Dunlop AT81 – Is It The Best All Around Dirt Bike Tire?

The Dunlop AT81 and AT81RC (Reinforced Construction) and AT81EX ( Endurocross) tires offer more all-around performance plus higher levels of ruggedness for off-road racing and riding than any other tire in its class. I tested the AT81  rear and AT81F front as they came standard equipment on my new KTM 250 XC.  So here was my chance to test the Dunlop AT81 front and rear.

I have tested several all-terrain tires but hadn’t found one I’d recommend as great or want to buy again. I’d been looking for a long-wearing tire that also gives great traction performance in most conditions.  I had read that the AT81 was the tire of choice for many elite riders that race in all types of terrain.  Longtime favorites for many riders from Dunlop were the D739 AT  and the newer D952 which are being phased out by the new AT81.

So is the Dunlop AT81 the best all around tire? Yes, of all the tires in this category that I’ve tested it is the best in all types of terrain. It is best for muddy conditions? no. Is it the best hard conditions tire? no. But given its ruggedness and traction in all phases of terrain, you’ll like the AT81.

The rear is a new pattern and an all-new feel. It works very consistently in all dirt conditions where it is never the best tire I’ve ridden but always above what I expected. The best way to describe the feel of the AT81 is that it will spin a little easier than most tires with a boost of the throttle. Yet the way it holds or grips the ground once locked in or just spinning a little is great. And again, very consistent feeling with no surprising feedback.

In the beginning, I ran the tires at 12 psi and found the traction to be as good as could be expected on harder to medium dirt surfaces. It is specific about pressure, like some tires,  this tire likes it at 10 psi. Additionally, the tire can be run at low pressures (8 psi) or with a soft mousse to grab more traction without the sidewall giving up and ruining the handling of a bike.

Dunlop has created a tire that is not only physically stronger but also more adaptable to the huge range of terrain off-road racing covers. Resisting accelerated wear while still keeping a feel that is responsive and compliant over bumps, the Dunlop  AT81 rear tire is the new standard of performance for enduro and cross country racing. It is still not my tire of choice for racing, but many others have found the AT81 to their liking.

Dunlop has a lot of fancy words and techniques to describe the features of the tire but they make sure to reinforce that the AT 81 and specifically the RC tire is built to be long and tough lasting especially in harder landscapes. When installing the rear tire, you can feel the added rigidity. The wear of the tire, especially the rear, was great and better than I expected. At about 50 hours of my abuse, the tire was ready to be taken off.  Additionally, the stiffness of the rear tire definitely aided it from flats (no flats in 50 plus hours with 5 races on the AT81).

On the front tire, I would not recommend it.  The tire never felt in the trail especially in the corners, I could never really trust what the tire was going to do. Feedback for the AT18F was all over the board for me and felt like I was on a knife edge. In the soft terrain, the tire would sink in if I didn’t stay on the throttle. It had a tendency to pushed out during turn exit, nothing I did made it better.  As much as I liked the AT81 for the rear, just the opposite for the front, I just didn’t like it at all.

AT81-tire-reviewFeatures:

  • Dunlop Geomax AT81 Terrain Tire Rear  Is priced for around $90.00 with free shipping on Amazon.
  • AT81 rear tread block shape and distribution plus flexible knobs help the tire penetrate down through the surface dirt for extra traction across a broad range of off-road applications.
  • Newly formulated high-wear-resistant rear tire compound offers enhanced chipping, tearing and wear appearance.
  • Geomax AT81 rear tire carcass features two nylon plies.
  • Lateral grooves on the shoulder knobs provide additional biting edges and also allow the knobs to be more flexible.
  • Rear center blocks are arranged in-line to provide a larger contact patch for maximum traction.
  • Dunlop’s “plush pad” recess design between tread blocks enhances compliance for bump absorption and ride comfort.
  • Front tire construction includes two plies of nylon wrapped with a third ply of polyester for a strong base.

My conclusion is that Dunlop has hit their target rider with the AT81. It never offers the best grip when compared to tires that wear much quicker but grips way better for way longer. And compared to some of the other long-wearing tires (Maxxis Desert IT) it does offer superior traction.  Who’s this tire for? If you want an all-around rear that will perform well in all types of terrain, then you’ll find the AT18 is a great choice. If you want a long lasting tire that stands up to anything you put it through, then it is a great choice.

There are better condition specific tires, like the MX3S for soft conditions, but when it comes to an all-terrain tire the Dunlop AT81 is a go-to tire form me going forward. If you are looking for a great and long-lasting rear tire this may be one you want to try. Hope this has helped.  See you out there.

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