Adventure riders are literally the worst people to deal with when it comes to tires and opinions and wants and needs.
We want a tire that will last 8,000 miles, grip like a kitten on carpet when we're off-road, let us drag a knee like Rossi on the street, and handle every scenario we throw at it on our trip around the world or around the block. The problem is there is no cure-all tire solution for every situation. But we're pretty close in the 80/20 world.
Before the Michelin Anakee Adventure showed up, it didn't matter to me if you showed me a road racing slick, a 90/10, or a 70/30 tire. To me, they were all a compromise off-road and really didn't strike me as different or unique. The Anakee Adventure is different, though.
Michelin's approach to adventure tires with the new Anakee
Michelin took a step back and looked at what we ask a tire to do for us. Hint: It's provide traction. Many factors go into what makes traction. For starters, there's tire tread design. If the pattern is smooth and not raised with fewer grooves, then on-road performance (traction) will be better. A tighter pattern with fewer grooves in the rubber will result in better longevity, as well. For off-road performance, however, we lose traction with tighter tread patterns, especially when it comes to loose material evacuation and "bite."
Similarly, the tire's rubber compound is the other major factor when it comes to making traction. A softer compound will offer more grip but have less wear resistance. Both on- and off-road performance are affected by the compound, with softer usually resulting in better performance, except in mud and deep sand, but less mileage.
Please keep in mind that I'm speaking in general terms. If you want to read an 80-page in-depth discussion about the intricacies of silica compounds and optimal rolling resistance curated by some very smart adventure riders, feel free to turn to ADVRider.com, the most passive-aggressive place on the internet. In my humble opinion, of course.
So, how can we get the most traction, best possible longevity and high-speed stability in every situation both on- and off-road out of one tire?
On pavement, dual-compound construction is a big part of the answer to that question. The Anakee Adventures have a pretty standard dual-compound construction on the front, with a hard compound in the center and softer at the edges. (Michelin calls this 2CT.) The rear has Michelin's 2CT+ construction, where the rear tire is primarily a single harder compound and "pockets" of a softer compound are formed at the edges of the tire. This type of construction boosts stability in the transition between the compounds when leaning a loaded-up adventure bike into a turn.
It seems like a simple concept: 80 percent on-road, 20 percent off-road. The dual compounds help off-road performance, as well, but not nearly as much as a more openly spaced tread pattern does. This is where I get excited about the Anakee Adventures. Instead of a straight-rate tire tread pattern, the Anakee Adventure's tread pattern opens up at the edges. This increases off-road traction by providing more bite and grip when you increase your lean angle. The concept is quite simple but rarely executed so well.
Why I'm excited about this tire: Usually a rider will have the same amount of available traction off-road regardless of lean angle with a standard 80/20 tire. The problem with that is we need more traction when we lean the bike over or get sideways, but typically an 80/20 tire is reluctant to produce more traction in these scenarios. If you end up having the same amount of grip straight up and down as you do leaned over, your brain will most likely perceive that as less grip when executing a turn. So you end up with the feeling of "grip, grip, grip, and then no grip" as you ask for more traction from the tires.
In the case of the Anakee Adventure tires, off-road grip increases as you lean your 500-pound-plus adventure bike and the open tread pattern bites in to keep giving you that all-important traction despite the lateral forces. When the motorcycle is vertical, you don't need as much traction.
Of course the situation is reversed on pavement. High-performance street tires often resemble racing slicks at the edge of the tread, not a tread pattern that's more open. Michelin addresses this with "bridges" between the tread blocks on the outer edge of the tire. This provides greater stability and less "squirm" on asphalt when leaned into a turn.
So what does this really add up to and feel like? The Michelin Anakee Adventure tires feel like the most predictable (confidence-inspiring) 80/20 tire I've ever experienced, both on-road and off-road. I'm personally enthusiastic about this tire because I think its performance is good enough to have a positive effect on adventure riding. How is that?
I attend a dozen or more adventure rides every year, and I see how tire choice sometimes negatively influences how much or which bike someone rides. A rider on knobbies usually doesn't want to wear them out riding on the road. A rider on a street-biased tire may skip tougher sections of trails because their current tire choice has let them down in the past and now they feel a little "crash shy." This tire closes those gaps a bit more than I thought possible. If that means more people having fun on adventure rides, then that's good for the community.
Still no perfect cure-all
At this point, I can sense some readers biting their tongues, waiting for a chance to pounce on a hole in my impression of the Anakee Adventures. Well, please stand by for the shortcomings of this tire. Yes, it will be terrible in deep sand and slick mud. That's the compromise we all face when choosing tires. In the 80/20 or even the 70/30 tire segment, the downfall will always be the same: "Not great in sand and mud."
Even my riding buddy for the day on a Ducati Desert Sled had an unexpected crash on a dry lake bed that wasn't so dry after all. The dark spots on the "dry" lake bed were some of the slickest surfaces I've ever ridden on besides ice. That doesn't mean it can't be done, and there's no replacement for skills except for more skills and proper riding technique.
That's why, even though I like these tires, I think a beginner will learn more at an off-road riding school with a true 50/50 tire on their bike like the Anakee Wild. Because in the beginning crashing sucks, and being able to predict a loss of traction is easier for novices with grippier tires. Food for thought.
The Anakee Adventure did well in the dry-desert hardpack, even on moderate inclines and loose rocky sections. The tire compounds, combined with lower air pressures, created a footprint that got us through the toughest sections of the day with minimal losses in traction. That surprised me a little, considering how smooth this tire is on the road. I could even lift the front tire with a bit of help of the clutch on a dry lake bed.
Lastly, one observation of mine — and something not mentioned by the Michelin reps — is the extra thickness of the Anakee Adventure's sidewalls. I have too much experience with dented and cracked rims allowed by tires with thin sidewalls. The Anakee Adventure has substantial sidewall thickness and I expect that will help prevent dented rims and pinch flats, should you decide to air them down off-road.
We all have to make compromises when choosing a tire. In the adventure segment, those are usually choices between longevity versus traction and on-road performance versus off-road.
Tire reviews are rarely definitive because they're based on feel and opinion, as much as facts. The tire that gives you the feel you like will inspire the most confidence and therefore the best performance. Maybe there's no cure-all, but these are good tires.