The first time I dropped my Suzuki V-Strom 650 in gravel, I blamed it entirely  on my lack of skill. That was before I rode a little Yamaha TW200 with a beefy, knobby rear tire, felt the connection between that bike and the dirt, and realized what a difference it makes when a bike is wearing the right shoes for the ride.

I began searching for a tire that would provide that same sense of off-road stability on the much larger dual sport. I was planning a 5-week exploration of eastern Montana that would include hundreds of miles of Montana gravel and I wanted tires that would help build my confidence. The stock tires on my Suzuki were 80/20’s, designed for some off-pavement riding. Experienced adventure riders have told me that these tires were quite adequate for the relatively tame kind of off-road riding I wanted to do, but my own experience of the tires was that I slid around in gravel 100% of however little time I spent on it…and was an anxious mess because of it. I wanted to feel like I did on the Yamaha and, after much research, I decided that 50/50 tires would get me that feeling.

Front, new

That decision was followed by more research that narrowed the choice to three possibilities: the Michelin Anakee Wild, the Heidenau K60 Scout, and the Mitas E-07. There were plenty of reviews out there for the first two brands; they each seem to have an enthusiastic, loyal following. But not only were the Michelin and Heidenau tires more expensive than the Mitas, the more I read the more it appeared that the less expensive Mitas would perform at least as well as either of the others, and perhaps last longer. Given that, it became a question of how much more I wanted to shell out in order to have a popular brand; the Michelins would cost $390, the Heidenaus $328, and the Mitas only $268. I decided that my bike could forego a designer label. 

I put just over 100 miles on the new tires before heading out for a 5000-mile exploration of eastern Montana. I was amazed by how much more stable the bike felt during this first ride. My confidence sky-rocketed and I quit worrying about dirt roads when I found myself able to travel at 40 or 50 mph on them instead of the 30 mph that was my top speed on the 80/20’s. Perhaps I allowed myself to feel too comfortable and push them a little too hard because, early in that first ride, I experienced a severe front end wobble. 

Front, 5000 miles

I had been going around 50, standing on the pegs, when I decided to sit for an upcoming curve. The next thing I knew, the front end was thrashing wildly. I had no clue how to handle that, so I hung on for dear life and rolled off the throttle…which worked. When I got back home, I researched front end wobble and learned that it can be caused by the combination of speed (50 mph), a sudden shift in weight away from the front tire (my coming off the pegs), and the front end encountering something that compromises traction (hello…like a gravel road?). Apparently I had created a perfect storm. I tell you about the wobble because I have heard that some tires are prone to it. And since I had never experienced it before that day, and I experienced it one more time on the Mitas (on pavement, at 60 mph, when I rode into a tar snake), I can’t say for sure that the tires didn’t also play some part in creating the wobble. But until their tread was significantly more worn, these were the only times I didn’t feel solidly connected to the road while riding on them. And as you can see in the photos, the front tire showed very little wear after my tour.

Rear, new

While cost was one factor, another reason I chose the Mitas over the other tires was the separated segments in the middle of the tread pattern. The center of the tread area on the Heidenau  K60’s sized for my bike was a continuous band of rubber around the tire and several reviewers attributed to this design a tendency to hydroplane. I figured that the Mitas tread design would eliminate this problem while giving me great traction on dirt. And it did, while it remained. But as you can see in the rear tire photos, there was very little separation between the center tread blocks by 1400 miles, and by 5000 miles there was none, although the tread on either side of the center strip was still decent. By around 2000 miles, I was noticing that the rear tire felt less stable on dirt and my confidence began eroding. Shortly after that I went down in deep gravel and injured my right leg sufficiently that I could no longer stand on the pegs. The condition of the tires may have had something to do with my crash, but experienced dirt riders who looked at them afterwards said there was still plenty of tread for off-road riding. It didn’t matter; my bike was way too top heavy to feel good on dirt if I could ride the pegs.

Rear, 1400 miles

Having never ridden such knobby tires on pavement, I was anxious about how the they would handle during the first 100 miles of my tour in Montana, which included a stretch of narrow road and tight, blind curves that left no room for error. But the tires stuck to the road nicely. On highways, I never pushed them above 75 mph and generally rode around 65. I also rarely took curves at more than 5 miles above their posted speed. Under those conditions, the tires felt as stable on pavement as do the stock Bridgestones—except for pavement that had been grooved for traction in wet conditions. I rode around 50 miles of that on Interstate 84 in Idaho, between Boise and Mountain Home, thinking I would tank any minute. The bike felt like a pogo stick on that surface and the only way to diminish the bouncing was to slow to about 50 mph…a death-defying act given the speed of the cars around me.  On asphalt, the tires aged well; the changes I felt in their traction on dirt as their tread wore down weren’t noticeable on dry paved roads. I can’t speak to whether they would have been stable on wet pavement, however; Montana gave me no opportunity to discover whether the tread design actually did mitigate the risk of hydroplaning. I can speak to the issue of noise, however!

Rear, 5000 miles

I expected the Mitas tires to be noiser than the very quiet Bridgestones my bike usually wore, but even so, the speed-related moaning, howling, whining, and shrieking coming from the tires when on pavement shocked me. In the dirt, I could ride without earplugs. On pavement, the tires were so uncomfortably noisy at speeds above 60 that I rode without the plugs only once…and that for a very short while. But hey, we shouldn’t be riding without them at all, right?

So, would I buy these Mitas tires again? Definitely, absolutely. I got my money’s worth. And if you are interested in checking them out, they are available through Revzilla.

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