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ADV NewsContinental TKC70 Rocks Adventure Tire Review

Continental TKC70 Rocks Adventure Tire Review

We see if Conti’s latest TKC dual sport rubber delivers the goods.

Published on 05.17.2021

Where there are two good choices, a third isn’t always necessary. However, similar to the 7½ Floor of the LesterCorp’s Mertin-Flemmer building, a middle ground choice can sometimes lead to interesting places. Continental took two popular tire platforms, tossed them into a machine, and out popped a unique offering for the adventure riding community – the TKC70 Rocks.

Background

Of all tire manufacturers out there, Continental arguably holds the crown of experience for adventure / dual sport rubber. The TKC80 has likely seen more miles than any other tire in the adventure class. Still in production after 35 years, the TKC80 continues to be used as standard equipment on several motorcycles. The open-block tread pattern performs very well in a wide variety of terrain, at the expense of a comparatively short lifespan.


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With a much more street-oriented rounded profile, narrow sipes, and different compound, the TKC70 is a tire intended for pounding road miles, yet can still push you through the occasional excursion into the dirt. According to Continental, the compound used in the TKC 70 is similar to the Trail Attack – a tire even further oriented towards road use. Giving up some grip in the dirt is replaced by a drastically longer lifespan and smoother on-road characteristics.

The New Offering

After over three decades of the original king of dual sport tires rolling around the world, the adventure riding market has grown enough to merit a new offering to the stalwart TKC tire lineup. For anyone familiar with the TKC80 and TKC70 hoops, the TKC70 Rocks name alone paints a fairly accurate picture of its performance by blending equal parts road-oriented TKC70 qualities with TKC80 off-road grip, and creating a new tire positioned solidly between the two.

TKC family of adventure tires

The TKC70 Rocks features Continental’s “MultiGrip” curing process, which allows the tire’s compound to vary from center to shoulder, positioning more wear-resistant tread in the center, and softer, grippier tread along the shoulders and edges. Handmade in Germany, this new tire offering also adds a higher silica content to the compound to increase grip on wet roads, and features “ZeroDegree” steel belt technology for more precise handling and stability at higher speeds.

Continental TKC70 Rocks dual sport tires
TKC70 on the left has a continuous center strip of tread that is designed for longevity and smooth riding on pavement, but limits the bite off-road when compared to the more open-block tread pattern of the TKC70 Rocks on the right.

How It Performed

Before describing performance or longevity characteristics, two important points should be mentioned. First, the TKC70 Rocks is only available as a rear tire, so this is a rear tire test only. The TKC70 Rocks rear is designed to be paired with either a TKC70 or TKC80 front, so we stuck with the 390’s standard TKC70.  Second, the bike used in this test was a KTM 390 Adventure. I’d tested both the TKC70 and TKC80 on a variety of big-twin adventure bikes in the past, and switching to a much smaller and lighter bike, running 19” and 17” wheels front and rear made for some interesting comparisons between tests. Before even rolling the bike out for a test ride, the first thing noticed about the TKC70 Rocks was it seemed easier to install than the TKC80 or TKC70. However, this may be due to the smaller 130/80 R17 size.

Continental TKC70 Rocks dual sport tires

On the street: This is a tire review, but it’s relevant to mention the KTM 390 Adventure is a surprisingly capable street bike. The little single is very smooth and quite happy with long pavement days, so I did a lot of long pavement days. Running the standard TKC70 up front, the familiar on-road smoothness was there. Fortunately, the addition of more aggressive tread on the Rocks version in the rear did not seem to translate to any additional vibration on the road. 

Continental TKC70 Rocks adventure tires
The TKC70 Rocks felt just as smooth in the corners as the standard TKC70.

After swapping the 390’s stock TKC70 rear out for the Rocks version, the bike seemed to feel just as smooth through corners. Some of this may be due to the subtle vibration inherent in riding a thumper masking any increased tread buzz, as well as the comparatively lighter weight of the 390 putting power to the ground in a different way.

Typically, when running mixed tread patterns I’ll have more street-oriented rubber in the rear and more aggressive tread up front. In the case of this test, the opposite was the case. Running the twisties that wind around San Jacinto Peak, I never noticed the more aggressive rear tire wanting to step out while the front remained on its solid track.

In the Dirt: Given the standard TKC70 was mounted up front, impressions regarding more aggressive riding characteristics in the dirt for the rear were limited to primarily acceleration and braking. The Rocks version hooked up surprisingly well in the loose stuff. This improvement was somewhat to be expected simply by looking at the standard TKC70 and TKC70 Rocks versions side-by-side. The continuous center strip of tread on the regular TKC70 is great for longevity and smooth riding on pavement, but limits bite when off-road. With a low, but proper lug pattern, the TKC70 Rocks hooks up noticeably better in the loose stuff.

Continental TKC70 Rocks adventure tires

Use of the KTM 390 Adventure comes into play here as well. Even running the standard TKC70, off-road performance of that tire felt better than using the same tread in the same conditions on big-twin bikes. The grip required to get the big machines up to speed, turning, and stopped, is much greater than what’s needed for the more diminutive thumper. Mount up the TKC70 Rocks on the smaller machine, and the performance starts to feel very TKC80-like.

Running the mixed set of tires off-road perhaps helped to highlight the improved performance of the Rocks version mounted up in the rear. When cornering, vague feedback from the TKC70 up front was answered with quick and positive drive from the rear. Crack the throttle and you can feel the rear lugs biting, while the front tread wants to take a more relaxed path around a bend.

Continental TKC70 Rocks adventure tires

Tire Longevity: This test put the 17” rear TKC70 Rocks through 1,700 miles of superslab droning, twisting mountain tarmac, and (mostly) dry off-road conditions. Visually, tire wear over the course of these miles seemed on-par with the TKC70, the main difference being rounded edges of lugs along the center of the TKC70 Rocks versus a continuous strip of tread on the regular TKC70. At the start of the test, the center lug measurement was 9.8mm. After riding 1,700 miles, the tire shed just 2.72mm, and had 7.08mm worth of block life remaining. Assuming the tire is worn out when it reaches 1mm of tread depth, a little math tells us we can expect another 3,900 miles out of the tire for an estimated total mileage of 5,600 miles. That’s a significant improvement over the mileage you typically get out of a TKC80. 

The TKC70 Rocks still looks fresh after 1700 miles of testing on mixed terrain (right).

Who Are They For?

Factoring in this test only used the rear TKC80 Rocks mounted to a small-displacement motorcycle, a bit of extrapolation has to be done to make an overall recommendation. Fortunately, having tested both the TKC70 and TKC80 on a variety of motorcycles, extrapolation regarding the TKC70 Rocks is likely not difficult. With noticeably improved off-road grip over the TKC70, the TKC70 Rocks becomes a tire worth a try for all but the most dirt-focused adventure rider. Essentially, the rider willing to trade the additional bite of the TKC80 for a significantly improved lifespan.

Our Verdict

Continental TKC70 Rocks adventure tires

Mixing and matching diverse sets of tires has been a long-standing practice in the adventure riding community. What sets the TKC70 Rocks apart, perhaps, is that by currently offering only the rear tire it is intentionally designed to be paired with either the TKC70 or TKC80 front. While the performance of the TKC70 Rocks remains consistent unto itself, the overall performance of the bike is affected in a very different way depending on which front tire is paired with the Rocks rear. Essentially, are you on a long-haul road journey and want a little extra oomph for the dirt sections, or are you setting out on an off-road adventure ride and are willing to sacrifice a little bit of grip for a greatly extended tire lifespan. This level of nuance in tire choice is a welcome addition to the adventure riding community’s range of tread options, and comes from a company with a decades-long track record of building quality tires.

What We Liked

  • Noticeably improved off-road acceleration and braking performance over TKC70.
  • Significantly improved lifespan over TKC80.

What Could Be Improved

  • Price! These are spendy hoops.

TKC70 Rocks Sizes

Front
N/A

Rear
130/80-17
140/80-17
150/70-17
170/60-17
150/70-18

Shopping Options

RevzillaRocky Mountain ATV/MC

Photos: Stephen Gregory, Jon Beck and Rob Dabney

Author: Jon Beck

Jon Beck is fulfilling a dream of never figuring out what to be when he grows up. Racing mountain bikes, competitive surfing, and touring as a musician are somehow part of what led Jon to travel through over 40 countries so far as an adventure motorcycle photographer, journalist, and guide. From precision riding for cameras in Hollywood, to refilling a fountain pen for travel stories, Jon brings a rare blend of experience to the table. While he seems happiest when lost in a desert someplace, deadlines are met most of the time.

Author: Jon Beck
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9 thoughts on “Continental TKC70 Rocks Adventure Tire Review

  1. I put a set of the pirelli scorpion rally str on my bike and I think they are maybe the best dual sport tire out there right now. I took a look at the rocks but the lack of a front had me moving on. I’m not sure I will ever get any thing other than the str from now on.

  2. Pingback: Continental TKC70 Rocks Adventure Tire Review - ADVENTURE & OVERLAND MOTORCYCLE TRAVEL

  3. I’m one of those that often runs different rear and front combos, different models from the same mfg. or even different brands altogether. I do prefer a bit more off road bite than even the Rocks seem to provide and find the B’stone Adventurecross AX41 about perfect F and R. Finally a matched set that works well for me.

  4. I have run a couple sets of the TKC 80s and one set of AX41 on my 1090. I really like the AX41, particularly the front off road, but they were toast in 4k miles. The original TKC80 rears were ready for replacement in 3k miles.

    The TKC70 Rocks only recently became available in an 18″ for the 1090, and I installed it with a new 80 front for a trip to Arizona and Moab. 3k miles round trip and about 600 off road. The 70 Rocks is less than 50% worn at this point and performed very well from gravel to sand to twisty pavement. Very impressed overall so far.

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