May 20th I finally had time to go out and test my new set of Metzeler Karoo Street tires. Ended up being 415 kilometers, or around 258 miles on various types, as well as quality, of pavement, gravel and dirt.
My previous tire choice you can read about here. I am not a professional tester, professional rider, nor a journalist. And I don’t pretend to be either. I am not paid for what I write, not sponsored to form, or have any particular opinion.
Day 1 with Metzeler Karoo Street
May 18th I picked up my bike with the new set and did my first 75 kilometers. The tire thread pattern looks quite offroad oriented, yet comes across as a lot more road adapted than their absolutely more offroad oriented sibling, Metzeler Karoo 3.
That day I only did tarmac, cautiously, since they were brand new and well, you know the drill (?). Tires can be slick when new, although I’d be inclined to believe the warnings issued are mostly issued in case you ride on wet or slippery surfaces.
I went on dry pavement or various types, clean, nice, rough, bumpy,tarmac with frost heaves, some holes etc etc. First impression was very good… but….
Main challenge, noise
Front wheel is, just as I expected from my initial test, a lot more noisy than the previous pair. Which was the quietest tires I’ve tried. Beg to differ slightly with reviews like this one. I don’t know what those guys have in their ears, noise cancelling solutions?
I use custom fit plugs with -26db filter in the low frequency, the presence of noise was there. Felt confident the noise perception would change over the course of the next few 100 kilometers. For some reason the tire seemed to have a resonance frequency manifesting itself around 110km/h. From around 80 and up they’re more quiet. Above the noise starts to die down.
By design and capability I don’t think the footpeg scraping lot will feel constrained. They stick like glue from what I felt on the last 20 odd kilometers. Very good, precise steering.
The Karoo Street is labelled a 70/30 tire, 70% road, 30% offroad. By design it is obvious Metzeler have tried to merge two worlds of requirements. Later I would find out to what extent they had succeeded. But they gave me confidence. And here I don’t doubt the guys who’ve quite aggressively been testing it already.
Day 2: Into the country of Norway
Finally I had time to spend a whole day with my “red cow”. Set course for the inland, with several gravel and dirt roads I knew well from before. As the tires passed the first 100 kilometers I felt confident to ride more aggressively. They did not disappoint!
Karoo Street does indeed behave like my previous road biased Scorpion Trail 2. Steering is very precise, comfort is excellent.
The noise however, is there, but with good earplugs I don’t think anyone would have a (serious) problem. What was noticeable immediately, was how well the tires planted the bike, on gravel or dirt. Totally different from my previous 90/10 pair. Predictable steering, as on pavement, predictable handling even with grooves and tracks in the road. No or little wobbling like with 90/10 tires.
Miles of smallways & gravel
I continued northwards, primarily on small roads, up and further into the country. The confidence and conviction regarding the tires continued to grow.
Arriving in Eggedal, took a short break then began the ascent up to the place where my second gravel test would begin. This road is full of imperfections, sharp twists, the boot scraping sort. If you like that sort of thing be wary. Some of the bends might come as surprises.
Further up time to head into “gravel land”. The first few miles is really bad, bumpy tarmac, but then changes to gravel and dirt. This road is a toll road, in case you’d like to try it out use this link. The entire route is here.
I’ve ridden this road several times before but never felt like I now did. The precision by which these tires handled changing surface was impressive. Been pondering over how to best describe the sensation. Sideways stability, sideways grip, is very good.
Doubt I’ve dared to lean in turns when on gravel and dirt like I felt confident to do now. The Metzeler Karoo Street on BMW R1200GS Adventure LC comes across as a perfect marriage.
The tire probably work equally well on other adventure bikes too. All I’ve read seems to confirm that.
Back up and across
I went down into Nore og Uvdal, and back up on another route. Then took another gravel road across mountains. Different road, different surfaces but the same sensation. These tires “spoke” to me unlike the previous. You won’t feel this level of confidence on gravel, or dirt for that matter, with a 90/10 tire.
The higher noise level you just have to accept. I can however say they are no worse than Michelin Anakee 3.
The road over to Noresund is a pretty stretch, I could not pass through without stopping to admire the view.
The road home, last gravel stretch
Time to head home, chose a variant of the same route but managed to get the last taste of gravel before getting to Oslo.
Will admit not to have had this much of relaxed fun on such road surfaces ever before. You feel planted, maybe not as you would with a 50/50 tire but I doubt average Joe riders like me will ever miss whatever some think might be missing.
Us average Joe’s might, however, appreciate tires that glues us to pavement, and these do. Doubt you will miss a 90/10 tire’s performance after a period with Karoo Street. If you’re like me, and want, or need, the opportunity to ride safely and happily across dirt, gravel, in forests and across mountains, Metzeler Karoo Street will deliver.
People are different. Some might get more annoyed than me, over the noise level. I got annoyed in the beginning. Annoyed and concerned. 50/50 tires are not for me, ever. But noise is not present equally much all the time. Freeway or motorway riding on the Autobahn in excess of 125-and upwards will be relatively noise free.
At lower speed, on smallways pavement, gravel or dirt you won’t notice it much. Hell, you should be focusing on riding!
I’ll use the plugs I have, but also consider to get a noise cancelling option. What’s more certain, I won’t be changing tires until the Karoo Street ones are done. When that will be I don’t know. They might not last as long as the Scorpion Trail 2 pair, but I expect at least 10.000 +.
So there we are. My 2 cents 🙂
Oh yeah, funny thing. Out pedaling today it hit me my bicycle got offroad tires as well, they sing too. A sign, a sign! Yeah right.. 🙂
Update – May 31st, Improvements
I’ve done around 1350 kilometers with the Karoo Street set to date. Over the course of time think they have improved, in all respects and on all kind of surfaces. One note though, since I got the tires on we’ve not had any rain of significance. So the behavior on wet surfaces I don’t know more about than what we can read on the web.
The main thing that I am pleased to say have improved considerably however, is the noise.
Don’t know exactly when but it could have been after approx. 750 kilometers. What i’ve dubbed “resonance frequency”, point or speed of self-amplified noise, has shifted upwards. In the beginning I experienced the “singing” as strongest around 110-115km/h. Now this has moved to 120-125km/h. I also think the noise has subsided, and even at max “singing” level it’s not a-something I cannot handle.
In all other respects, huge improvement. Offroad, a joy. Glad I made the decision!
Was the reading any good? Helpful? Comments welcome! See also the motorcycle related blog.