Dunlop Trailmax Mission: ADV Tire Test
Two years in the making, the new Dunlop Trailmax Mission motorcycle tire delivers on its promise of an adventure tire with 50/50 dirt/street performance. The Dunlop Mission provides outstanding street performance and strong off-pavement execution for a non-knobby tire design.
We tapped a BMW F 850 GS for this first test of the Dunlop Trailmax Mission tire. Pavement portions of the test were often seriously twisty, with high-speed runs thrown it. Dirt stretches were mountain roads and jeep trails, with plenty of rocks and silt over hardpack. A few sections of sand, a handful of small jumps, and lots of nasty squared off holes added to the entertainment when the pavement ended.
Although a bias-ply 50/50 tire, the street manners of the tubeless Dunlop Mission tires were exceptional. There’s plenty of rubber on the road, and the compound offers traction and feedback. Aggressive braking, cornering, and acceleration does not bother the Mission tires in the least. They offer the same kind of confidence you would expect from the fully street-oriented adventure tire.
Even when diving in a bit too hard into a decreasing radius turn, the front Dunlop Mission graciously accepts the harder braking. The tire has a good feel for the traction limit, while also accommodating the need to turn in harder than anticipated. Exiting turns means plenty of grip to send you on your way.
High-speed sprints don’t reveal any noisy conduct from the tires. Dunlop engineers tell us that computer modeling allows them to discover naughty tire behavior early in the development stage. In the case of the Trailmax Mission, Dunlop went through 30 prototypes (and those also experienced modifications) in the year it took to finalize the tread design.
On one end of the ADV tire market, you have large-block knobbies that work well in the dirt, while still behaving admirably on the street. On the other end, you have street tires with just the slightest modification to justify calling them 10 percent dirtworthy. The Dunlop Trailmax Mission straddles the two worlds. The large rubber blocks are not quite knobbies, but neither are they street patterns with deeper treads and wider sipes. Dunlop nailed it on the 50/50 mix.
Dunlop is offering the front Mission with two variations of the tread pattern. The front tires for heavyweights have extra indentations in some of the tread blocks for extra gripping power off-road. The lightweight front tires do without those indentations, so there is more rubber meeting the road. The BMW F 850 GS we tested had the lightweight tread pattern, and its front end feel on the road is exemplary.
Off-road, the Dunlop Trailmax Mission delivers as much performance in the dirt as you can expect from a non-knobby tire, and that is quite a bit. Hardpack roads with all sorts of debris on top are rideable by all skill levels of ADV riders, yet they can still bite back unpredictably. The Mission tires do a great job of minimizing that risk.
The front Mission has an aggressive that wraps up along the sidewall, giving unexpectedly good traction when leaned over in the dirt. Additionally, Dunlop’s Staggered Step technology adds extra biting edges for both front and rear tire patterns.
Traction is the difference between successfully negotiating a corner off-road and losing the front end. With the improved front-end traction, you can more confidently steer through a corner, rather than relying on the more advanced skill of steering with your back end.
For those who like drifting out the rear tire to steer, the Dunlop Trailmax Mission willingly complies. The transition from traction to sliding is wonderfully smooth and predictable. It’s an excellent tire for learning the skill, as the feedback is there throughout the process of full traction to a drifting rear. Knobbies can be much more abrupt in the transition, while street-oriented ADV tires never offer much traction when backing out the rear and happily slide out without notice.
When you find yourself airborne, the Mission tires have sidewalls that can handle the return to terra firma. Keep in mind that the air I attain is measured in inches rather than feet—typical for F 850 GS riders.
There is only so much a non-knobby can do, and the Dunlop Trailmax Mission meets its match in the sand. The tires get you through a sand section, though not with any authority.
Keep in mind that our initial testing involved lots of dirt/pavement transitions, so it wasn’t practical to air-down the tires. All the testing was done with about 31 psi in the tires.
Accompanying the Dunlop Trailmax Mission is an interesting backstory. In 2015 Sumitomo reacquired Dunlop, and that gave Dunlop access to the engineers at Falken automotive tires, another Sumitomo brand. Sales is always a driving force, and the highly successful Falken Wildpeak A/T3W all-terrain light-truck tire turned out to be an inspiration for the Mission motorcycle tire. The Wildpeak has a reputation for both performance and good looks, and that helps sell the tire to riders who rarely stray from the pavement.
Dunlop had mounted the Mission to a BMW R nineT for display. Without any doubt, the Mission gave the R nineT the aggressive Zombie Apocalypse look that is popular with urban riders. There is also the cache of the Mission tires being made right at home in Buffalo; that’s after being designed at the Upstate NY factory and tested in America.
Finally, Dunlop claims the Mission rear tire survived 8000 miles of testing by independent riders on a Suzuki V-Strom 1000 in on- and off-road mountain riding. That is an impressive claim; as always, your mileage may vary. When we get a pair for long-term testing, we will see what our numbers are.
Splitting the difference and going 50/50 on anything invites the wrath of the devoted on both sides of the coin. For us, the Dunlop Trailmax Mission is more like a 90/60 tire, giving 90 percent performance on the street and 60 percent on the dirt. Sometimes, you have to be creative with the math.
Photography by Simon Cudby
Dunlop Trailmax Mission Motorcycle Tires Fast Facts
- 90/90 x 21 (available 11/19)
- 100/90 x 19 (1/20)
- 110/80 x 19 (11/19)
- 120/70 x 19 (11/19)
- 120/90 x 17 (1/20)
- 130/80 x 17 (12/19)
- 140/80 x 17 (12/19)
- 150/70 x 17 (11/19)
- 170/60 x 17 (11/19)
- 120/90 x 18 (12/19)
- 130/90 x 18 (1/20)
- 140/80 x 18 (12/19)
- 150/70 x 18 (11/19)
Dunlop Trailmax Mission Tire Review Photo Gallery