Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
Now that I’ve got myself a KTM 500EXC, I want to put the best tires for off-road on the scoot. My riding will consist of about 10-percent street and the rest technical off-road—mostly singletrack and desert.
I know they make full-on knobby tires like the Kenda K760 Trakmaster, and this seems like the perfect solution, but you always hear comments like, “This is a really good tire for one that is DOT compliant.”
My question is this: What makes a tire DOT or not? And, what exactly are you giving up when using it for off-road?

Paul Threlkeld
Via [email protected]


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.”

Metzeler’s MC 360 is a DOT legal knobby.
Metzeler’s MC 360 is a DOT legal knobby.

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

MOTOZ’s Tractionator Enduro and the Kenda Equilibrium make superb off-road rubber that is street-legal.
MOTOZ’s Tractionator Enduro and the Kenda Equilibrium make superb off-road
rubber that is street-legal.

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 in the Equilibrium and the Trakmaster models, while MotoZ offers the Mountain Hybrid and the aggressive Tractionator. Pick your arena, and you can find a hard-core dirt tire that is DOT legal that will not hold you back. 

Comments are closed.