Dunlop invited ADVMoto to beautiful and sunny Lake Arrowhead, California to test their exciting new Trailmax Mission tires specifically designed for adventure motorcycles. In collaboration with Falken Tire, Dunlop has developed what they claim to be a 50/50 tire that’s capable of tackling a variety of terrain and offering the best tread life in its class.
To read Dunlop
’s press release for the Trailmax Mission
tire, CLICK HERE
So, what ratio of on- to off-road performance can this tire deliver? This is a loaded question and arguably the toughest to answer. At first glance, the Trailmax Mission doesn’t appear to look like any other “50/50” tire on the market. And what is defined as “off-road riding” may vary from one rider to the next. While it looks street based, closer inspection reveals off-road focused details within the tread pattern that are not only unique, they’re downright creative. The features in this tire tip the scales towards an off-road performance that we didn’t expect.
Dunlop uses a proprietary single compound for the Trailmax Mission. When asked about the compound, Tire Design Engineer, Ron Winkelman, said they couldn’t give away too many details, but the hardness is between a touring tire and a soft off-road tire. As vague as that sounds, I suspect that whatever compound they use had a huge part to play in how the tire performs off-road (more on this below).
Ron went on to describe how this was the most enjoyable tire he’s ever produced, and over the course of two years, lots of R&D, and thirty different designs, they’re confident they’ve filled a gap in their line-up and produced the most versatile tire Dunlop
has to offer. Ron and his team hand carved the prototypes and lots of their R&D came from attending adventure rallies and interacting with our community. Your feedback was the number one factor in how these tires were created—not production costs or replicating what’s already on the market.
• Wrap-Around Side Lugs
The idea was pulled from Falken
’s off-road truck tire line with great success. During our testing, we found that the Side Lugs
really did work as intended, pulling our wheels out of ruts and helping to keep elevated over sandy sections. Dunlop
claims that the Side Lugs
increase sidewall rigidity and protection against side punctures as well.
• Staggered Step Knobs
This tiny, but highly effective feature increases bite while off road. As the tread gets warn, a new, sharp edge reveals itself ensuring greater traction throughout the life of the tire. The steps on the rear tire face backward to increase stopping performance, while the steps on the front tire face towards the center to help the front track forward.
• Deep Tread Grooves with Unique Patterns
The tread on the Trailmax Missions are meaty compared to road tires. Dunlop claims to have gotten 8,000 miles on a rear tire equipped on a V-Strom 1000 through various terrain, and they’re confident that you can get similar results. We’ve never had a 50/50 tire reach those numbers.
Perhaps one of the most important features of the Missions is that the tread will vary slightly between wheel sizes. For example, tires for large displacement ADVs utilize connecting bars to increase rigidity and the block sizes and shape changes from tire to tire. Also, the front tread design is different from the rear to ensure both wheels perform optimally in a variety of conditions.
• First Impressions
The Trailmax Missions
may not look like a typical 50/50 tire, and Dunlop
is well aware of this. Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Dunlop
, Mike Buckley, stated that they expected some backlash from the dual-sport and ADV community. “Creating a 50/50 tire means you might have a product that pleases 50% of the market.” This may be true, but if you can please half of the incredibly diverse and demanding adventure crowd with one tire, that’s a 100% win in our books.Dunlop
’s tech presentation was both informative and impressive. It was clear to see that the company used an incredible amount of effort to create the Trailmax Missions
(R&D and manufacturing were all done in the U.S.). Simply creating a tread design and stamping it onto multiple wheels wasn’t good enough for them. They want each tire each size to perform a very specific way. I think we could’ve used these tires in the market years ago, but if it took this long for a company as reputable as Dunlop to make them, perhaps their efforts are worth the wait.
• Kickstands Up
We were supplied a fleet of the latest adventure motorcycles, from BMW
large displacement flagships, to the latest and greatest 790 Adventure R
and 850 GS
. However, our pick for the test ride was the new Honda CB500X
. If you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “why?” let me explain.ADVMoto
’s head honcho, Carl Parker, recently reviewed the 2019 CB500X
, (you’ll also find the review in the Nov/Dec 2019 Print Issue of ADVMoto
), and afterwards I planned to buy this bike as a daily commuter. The second reason we chose the little Honda was because it was the only bike in the line-up without fancy electronics or ABS, and fairly basic suspension. Keeping the bike shiny side up for the entire test would require a bit of skill and excellent tire performance.
• On the Tarmac
Our day-long ride comprised of exactly fifty percent twisty tarmac and fifty percent off-road terrain that a typical ADV bike would traverse. At the start, it was about 40°F on our way to find dirt. Cold temps, fresh tires, sharp corners, and a dozen moto-journalist high on coffee—what could possibly go wrong? Fortunately, absolutely nothing, but my confidence on the street did increase 10-fold after airing down the tires about 5 psi from OEM recommended pressures.
Keeping up with the big bikes through the twisties was really fun on the CB500X
. Trail braking into corners, carrying corner speed, early throttle—it reminded me of trackdays on Ninja 250
s. At one point I came around a corner and was startled by the photographer, then realized I was coming in way too hot. I instantly thought, I’m either going to run out of road, or run out of rubber (and they’re going to catch it on camera), but to my surprise the bike stayed upright after quick scrape of the foot peg. As hard as I was on the front brake I was almost certain I was going to tuck the front end, but the Trailmax Mission
s delivered excellent traction and great feedback. We didn’t run across any extensive wet pavement, but I believe they’d perform really well in the rain.
As the roads heated up, so did my confidence in the tires and it wasn’t long before I stopped worrying about what the wheels were doing. I’d get lost “in the zone” and had to remind myself to think about how the tires were performing. They’re so smooth and quiet on the pavement that you forget about them, and that’s a good thing. Even the pine needle and dirt peppered twisties couldn’t shake the Trailmax Mission
s from delivering a solid performance on the tarmac. Road performance gets a huge check mark from me.
• Off the Pavement
Leaving my tire pressures to -5 psi below OEM pressures, we continued on to the off-road portion of the test, consisting of dusty OHV trails and wide fire roads with tight switch switchbacks. It was exactly the type of terrain I enjoy riding on heavy, multi-cylinder ADV bikes. I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about how the Trailmax Mission would do in loose dirt or shallow sand, but they exceeded my expectations once again. Without traction control I thought I’d have to be especially easy on the throttle and brakes, but I wouldn’t say I rode the CB500X any differently than I would’ve on a big dual-sport. I’m certain there are limitations to this tire—probably deep sand or sticky mud, or really rocky, technical single-track. But during our day exploring the off-road areas of Lake Arrowhead, I never found myself in what I like to call an “oh shit! Moment.” There were a couple of big whoop sections that seemed to be limited by the bike’s suspension, causing me to back off a bit at times, but the handful of times the bike got airborne, the tires helped to keep the CB500X track straight upon landing.
The off-road performance of the Trailmax Missions can’t be described as confidence inspiring. Instead, I’d call them very comfortable. One thing Dunlop emphasized during the tech briefing was how much they fine-tuned the rigidity how careful they were in choosing which compound to settle on. I think it shows in the Mission’s off-road performance. At every pit stop I thought to myself, “these are hooking up way better than I expected them to.” The only times the tires really broke loose were intentional with a quick chop of the clutch or almost standing on the rear brake. And when they did break loose, they were predictable, manageable, and even fun!
I was really impressed with the front-end braking performance of the Trailmax Missions. After the gaps opened between riders, I jabbed the front brake lever to try and find where the limits were. Instead of washing, the front of the bike would just plunge. Maybe the CB500X’s single front disk had a part to play in this, but either way, the Trailmax Mission’s braking performance allowed me to easily keep pace with the big bikes in our group, even passing some of them.
We didn’t encounter any mud on our route, but Dunlop claims the tire’s ability to clear itself is just as well or better than the competition. We’d need more testing to see if that’s true.
During the off-road section I did find myself in a situation where the Wrap Around Side Lugs really shined. There was a straight section with a high line and a low line with a three-foot, 45° drop-off between the two. I couldn’t decide which to take and went straight down the middle. In this instance, I’m almost certain that most of the 50/50 tires on the market would’ve washed to the low side. Instead, I found myself cruising the drop off, leg out Jarvis style, until the path leveled out again. Off-road performance gets another check mark from me.
• Who’s it for?
The Dunlop Trailmax Mission is ideal for the daily commuter who skips work every now and then to play in the dirt. It’s for motorcyclists who prefer the ADV route over the hero route at dual-sport rallies. Do you wait for the last minute to sign up for events like I do, leaving no time to swap tires? Lastly, but certainly not least, they’re for long distance adventure travelers who know how and when to pick and choose their battles. Want a tad more off-road performance? Mix and match them with the D606s!
• Final Thoughts
My only real concern with the tire is road/trail-side maintenance. The sidewalls are stiffened up by the Wrap Around Side Lugs
and may require some muscle to remove and install on a rim. That said, if the Lugs
protect the sides as intended, then we’d really only need to worry about tread punctures, a problem none of us faced during our testing.
Are the Dunlop Trailmax Mission
s a true 50/50 tire? We can’t tell you because we don’t know how and where you ride. However, they did exceed our expectations both on- and off-road on a bike we wouldn’t consider to be a 50/50 machine. Forgetting the numbers, I’d venture to say if these tires came as OEM equipment on current adventure motorcycles, most of the new bike buyers would be happy with them. They’re certainly worth the coin if you’re in the market for tires that can handle most situations and offer very long tread life.
Many thanks to the Dunlop
team for a well-organized and fun event!
MSRP: will range from $131.21 to $285.23
Phase 1 (Shipping 11/01/19)—
Front 90/90-21 54T
Rear 150/70B17 69T
Phase 2 (Shipping 12/01/19)—
Rear 130/80B17 65T
Phase 3 (Shipping 01/01/20)—
Front 100/90-19 57T
Rear 120/90-17 64T
• Unique tread design delivers great performance on- and off-road
• Expected tread life is class leading
• No vibration or road noise
• Purposely built for each size
• Stiff sidewalls may make tire changing more difficult