Metzeler Karoo 3 Motorcycle Tires Review
Before taking on the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route, we spooned Metzeler Karoo 3 tires on our 2014 BMW F 800 GS Adventure test bike and Paul Beck’s 2007 BMW R 1200 GS project bike (Rider, October 2013). Route 5 of the ORBDR is a 750-mile off-road track through central Oregon, from California to Washington. It meanders through national forests by way of gravel roads, rutted two-track, sandy desert, tricky rock gardens and a couple of axle-deep river crossings (view a map at oohva.org).
Dual-sport tires strike a compromise between off-road traction and on-road grip. Most adventure bikes come with 90/10-percent on-/off-road tires, such as Metzeler Tourance Nexts. First-generation Metzeler Karoos were of the 10/90 variety, with tall, widely spaced knobs; they performed well off-road but were noisy, squirmy on pavement and wore out quickly. The next generation, the Karoo (T), was a 30/70 tire, with wider, shorter tread blocks.
Sticking with the 30/70 format, the new tread pattern of the Karoo 3 has large, closely spaced knobs arranged in V-shaped bands. Deep, wide channels between the bands help the front edges of the knobs dig into loose surfaces, while narrow grooves between the knobs disperse water. Varying the size, shape and spacing of the knobs minimizes squirm on pavement. During our 700-mile on-road ride to the ORBDR, they rolled smoothly on straights and felt nicely planted in deep-lean corners. They whirred audibly above 60 mph, but nowhere near as loudly as first-gen Karoos.
Like other Metzeler performance tires, the Karoo 3 has a patented belt structure with a single ply of 0-degree steel cords wrapped around a radial carcass. Variable spacing of the cords from the crown to the edge enhances high-speed stability, bump absorption and grip to differing degrees depending on lean angle. According to Metzeler, the new Karoo 3 compound is more resistant to lacerations and improves mileage by 30 percent compared to it predecessors, and its new profile is designed to provide good damping and work well with ABS.
We were hard on these tires. Paul and I are both big guys, and we were decked out in full adventure gear riding big bikes laden with supplies for a week in the backcountry—panniers and dry bags loaded with camping gear, tools, food, water and clothes. We kept a brisk pace on the way up to the ORBDR, and we gassed our way out of countless corners on the 750-mile trail. Remarkably, despite bouncing through multiple sections littered with sharp-edged rocks and covering miles and miles (and miles) of roads covered with gravel of all shapes and sizes, neither of us caught a flat. The terrain on the ORBDR was remarkably varied, and the Karoo 3s gave us the utmost confidence from beginning to end.
After completing the ORBDR, I bagged a SaddleSore 1000 on the way home, while Paul ventured farther north to Seattle, eventually logging another 1,900 miles. We were impressed with how well the Karoo 3s held up. It was bone-dry on the ORBDR in August, but on the Colorado BDR, which Eric Hougen, self-confessed tire abuser and owner of Wolfman Luggage (wolfmanluggage.com), campaigned while we were in Oregon, the rain was epic at times. He ran Karoo 3s too: “They hook up well on all surfaces and will break loose where I want them to. In wet conditions, they did not pack up with mud and were very predictable on the trail or road. One of the better tires I have ever used.”
Metzeler Karoo 3s are available in a variety of front and rear sizes for dual-sport and adventure bikes. MSRP ranges from $111.95-$300.95.
For more information, see your dealer or visit metzeler.com.
(This Gearlab review was published in the February 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)