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MW R1200 GS OFF-ROAD TYRE COMPARISON
article This is the result of a short series of tests comparing the performance of the off-road tyres locally available for the latest generation large bore adventure bikes, conducted by a group of amateur riders from Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Written by Stefan Boshoff: September 2016
article article

Introduction

The build-up to this story spans several years. Two things. I have had many phone calls from tyre distributors.
And I am aware of a few friends who get the same calls. They all go more or less like this: “Hey, I would like to
send you a set of tyres to test.” “OK, with pleasure” “Let me know what they are like” “No Problem”. Few
months later: “How did you find those tyres?” “Not bad. Nice. Good grip. Smooth ride. And no punctures. I
really like the tyres.” And sometimes a few more questions. But nothing too earth shatteringly technical. That is
the one thing. Secondly, I have listened to many camp fire and small town pub discussions about tyres. “If only I
had the right tyre….” All of this, stirred together, results in a maze of black (rubber) art with no proper
understanding amongst users, and the poor distributor gets very little value for his money from the “tests” done
on tyres he has to give away. In desperation, I have seen more than one distributor announce on their websites
things like: “Alfie Cox says it’s a great tyre” or “Jan Staal’s choice”. But we keep getting the calls. So, lately I have
been reluctant to accept these “test” tyres, because I felt bad about the (lack of) information that you can feed
back from a solo tyre test over undefined and varying terrain with no point of reference. A bright moment flew
through my thoughts one day. Why don’t we do a “proper” tyre test? Where we take identical bikes with
different tyres and subject them to identical conditions and measure the performance. I mentioned the idea to
Nelus at Safari 4x4 and he was immediately excited. Johan at Sovereign was also on board before I could share
the detail. And the idea went from thought to foetus...

It was not too long before we had six sets of tyres. And six identical bikes, all BMW R1200 GS LC’s. I specifically
chose the 1200 GS LC, because it is a relatively new model with tyre sizes dictating that all the manufacturers in
this market develop new rubber for this application. It is a difficult application, a bit of a nightmare for the tyre
people actually. The small contact patches between the bike and the road have to transfer 125 hp in any terrain
imaginable, from smooth and hot African tar to snow and mud and sand and rocks and gravel. All the
acceleration (not unlike that of the fastest cars around), braking (at the same rate as gravity), cornering (with
sparks) and just cruising along (at speeds that can land you in prison) all involve working the tyres. No other tyre
application has to withstand this kind of treatment. And we as riders expect a tyre with great traction in all
conditions, no punctures and eternal life.

We would have liked identical riders too, but six identical riders were not so easy to come by. So six friendly
volunteers had to take on this tough job. A date was set, the last weekend of August 2016. And the riders were
ready. Myself, a half-jack of all trades; Nelus, the chief of all things at Safari 4x4, Johan, the chief of all things
financial at Sovereign Motorrad (my favourite BMW shop); John, a chief banker and GS Trophy World Champion;
Sakkie, chief builder of huge solar systems and wind farms; and Roelof, chief of selling 4 wheeled cages. Pieter
found out about the trip. He has a new 1200 Adventure, and he tagged along to take the pictures of all six the
test bikes together. All the riders are experienced enough to destroy a tyre in in a fairly short space of time. They
enjoy a head shake, they are not frightened by it. Get my drift? (No pun intended….) The testing dictated that we
operate at the periphery (or slightly outside) of the circle of limits set by the manufacturers, in order to cause
some accelerated wear. And to simulate the real conditions encountered on a typical off-road expedition without
having to cross a border. In short, if John tried not to wheelie, and Johan tried to wheelie, we would be more or
less in the right place.

The next thing was the route. I wanted to get about 1500 km of gravel road done, just to induce and measure
some wear. We had two days. And we are in the middle of the country. So any direction is good. But, a flat salt
pan would be nice to get some testing done with a sprinkling of joy added. And Verneukpan is a famous pan. So,
the plan was to leave early Saturday morning, go do some tests and sleep on the pan, then head back home the
next day. A few detours through the buzzing metro’s of Jagersfontein, Fauresmith, Luckhoff, Orania, Strydenburg,
Vanwyksvlei, Carnarvon, Victoria West, Hanover and the like made it easy to get the distance. Nelus took it upon
himself to make a route on the GPS, and we arranged some logistics like saving the phone number of the fuel
attendant in Vanwyksvlei and arranging food for the evening on the pan. Each rider knew what to bring along.
And no top boxes, that just brings undue admin when they start falling off and destroy rear sub-frames. All was
set.

The tyres were fitted the day and night before departure. We received the following test tyres, all sized for the
1200 LC’s (Rear: 170/60 R17; Front: 120/80 R19) from the local distributors, in alphabetical order:

Tyre
Speed Rating
Load Index
Mass
(kg)
Construction (Rear)
Anlas Caprax R: Q (160 km/h)
F: T (190 km/h)
R: 69 (325 kg)
F: 60 (250 kg)
R: 7.7
F: 5.8
Tread: 2 x Polyester, 2 x Aramid
Sidewall: 2 x Polyester
Continental TKC 80 R: Q (160 km/h)
F: Q (160 km/h)
R: 72 (355 kg)
F: 60 (250 kg)
R: 6.6
F: 4.7
Tread: 2 x Nylon, 2 x Aramid
Sidewall: 2 x Nylon
Metzeler Karoo 3 R: T (190 km/h)
F: T (190 km/h)
R: 72 (355 kg)
F: 60 (250 kg)
R: 7.6
F: 5.2
Tread: 2 x Rayon, 1 x Steel
Sidewall: 2 x Rayon
Mitas E10 V1 R: Q (160 km/h)
F: Q (160 km/h)
R: 72 (355 kg)
F: 60 (250 kg)
R: 8.1
F: 5.4
Tread: 2 x Polyester, 2 x Aramide
Sidewall: 2 x Polyester
Mitas E10 V2 R: Q (160 km/h)
F: Q (160 km/h)
R: 72 (355 kg)
F: 60 (250 kg)
R: 8.4
F: 5.2
Tread: 2 x Polyester, 2 x Aramide
Sidewall: 2 x Polyester
Pirelli Scorpion Rally R: T (190 km/h)
F: T (190 km/h)
R: 72 (355 kg)
F: 60 (250 kg)
R: 7.5
F: 5.5
Tread: 2 x Rayon, 1 x Steel
Sidewall: 2 x Rayon

Click here to view the full article (1.5MB download)

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