DOT TIRES: MR. KNOW-IT-ALL

DOT OR NOT?
Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
I’m an off-roader who has made the transition to dual-sport bikes, mainly because I can explore and put together more territory with a plated bike. I have a KTM 350EXC, which I find quite wonderful. My question is about tires. Is it illegal to run non-DOT tires on the street? What is the point?
“Confused”
Canoga Park, CA

Glad you like your scoot, Confused. The Kaboom 350 is a great choice! I have been asked this question a myriad of times, so here goes. Tires intended for use on public roads have to meet the standards set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The description is as follows: “Standard No. 119. New pneumatic tires, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, trailers, and motorcycles (effective 3-1-75 and as revised 2011, U.S. Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] § 571.119). This standard establishes performance and marking requirements for tires for use on multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, trailers and motorcycles. Its purpose is to provide safe operational performance levels for tires used on motor vehicles other than passenger cars, and to place sufficient information on the tires to permit their proper selection and use.”

 

All of these tires are DOT legal. Up top Motoz Arena Hybrid is durable and allows for lower air pressures via a strong sidewall. The Kenda Equilibrium is trials like and good in the woods and on the bottom the Bridgestone E50 is super aggressive and while legal on the roads, should focus on off-road terrain.

 

The details are exhausting and cover a broad range of requirements, all of which are to protect the user from ineffective or non-compliant tires. Tire and rim matching information, endurance testing, tread-wear indicators, load ratings, strength and tire markings are just a few of the criteria set by the Department of Transportation.

With that said, there are many serious dirt tires that are DOT approved. They range from high-mileage rubber to sticky knobs designed for traction in technical riding. Naturally, the more aggressive the knob pattern, the higher the wear factor when used on pavement. The Dunlop 606 is a strong 80/20 (dirt versus street) with high-wear qualities and good traction for hardpack and rocky conditions. Kenda offers several superb tires, while MotoZ has the Arena Hybrid and the aggressive Tractionator. Once you hone in on your terrain preference (how much dirt versus pavement), there are good options for a DOT-legal dirt tire.

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