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ADV NewsDunlop Trailmax Mission: A 50/50 Tire That Lasts 8,000 Miles?

Dunlop Trailmax Mission: A 50/50 Tire That Lasts 8,000 Miles?

 We see if Dunlop’s latest adventure tire delivers after an extensive test.

Published on 09.14.2020

The elusive goal in designing adventure bike tires is finding the optimal balance between three somewhat contradictory factors: on-road performance, off-road performance, and longevity. Dunlop’s Trailmax Mission 50/50 adventure tire seems poised to rise through the ranks as a serious contender for the throne of a tire that’s not quite a street tire, not quite a knobby, but designed to work well everywhere.

While several manufacturers have offered 50/50 tires for big bikes for many years, Dunlop has been noticeably absent from this market segment. So what could Dunlop do that hasn’t been done before? A close look reveals there is a lot of technology built into these rubber hoops.

Dunlop Trailmax Mission front tire sidewall lugs.
One of the most distinctive characteristics is the use of wraparound sidewall lugs to increase durability and keep the tire tracking straight in mud or sand. The sidewall tread is also said to assist in steering out of ruts by providing extra side grip.

Front and rear tires have distinctly different patterns and you might think they are two different tires at first glance. The front uses a symmetrical tread for more even wear, and 17” and 19” diameter tires use a coffered out area on the knobs for greater traction.

Dunlop Trailmax mission front tire.
The front uses a symmetrical tread for more even wear. The 17” and 19” diameter tires use a coffered out area on the knobs for greater traction to compensate for the smaller tread blocks compared to the 21″.

Both front and rear tires use ‘staggered step’ technology on specific knobs to increase rigidity and create additional edge grip surface area. Like shark teeth, as one edge wears away, there’s another one that steps in behind it to take its place. Also, deep tread grooves with connector blocks help the Missions grip in loose terrain while keeping lugs stabilized.


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One of the most distinctive tire characteristics is the use of wraparound sidewall lugs to increase durability, allow lower tire pressures off-road, and keep the tire tracking straight in muddy or sandy conditions. The sidewall tread is even said to assist in steering out of ruts by providing extra side grip. 

Dunlop Trailmax Mission Rear Tire
The Missions use ‘staggered step’ technology to increase rigidity and create additional edge grip surface area. Deep tread grooves with connector blocks also help with grip in loose terrain while keeping lugs stabilized.

After Dunlop went through 30 prototype versions, their new shoes were finally ready to be released to the public at the end of last year. What they came up with doesn’t look like your typical 50/50 dual sport tire. At first glance, it looks a lot more street focused than you would expect from a tire in this category. I heard from early reports they grip a lot better than they look, but I retained a fair amount of skepticism based on appearances. In order to see if they live up to manufacturer claims, we spooned a set onto our KTM 1090 Adventure R test bike and put them through their paces over 4,000 miles of riding in a wide variety of conditions. Read on to see how they perform.

How They Performed

On the Street: Given seemingly endless pavement surrounds greater Los Angeles and Orange Counties, a lot of road miles are incorporated into any adventure ride that begins or ends in this part of Southern California. I usually run more aggressive knobby tires on the 1090R, and thus the bike immediately felt noticeably smoother and quieter on the road with the Trailmax Missions.

Dunlop Trailmax Mission asphalt performance

Gone was the “freeway groove wobble” that many adventure bikes are susceptible to with knobby-style tires mounted. At any speed, with or without luggage, the bike tracked rock-steady in a straight line. When the straight pavement turned to a squiggle, the big twin rolled into corners smoothly, and without the feeling of taller knobs flexing and pushing deeper through the curves. Aside from the round profile and lower tread depth compared to a true knobby, cross bracing between certain blocks is designed to further prevent tread flex as the bike gets pushed side-to-side.

Dunlop Trailmax Mission installation
The Dunlop Trailmax Mission tires have a fairly-stiff sidewall that requires some extra effort during install. Balancing them was much easier though compared to a knobby-style tire.

With claims of an 8,000-mile lifespan, I was initially skeptical a rubber compound boasting that level of durability could provide a high level of grip on asphalt, let alone wet asphalt. However, confidence to lay the bike over deep into corners proved high in the dry, and after many miles of riding in both light rain on twisty roads and torrential downpours at freeway speeds, overall the tires were surprisingly grippy — especially when compared to other high-mileage tires like the Heidenau K60 in similar conditions.

In the Dirt:  Going into this test, one of my biggest preconceptions (based solely on appearance, prior to riding them) was that deep sand would be a problem for the new Dunlops. The first major ride revealed some of my concerns about potential limits to traction were justified, but not nearly to the degree I was expecting. With panniers fully loaded for overnight camping, the 1090R shod with the Trailmax Missions was immediately thrown into 500 miles of city, freeway, hardpack dirt road, and deep sandy washes.

Dunlop Trailmax Mission 50/50 dual sport tire in sand and mud

It’s a bit much to expect a round profile to work as well in sand, rocks, or mud as something with a block-tread pattern like the stalwart Continental TKC80. Throwing a fully-loaded KTM 1090R into Bradshaw Trail’s endless sandy washes, the amount of grip was immediately surprising. Particularly in the rear. However, you can absolutely feel the back end drift under heavy handfuls of throttle more than a TKC80 would. Both the front and rear Missions suffer to a greater degree than the TKC80 in deep sand and mud, especially the front, but again, they do hook up beyond what appearances might suggest.

While the wraparound lugs along the sidewall look almost more decorative than functional, they seem to grab sand and dirt very well as the tire sinks into it. Up front, some vagueness is felt in deep washes, but the bike still changes direction adeptly, just with a bit of a delay compared to a more aggressive knobby-style tread.

Dunlop Trailmax Mission Adventure Tire in extreme rocks

Another surprise was how well the tires hooked up in the rockiest of conditions, and how little damage they seemed to suffer. Treading a line (no pun intended) between street tire sipes and large gaps between lugs, the traction arrangement seems to have just enough room to allow the articulated edges of the rubber to get around rougher terrain and grab hold. Pushing a big twin up a steep, loose mountain is no small feat for a 50/50 tire.

Tire Longevity: Over the course of this test, the Trailmax Missions were put through 4,300 miles of rocks, sand, hardpack dirt, both wet and dry twisty pavement, and long-haul superslab. Most of the rides involved a lot of pavement before reaching the dirt, which is typical of an adventure bike’s routine. One ride alone was an 1,100-mile road trip. Overall percentage of pavement/dirt riding was around 70/30.

Dunlop Trailmax Mission front tire
The front Tailmax Mission started with 6mm of tread when new (left). After 4,300 miles (right), it had 3.7mm of tread left.
Dunlop Trailmax Mission Dual Sport Tire
Close-up of front tire at 4,300 miles.

Having annihilated here-unnamed adventure bike tires in a matter of a few hundred miles in the past, it was a huge and welcome surprise to see (visually) what appeared to be no appreciable wear on the tread until well after 2,000 miles! Even at the conclusion of the test over 4,000 miles later, the tires only recently began to have that “experienced” look to them.

Dunlop Trailmax Mission Rear Tire
The rear tire measured 10mm of tread when new (left). After 4,300 miles (right), the rear tire had 7.4mm of tread left.
Dunlop Trailmax Mission tread wear longevity
Close-up of rear tire at 4,300 miles.

Initial tread measurement when new was 6mm front and 10mm rear. After 1,620 miles they were down to 5mm/8mm front/rear, and at the conclusion of the test were at 3.7mm/7.4mm front/rear after 4,300 miles. Assuming the tires are worn out at 1mm of tread depth, that would mean the front still has 54% of it’s tread left and the rear has 71% wearing at a constant pace. Tires generally burn up much of their tread in the first part of their lifespan though. Given the Trailmax Missions retained over 50% of their tread after the 4,300-mile mark, this bodes well for a long lifespan potentially reaching the claimed 8,000 mile mark.

Who Are They For?

Rather than focusing on who these tires are for, it’s perhaps easier to focus on who they are not for. This is not the tire for the hard core “1%” dirt crowd, looking to take their adventure bikes through terrain with dreams of Erzberg glory running through their minds. Nor is this the tire for the person who frequents that famous local snake of pavement and likes to flirt with getting their knee on the ground in their adventure suit. Instead, this is a tire for all the rest of us to consider. 

While it works surprisingly well off-road for a round profile dual sport tire, those who ride in more loose terrain will feel some vagueness. That said, an experienced off-road rider that wants more tread life will find the grip manageable in tricky terrain.

Our Verdict

Dunlop Trailmax Mission rocky terrain

Inherent in a 50/50 tire’s design is the caveat that it will lack some performance aspects at the extremes. The Trailmax Mission is a 50/50 tire which has arguably widened the range of usability — increasing longevity and street performance while still maintaining acceptable grip in challenging off-road terrain. Given pricing is on par with other popular dual sport tires in this class, and the performance it provides, it’s worth throwing a set on to try out. 

What We Liked

  • Drastically improved on-road handling compared to most 50/50 tires.
  • Surprisingly good off-road ability for a fairly round, smooth tire design.
  • The claim of lasting 8000 miles seems realistic.

What Could Be Improved

  • Trade in some mileage for a bit more aggressive off-road grip.

Trailmax Mission Specs

  • On-Road/Off-Road Rating: 50/50
  • Construction: Mix of bias and bias-belted; Tubeless
  • Price: Front: $92-$155; Rear: $158-$202

Trailmax Mission Sizes


Front

  • 90/90-21
  • 100/90-19
  • 110/80-19
  • 120/70-19

Rear

  • 120/90-17
  • 130/80-17
  • 140/80-17
  • 150/70-17
  • 170/60-17
  • 120/90-18
  • 130/90-18
  • 140/80-18
  • 150/70-18

Shopping Options

RevzillaRocky Mountain ATV/MC

Photos by 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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7 thoughts on “Dunlop Trailmax Mission: A 50/50 Tire That Lasts 8,000 Miles?

  1. This type of review is what I really appreciate about this website and continue to come here to keep on ADV related topics. Very nice write up on a pretty comprehensive test and review of these tires. I will definitely be giving these a look for my next set. Looks like I may have to eat my Wheaties before mounting them though.

  2. I wish they would make it in a 17″ front – there are heaps of bikes ridden on dirt roads needing a 50/50 tyre that have a 17″ front wheel – aka TKC80 sell heaps of 17″ fronts

  3. I put these on my Africa Twin in May and had the same experience so far. Really good street performance for a 50/50 tire and pretty damn good off road. Just back from a 2,200 mile trip (Yellowstone and Glacier) and still have tons of tread. Very, very happy with these tires.

  4. Pushed mine a little too far. Rear tire only. Tire looked good for 8,000 miles. I was unable to get a tire changed and ended up going around 10,500 miles. Finished riding the TAT at 10,100 miles. Tire got very slippery at the end. Great tire for 8,000 miles of all kind of riding.

  5. I didn’t see any mention of road noise, or that washboard feeling produced by some tires. What is your your assessment of that issue? Thank you.

  6. Running a set now on my KTM 790 R and would agree wholeheartedly with your point of view. Really nice on the pavement. Surprisingly good in the dirt/gravel. Not very good in muddy/wet off-road conditions. I do find the front tire feels very hard off-road, but in all fairness, I generally don’t pressure down.

  7. They did well on the MABDR. I have them on a KLR. Road traction was awesome on those Virginia Roads
    Concurr with side walls, I ended up getting professional help.
    So far…..great.

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