Metzeler KAROO

Jul 21, 2018 View Comments by

Metzeler Karoo Front lateral tire

Most large adventure bikes are used mostly on road, yet riders of these bikes want the ability to take occasional forays onto the dirt when their travels place them there. Metzeler recently introduced a new line, called KAROO Street, designed specifically for this, the need for versatile tires.

Designed to provide excellent handling and grip in comparison to knobby-tire competitors, the KAROO, thanks to its sport-touring-derived profiles, delivers better on-road behavior and reliable traction in wet conditions due to high-silica compounds in the rubber, which promote grip on wet asphalt.

The layout of blocks and variable spacing between the knobs is intended to impart excellent dirt-road traction, especially in clay and on hard-packed trails. Large-sized blocks and a stiff carcass were designed to provide stability at high speeds on pavement, even when fully loaded with luggage and/or a passenger. And also, with the introduction of abrasion-resistant compounds, the KAROO was made to supply long wear.
The main focus of the KAROO Street’s development was to offer great on-road performance (along with more mileage) and a high level of stability, combined with a rugged look. Extra-large central blocks furnish a wide and solid contact patch, which aids both low- and high-speed stability. Other characteristics were balanced to promote uniform wear, thus providing improved mileage for this class of tire. Performance can be credited to an evolution spawned by the tread-pattern layout of the KAROO 3 tire, with its uniquely shaped knobs.

Off-road, the V-shaped knob layout exposes the blocks to ensure acceleration, traction, and braking grip. On pavement, the multi-pitch knob layout helps reduce vibration and contributes to maximum wear uniformity for greater useful mileage. According to Metzeler, the combination of the extra-large blocks and V-shaped layout and the resulting effect (stability, traction, wide contact patch, smooth rolling) also helps the tires respond reliably to electronic rider aids, such as ABS and Traction Control.
The KAROO Street incorporates a silica and rubber compound with proportions of carbon-black and resins balanced to achieve a high level of grip on pavement, in both dry and wet conditions. A certain percentage of carbon black filler is also needed to increase the knobs’ resistance to ‘tearing’ and premature wear when used on pavement.

Our evaluation took place in Sicily, which has some great roads for testing tires. In fact, Metzeler has a year-round testing facility there and conducts performance evaluations on a wide range of roads in varying conditions. The moist Mediterranean climate is mild predominantly, but on Mount Etna, the largest volcano in Europe, it does get cold and there’s snow in the winter. We rode up the mountain to the operating ski area and experienced serpentine roads, wet from melting snow. Our route exposed us to winding roads through ancient towns and villages, over some muddy dirt passages, and a short stint on the highway. We rode several different brands and models of medium and large displacement adventure motorcycles for comparison.
The KAROO Street tires took it all in stride and performed surprisingly well on dirt and mud when considering the small knobs and relatively shallow grooves, compared to many other off-road tires. They also performed well on the road in wet and dry conditions. At highway speeds, the tires felt stable throughout, as they did under hard braking. I managed to lean them over far enough to scrape footpegs, and the KAROOs retained their composure. The shape of the tires allows for quick side-to-side transitions without a lot of effort, while producing a nice neutral feel which contributes to rider confidence and security.

Overall, I found them to be quality tires, meeting Metzeler’s claims. They should suit motorcyclists who mainly ride the roads, but occasionally wander off onto less-accommodating surfaces. The new KAROO Street lineup is available in three front and three rear tire sizes currently, which should fit most popular adventure models.

Text: Ken Freund

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