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ADV ProductsADV Bike AccessoriesMetzeler Karoo 3 Dual Sport Tire Review

Metzeler Karoo 3 Dual Sport Tire Review

A surprising amount of grip from this unconventional looking tread pattern.

Published on 01.21.2015

When Metzeler set out to improve their Karoo 2 dual sport tire, they took a bold step by moving away from a traditional off-road knobby design. Metzeler relied on their cutting edge technology to develop a distinctive tread pattern for the Karoo 3 that looks like no other. At first glance, the tire’s round profile and large contact patch gives the impression that this is a street-biased tire. A closer look reveals sand paddle like scoops that appear to be designed for digging into loose surfaces.

Despite appearances, Metzeler officially rates the Karoo 3 as a 50/50 dual sport tire and claims it offers better off-road traction than its more aggressive looking predecessor. On-road traction is also said to be improved, along with increased longevity. After hearing good things about the Karoo 3, we decided to give them a try to see how well they match up with other popular dual sport tires in the category like the Continental TKC 80 and Heidenau K60 Scout.

Metzeler Karoo 3 test
Large openings between tread bands help the Karoo 3 dig deep into loose surfaces like a sand paddle. (Photo courtesy Metzeler)

Street Performance

Our initial tests of the Karoo 3 were performed while riding in the city. Here the tires felt much like street tires without any of the squirming of a knobby tire. Large flat bands of rubber offer a sizable contact patch that maximizes stopping performance under hard braking. Considerable braking force can be applied before the tires start to skid.


The round shape of the Karoo 3 also gives it good cornering characteristics, allowing smooth side-to-side transitions on twisty asphalt. The tire tread design uses tightly spaced knobs on the sides of the tire for more surface area when leaned over in a turn. The design offers good mid-turn grip, although powering out of turns can easily initiate a slide.

Riding on the highway, we initially experienced a high-pitched whine from the tires. This was more pronounced when traveling over grooved asphalt. However, the tire noise dissipated after a few hundred miles until eventually it became unnoticeable over the wind noise.

The Karoo 3 performed well during our rain tests and offered predictable grip on wet surfaces. The tire design utilizes narrow grooves between the center knobs that channel water away from the contact patch effectively.

metzeler karoo 3 tire tread
The Karoo 3 tires measured 6mm of tread in front and 10mm on the rear when new.

Off-Road Performance

Testing was performed in desert terrain that included everything from rocky jeep trails to sandy washes and loose hill climbs. As part of our testing, we participated in the challenging LA-Barstow to Vegas ride through the Mojave Desert where the Karoo 3s performed impressively on hard-core off-road terrain.

The sandy trails of the Mojave desert are lined with hidden rocks that are notorious for causing flats on the LA-Barstow to Vegas ride. Although we managed to put two large dings in the front rim, we never received a puncture during the ride.

When we encountered deep sand, the front Karoo 3 maintained traction similar to the Continental TKC 80 and didn’t give us any unexpected loss of traction like many report on the Heidenau K60. Rear tire traction was adequate in deep sand and forward momentum is maintained with moderate tire spin.

hillclimb metzeler karoo 3
Large openings between tread bands help the Karoo 3 dig deep into loose surfaces.

On hard packed dirt and rocky trails the Karoo 3 offers plenty of grip. Stopping performance is also good on most off-road surfaces. Although we did notice early lockup on steep descents.

Mud is a difficult challenge for any 50/50 dual sport tire and the Karoos are no exception. Slick mud made it hard to grab traction but the large central openings of the tire cleaned mud out quickly and didn’t allow it to pack up. While mud may not be a strength for the Karoo 3, it can definitely handle short sections of light mud without a problem.

Tire Longevity

After completing 1,500 miles (60% street/40% dirt) the rear tire was still in good shape with only minor squaring off. The water channels in the center of the rear tire were nearly worn away but there was still plenty of usable rubber left. Visually, the front tire still looked like it had been recently installed.

Our measurements indicated a loss of 5mm of rubber out of a total of 10mm on the rear and only 0.5mm out of 6mm on the front. At this rate of wear we would expect to get around 3,000 miles from the Karoo 3 rear. We suspect the Karoo 3 front will last at least 6,000 miles or the lifespan of two rears.

metzeler karoo 3 after 1500 miles
The Karoo 3 rear still had plenty of tread left after 1,500 miles and the front looked barely scrubbed in.

Overall, we were pleased with the capabilities of the Karoo 3. Off-road performance was close to the TKC 80 and its on-road performance and tire wear was a step ahead. It surpassed the Heidenau K60 Scout in both on and off-road performance but was not quite a match for the Heidenau’s exceptional tire wear.

During our testing, the Karoo 3 was able to handle any terrain we threw at it. And when pushed beyond its limits, slides were predictable with no surprises. The Karoo 3 is an excellent choice for those that like to go fast on twisty asphalt but still want confident traction on rough off-road terrain.

Metzeler offers the Karoo 3 for a range of middleweight and liter-class adventure bikes with tube and tubeless rims. Pricing is similar to the Continental TKC 80 and Heidenau K60 Scout, ranging from $70.99 to $189.99. Metzeler also offers a risk free guarantee that allows you to return the tires within 30 days if you are not completely satisfied.

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Photos by Bill Lieras

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Mexico, North Africa, Europe, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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12 thoughts on “Metzeler Karoo 3 Dual Sport Tire Review

  1. I first ran these on the COBDR June ’13 and was very impressed at how they performed on the wet loose shale. When I got back, I was able to test them in some deep sand in the Mojave and was very impressed. I think the TKC 80 is an industry gold standard and this tire is very close to that, but definitely exceeds it on mileage. I get roughly 3200 miles off a TKC 80 rear and maybe 3600 off a Karoo 3. Love these tires. I’ve run through three sets of them already.

  2. Went from Michelin ankee tires to the Meltzer karoo 3, and at first thought I had a “flat in the front” from the hard steer the Karoo 3 gave my gs1200. This is about as “border line” as you may want to go, before you have a full blown knobby tire on your bike. There is no Swiss army knife with tire like thiese, and scuffing new Meltzer Karoo’s is “a must” before you push them on pavement.

  3. Pingback: Metzeler Karoo 3 tires - Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum

  4. I guess you didn’t try them on the wet pavement once the ‘siping’ on the knobs wore out…if you’ve had you would’ve had the opportunity to test your riding gear too! Or the capacity of your shorts to maintain leakage

  5. I did the Dempster with the Karoo in front and TKC 70 in back. The 1st half from Dawson to Eagle Plains was damp with intermittent rain. Traction was great. The other half, North of the Tumbstone Mts. Was wet with moderate to heavy rain with fog and wind. That was slippery dodo. Didn’t go down but did go slow. The TKC was out of it element, I think the Karoo did fine, it slipped, but it wasn’t sudden or uncontrollable.
    The Karoo comes on the KTM 790R and most owners toss them for more of a full on trail knobby. I think it’s a good front tire. It handled the twists, turns and rain of highway 1 from San Fran to the Alaska Hwy. Felt fine in the dry dirt and gravel sections of the A.H. Lasted all the way back to CO. Not high millage, but a good do it all tire IMO.
    Weak point is side forces in mud, but that applies to every tire I’ve had in the mud.

  6. While I was only able to run about 700 miles on my Karoo 3’s before riding season here in the Central Colorado Rockies was ended by snow and cold temps this Fall, I did get to run them on a combination of highway, graded county and forest service roads and even some washed out Jeep roads. I love ’em. A tad “hummy” at highway speeds, but that is a very small price to pay for their performance off pavement. I currently have them mounted on a ’16 KLR 650 (w/Schnitz Racing 705 overbore kit) This bike goes up for sale this spring to make way for a newly ordered Yamaha T7, and when the stock Scorpions on that bike are ready to go, I’ll definitely be considering the Karoo 3’s as the replacements.


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