Sunday, November 8, 2015

Avon TrailRider after 15,000 km

As I'm writing this we are in India, having covered 15,000 km on our Avon TrailRider tyres. Time for a new report. The reason we do this is not to please Avon Tyres. We are not employed by them or receive any money for writing these reports. The sole reason is that we were looking for info on the best tyres to use for this trip ourselves and couldn't find any. Of course there are plenty of comments all over the net, but most are simply personal preference without any basis and they also quite often contradict themselves. What we were looking for was a tyre which couldn't just handle a bit of gravel or loads of tarmac, but a tyre which could handle a trip a round the world in wildly varying conditions... on which we could not find a lot of info. What we therefore have done is an as straight forward comparison as we could and... on two totally different bikes doing exactly the same route!

That last phrase is pretty important as it takes two problems we have found ourselves out of the equation. The first is that we can't be so lucky to have the only good or bad tyre out of a batch. The second is the loading on the XT tyre is totally different than on the Bonneville. While I'm sure there are a few BMW riders out there wondering how it will do on their big GS, all I can say is the Bonnie is a 900 twin which weighs as much as a BMW GSA... Make no mistake about it, a proper travel tyre has a hard life, much more so in my humble opinion than a road- or even a sports tyre.

For this report we have also been lucky to be able to compare the Avons directly with several other brands as we have been riding in a group through China and Pakistan. As non of the group had been through the insane hot conditions in Kazakhstan though, we feel it's fair to say the Avon's have had the worst conditions. They have also covered the highest mileage of all, and in some cases by far! In our group were two which started off with Heidenau K60 Scouts on DR650 Suzuki's ridden very conservatively. They are nearing the end of their life at 20,000 km. They hope to stretch it to 23,000 and fit new ones in Nepal. On a lightly packed and normally ridden Suzuki DRZ400 the rear Heidenau K60 (not the Scout version) needed replacing after just 3,000 km as it was bald(!) This was replaced with a Michelin Sirac which lasted 10,000 km and was replaced with a new Sirac again (so on it's 3rd rear over virtually the same distance as our single Avon). A 1200 GSA on Conti TKC70 tyres, which had been fitted in Turkey, had less tread left than the Avon tyres we have fitted, while having done considerable less mileage, but the rider is a bit of a clown... 

Grip-wise we noticed some strange things too. At some stage we found ourselves on asphalt surfaces so badly worn they looked like polished concrete. We all had sliding tyres on that stuff in the corners. My damaged front rim, causing a noticeable wobble, doesn't help I suppose. Yet when slamming on the brakes, like we've all had to do many times to avoid disaster in Pakistan, the Heidenau fronts let go almost immediately while the Avon tyres gripped perfectly well despite having much more weight to slow down. 

The cupping we have experienced with the XT on the front has returned, but nowhere near as bad as on the Conti front fitted to the BMW GSA which has less km on them. The Conti front on the BMW is so badly cupped it needs replacing as it has passed it's legal thread depth limit. On the Avon it took 15,000 km before it even showed itself and there is plenty of life left. There were noticeable differences in loading too. The Suzuki DR650 rider was somewhat shocked with the weight of Mike's XT660R, we are on the road for 3 years and the base Yamaha XT is quite a bit heavier than his lightened DR too. The DRZ400 rider is a champion of travelling light in our book and yet his Michelins still don't last as long as the Avon TrailRiders do.

All in all we were pleasantly surprised with the TrailRiders in a direct comparison, we certainly wouldn't want to change with any of the others. Not only did we take them over most of the gravel roads and tracks in Kyrgyzstan, which isn't dubbed Adventure Riders Paradise for nothing, we also took them over rough roads to get there. In Kazakhstan they were so hot the rubber was shiny and yet they seem to be wearing the best too. Everyone in the group we travelled with was impressed with the life left in them and when Mike went with the DRZ400 rider to explore a track, they handled that fine too. Yes, it's not a knobby, but a knobby wouldn't have done half the mileage these have done and they still have plenty of life left in them, it would have worn out before we got to the hard bit... 

I hear you thinking 'ok, ok but how much is left?' Well... this is where it becomes somewhat hard to explain. The fist 5,000 km we had 2 mm wear (from 8 to 6 mm), from 5,000 to 10,000 we had just 1 mm wear and had 5 mm tread left. By that time I was thinking these tyres could be up for serious mileage. We're now another 5,000 km further at 15,000 km and have lost just 0.5 mm of tread depth... while those last 5,000 km have been mostly off-road over tyre destroying roads in Kyrgyzstan... I can't explain it either. All I can say I've checked the depth at several spots around the tyre as I couldn't believe it myself, but it's true. Meanwhile the fronts have shown some impressive wear figures too. They have lost in total 3.5 mm over 15,000 km! Another remarkable thing is the tyre wear is virtually the same for the XT and the Bonneville, where previously we always had slightly higher tyre wear on the XT.

I wrote before that starting the hardest part of our trip on a new model and thus untried tyre, which wasn't even on the market when we started, was a big gamble. Had any design defects or other problems shown up then we would have been in serious problems, as this part of the world is all under visa requirements, for which strict dates are set. Sending tyres to places like Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Pakistan is not only expensive and problematic, the bigger question is will they arrive at all, and if so: when? Of course Avon has a hard and stringent test regime themselves but I doubt if anyone at Avon has taken them to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan... on fully loaded bikes :-)

As we had such good experiences with the Avon Distanzia, we didn't hesitate for a minute though when Avon asked us if we'd like to take the new TrailRider, but we did so under one condition: we should be free to write what we think, unbiased and irrespective of the consequences. Having had them for 15,000 km now we are glad we took them! The compromise with any bike tyre has always been grip vs longevity. To combat the problem, twin compound tyres have been tried by others but were never successful. The TrailRider is a three-compound tyre though, which seems to work very well. It makes the TrailRider, dare I say it, in our opinion the best tyre to travel around the world on. They give us grip when needed, can handle off-road trails without any problem and will also go the distance, as you can see in the next review after 25,000 km, which can be found here