Metzeler Karoo Street Review: A Dual-Sport Tire for the Masses
As the world of adventure/dual-sport bikes continues to expand, so does the selection of tires, and with them the availability of cross-purpose style tires. While street-oriented ADV tires have been available for some time, the 70/30- or 50/50-use tires have a very promising new contender, the new Metzeler Karoo Streets.
Visually, the Street’s tread pattern harkens back to the several-year old Metzeler Karoo 3, one of our favorite 50/50 tires. The tractor lug-like pattern of the Karoo 3 made our project Super Ténéré a literal blast to ride off road, never letting us down on dirt, mud or sand.
Facing stiff competition with Continental’s popular and long running TKC 80, the Karoo 3 was perhaps even more off-road oriented but had a noticeable buzz on pavement above 50 mph. The only other ADV offering from Metzeler is the Tourance series, which is decidedly more street-biased. With an obvious gap in their product line, the Metzeler tire gnomes went to work over the last three years to bring what may be one of the best 60/40 tires around, the new Karoo Streets.
Karoo Streets are designed to have friendlier asphalt surfing characteristics without sacrificing too much on dirt or gravel. On-road manners feel much like any sport-touring tire with neutral turn-in up front and very little knob noise even at speed. During our whirlwind testing in Sicily, Italy, we got to test the Karoo Streets on several bike platforms ranging from the BMW R1200GS and KTM 1290 Super Adventure, to Triumph’s new Tiger 800. Even approaching 100 mph, the test KTM 1090 handled well on highway with barely notable buzz in the bar.
Better still, the tire’s rolling tread pattern has been optimized for a constant contact patch in both center and edge blocks, which means cornering is once again a peg scraping affair as I found out on a new Triumph Tiger 800 XCa. By the end of the rather aggressive street test, everyone’s chicken strips were gone, and no one had low sided, proving there’s traction all the way out to the edges. Moreover, the new tread pattern heavily reduces pressure hot spots on the lugs which should greatly enhance the Karoo Street’s mileage.
To put icing on the asphalt cupcake, Metzeler uses a high-silica compound rubber which grips well when dry or wet. The engineering brief explained how they paid particular attention to wet surface traction from not only the compound, but also the tread pattern, which does an amazing job channeling water away from the contact patches when on pavement or dirt.
There’s no better way to test the water evacuation than riding river beds. To prove the Karoo Street’s off-road worthiness, we took turns running up and down a relatively dry riverbed and some broken muddy roads. Wet sand, mud, and large pools of water didn’t faze the tires at almost any speed, and we were impressed with how well the tread pattern hooked up on dirt, while still being able to push the bikes hard on paved corners.
Although classifying tires is a somewhat contentious task, we would say the Karoo Streets are 70/30 or 60/40. In this arena a few newer competitors like Avon’s Trek Rider, Michelin’s Anakee Wild, Pirelli’s Scorpion Rally STR and Continental’s Escape could give the Streets a run for the money. Without having directly tested all these tire models, we’re not going to declare a “winner,” but it’s fairly clear that the Karoo Streets are just what the doctor ordered to bring back the fun cornering while still managing well off road.
Many bikes are shod with overly dirt-oriented tires. Sometimes it’s for the “ruggedly cool” optics of a dirt tread design, but at a very real sacrifice of street safety and fun. With the Karoo Streets you can essentially have both for nearly any bike you ride in this category. Rear sizes are available down to 130/80-17 and up front to 90/90-21, so they’re great options for almost any size ADV/DS bike on the market. Even better, the Karoo Streets will soon be available in 18- and 17-inch front sizes for scrambler and street bikes!
To sum up the Karoo Street’s performance during the test, I would say its street gains outweigh what’s lost off road when compared to the Karoo 3. That makes this a great option for nearly anyone who rides and tours mostly on the road, but doesn’t want to be deterred by lack of traction on packed dirt, gravel or water crossings. Like any tire in this category, its Achilles heel will be in sticky clay or deep mud where all but the most aggressive off-road tires will fail in those circumstances, anyway.
Every tire has limitations, but we expect a lot of adventure/dual-sport riders fall in the Karoo Street’s targeted capabilities and feature set. The availability of high-performance cross-purpose tires has never been better and the Karoo Streets are set to be a leader in the category. If you do mostly street riding or touring with a real hankering for getting off the beaten path without getting crazy technical, then the new Karoo Streets are worth a closer look. MSRP: TBA (estimate $100–$180 per tire) Metzeler.com
▲ High silica compound is extra sticky in wet or dry condtions
▼ Street-oriented sport touring casing may be more susceptible to off-road hazards
|▲ Highly versatile in on- or off-road conditions
|▲ Good traction all the way to the edges||
|▲ Wide range of sizes available with more to come|
|▲ Aggressive off-road looks in a very friendly daily use tire|