When the Dunlop D605 dual sport tires hit North America in 2019, I was intrigued. A new budget tire? That’s always good news for cheapskates like myself, especially if it’s backed up by Dunlop’s name. Even better, it seemed the new D605 wasn’t actually all that new, that it had been around other markets for a while. And, it looked like a proper 50/50 tire, probably longer-lasting than the company’s legendary D606.
So, I ordered a set for my WR250R, and set off for Labrador. Unfortunately, the realities of that trip make an all-round evaluation a bit tricky, but at least it gave me a good idea of what the tire does well.
Since this tire came to market without much fanfare, I reached out to Dunlop to find out the story. Some people said this was an old tire, re-introduced into North America; others said it was new here, but had been in Asia for a while, and so on.
Alec Dare, a marketeer from Dunlop, cleared up the confusion. Dare told me Dunlop introduced the D605 all the way back in 1994 for the Japanese market, and had updated its rubber compound once since then. They’re available worldwide now, aimed at motorcycles in the 650cc or less category (they’re R-rated, which means they’re designed for speeds 93 mph and under, not that you have to be 18 to buy them). That meant they were an ideal choice for my WR250R, which is certainly in no danger of exceeding 93 mph, especially when I have it fully loaded for trips like the Trans Labrador Highway.
Dare also confirmed the idea that the D605 is intended to be an all-round 50-50 dual sport tire, unlike the dirt-oriented D606. The D606 uses a harder compound than the D605, with taller knobs and more spacing between the knobs, all allowing for more aggressive off-roading.
“The D605 compound is a derivative of a street compound, so it is a bit softer than D606 due to it having shorter and closer-spaced knobs for more riding on pavement,” he said.
Right now, the D605 is available in 21-inch front and 17-inch and 18-inch rear sizes in North America. Revzilla and Rocky Mountain ATV have prices ranging from $37ish to $54ish, which makes the D605 one of the lowest-priced options on the dual sport market.
How’d they do?
Right off the bat, I’d like to say that tire testing is not something I’m super-keen on. It’s hard to do properly, unless you have a wide variety of riders on a selection of different bikes and the same terrain. There are just too many variables for me to predict your experience. However, I can at least give you my experience, and let you draw your own conclusions.
The D605s aren’t too hard to install—the carcass is stiff, but manageable. They’re a non-directional tread, so you don’t have to worry about installing them backwards, thankfully. Once they were on, I didn’t do much local trailriding; I might have put in a couple of days on gravel roads, but I basically installed the tires and left for Labrador.
Highway performance was unremarkable for the D605s, mostly because the WR’s highway performance is also unremarkable. You can’t get a high-speed evaluation if your bike can’t hit high speeds. Once I hit the paved twisties north of Baie Comeau, I thought the tires held very well, though. I’m not saying they offer as much grip as a street-oriented dual sport tire like the Shinko 705, but I definitely preferred the Dunlops to the wobbly Kenda K270s I’ve installed on my 650 over the years.
So far, so good—but then I got to the unpaved road above Quebec’s Manic 5 hydro dam, and I was in for a surprise. This is basically a dirt highway, and it’s kept in very good shape. However, the dry summer weather meant the road dust had basically been ground into fesh-fesh by all the passing forestry traffic. The D605 has a reputation for being a bit crap in sand, and this was even worse than sand. The wheels started wiggling unpleasantly, and even though I tried to keep speeds up, the fine powder just didn’t agree with the tires.
I was a bit worried, because this was only the first day of unpaved riding. If the tires were this sketchy the whole trip, I was screwed. But the next day, we had a lot of rain, which washed off the dust. A lot of riders say the northern gravel highways get even worse when they’re soggy; I even had a pickup truck pull over to warn me to be careful. But, I found the D605s offered great grip once the powder was gone, whether it was on the Quebec roads that were soaked in calcium chloride or in Labrador, where the roads were constantly chewed up by construction. I’m not saying they’d be great on a V-Strom 1000 or KTM 1290—but these tires aren’t aimed at those bikes.
The D605s proved an excellent choice over the hundreds of kilometres of unpaved roads, and also offered plenty of grip when I ventured off-highway for camping spots. However, I can’t tell you what they would be like for trail riding, as that wasn’t what this trip was about. I never got stuck anywhere, but I’m guessing you’d find the tightly-spaced knobs wouldn’t work well in a bog.
As for the pavement, even after a few thousand kilometres, I found the D605s held well in the corners, but I think the extended highway riding combined with heavy rider and luggage was hard on the tires. By 4500 kilometres, the centre knobs were pretty worn. I ended up junking the rear tire at 6,000 kilometres; I think I could have squeezed a few hundred klicks of easy riding out of it, but it was basically useless in the dirt. As for the front, it’s still on there, but after about 7500 kilometres, I think it’s due for replacement next season.
The D605 is right there with the Shinko 244 as a value-priced tire that offers excellent bang for your buck. It’s good in gravel, even when it’s soggy, and is relatively capable on the street. Put it this way: If you’re running this tire on a 250, like I was, you’re not going to scare yourself with it on-pavement.
I actually lent my WR out for an extended time period this summer, and my buddy who borrowed the bike had the same findings as me. We’re both sold on this tire, and I think for future 50/50 riding, it’ll be a tough choice between this and the aforementioned Shinko 244, as I feel they offer the same basic performance for similar price. These are tires for the rider who likes easy offroading, but needs street longevity. For trips like my Trans Lab expedition, they’re perfect.
Having said that—if you want to mix it up and shred more dirt, then I’d suggest looking for something more aggressive. Dunlop’s own press release says the D605 is “designed for rigorous off-road use, and offers excellent traction on everything from hard-packed fire roads to soft single-track trails.” My opinion? The D605 is in no way a substitute for Dunlop’s own D606 or similar tires, and if you’re riding muddy terrain, or aggressive single track, then you might want to invest into something else. But hey, even if you buy the D605s and don’t like them, it’s less than $100 for a set—cheap enough that you won’t cry, if you have to buy something else.
For more details on the Dunlop D605, visit the tires’ website.