, but I think Avon’s improved compound and tread definitely resulted in a street tire that’s more capable offroad. Even on wet gravel, they seemed to offer more grip than other street-oriented dual sport tires I’ve run, and I think Avon’s improved compound and re-designed tread are improvements over what’s been available. Don’t expect knobby-like performance, but once you’re used to the tires, you can trust them offroad, at least if it’s dry.

Dry gravel was no issue for the Trailriders, and for most riders, these tires will exceed their initial expectations for street-biased rubber. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Your experience and opinion may end up different. Tires, like suspension, are somewhat subjective to review, and you  might not like what I like. However, I was extremely happy with their performance, and also found Avon’s claims of extended tire life seemed to be fairly accurate. I’ve seen online claims of reaching as high as 25,000 kilometres on the rear. To me, that sounds pretty incredible, but it’s obvious they’re going to far outlast the usual 5,000-6,000 kilometres I get out of Shinko and Kenda 50/50 tires.

Should you buy them?

I didn’t have any complaints about my previous 90/10 tires, but I do think the Avons are a step up in longevity and grip—although it’s hard to pass final judgment without a whole season on them. They’re considerably more expensive, though. A front/rear TrailRiders combo would cost about $250 through an online retailer, while I could buy 90/10 tires from Asia for about $160.

With that in mind, I’d say it comes down to your intended usage. If I was looking for a set of street tires to spoon on for a couple of mid-summer street tours, then maybe the cheaper rubber would be a good option.

The Trailriders are a good choice for a rider who needs longevity, and moderate offroad capability. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Otherwise, if you want tires that offer excellent longevity and surprisingly good grip offroad, I think I’d personally spring for the Avon TrailRiders—and that’s coming from a lifelong fan of cheap tires. The reality is that sometimes, a more expensive tire is cheaper in the long run. If you’re headed towards regions where replacement tires may be non-existent, or poor quality, or unsuited to your needs, trustworthy rubber is worth the money in advance. Plus, if you want to hit the twisties, I think you’ll appreciate the TrailRiders’ excellent cornering capability.

However, if you’re planning on heading down a lot of trails, then I’d probably look elsewhere. Despite the “TrailRiders” name, no 85/15 tire will keep you happy if you’re riding off-road for extended periods of time. Buy something else if you’re a true 50/50 rider.

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