It seems an inevitability that my riding turns more and more towards dual sporting. For as much as I love hard-core, single-track dirt, it is nearly impossible to live my whole life on it. There just is not enough to go around and much of it no longer connects, requiring road riding to connect sections. But, in the true sense of adventure riding, that just becomes part of the fun, to see what lies beyond the next horizon and beyond the boundary of pure knobbies.
The question of tire choice is an unending one. The challenge to balance performance and economy is difficult. I ride thousands of miles of tarmac (Baja) each year on knobbies and for the most part they do pretty well in that environment. The biggest drawback is the accelerated wear. Nothing is more annoying that having your brand new tires start to cup or chunk just because you had to ride road sections to get to the next trailhead.
I have run Kenda tires for years, but I have never tried the 760 Trackmasters. This tire dates back to the era before the more contemporary Washougal and Millville models. I had dismissed the tire as too old school. Yet, I have started to see more and more riders talking about them on the forums, so I decided to take a closer look.
The Trackmaster is a 6 ply DOT approved tire that Kenda suggests as 80/20 dirt bias. That sounds aggressive, but if you have ever ridden on something that is considered 50/50, like most OEM dual sport tires, you know that the dirt performance can be pretty poor. Therefore, 80/20 is more like a real world knobby.
For testing, I mounted the tires up on my trusty 07 KTM 450xc. I have racked up about 900 miles on the rear tire and 700 on the front. My riding was primarily in Baja on fire roads, sand and pavement. Of the total mileage on the tires, about fifty percent of it was on pavement. For economy, I have been using my dual sport bike much more for errands and day rides from home to the desert.
That really highlights my goal with the Trackmaster, to see if I can save some money on my tire bill. I am not looking for a new race tire, so I am willing to accept a little loss of performance if it yields better longevity.
Testing Trackmasters in Baja
First impressions on the tires were very positive. For that matter, I cannot really find any fault with the rear. At 900 miles, it is pretty much used up, but I have not noticed any significant loss of performance as the knobs have worn down. So far, I have not encountered any situation where the Trackmaster rear suffered. Hard, soft, wet or dry, the tire seems at home everywhere.
The wear has been very consistent. On the last ride, I just started to see a few tears in the tread. One thing that I have noticed is that the tires, front and rear, seem to roll very smooth on the pavement. There is very little hopping or vibration, particularly from the front end.
The 80/100/21 front is a little more of a mixed bag of performance. Its strong point is sandy fire roads. In any dry condition that is hard packed or packed with a layer of sand on the top, the 760 sticks like glue. The way the knobs are arranged, in a horizontal row, works extremely well in dry slick conditions.
The front takes a little extra input to turn. The tire feels wide, but it measures 93mm, just about identical to the other bikes in the garage. I think it has a flatter profile and that accounts for the additional turning effort.
The flip side is that the front does not like any wet conditions. Even the slightest amount of moisture encourages the front to break loose in turns. The horizontal tread just does not have any bite once the wheel starts to turn.
760 Trackmaster Rear: I give this a full recommendation. It scores for performance, durability and economy, both on and off road.
760Trackmaster Front: This gets a qualified recommendation for durability and economy. It shows very little wear at 700 miles and has many more miles of life. The street performance is better than most knobbies. But, if you ride in wet conditions, something like the DOT approved Kenda Washougal front will be a better choice.
If I were planning a trip to La Paz, I would put these tires right at the top of the list for choices, alongside the Dunlop 739.
Best pricing on online for these tires is about $55 rear, $48 front (110/100/18 rear – 80/100/21 front)