One thing that is consistent amongst dirt bike riders is the tendency to become brand loyal. This loyalty applies to all types of motocross gear. When it comes to dirt bike tires, it is easy to understand why riders get superstitious. Your dirt bike tires are (hopefully) the only part of your dirt bike that is regularly in contact with the ground. They will affect cornering, traction, acceleration, handling and braking. These functions make dirt bike tires an essential part of the equation when setting up your dirt bike.
If you already have a favourite brand of tire, then you may find some up to date information on their latest products here.
If you are new to motocross and still forming an opinion, we have pulled together the best motocross tires available for the upcoming season.
We have grouped the products into three specific categories based on the compound of the tire: intermediate compound tires, hard compound tires, and soft compound tires. As intermediate compound tires are the most popular purchase, we will start with those.
The best Intermediate dirt bike tires 2020
Intermediate dirt bike tires cover a broader range of surfaces and conditions than hard or soft compound tires. An intermediate will suit a weekend rider who is tackling all kinds of unknown surfaces in one day. A good intermediate will also work well for competitive riders who are racing on well looked after circuits.
If a track has variable surfaces, without too much blue groove (surface compacted so tightly that causes the rubber to lay down), or deep wet mud, then an intermediate will race well. Of course, it is the riders decision as to which they feel will work in a competitive situation.
Scrambling, supercross, dirt bike leisure riding and the majority of arenas are prime for intermediate dirt bike tires.
Top 6 Intermediate Compound motocross tires
1. Michelin Starcross 5 Medium (Intermediate)
The Starcross 5 tires are lighter and promise precise handling. Michelin quotes a “flexible carcass and advanced technologies,” as the key benefits of their hard work.
Why we chose the Michelin Starcross 5 Medium
Rotational forces are a contributory factor to power to weight ratios. When you have a spinning mass, (such as a wheel or tire), then the heavier those items are, the harder it is to accelerate and stop. OF course, this is true of all parts; however, if a component is spinning, its weight factor is increased dramatically. Michelin has reduced the carcass weight of the Starcross 5 significantly and retained carcass flexibility, strength and durability. For you as a rider, this means faster acceleration and shorter stopping distances without compromise.
The new range of Starcross 5 tires use a technology termed “comfort casing”. This technology reduces tire rebound, and so as well as improving handling, you will experience less arm pump and rider fatigue. As this tire is ideal for weekend leisure riders, who may have lower levels of fitness than a pro, we think that this will make your extended weekend rides more enjoyable.
Tire rigidity is increased, with a denser ply lining than previous models, which means a reduced risk of pinch flats, especially when riding rockier sections.
Finally, we love the new tread design. Gnarlier, more aggressive knobblies are always welcome. The Starcross range has a unique pattern for every compound. The medium tire has a tread pattern which designed to cope with whatever you throw at it. From upright acceleration to increased lean angles, the Starcross 5 is a winning intermediate dirt bike tire.
2. Bridgestone Battlecross X30 intermediate tires
Bridgestone is another major player in the professional motorsports arena. Like Michelin, they have a proven pedigree and legendary racing products to back them. The M404 and M403 MX Set were a staple of many motocross garages before their retirement. The Battlecross range is the latest dirt bike tire, and the X40 targets the intermediate/hard compound market.
Why we chose the Battlecross X30
We all know what it is like to ride on a budget. Bridgestone has thought about the end-users pocket with the X30 & X40. Whereas Michelin has gone for four variants in its Starcross range, (excluding the dedicated sand) Bridgestone has developed just three. The X30 extends across both the intermediate and soft compound categories. In keeping with this budget-conscious design, the X30 is non-directional, meaning you can turn the tire round to get a bit more out of it. We like that.
Up close inspection reveals a recess in the face of each of the knobblies on the front tire. These recesses are for increased grip when turning. A unique sidewall fin on the rear tire helps the dissipation of heat under extreme conditions and tire flex. Rather than a recess on the rear knobblies, a small area of raised rubber increases straight-line acceleration.
The X30 is the best intermediate choice from the those currently on offer from Bridgestone.
3. Dunlop D952 Intermediate dirt bike tire (Leisure)
The intermediate dirt bike tire category is one of the most popular among weekend and leisure riders. With that in mind, we are keen to provide a balanced selection of products. The Dunlop D952 is often labelled an enduro tire; however, Dunlop has marketed it as a leisure off-road tire. Dunlop is a world leader in tire technology. With other models covering the out and out motocross ranges, we looked at the D952 to see what it offers the more leisure orientated dirt bike rider.
Why we chose the D952
If you want a tire that is going to handle everything from tarmac, (although the D952 is not road legal) through to slippy mud, then a dedicated motocross intermediate may not always work. If you are the type of rider who is heading out across moorland, farmland, forests and trails, you need a more comprehensive tire. The D952 is just that.
With trails in mind, the Dunlop D952 compound has a longer lifespan than a tackier race/motocross tire. Weekend riders will appreciate this as they do not have the benefit of tire sponsors. The D952 has a more robust sidewall than some of its competitors, which means that it will cope with the rocks and crevices.
It is easy to become fixated on racing products when involved in any motorsport, but not everyone is riding as hard as a world champion rider. If you are a leisure rider, looking for a hard-wearing, capable and affordable dirt bike tire, then the Dunlop D952 could be the one.
4. Pirelli Scorpion XC medium- intermediate dirt bike tire
Pirelli is a world-class tire manufacturer across many types of motorsport. No surprise to Pirelli making our list of best intermediate dirt bike tires. If you are shopping in the intermediate category, you are most likely going to be looking for a good all-rounder, rather then a racing tire to suit a given track. Motocross riders have far more niche needs. Dirt bike riders are hitting all type of terrain. The Dunlop D952 is one option for the dirt bike rider. The Pirelli Scorpion XC is its rival.
Why we chose the Scorpion XC medium-hard
Pirelli is not minimalist when it comes to the off-road product range. Their Scorpion range has a bewildering number of particular tires, each doing very niche jobs. The XC (cross country) nails that leisure dirt bike class.
The increased durability and rigidity of the XC range is perfect if you will be hitting the rocks, and tree roots of a cross country route. Even a dedicated intermediate motocross tire will still have a lightweight and softer sidewall than this Pirelli XC. If rotational mass, power to weight ratios and competitive riding are not your first thought, and you just want to get out in the dirt for fun, the Pirelli Scorpion XC is a great tire to consider.
The Scorpion XC is road legal, so if you bounce between roads and trails, you should ensure your bike has DOT rated status. With the Scorpion XC, you have a road legal dirt bike tire.
5. Maxxis Maxxcross MX-ST Intermediate dirt bike tire
Maxxis has made huge leaps in the motorsport world over the last couple of decades, with the early ’00s seeing a quick rise in popularity after a significant management buyout in 1998. The Maxxcross MX-ST is a particularly exciting model of intermediate tire as it is a brand new offering. Maxxis has developed the MX-ST in conjunction with 7x Supercross Champion Jeremy McGrath and is pitching this straight at competitive motocross. This model does come in soft and hard variants too, but the intermediate is our choice for this guide.
Why we chose the Maxxcross MX-ST
The Maxxcross has a pliable carcass, designed to improve rider comfort, increase impact absorption, and allow the rider to receive more feedback from the wheels. These features put the MX-ST up there with some of its more established competition.
Predictable cornering is always a bonus when you are riding off-road. The stability of the tire enhances this and extends tire life
Traction, stability and braking performance are superb thanks to a brand new approach to Maxxis’ dirt bike tread pattern.
The fact that the MX-ST became the official Tire of MXGP is a testimony to Maxxis continued commitment to motocross development.
6. IRC Tires Battle Rally BR99 intermediate dirt bike tire
For our last “Intermediate” tire we are looking at the Battle Rally BR99. IRC tires are a long-established off-road brand. RC tires started in the late 1920s and have been developing motorcycle products since the 1950s. They have dedicated motocross tires, classic off-road tires and other niche models. The IRC Battle Rally range is another all-round dirt bike tire.
Why we chose the IRC BR99 dirt bike tire
The BR99 inspires confidence on any type of off-road surface. IRC has an excellent reputation in the industry with old school riders. As we move toward more hi-tech materials and ever more competitive products, the choice for the all-round rider gets harder. With the IRC, you have a second choice of dirt bike tire that is road legal. The construction is robust, and the BR99 offers superb grip through all surfaces. The BR99is a genuine all-rounder tire.
We love to be different! With so many reviews and comparisons merely offering up whatever tire they can make a commission on, we at Motocross Advice want to stand out. We research and review products that answer the needs of dirt bike riders. IRC tires do that! In our intermediate selection for the best dirt bike tire, we have selected motocross race tires, an enduro tire and two cross country road-legal tires. The IRC completes what we feel is one of the most comprehensive and useful intermediate dirt bike tire guides on the internet.
The best hard compound dirt bike tires 2020
Hard compound dirt bike tires are for when you are regularly riding rocky terrain or rough trails with lots of tree roots, shale, and slate type protrusions. These types of surfaces will take chunks of dirt bike tires that are too soft. Extended riding over shale or slate will also wear tread quickly. If you are climbing a rock, dropping off of boulders and landing jumps onto the hard ground, then you also run the risk of pinching the tire and getting more punctures.
For our ultimate guide of hard dirt bike tires, we have selected a range of products which represent the best for competitive, leisure and hardcore riding.
Top 5 Hard Compound motocross tires
1. Michelin Starcross 5 Hard dirt bike tire
Starting with an out and out competition tire, it is essential to understand a few points about the Starcross 5 Hard. Firstly, we are recommending this a competition tire, rather than a general leisure tire. The reason we say this because the Starcross 5 hard does wear faster than other more general application tires.
If you are looking for performance over budget, and you are working with multiple tire types according to the riding conditions on the day, then you will have no concerns. However, if you need an all-round hard tire, then be prepared for faster wear with the Michelin. So with that advice, the Starcross 5 Hard is an exceptional hard compound tire.
Why we chose the Michelin Starcross 5 Hard
The Starcross 5 hard uses much the same technologies as the Starcross Intermediate above. Where the Hard version differs is in tread pattern and sidewall design.
The Michelin StarCross 5 Hardachieves a high level of surface contact. Michelin has achieved this by placing the knobblies close together. The rear of the set utilises an alternating pattern which aids dirt removal.
With Michelin’s new technology providing a stiffer casing, you have the freedom to experiment with much lower tire pressures. It is the combination of your tire pressure choice and the course terrain which make this such a useful product. You can run this tire as low as 2psi if you need to, with far less chance of a puncture.
2. Bridgestone Battlecross X40 Hard compound dirt bike tire
The X40 is the hard variant of the X30 reviewed earlier. If you are a competitive motocrosser and a fan of Bridgestone, then the X40 is bound to appeal.
Why we chose the Bridgestone Battlecross X40
The X40 has all of the technologies of the X30, with the addition of tie bars, which significantly increase knob stability. The tread features the distinctive Bridgestone castle design on every single knob on the rear tire, giving maximum forward propulsion, and grip under hard acceleration.
One of the other big pluses with the X40 is that it reaches beyond its category. Unlike the Michelin Starcross 5, which is a dedicated hard tire, the X40 performs well in loam and doesn’t lose its way in the sand! For a competitive situation, having a hard casing that can deal with the soft stuff if it has to is a big plus. It also takes the X40 out of the competition only category. If you are a leisure rider who rides granite, roots and other abrasive surfaces regularly, then you should shortlist the X40. It is the type of tire that could work for you, even if you hit some soft stuff occasionally.
3. Pirelli Scorpion MX-Hard dirt bike tire
The latest Scorpion MX is the competition offering from Pirelli, coming in six variations. The MX Hard is for those out and out gnarly, rocky surfaces and tight-packed ground. Pirelli engineers overhauled the MX range back in 2014, with an increased focus on rigidity, grip and sidewall integrity.
Why we chose the Pirelli MX-Hard
The newer design means far less rolling of the tire on the rim. Get the power down on the harder ground, even with a more powerful engine, and things stay straight and true.
The MX-Hard is fully competitive. We like the knobbly design, which maximises surface area grip with oversize knobs. Tear up of rubber is not an issue, and the knobbly wear is not any more than you would expect from a high-end competition tire.
The MX hard is ideal for supercross, and the handling is superb even in wet conditions. A big hitter for competitive motocross and the more aggressive dirt bike rider who is regularly in rockier terrain.
4. Dunlop Geomax MX 53 hard compound dirt bike tire
When the ground is harder packed, then you can get going over the straight sections, accelerate hard from the corners and that means stopping faster too! The Dunlop Geomax 53 sits neatly in the high end, high-performance hard compound category. Dunlop has seen a resurge in popularity at dirt bike events in the last few years, maybe even at the expense of Bridgestone. The Dunlop Geomax range delivers what the marketing has promised.
Why we chose the Dunlop Geomax MX 52 hard compound dirt bike tire
Ride fast on this tire, and it will reward you with both feel and traction.
We love the higher blocks and increased biting edge, which delivers grip across a wide range of surfaces. Versatility, more precise handling, smoother and controlled braking are all a part of the package. The pleasant surprise is that the MX52 will work on intermediate surfaces far better than its predecessor, making it another big contender for a durable, hard compound all-rounder.
5. Maxxis Maxxcross EN Hard compound dirt bike tire
Having such a comprehensive tire range gives Maxxis an incredibly different pitch. Whatever your riding choice, you are likely to find a Maxxis that will deliver what you want. The Maxxcross EN has one of the most varied ranges of applications we have seen in a dirt bike tire.
Why we chose the Maxxcross EN hard compound dirt bike tire
The Maxxcross EN is all about performing under the harshest conditions. Whether you ride All Terrain, Enduro, Hard Hard, Pack Intermediate Rocky or Soft, this incredible tire will do it all. The Maxcross has a large footprint area. Leaning towards the hardcore weekend rider, and enduro rider, if you want a tough tire, which will handle well, and deal with the odd section of soft, we think this is a tough tire to beat.
The real bonus with the Maxcross is that it is road legal too.
The best soft compound dirt bike tires 2020
Think carefully about how and where you ride. From competition motocross to supercross, enduro and hardcore trail riding, the tires suggested above will deliver what you need.
What about when things get soft? Motocross advice has you covered. Our final section looks at the top four soft compound tires available for dirt bike riders.
Keep reading to read out top tips for taking care of your dirt bike tires.
Top 4 soft Compound motocross tires
1. Michelin Starcross 5 Sand dirt bike tire
As the terrain gets softer, so the demands on the tire get more specific. It doesn’t get much more malleable than sand! The Starcross 5 Sand is a niche tire designed exclusively for the ever-shifting surfaces of dunes, beaches and desert trails.
Why we chose the Starcross 5 sand, dirt bike tire
If you are looking for a soft compound tire for a niche surface, then sand is likely to figure for a good number of riders.
The Starcross 5 has the necessary features to deal with one of the most unpredictable of surfaces. A super aggressive rear tread keeps your rear wheel locked down and the power to the floor. The Starcross 5 has the same reduced weight casing for faster acceleration and braking as the motocross range.
The flexible carcass gives unparalleled handling in the sand as well as allowing the high PSI numbers required for this challenging terrain.
2. Bridgestone X20 soft compound dirt bike tire
Bridgestone technologies carry through from the X40 we reviewed earlier in this article. The extra features required to make an excellent soft terrain tire are all present. Expect curved side lugs to maintain traction at high lean angles, self-cleaning knobblies, which have ridges to prevent the build-up of mud and debris while riding, and rigid knobs to keep things moving forward when the ground gets exceptionally wet or muddy.
Why we chose the Bridgestone X20 soft terrain dirt bike tire
Soft ground is a challenging terrain to ride, and even more difficult for setting up a bike correctly. If you compete and have the benefit of spare wheels, then the Bridgestone X20 will be a genuinely competitive choice when things go soft.
What we love about this tire is that it will work as a soft to intermediate selection if you can only afford one set of tires at a time. So if your regular routes are boggy, have sandy sections, deep mud and shifting surfaces; but you find yourself running on harder grit and loam on occasions too, the X20 will cope. Bridgestone offers an out and out sand tire as Michelin does. The X20 is a far more versatile tire for ever-changing surfaces.
Another factor in our choice is that Bridgestones sidewall and casing design provides excellent acceleration and incredible cornering regardless of how soft things get on track. Ride with confidence.
3. Pirelli MX32 Mid Soft Dirt Bike tire
Pirelli’s wide range of tires starts to make sense as you get further into their range. Whereas most manufacturers have a suggested “set” for front and rear. Pirelli has some overlap in their products. For example, you can buy a mid-soft rear tyre, but match that with either the soft or soft-mid versions for the front. This flexibility gives a broader set of options for you as you tailor your bike to the conditions you ride in.
Why we chose the Pirelli Scorpion Mid Soft dirt bike set
Pirelli has proven success with the Scorpion range. At the soft terrain end, this extra level of choice is ideal for the rider looking to fine-tune their dirt bike handling.
The combination of mid-soft front and rear is a winner. Not only will the mid-soft combo deal with mud and sand, but the matched pair work in intermediate situations too. Again, this gives the weekend rider less worry as you can ride with the same tire set. However, the mid-soft will also shine in a motocross competition when things get moist or start shifting around.
The MX 32 even comes in a mini size for junior dirt bikes. The front tire design is from feedback from the MXGP series.
4. Dunlop Geomax MX12 Soft dirt bike tire
Why we chose the Geomax MX12 Dirt Bike tire for sand
Our 2019 best dirt bike tire guide featured the predecessor the MX11 and Dunlop have improved on that model here. In direct competition with the Michelin Starcross 5 Sand, the Dunlop tire has similar features. As well as having the paddle-style knobs, and high air pressure capability; the MX12 also has self-cleaning grooves.
It is hard riding in sand. The MX 12 is one tire that will make it that bit easier. Handling and acceleration in the dunes are so much easier when you have the right tires fitted.
Now that you have had a chance to consider some of the best dirt bike tires available today; here are some tips to keep them in good condition:
Motocross Advice top tips for looking after your dirt bike tires
Your dirt bike tires are doing a lot of work! They are responsible for keeping you upright, delivering power to the floor, and maintaining traction on ever-changing surfaces. In doing all of this, a tire takes a lot of punishement. Here are a few things you can do to keep your dirt bike tires in good condition and prevent avoidable accidents.
- Check your tires before and after every ride. It is tempting just to set off, but if your tire has sustained any damage on your previous journey you need to know! Look for tears, splits, foreign objects embedded in the rubber, and signs of stress. If you do this when you clean your bike down, you will have enough time to rectify any issues before your next ride.
- Take the time to set your air pressure. As we have mentioned in this article, a dirt bike tire allows far more range in air pressure than a road bike tire. Air pressure will work in different ways depending on the terrain and temperatures on the day. Over-inflated tires, on hard surfaces, will cause excessive wear. If in doubt have high pressure for soft ground and low air pressure for hard ground. The air pressure indicated on your tire is a MAXIMUM pressure, not a suggested target.
- Remove any foreign objects that you find in the tire, even if they have not caused a flat. Bits of metal, stone, wood and glass will cause chunks of rubber to come away from the tire if they are left to sit. Also, should you decrease the pressure, a piece of debris that was relatively harmless could now cause a puncture.
- While you are down there, look over the wheels. If you find any loose spokes, faulty valves, damaged rims or buckles, fix them before you start riding. A blow out at the wrong moment is potentially very dangerous. Any of these issues can cause a tire to blow, or even cause you to crash when riding at speed or putting the tire under duress.
Have fun out there!
We will be back wit more Motocross Advice soon.