07/02/2020

GEAR REVIEW

Gear Review – Motoz Tractionator Desert H/T tyres

I’ve been a long time fan of the Motoz Tractionator Adventure tyre. In fact, I was one of the first people in Australia to test out the tyres when they arrived in 2015.

On our 2017 Arnhem Land trip in the Northern Territory I had the chance to try out the Motoz Tractionator Desert H/T in a new size to suit my new KTM 1290 Super Adventure R. The Desert H/T has been available in a few different sizes to suit enduro and mid-capacity adventure bikes but Rick from Motoz built this tyre as a built of a special project. You see Rick has been bitten by the adventure bug too and recently got himself a KTM 1190R.

When you see this tyre in the flesh it does strike you as an aggressive tyre. There are big gaps between the knobs, especially though the centre, and the knobs are tall. It looked somewhat like a paddle tyre when I first laid eyes on it. It got christened the “Desert Shredder” on our ride.

First Impressions

When we first left Darwin we had about 60km of bitumen to transport on before we hit the dirt. The first track was hard packed gravel and a few patches of sand. At first I wasn’t impressed. On the bitumen the bike had a bit of a shimmy above 100kph. On loose gravel I felt like I didn’t have as much predictable edge grip as my favourite tyre, the Tractonator Adventure. That said I was riding sweep and taking it pretty easy. I wasn’t blown away at first.

The front tyre I was running was a Tractionator Adventure and with them I’ve certainly noticed in the past they take some kilometres to bed in. Sure enough as our trip wore the tyres settled down as they wore in. I think because the Motoz tyres have such a stiff carcass they feel a little squirrelly at first until you knock the edges of the rubber.

Traction Off-Road

As the trip continued I got more chances to really test this tyre and I became more impressed as I continued to push the tyre.

On the 4th day of our trip I was leading the group through a fast flowing fun section on hard packed gravel roads through cattle stations. This was my first really good test of the grip levels and I was impressed. 4th and 5th gear power slides through corners was comfortable and predictable. I started getting comfortable with cracking the throttle early to get the tyre drifting and then holding the slide from corner to corner. This is where I really enjoy riding.

It also surprised me a few times hooking up out of corners on tight twin-track in 2nd gear where the front would launch up in the air. That’s impressive on a 1290 v-twin!

Grip On Bitumen

Maintaining traction with knobby tyres on bitumen with 160HP being produced by the KTM’s 1290cc v-twin is a hard ask. With traction control left off, the grunt of the big KTM is hard to contain. The front tyre lifts off the deck in the first four gears! Likewise, powering out of corners in 1st or 2nd gear easily left strips of black liquorice on the ground. In fact I’m pretty sure I saw a black line laid behind me as I overtook a road train in 5th gear.

So exceeding the limits of traction on tar is entirely possible (and likely!) with the big KTM. But, I felt comfortable doing it. That, to me, is a sign that this tyre does work on bitumen. There was no sudden snaps or slips sideways. Just predictable feedback from my (sometimes aggressive) inputs.

I think one of the features that really helps here is that a “Soft” compound has been used in the brew for this tyre. Whereas the Tractionator Adventure uses a Hard compound. The Soft compound helps to feel what the tyre is doing on bitumen.

Long Term Impressions

“Long term” is a relative  term when you’ve got 160 horsepower of Austrian v-twin grunt and wide open desert roads at your disposal! Definitely what surprised me the most about this tyre was how it lasted.

This was a surprise. A big surprise frankly! When Rick first told me he was making this tyre to suit the bike bikes I thought “It’ll give awesome grip….for about 1 day!” I honestly didn’t expect this tyre to last long on a big bike. Why? A good friend of mine Chris had one on his KTM 690 last year for our Maschine ride through the Kimberley in 2016 and it was toast after about 2,500km. Fitting the same pattern tyre (basically looks like a paddle tyre!) to a bike putting out about double the horsepower surely can’t end well?

Truth is. It greatly exceeded my expectations. I fitted it to my 1290R with 0km on the odometer and ran it for 11 days straight in the Northern Territory covering just shy of 4,000km – 3,960km. This riding was done on a mix of bitumen highways with a speed limit of 130kph,  fast gravel roads with big rocks, rock infested twin track,

To put this in perspective I regularly get about 4,500km out of the Tractionator Adventure on the back of a KTM 1190R. In comparison the couple of times I used the stock Continental TKC80 I got 1,400 and 1,700km out of them. That is a massive difference and I was surprised to get the life out of the soft compound Desert H/T.

At the end of this run the tyre still has knobs, especially on the sides, and I could push it for another 500km if I had to.

It’s worth noting a couple of extras points too:

  • We were doing photoshoots for Alpinestars during this ride and I did many runs pulling big skids for the camera so the tyre didn’t get an easy time of it.
  • The temperatures during our ride were between 32-38 degrees celsius every day. If a tyre was ever going to have a melt down, this trip should have done it.

That’s 4,000km on and off-road on a bike with 160HP that I was running with traction control off in hot conditions on rocky terrain with lots of power slides going on. Good result in my book!

Other

Noise. It is a noisy tyre. It tends to howl on the bitumen. I definitely noticed a reduction in noise when I put the tyre pressures back up higher to “road” pressures.

One surface I didn’t get to try it on was wet bitumen. I have in past though tried the Motoz Adventure in the same soft compound and I was blown away by how well it gripped on wet bitumen. TBA on this.

Sizes and Prices

This one is a rear 150/70-18 designed for the KTM 1090/1190/1290.

The full size range in rears include:

  • 150/70-17 – $279.95
  • 130/80-17 – $145.00
  • 150/70-18 – $289.95
  • 140/80-18 – $149.95
  • 130/90-18 – $149.95
  • 110/100-18 – $139.95

Matching Front

Motoz has also matched up the “Desert Shredder” rear with a couple of fronts. For a long time there has been available 21″ tube type front. Now  there is also a new 21″ tubeless front tyre to suit the big bikes.

The tubeless tyre tread pattern has larger knobs that is better suited to the loads that can exerted by heavier bikes under hard braking and cornering. It’s always one thing I’m a bit dubious of when I see riders on big-bore adventure bikes using motocross tyres that aren’t speed rated up to 160kph at least.

Look out for a seperate review of the matching front.

Where Do You Get ’em?

You can order direct online with Motoz or many motorcycle dealers can order them in for you.

Be careful when ordering or talking about Motoz tyres because I hear a lot of riders calling them “Tractionators” without identifying exactly which model they mean. Reality is, Tractionator is the name that Motoz give to many tyres in their range and simply serves to identify the tyres with the tougher carcass.

Summary

This thing rocks on big adventure bikes! It surprised the hell out of me how long it lasted. It bites in nicely on loose surfaces and really excels in straight line drive and braking. It looks tough as on the back of a big KTM adventure bike too!  There is every chance I will be running this tyre most of the time I head out into the outback now, I like it that much!

*Full disclosure – Motoz tyres sponsor Maschine by providing tyres for us to use on our bikes. This came about because I was so damn impressed the first time I used them. I have tried all the leading brands of adventure tyres so I know how Motoz compare to other brands. In my book Motoz offer best value for money and performance in adventure bike tyres.

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