Gummy tires have very soft and flexible knobs that provide solid traction in nasty terrain. In their element, they increase the rider’s ability to conquer wicked obstacles that can abuse even a competent rider whose machine isn’t equipped to grab and bite.
Our testing took place on the following terrain: a 30-mile loop; two, long, flowing water-creek canyons with waist-high ledges; one mile-long dry canyon with Volkswagen-size boulder waterfalls littered with logs; a tough off-camber; and two, long, hardpacked hill-climbs to test the climbing ability and traction. We also rode one deep-sand hill-climb and a vertical hill with tight switchbacks that made it tough to maintain momentum.
We modulated the air pressure, running down to 8 psi for serious hard-enduro terrain and 12 psi for faster terrain. We carried a pump and gauge in our backpack to help maintain consistency.
All of the testing was done on a Beta 300RR and a KTM 300XC-W TPI.
DUNLOP GEOMAX AT81 EX
The AT81 EX is based entirely on the AT81, an off-road tire with tread designed to penetrate and shoulder grooves for additional bite. The gummy EX version has super-soft and flexible knobs. This tire offers good grip in nasty conditions, chewing and clawing for purchase in places where a standard tire would simply spin. It is strong in rocky terrain; it cleans out decently in mud and, in spite of the tight knob pattern, does a good job on sandy climbs. The wear side is decent, though it really leans towards tight technical terrain and is not so happy when the speeds get higher. It tends to float like most of the serious gummy tires when you get humming in the upper gears. One final note: this is a comfortable tire, as the sidewall flex and knob design promote a good feel through cobby terrain.
GOLDENTYRE EXTREME SERIES GT369X GUMMY
Goldentyre’s 369X tire comes in a 110/100-18 with super-flexible knobs that are widely spaced for easy cleaning in muddy terrain. This tire is super versatile, grips well in miserable conditions, is a decent hill-climber in the sand and offers bite in rocky terrain, be it loose or big slab rock. The Goldentyre isn’t cheap, but its ability to grab traction in nearly every condition makes it both sticky and versatile. And while the tire wore quickly, it made good grip until the knobs were almost gone!
IRC GEKKOTA IX-09W
The IRC Gekkota we tested came in a 110/100-18 size. This was the stickiest tire in our test. It performed quite well in every situation we threw at it. The tire had the best traction in loose rocks. Even on bowling-ball-sized rocks on a near-vertical hill, this tire would not break loose through multiple tests. The knobs were quite tall, so this tire performed well in the sand as well, being able to dig into deep and thick dirt. Being extremely gummy, it worked marvelously in wet, slimy creek beds. It had great spacing between the tread and plenty of side knob radius to provide an excellent contact patch on off-camber trails. We really can’t think of any flaws other than the wear. While there was no chunking, the drive side of the tread did show considerably more wear than the other tires we tested. This tire installed easily and looks to be a favorite for hard-enduro terrain but ranks at the bottom for long-term durability.
The IRC VE33S has a strong two-ply carcass for durability and stability, tall knobby blocks for a serious contact patch, and the knobs are flexible and offer a meaty bite in the worst of conditions. With the IRC VE33S, you get a very versatile knobby that has very good durability for a gummy tire. It works well in sandy terrain, is strong in the rocks and, considering the flexibility of the knobs, gives good feel at speed. It doesn’t rate as high as its brother, the Gekkota, as a purist gummy tire, but it’s far more versatile and more durable.
KENDA EQUILIBRIUM K787
The Equilibrium has the DNA of a trials tire and an off-road-based tire all in one. Its super-sticky race compound offers strong grip in both wet and dry conditions. The sidewall is tall, much like a trials tire’s, and with low air pressure you get good sidewall flex for strong bite and a cushy feel when riding in cobby terrain. Its strong suit is rocky, rooty terrain. It wasn’t as effective as tires with wider-spaced and taller knobs in the sand and mud. Overall, it wears well but lacks versatility compared to some of the other sticky tires. It’s DOT legal.
KENDA IBEX K774 SUPER STICKY
The Kenda Ibex tire is the “gummiest” out of the Kenda line. We had long-term-tested an Ibex in the past, but was interesting to see how it worked back to back with all the tires. This is a very well-rounded tire. From wet to dry and everything in between, the traction is superb. It’s one of the best tires for off-camber or side hills. It loves all types of rocks and will keep you moving forward. The knobs are quite tall, so it is good in thick dirt and sand. It is also a tire that isn’t very happy at higher speeds. It feels very squishy at higher speeds and is also a high-wear competition-type tire. It offers five-star traction in tight, ugly conditions, but mated to high wear and the unstable feeling at fast trail speeds. There is no doubt that the Ibex tire is intended for racing purposes only and not someone looking for a long-term tire to last them through a season of riding.
New to the Kenda line is the Gauntlet, and we tested this in the 130/80-18 size. It offers a fairly wide footprint with wide spacing on the tread and is a low-profile tire overall. The spacing on the knobs will let the tire clean out in mud, and worked well in the wet rocks but with a little less “stick” than the Ibex. The Gauntlet is more at home in hardpack, felt loose in sandy terrain and featured minimal wear. Overall, this is a good middle-of-the-road trail tire.
Another new tire to the Kenda lineup is the Knarly, which we tested in the 140/80-18 size. It is a multi-directional tire with a soft direction and an intermediate direction, which is the route that we chose. This tire has a very wide footprint, making a strong contact patch with the terrain. This tire excelled in the rocks, both the unstable loose rocks and the large granite rocks. It was always able to maintain forward momentum in the nasty conditions. It performed well in combinations of dirt—from dry and hard-packed to thick and sandy. We downgraded it on off-camber zones slightly, but braking traction was strong. We were also able to ride at a decent trail speed without the tire feeling too gummy and squishy. Wear was minimal, and the Kenda Knarly stands out as a stop rear tire.
MAXXIS MAXXCROSS EX
The Maxxcross EX is available only to Maxxis team riders and at certain EnduroCross/Hard Enduro events. Many will recognize this pattern, as its tread design is identical to that of the Maxxis IT. The EX is a complete gummy-spec tire with a very soft tread and a fairly soft sidewall. We tested this in a 110/100-18. The traction is on par with the stickiest tires in the test. Large granite rocks or small rolling rocks were greeted with an unreal chew-and-stick pattern. The tire had a nice contact patch and would easily pull you up the steepest terrain with zero momentum. Braking traction was superb, making using the rear brake on steep downhills possible without skidding out of control. Side-hilling was very impressive with low pressure. The best part was the minimal wear. If aired properly, this tire was capable of running on faster terrain, so it would make for an unreal all-around enduro tire.
MAXXIS MAXXCROSS EN
The Maxxis Maxxcross EN comes in both a 120/90-18 and a 140/80-18 size. It’s tagged as a tacky compound tire, and the performance was strong in spite of the fact that the knobs and carcass both feel quite stiff. Being lower profile, it wasn’t ideal in thick or sandy conditions, but was great on hardpacked terrain and even granite-type rocks. Despite being quite firm, the EN really hooked up on the rocks, small or large. It wasn’t the greatest in wetter climates but was middle of the road. Another area that surprised us was how well it hooked up going over downed trees and logs. We never would have thought a tire so firm would hook up this well over these obstacles. With lower pressure, it could compete with most of the tires in most trail situations. The braking traction earned good marks on hardpacked terrain, and this tire suffered the least wear of all the tires in our test.
MOTOZ ARENA HYBRID
MotoZ’s Arena Hybrid gummy came in a 120/100-18. The tire has a flexible carcass, while the actual tread and knobs are very soft. The knobs are quite tall, so naturally this tire works really well in loose terrain. For a gummy tire, it even works quite well in the sand, mainly because it has such a tall tread pattern with wide spacing in between the knobs. Where this tire really shines is in loose rocks, from very small to bowling-ball size. Side hills and extremely off-camber trail conditions are other areas where the tire does well. The side knobs maintain great contact with the ground, even on extremely off-camber trails. The wear was very minimal. Installation was easy. The MotoZ Arena Hybrid was one of the top performers.
SHINKO 505 CHEATER
Shinko’s 505 Cheater comes in a 120/100-18 and felt similar to the 525 Cheater in hardpacked conditions. It maintained forward momentum no matter how steep the terrain. Although it is a gummy tire, it had a very firm carcass and tread compound; however, it lacked the sticking power of the 525. In looser rocks it was strong, but it struggled more on solid, slab-type rocks (though it’s still stickier than a standard MX tire). The 505 didn’t love the sand, either. The pattern of the tread almost resembles that of a Dunlop 606 dual-sport tire, so the knobs are fairly low-profile. It also wasn’t the greatest on off-camber side hills, as the side knobs didn’t grab as much as we’d prefer. It was fair in wet, creek-bed-type rocks, but again, not nearly as sticky as the 525 Cheater in those conditions. Faster speeds were also very doable with this tire, since it was the firmest feeling of the bunch.
SHINKO 216SX ENDURO
Shinko’s 216 SX enduro came in a 140/80-18 and featured the smallest sidewall of the tires we tested. The tread pattern is very low-profile and has wide spacing between the very gummy knobs. The small sidewall didn’t offer much flex in the rocks, so the tire was not as confidence-inspiring as either the 525 or the 505. With the lower-profile knobs, it didn’t offer the forward drive we like in loose, rocky conditions. Braking traction was good, even with the lower profile. Side hills were difficult, though speed was a strength. Wear was minimal.
SHINKO 525 CHEATER
Shinko’s 525 Cheater comes in a 120/100-18 size and proved to be an excellent all-around-use tire. On hard-enduro trails, the tire worked incredibly well in all types of rocks. From loose creek-bed rocks to huge car-sized boulder slabs, this tire stuck with very little wheel spin. It also performed well in hardpacked dirt conditions that resembled granite. In deep sand or thick loam, it wasn’t as impressive. The tire struggled slightly on side hills and off-cambers; the side knobs just didn’t want to maintain a good contact patch on the camber. Impressively enough, as soft as the carcass and the knobs were, it was very good at faster speeds. The tire showed very minimal wear, just a slight bit on the drive side of the tread. Installation was easy, as the carcass is soft and pliable.
MOTOZ XTREME HYBRID
MotoZ’s Xtreme hybrid came in a 120/100-18 with an awesome look, like a trials tire on steroids. But, this tire works much better than a trials tire. It has a much taller tread and a lot more radius around the side knobs. It works quite well in the sand and really thick dirt, wet or dry. The sidewall offers good flex, which really helps in looser, rolling rocks. As soft as the tread is, the tire occasionally broke traction on large rocks where you need to maintain pressure going over the obstacle. It occasionally broke traction on large rocks and was a little hesitant on off-camber terrain, unless the ground was really soft. Braking traction was also good, but again, in softer, thicker dirt. It’s a very good all-around tire and is capable of running faster speeds if proper pressure is applied. Wear was minimal, and the tire was simple to install. This tire is DOT-approved.
MOTOZ MOUNTAIN HYBRID
The Mountain Hybrid from MotoZ looks quite similar to the Xtreme Hybrid and has similar performance traits. It’s a good performer in sand, but wasn’t quite as predictable as the Xtreme Hybrid on hardpack in both acceleration and braking. It preferred softer and thicker dirt. This one felt slightly better on larger rocks and didn’t lose traction as easily when trying to hold pressure going over the obstacle. It was a fair performer in wet and slippery rocks, but lacked the bite of the gummier compounds in the test.
Overall, installation was easy and wear was minimal. This tire is DOT-approved.