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Dunlop Geomax AT81 Desert RC

Tenacious grip with tenacious wear. 

by Martin Hackworth

Photos: Martin Hackworth, JR Hackworth

Dunlop Geomax AT81 RC

Dunlop AT81 RC
     The Dunlop GeoMax AT81 front and rear tires are hard surface, high-speed tires that offer outstanding wear along with tenacious grip. Their performance in dirt, mud and sand is good enough that we rarely feel the need for softer tires. We still like softer compounds and different tread for exclusively mud and sand, but not enough that we feel the need to swap tires a lot. The 81's are that good. 

     The first thing you'll notice when purchasing a set of AT81's is that you have an option for the rear: either an AT81 (enduro) or an AT81 Desert RC. The difference is two ply vs four and lots of wear (we use the AT81 RC rear). The durability of the AT81 Desert RC is simply amazing. The tire pictured below finished the entire Tour of Idaho, along with a few additional rides, before the picture was shot. The sidewalls are sufficiently rigid that we run our AT81's (with Bridgestone heavy duty tubes) at around 10 - 12 psi, front and rear, in all terrain - including the entire Tour of Idaho.
     Right now we'd be hard pressed to think about another tire we'd rather use for long, mixed and fast riding. The combination of grip and durability designed into the 81's is tough to beat. These tires have all of the excellent wear characteristics we desire, work incredibly well at high speeds and grip well enough that we find them to be only a small disadvantage in technical terrain. Personally, I consider the small trade in grip for wear and durability to be worthy.

     Are these as grippy as softer compound tires? No they are not. Can you tractor up boulders and over tree roots like you can with a trials tire? No you cannot (well, at least I cannot). But they are the closest tires we've experienced to soft-compound handling tires that have great wear.

     As I mentioned before, the AT81/AT81 RC is my current preferred setup for the Tour of Idaho. During the 2014 tour, I often ran these at as low as 8 psi (again, with Bridgestone HD tubes) and had absolutely no fear of pinch flats. I'm pretty convinced that you could run the AT81 Desert RC with no air, in an emergency, and with the twin bead-lock setup we use, ride a long way.

     The only disadvantage I can think of associated with these tires would become apparent only if you every had to do a trailside tube repair. The sidewalls (especially on the RC) are STIFF. Popping one of these off the rim with a set of lightweight trail tire irons would be some feat.

     Opinions about tires are generally closely held. But for you Tour of Idaho folks who are open to suggestion, this, in my opinion, is the setup to have. I've run heavy duty Dunlop desert racing tires each year I've done the Tour and never had a flat. Not once. These tires, HD tubes, twin bead-locks (rear) and some Slime are the hot ticket. Just run them at low pressures in the deep sand and technical trail sections and you will be just fine. I am very much an intermediate rider, and if I can get these through the technical sections, so can you. 
Dunlop Geomax AT81 RC
Dunlop Geomax AT81RC
Dunlop Geomax AT81 Desert RC

The Good: Excellent durability and wear.
The Rad: Surprising grip in all conditions.
The Gnarly: Bodaciously stiff sidewalls. Good luck with trailside tube repair.

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