For 2015 KTM off road models come with the new Dunlop AT81 tires, dropping the familiar MX51’s. I have had a few ride experiences on the AT81 rear. When the 450xcw arrived, it offered the first chance to try the new front.
Testing for this tire was done mostly in open desert terrain; sandwashes, hard pack and the rocky two-track jeep trails of Ocotillo Wells. We also did one day of testing in the desert single track of McCain Valley. This is basically a desert performance test. The tire was tested on both the 2015 450xcw and 2006 450xc. Comparisons were made with the MX51 and Golden Tyre GT216AA (90/100 size).
I have multiple ideas about tires running around in my head right now. Foremost, are choices for the upcoming Baja Rally. Obviously, testing the 2015 450xcw with the new tire design. Finally, I received a call from Ty Davis asking me to try out the Golden Tyre oversize 216 front.
From the start, I was a bit perplexed by the new AT81 on our KTM. It seemed to have a mind of its own at times. It was not so much that it would go astray, but more small jerks would come through the bars telling me the tire was grabbing left or right. The 81 is a fairly open tread pattern with tall, aggressive knobs.
During the first day of testing with the rally gear mounted on the KTM, the front end of the 450 felt a bit twitchy at speed in the desert. It also showed the same tendency to pull the bars every once in a while, even in the sand. Obviously, the rally bike with its added weight, is not the best platform to judge a tire. Still, as I am thinking about what to run for the rally, the impression has value.
To get a better handle on the tire itself, I headed back out to the desert with three wheels mounted with our test tires. This would allow me to run a loop, make a quick change and run the exact route over again. The Dunlop MX51 was the control tire. It performs well in most terrain. As the long time KTM tire, I have spent many miles on them. I think they represent a good base line for performance.
My early impressions held up in further testing. The AT81 front wandered a little more in the sand. It deflected more in the rocks. In the cross grain of the open desert it had the distinct feel of crashing into everything instead of rolling over. Worse yet, the “crashing” sensation would also upset the suspension as it was slowing the bike down. The difference was so pronounced that it actually felt more like we had changed the forks on the bike, rather than the tire. Overall ride quality was noticeably more harsh.
Grip was not a real issue. The AT81 had good bite. But when I got to riding on the other test tires, I could see that I was more comfortable and riding faster. Grip was not the primary issue, I had less confidence in the bike overall on this tire and that affected speed.
I headed over to the Dunlop website to see if I was missing some critical point about this new tire. Perhaps it is better suited to the motocross track. But I can find nothing. The front is described as having a 3 ply construction for toughness, presumably stiffer than other Dunlop tires. But at the same time is claimed to be more compliant, with better bump absorption.
So I am giving a thumbs down to the new AT81 line for desert use. I already did not care too much for the rear and the front fits the same pattern. For Dunlop riders, the MX51 is a better all around choice for just about any terrain. The Dunlop website still shows the 739 line as available even though we have heard for some time that it is gone. Let’s hope they come to their senses and keep selling the venerable 739, one of my all time picks for desert use.
That concludes the AT81 test, but it is only half of the story, stick around for our Golden Tyre 216 test. There will be lots of new stuff to talk about!