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Ride Impression – Dunlop AT81 Desert RC
New Dunlop Desert Tire
Dunlop AT81 Desert
While unloading for a last ride in Baja, I noticed that one of the riders had an unfamiliar looking tire on his bike. Taking a closer look I realized it was the newest Dunlop, the “81” and it read “desert” in big letters too. I didn’t even know there was a new desert tire.
If you haven’t heard, the long running Dunlop 739 line has been discontinued. Frankly, I am not sure why Dunlop feels that they need to revamp their line every few years. Yes, I realize they continually come up with new formulations and construction ideas, but they then go on to discontinue some of the best tires ever made; 755, 756, 742 and now the 739.
My opinion is that the 739 desert tires (FA & AT) are some of the very best all around tires ever made for open terrain. The newer MX71 is okay, but I don’t think it is as durable or performs as well over a wide variety of surfaces. I know that this new AT81 is already a favorite with KTM team riders in the East, so I was anxious to see what the desert version would do.
For this test the Dunlop is mounted on a KTM 450xcw. Our comparison tire is a Kenda Trackmaster mounted on the KTM 450xcf. Our Baja trip totaled 600 miles over all types of dry terrain.
The first thing I noticed about the AT81 is the funny footprint it leaves. The even spaced knobs leave a trials tire looking track. As we swapped bikes regularly for our other testing purposes, I got to spend plenty of time with the Dunlop. All around performance seemed very good. But honestly, in dry Baja conditions, nearly every decent tire works well.
What most desert riders are really looking for is longevity. So how did the AT81 hold up? I have to rate it at just fair. By the half way point of the trip it had already torn a couple of knobs. By the end of the trip there were a few more chunks missing. Nothing major, but there were little tears and missing bits on a large portion of the knobs. It had survived the trip just fine, but would have to be replaced before setting out on the next one.
By comparison, the Kenda shows just about the same amount of overall wear from mileage, but there is not a single mark anywhere on the tire. It will be good for a couple of more trips.
Vertict: While the AT81 Desert looks to be an admiral performer, it certainly is not a replacement for the 739AT as a high mileage tire. The MX71 will probably last much longer. I just took one off that had seen about 1,500 miles of use and probably has one more Baja trip left in it.