Friday, November 27, 2015

Avon TrailRider review after 25,000 km

Temperatures we rode through were at
times so insane they made the tyres shiny
The Avon TrailRiders we fitted in Europe carried us subsequently through everything we threw at them in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, India and Myanmar and stayed with us all the way into Thailand... Not bad for one, yes one(!) rear tyre... In our previous 15,000 km report you can read how they compared to the Heidenau K60, K60 Scout, Michelin Sirac and Conti TKC70. The TrailRiders outperformed them in every aspect and despite having been through worse conditions, also lasted longer than any of the above. On this part of the trip we rode together with a friend of ours through India and Myanmar on Conti TKC80s on a 1200 GSA, which weighs the same as my Bonneville. When he was fitting the third full set, we only replaced the first rear tyre... This kind of puts in perspective how long lasting these new Avon TrailRiders are. Yet the grip they give in wet and cold is much better than the TKC80. We also got a reply from another GSA rider who fitted the new Avon TrailRider and found them better off-road than the previously fitted Metzler Tourance Next. But there is more: after 25,000 km we only needed to replace the rear... the fronts are still going!

In India, still on the same tyres
I want to start by saying we are not paid by anyone to do these reports, nor were we asked by Avon to do them. When we fitted these tyres we wanted to do a full and objective report, including the rate at which they would wear, as getting good data on tyres has always been hard. At the same time, up until then, I had never worried about how long a tyre would last. A tyre is the only bit between my bike and the road, if it looses grip then I lose the bike and quite possibly end up in hospital... or 3 feet under. To me that's slightly more important than how long a tyre will last. I've written before how I find it amazing how people can easily spend a fortune on a good helmet but look for tyres which are just cheap and long lasting. Yet a good tyre can save you from needing to test that helmet. They are the only contact between you and the road and are literally the difference between avoiding a problem... or sliding straight into it.

Crossing the border into Myanmar, still on the same tyres. The GSA
travelling with us carrying a full set of spare TKC80s
Having said that, we were now entering a part of the world where getting a replacement was slightly more complicated... Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, India and Myanmar simply don't have bike tyres in the sizes we need. Getting them send up would be a nightmare with customs etc. which is why quite a few travellers carry a full set of spare tyres as the countries above are also known to be hard on tyre wear. The TrailRiders promised longer life and better grip than the best tyres we had found until then: the Avon Distanzias. Surely that wasn't possible?

The only thing we haven't tested them for is stability at high speed, but we didn't have to as the German magazine Motorrad did that for us in a fashion that we could not hope to recreate anyway...They fitted them to a V-Strom 1000 and reported perfect stability at speeds of 180+ km/hr (!) Trust the Germans to test them like that :-) As you can read in our earlier reports, the grip is indeed very good, especially in wet and cold conditions. Now all we needed to find out is if they would go the distance. I think it's fair to say we underestimated the conditions we were about to find in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. See our posts on them to see what I mean. The TrailRiders handled it all very well. Like I've written before, they aren't knobbies but knobbies would have worn out before we even got there. We had also underestimated how hard India and Myanmar would be on tyres (and chains and sprockets for that matter). These tyres have literally been through hell and back and where then thrown into the biggest maddest place of them all: India, with all it's traffic madness that come with it. They haven't seen a decent bit of road for the last 15,000 km of their life either. Come to think of it, Georgia, Kalmykia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan all weren't that easy... but man did we have a good ride!

We rode them till the wear marker, which was 25,000 km or in our case from Europe to Thailand... But that was just the rear tyre. The front is still not up for replacement. The rears showed some unusual tyre wear though. The Avon TrailRider has a triple compound, not a dual compound as I read in a magazine test. Simply put, the centre section is harder than the sides. In the ideal world the sides would wear at the same rate as the centre... but as we look for the twisty roads and try our best to avoid highways like the plague, the sides were wearing slightly quicker than the centre! In the end of the tyre's life, and I mean really at the end, this resulted in a visible step between centre and sides. Both bikes handled fine and the tyres never gave any hint on being worn. I guess that's where the 3rd and underlying compound kicks in to keep it all working in harmony. On Mike's Yamaha it was most visible as we had deliberately been running his rear at below recommended pressure for most of India to nurse him through a back problem. Normally we would have taken a bit of rest but as this part of the world is governed by dumb visa requirements and set dates of entry and exit, we didn't have that luxury. Lowering the rear tyre pressure took the sharp edges off the hammering we've had on bad roads. We knew this would in the end probably destroy his tyre, but chose to sacrifice the tyre over his back. As it turned out he still got 25,000 km out of it. 

Having said that, the tyre wear on the XT has always been higher than the Bonneville, as a big single is hard on tyres and chains/sprockets. The tyre on the Bonneville is only just touching the wear marker at 25,000 km. The Yamaha is a little further and should have been replaced perhaps 1,000 km ago. From Europe via Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China into north Pakistan, followed by an extensive tour through India and Myanmar and into Thailand on one rear tyre... while at the same time having more grip than most if not all others we have seen... To put it in context, had we taken a direct route then one set of Avon TrailRiders would have taken us from London to Melbourne in Australia... or from Anchorage in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina... all while offering good grip! That's an overlander tyre like no other we think. We love them. Keep you updated on how long the front will last.

On long and lonely rides, far away from tyre shops, tyre longevity is paramount. They also have to be able to stand intense heat, wildly varying conditions and surfaces and take heavy loading, yet give grip to save our bacon in tricky situations. The TrailRiders did just that.