Enduro Motorcycle Tyres
Enduro is a motorcycle sport run over lengthy off-road, green lane and cross-country courses. In a classic Enduro event, the competitors attempt to maintain a prescribed average speed over a series of stages each with different kinds of terrain to overcome. A “rally”, strictly speaking, is just a race from point to point but over similar terrain. Famous rallies include the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 and their popularity is growing.
Smaller events often resemble older-fashioned “dirt bike” scrambles, and of course the object for many off-road riders isn’t competing, it is the fun. Motocross lies somewhere between scrambling and Enduro with a more off-road focus.
Motorcycles for scrambling, Motocross and Enduro lie along a spectrum with many similarities. Dirt motorcycles, by definition, are lightweight and nimble off roaders that can be owned without a license because they don’t use the roads. They therefore appeal to young riders and start at around 50cc although there are also powerful dirt motorcycles.
An Enduro motorcycle is adapted for tackling dirt tracks at speed (so a firmer suspension) and for enduring longer events (so a bigger fuel tank). Although they begin at about 125cc (2-stroke) they range up to about 650cc (4-stroke).
Being road legal isn’t usually a requirement for sport events but getting there and back on the road requires road legal tyres. Performance isn’t the problem, in fact sports motorcycles often have better brakes, suspension and power than road motorcycles.
Motocross usually lack the headlights, brake lights, horn and other things that are compulsory for road use, including road legal tyres. Smaller motorcycles are relatively easy to transport in a van or pickup, bigger ones not so much. Most motorcycles can be retrofitted with these things if required. Supermoto motorcycles are designed for racing on rough and smooth surfaces but are often ready equipped for the road. Dual Sports, by definition, attempt to tick all boxes, which is legally convenient but doesn’t suit everyone.
An Enduro is basically a dirt motorcycle optimised for endurance with more speed, power and fuel than an entry level scrambler or trail motorcycle. Because they are usually heavier (typically 450cc) they could be an even bigger transportation headache so most modern Enduro motorcycles are also road legal.
Not all tyres are road legal – many sports tyres are too knobbly - and it’s almost impossible to ride trails in the UK without venturing onto a road if only to get to the next trail. The police, and the law courts, are sometimes understanding about short hops from home to a trail – but don’t count on it. It is also important to be aware that just because a trail lacks a tarmac surface doesn’t always mean it isn’t legally a public highway and unfortunately that means you can be prosecuted for riding a dirt motorcycle on a green lane, especially without road legal tyres.
To be used on a British road, a tyre still has to conform to ECE regulation 30. If it does, it will have an E11 mark. If it hasn’t got one it is automatically illegal for highway use. Never assume a “Motocross tyre” is road legal - they must have the E mark – and don’t misunderstand its meaning either: it doesn’t mean the tyre is great for the road, only that it is legal and will pass an MOT.
Enduro tyres, almost by definition, are road legal tyres designed primarily for off road use.
Can you ride a mousse to your hoose?
A mousse is an inner tube replacement with numerous sealed compartments that make it puncture resistant. They are popular in dirt biking and motocross because of the high risks of punctures. In effect, they convert an ordinary tyre into a kind of run-flat but unlike run-flats, they are not technically road legal because the law insists that the pressure of a road tyre must be adjustable. In any case, when you use a mousse on the open road, it heats up quickly, so if you have to do it always ride extra carefully.
In practice, we have never heard of a rider failing an MOT because of a mousse, but although you can claim ‘reasonable cause’ for driving between a track and your home with them fitted, we definitely advise against everyday motorcycling with them in place.
Choosing Enduro motorcycle tyres
After you’ve considered the legality of the tyres you want, the next thing to check are the rules of whichever club or tournament you are hoping to participate in. It is not unusual for each event, tournament or track to have its own rules about tyres: sometimes it is to ensure that all riders start with roughly equal chances and in other cases it is out of consideration for the course itself. Extra knobbly tyres can do more damage to the track surface than smoother ones so there are practical as well as environmental reasons for a rule about how knobbly they can be.
If an event involves use of a public “green lane” between one section and another, you need to be aware that the laws that apply to tarmacked highways also apply to untarmacked highways. In other words, technically you need a road legal tyre in order to traverse that green lane. That too may be reflected in the event’s tyre regulations.
It is also common for Enduro competition rules to specify that tyres must comply with a minimum Load Index and Speed Rating for safety reasons. Owners of smaller motorcycles, in particular, may wish to choose tyres with higher ratings than the minimums specified in their owner’s manual to be sure of qualifying for organised events.
The codes are usually stamped in your sidewalls and written in your owner’s manual, but if you are in any doubt about the tyres you should be riding on never be afraid to ask at a specialist motorcycle tyre supplier or garage. The tables below will also provide some guidance.
Tyre Load Index
Tyre Speed Index
Many leading motorcycle tyre manufacturers offer tyres that have been designed specifically for Motocross and/or Enduro. Choosing one of these removes a lot of uncertainty about whether the tyre is suitable for purpose, broadly acceptable and, of course, road legal too.
Ordinary dirt motorcycles are rarely designed for comfort and if you venture far on the highway with typical dirt motorcycle tyres, you may end up with an uncomfortable ride. Bespoke Enduro tyres on the other hand, often have good shock and vibration absorption because of those gruelling long-distance rallies. If you want to make a dirt motorcycle or Motocross more roadworthy, consider an Enduro tyre or at least one with less stiff side-walls.
The Kenda Trakmaster MX is a road legal Motocross tyre with deep tread blocks that give very high grip on rugged surfaces but also stiffer sidewalls for easier handling on highways. It could be a little tiring for an Enduro. The same is true of the Pirelli MT43.
The Michelin Tracker, Battlax Adventure Trail AT41 and Metzeler Karoo 4 are “green lane” tyres that are also good all-rounders, but for heavier Enduro competitions, consider the Metzeler 6, Metzeler MC360, Michelin Extreme, Michelin Comp, Bridgestone ED03 and Pirelli Scorpion MX series.
Other tyres that are road legal, reasonably road comfortable but also capable of off-roading over tracks and mud include the Michelin AC10 family and the Maxxis Trial Maxx and MaxxCross IT. You will need to check whether these tyres are acceptable at formal Enduro events, but they certainly provide good rides when fitted to Enduro motorcycles. Also consider the Bridgestone Battlecross E50.
A good Supermoto tyre is the Avon Distanzia Supermoto family (for example the AM44).
Will your Enduro endure?
Even when you have outfitted your Enduro (or any other sports motorcycle) for the road, never forget what you are riding. They have faster acceleration than a road motorcycle so needs a lighter touch than ordinary road motorcycles.
Also understand that a motorcycle optimised for performance is not necessarily optimised for reliability. Although rallies seem to cover a lot of miles, you will be travelling greater distances on an intercity trip or over a week of urban commuting. Eating up those extra miles brings forward the date when your motorcycle needs a service – and sport motorcycles need them more often to begin with. Many routine checks are free in our network.