By Katy B.
Choosing the right tire for your dirt bike can be tricky. The best suspension and engine work in the world can't help you if your tires aren't hooking up. If you want to go fast, you have to put the power to the ground. Ultimately as a rider you want a tire that will perform so you can have confidence on the track but also a tire that will last. The top motorcycle tire manufacturers are now pushing more than ever to create high performance tires with a new level of durability. Michelin is even pushing the limits with a tire line that can perform in a wide variety of terrain. With so many options of great dirt tires out there, it can be hard to decide which is right for you.
Some things to think about before deciding which tire is best for you:
What type of terrain do you ride? The general divisions are soft, intermediate and hard terrain. The most common tire and consequently riding terrain is intermediate, for the purpose of this review we will discuss three of the most popular intermediate dirt tires I have personal experience with.
It's important to keep in mind that the tracks I ride here in Texas may differ from the tracks you ride. Here in Dallas we are blessed to have tracks at least an hour in every direction from the big city. We have everything from the sandy hills of Oak Hill Raceway to blue grooved hard packed tracks. Because of this variety it is important to have a tire with a wide scope of terrain performance.
Always a popular choice, the Dunlop Geomax MX52 is derived from top-level professional AMA Motocross riders. With a new patented block-within-a-block design the MX52 offers progressive cornering action and gives the rider better slide control.
You can forget anything you’ve heard about Dunlop in the past, the Geomax MX52 has serious durability. The knobs are more flexible than before saving the rider from worrying about chunking.
On an intermediate track this tire performed throughout the entire day and kept traction through square edges and braking bumps. What I love most about this tire is the MX52 allows you to slide the bike with confidence. I ran this tire a little over the recommended lifetime (I know, I should know better!) and still never saw any chunking or had any issues with pinch flats.
Overall the MX52 is a great all around tire. They are very durable and perform well under a variety of conditions. The only problem I had with the MX52 is the range of terrain performance is not as competitive as the Michelin Starcross 5. Although, if you typically ride intermediate to hard terrain this tire is a great choice for a reasonable price. It’s easy to see why Dunlop is a popular choice for many riders.
For the rider that wants a tire to last a lifetime, the Bridgestone line is perfect for you. While the Bridgestone in my opinion did not perform as well as the Dunlop or the Michelin, it proved to be a durable tire. Even though I wasn’t blown away with the performance overall, it still gets the job done and will last longer than most other tires on the market. Like the Dunlop they are reasonably priced but you will get every dollar you spent out of the life of this tire.
On the track the M404 sticks in the ruts and allows you to lean the bike over with confidence. I did find this tire out performed the MX52 and Starcross 5 Medium on concrete starts. The Dunlop had better slide control but the Bridgestone is extremely competitive with the MX52 in overall traction on intermediate to hard tracks.
Overall it is a good tire that will perform in intermediate to hard conditions but what makes it stand out the most is the longevity of the Bridgestone M404/M403. With a reasonable price you can't go wrong with Bridgestone. Tires are expensive, knowing you have a set that will last is always a good thing.
The all new Starcross 5 line takes the cake for dirt bike tires. Compared to the Starcross tires of the past the current line has a completely redesigned architecture, reduced weight and improved tread design all wrapped up with a wider scope of use.
Michelin built the Starcross 5 medium terrain tire with stronger, higher density casing materials to reduce weight. From initially picking up the tire you can see and feel the weight they shed compared to the past models. According to Michelin, the reduced mass improves acceleration, braking and steering control through reduced rotational inertia. I have to say, I’m a believer of it by how the tire performed.
Weight alone isn’t what makes this tire great. The redesigned architecture features two more densely constructed polyester plies, increasing the sidewall strength to reduce the likelihood of pinch flats. The aggressive tread design maintains traction at any angle using variable height tread blocks. If you’re like me and like to do everything yourself this tire is a good option for you just with the new bead profile alone. The Starcross 5 was so easy to install I'm very sure I set a new personal tire change record!
On the track, this tire maintained traction through ruts and handled the square edges and braking bumps like a champ. Overall my bike felt more responsive from maintaining traction throughout the day. I had confidence in the ability of this tire to stick in the corners and maintain control without grabbing or pushing. What I like most about the Starcross 5 medium terrain tire is the versatility it offers. Even the most perfectly groomed track can end up rough and dry by the end of the day. I never felt like I had to pack it up early because I had traction no matter what, making for a day with less sketchy moments!
The Starcross 5 is the best tire I have ever had on my bike. From the latest and greatest technology for optimum performance in a wide scope of conditions and extreme durability this tire is my personal favorite by leaps and bounds. For riders like myself who need a tire that can perform in a variety of conditions, the Starcross 5 is the tire for you.
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