Over 33,000 miles with my XT660Z I’ve tried a few different sets of tyres, by far the best so far have been Continental’s Escape.
The Tenere is tall, comfortable and rugged, but at more than 200 kilos with a full tank it’s lardy compared to bikes derived from less-durable Enduro machinery.
The combination of a 21-inch front wheel and pliant long-travel suspension says it should be at home cutting a swath through loose surfaces, but tipping the scales at much the same weight as many bigger displacement sports-tourers, means the Tenere can be quite a lump – even without adding five gallons of fuel, metal panniers and enough gear for a few weeks of self-supported travel.
To begin with I often found it difficult to stay in the flow. I suspected Yamaha’s choice of rubber (Metzeler Tourance) probably accounted for much of the under-steer and general vagueness in B-road bends that should have felt far more planted and enjoyable. Much as I appreciated the sense of involvement from wrestling the Tenere around tight turns and twisties, in the end I had to admit I could do without the distraction of having to think too much about how to tackle bends.
Adopting a weight-forward, wide-elbowed, ‘crossy riding style certainly helped this road-biased dual-sport bike skim across tarmac from apex to apex with confidence, but a pair of ContiEscapes transformed the handling.
Although the tyre sizes appear directly equivalent to the original fitments, the rear Conti is about 8mm narrower and the profile of the Escapes allowed the bike to roll more easily and predictably into bends.
At almost 300 miles between fuel-stops there doesn’t appear to be much difference in fuel economy from the easy-rolling Conti’s; I suspect that what’s gained in bend-swinging is lost between roundabouts.
Just like the original-fit tyres, the Escapes are made to grip the black stuff; fine for gravel roads and they’ll give better traction on wet grass than a pure-road boot, but they’ll still slip and slide all the way to your tent in typical UK camping/rallying weather. If the kind of lanes you like to ride are really green, or brown, you’ll be wanting something more like a nice pair of TKC80 knobblies. Although the original fitment Tourances lasted longer, I think the extra enjoyment and confidence from the Escapes is a worthwhile trade-off.