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The Garage

Garage Talk for Motocross, Bicycles, Street, UTV, ATV and More!

Motocross Tire Buyer’s Guide Pt.1

Choosing tires for a dirt bike is much different than choosing tires for your car. Getting the right dirt bike tires for the right conditions is critical to enjoying your ride. Multiple factors determine what the “right tire” would be, including personal preference, riding style, terrain, and overall goals. Here’s some (we think) good advice for choosing the perfect MX tires for your bike, whether it is Dunlop, Bridgestone, Pirelli, Michelin, Shinko or Maxxis.


Dirt bike tires vary between motocross, off-road/trail, and dual-sport riding. Motocross riding happens on closed dirt tracks, with main obstacles consisting of jumps and other man-made tests of skill. Having the right tires equipped makes all the difference, and you definitely want your bike to hook up when you need it most. Using the proper tire for the track you’re racing on can be the difference between getting the holeshot, and getting buried deep in the pack. Here at BTOSports, you can find the perfect tire to help you take home that W.

Motocross tires have some serious tread on them. They’re not on paved streets getting worn down, and they don’t have to worry about natural off-road obstacles. They just need to keep you riding fast around the track, and be able to dig into the dirt, keeping solid traction around every corner and straightaway. There is a wide variety of brands and an even wider selection of different treads and rubber compounds for specific types of riding. Let’s get down to business and help guide you towards the perfect tires ASAP!

Soft Terrain


MX tires are always super knobby, but differ a lot from there. For softer tracks with mud, sand, or loamy loose dirt, soft tires with taller knobs and wider spacing between each knob fare better. These soft tires are actually typically made with harder compound rubber. Ironic, I know.

Soft-terrain tires (like these Michelin Starcross 5s) tend to be slightly narrower than average, allowing them to really dig into the dirt and achieve maximum traction. The wider spaced knobs help to scoop out soft terrain and prevent mud and dirt from accumulating (think of the similar properties to a paddle tire). The hard compound previously mentioned is crucial here, preventing the lugs or knobs from getting ripped away during the gnarliest of motos.

Not all motocross tracks are the same. Places like Cal City MX Park, Cahuilla Creek, and Glen Helen are much softer than say; LACR, Perris, Pala, or Lake Elsinore. Intermediate and medium-hard tires such as ones from Pirelli are best suited for harder-than-average terrain, granting better contact, grip, and traction.

Intermediate/Hard Terrain

For these harder tracks, a softer-rubber compound allows for better grip and avoiding slippage. Tires that have shorter, more tightly-packed knobs (like Michelin Desert) are best suited for hard, compacted terrain. More tire surface area contact means more traction.

Not all who ride on an assortment of tracks have money to burn on multiple sets of tires. If that’s the case, opting for intermediates is the way to go. They’re the most popular ones for a reason: they’re well-rounded tires (pun intended) that perform well under a majority of conditions. Now, you can choose a tire that is supposed to work well in specific conditions. However, if you don’t like the feel or it doesn’t suit your riding style, you definitely won’t be riding at your best. Along with pretty much any setup in dirt bike riding, choosing a tire comes down to personal preference. Riders are going to like what they like. There are general guidelines one can follow, but no hard-set rules. Hence the term “guidelines”.

Off-Road/Trail Riding

Those naturally-occurring obstacles you won’t see on a track are the exact reason which makes off-road/trail riding appealing to so many riders. From open deserts to rocky valleys and steep slopes, you never know what off-road trails will throw at you. Therefore your tires need to be ready to handle anything.

If your off-roading goals include softer terrain like mud or sand, you’re going to want similar tires to ones you’d use on loamy dirt/mud mx tracks: harder rubber tires with tall, widely-spaced knobs (Dunlop MX12s). The downside to using this type is that harder compound ones like these have a harder time gripping the ground. Riding over rocks or other ultra-hard terrains can easily cause the bike to lose its grip. For those harder routes, such as scrubby, wooded areas or rocky, mountainous regions, softer rubber tires (a.k.a. hard terrain tires) that have shorter, more closely packed knobs helps the rider avoid slipping and better grip the ground (Dunlop D803 Trials). Just like motocross riders, the off-road/trail rider who doesn’t have the means to purchase multiple tire sets might go for the middle ground that is intermediate tires.


Dual-sport riders like the best of both street-legal and off-roading worlds, and just aren’t willing to settle for just one. This means bikes need to be street-legal, yet also ready to take on the inevitable obstacles found off-road.

Dual-sport tires are quite a diverse category. They can resemble anything from typical relatively smooth sport bike tires to knobby off-road tires, DOT approved for street use. As long as your tires are street legal, choose whatever kind rides the best (in your own opinion). An advanced dual-sport like the Michelin Anakee is perfect for those who’ll go straight from the street to the dirt and back. If you’re sticking to the streets most of the time, some good options would be the Pirelli Scorpion or the Metzeler Tourance. These tires offer insane traction, improved point-of-contact, and new tread designs that excel in wet weather conditions. I know most of you dual-sport/adventure riders are pretty badass. You can handle pretty much any kind of riding conditions, but can your tires? Spend the money for your bike where it matters most and keep yourself safe, wherever you ride.

Choose What’s Right For You

The bottom line here is to try tires on the tracks, trails, and terrains you usually ride. It is the surest way to find out which dirt bike tires perform best based on what you like. There’s a lot of trial and error as you shop for tires, and a lot of individual taste and rider preference comes into play. Unless you’ve got specific terrain requirements that suggest hard or soft tires, opt for an intermediate tire first and see how it goes. When you have tire questions, don’t hesitate to let us know! Remember to tweak and test your air pressure, and let it rip!

You can fulfill all your tire needs as well as any other motorcycle parts you might need over at!

Trevor Edwards
A wordsmith that also keeps it wide open, I have been known to win a race or two. The world of music and dirt bikes come together in my life for an epic ride sesh!