Photo via Bridgestone.
Here For a Good Time, Not a Long Time: Bridgestone Battlax AdventureCross AX41 Tires
I’m bravely wading into hot water with another wBW tire review.
After previously testing the Michelin Road 5 and Motoz Tractionator Adventure tires for the site, this time it’s Bridgestone’s Battlax AdventureCross AX41 tires on the sacrificial block that is my 2019 KTM 790 Adventure.
Life After Motoz
After racking up an admirable amount of satisfying miles (9100 miles/14,700 km) on the Motoz Tractionator Adventure (aka Motoz TAs) tires, I yearned to find comparable rubber that could challenge the Australian juggernaut. COVID19 pandemic supply shortages made getting anything appropriately similar to the 25/75 rated Motoz TA’s impossible, so I opted to go with these much more road-biased (40/60) AX41 tires in the interim.
I purchased these tires myself for this review and didn’t receive any assistance or influence from Bridgestone.
The Oracle of Tire Testing
My friend Kyle Bradshaw compiled one of the most extensive libraries of adventure tire reviews in history on the Chapmoto YouTube channel. Within that 25-tire masterpiece, he rated these AX41 tires as the overall best for performance, mileage, and cost.
His hard work might or might not age well as newer tires come onto the market going forward, but the glowing endorsement of the AX41 made it a must-review tire for me. If you haven’t seen the whole video yet you should watch it here.
Your Mileage May Vary
As you can see in the list below, Kyle ranked the Motoz TAs a distant 7th behind these AX41 tires.
People have subjective expectations of their chosen tires; we all can acknowledge this as the truth, I think. Thus, you won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t 100% agree with Kyle’s final scorecard—but I don’t think he’s that far off, and this is still a good list to use as a testing baseline.
I’ll be sharing my experience with these Bridgestone sneakers and explaining clearly how I used them to help you gauge how they’ll handle life on your motorcycle as opposed to mine.
Still, there’s obviously going to be a difference I can’t address between running them on my 450lb fully fueled, 95hp, KTM 790 Adventure and running them on a larger, heavier, more powerful bike like a BMW R1250GS—especially with factors like a passenger or luggage factored in.
The total distance ridden was 8760km (5443 miles) with about 75% of it occurring on pavement. Temperatures ranged from a low of 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) to a high of 43 Celsius (109 Fahrenheit).
The off-road environment was primarily gravel roads of varying hardness and depth, plus rocky hills, soft and hard dirt trails, and a healthy dose of both shallow and deep mud in the foothills and backcountry of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.
I also tackled similar terrain in South Dakota while attending the 2021 Revzilla GET ON! Adventure Fest Rally.
I never adjust tire pressure away from manufacturer specifications whether I’m riding on or off-road. This is done in hopes of maintaining a level playing field throughout all tire tests I do.
I didn’t carry a passenger 99% of the time during testing, but about 50% of the time I had 55 to 60lbs of luggage strapped to the back in my Mosko Moto Reckless 80L V3.0 Revolver Luggage.
Adventure Tire Ratings (On-Road/Off-Road Ratios)
Kyle chose to lump the AX41 into his 50/50 list of tires tested. Bridgestone rates the AX41 as 40/60, which falls in line with my estimation of how this tire should be evaluated (and which competitor tires to stack it against). It performed better off-road as opposed to on-road for me. Performance on wet tarmac was where the biggest gap in on-road vs. off-road performance occurred during my testing.
On-Road Performance of Bridgestone Battlax AdventureCross AX41 Tires
Dry pavement is the AX41’s good friend, thanks to thoughtful Bridgestone engineering.
The 90/90-21 front and 150/70B-18 rear tubeless tires I had installed are Q-rated (safe up to 100mph), but I can confirm they work just fine at speeds significantly higher than that. More than anything else, this was what surprised me as I hit sportbike-like speeds and found them still holding and running smoothly. The rounded shape of the tread cross-section helps with this.
The steering feels light and precise even when leaned over fairly aggressively in turns, although I didn’t push them quite as hard as I might push 50/50 tires. Comparatively, the Motoz TAs almost always got snakey anytime I took them above the 100mph mark, and their steering felt heavier and more labored on pavement in general, thanks to the massive tread blocks and squarish cross-section on them.
The AX41 doesn’t feel like a knobby tire on dry pavement to me. It provides good feedback from the road thanks to the amount of rigidity Bridgestone built into them—along with specially-designed knobbies that resist deformation even during hard braking.
I have zero complaints about the AX41s on dry tarmac. They hold a solid line, act predictably, grip as they should during braking, and can take a sharp turn at speed.
When it starts raining, things change for the worse, unfortunately.
In a straight line, the AX41 performs just as flawlessly in pooling water when it comes to traction—but in the corners, I had the front tire slip more than a few times. Those moments made me adjust my riding for wet conditions to a much more conservative style on-road whenever I encountered rain.
Traction wasn’t an issue if I dialed my enthusiasm back about 25 to 30% in those scenarios, which is a reasonable ask of knobby tires, in my opinion.
Take a look at the diagram above (from the Bridgestone website). The red line confirms that even Bridgestone agrees the AX41 isn’t the best choice for wet road grip when compared to other tires like the Bridgestone Battlax A41 (blue line). But you give up a lot of off-road performance if you choose to go with the A41, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.
I don’t agree with their estimation of the dry stability on pavement being equal with wet (if I’m reading the chart/diagram correctly), but who knows what motorcycle they tested the tires on?
Every knobby tire I’ve run on pavement has produced a high-pitched whine or howl, including the AX41. Some riders are very sensitive to this while I’m not. To me, a little noise is a good trade for the enhanced off-road traction those howlers provide when called upon.
My indifference might be rooted in the fact that I ride with a very short windshield and have my head right in the oncoming airstream. As a result, most of the tire whine gets drowned out by wind and engine noise on my KTM. Those who rest easy behind large windshields will likely not enjoy the AX41 noise.
Off-Road Performance of Bridgestone Battlax AdventureCross AX41 Tires
On hard-packed gravel and dirt roads the AX41 is about as good as any other tire I’ve ridden on (TKC80, Anlas Capra X, Mitas E09, E10, Motoz TA) when it comes to traction. This is the AX41’s true happy place, despite how well it performs on dry asphalt. It excels on dirt and hard pack, making me want to twist the throttle hard to spin the rear wheel with reckless abandon.
In gravel up to 1.5” deep, it’s equally good—and I was comfortable riding to my full potential with complete confidence, right up to within striking distance of 100mph. That’s not to say the front didn’t wander a little in softer gravel, but I haven’t ridden on a tire yet that doesn’t weave when the crush depth gets equal to or greater than 1.5”.
“Babyhead-sized rock” covered hills were no problem for these tires, and they held up well enough without getting punctured in the tread-covered area.
The sidewall of the front tire did sustain a slash (that ended my testing) from some smaller and very pointy shards of granite I rode through on a trip in British Columbia on the Columbia and Western Railway Trail.
I also sustained a noticeable dent in my front rim on the same trip. The sidewalls aren’t nearly as stiff as other more aggressive tires. It’s a compromise made by Bridgestone to get better on-road performance, I’m sure.
In my estimation, this is one of the more significant differences between a 40/60 tire like the AX41 and a 25/75 tire like the Tractionator Adventure.
Dirt and Mud Riding
Soft dirt, grass, and similar surfaces were also handled easily by the AX41. I never found myself wanting for traction in any of those environments and loved this tire for it.
Mud handling inspired adequate confidence, but when the trail turned into slippery wet clay I found the AX41’s limits of traction—as has been the case with most any adventure tire I’ve used.
However, it came about differently with the AX41 than with others. I noticed the treads don’t clear themselves of sticky muck as well as say, the Motoz TAs did, which leads to a bit more sliding and spinning than with more aggressive tires. Again, the softer sidewall and shorter lugs thereon don’t bite into wet muck the way more aggressive tires do.
Mud doesn’t clear easily from the treads of the AX41.
Still, this tire was very good overall in all off-road conditions for me and the 790.
Longevity of Bridgestone Battlax AdventureCross AX41 Tires
Here’s where the AX41 leaves me wanting more. It’s akin to having a great time working with someone on a project who abruptly leaves the company just as you’re gaining appreciable momentum.
Brand New Front Tire Tread Depth measurement: 7.9 mm.
Brand New Rear Tire Tread Depth measurement: 9 mm.
After only 6825 fun-filled kilometers, my rear AX41 was showing only 2.6mm of tread remaining and I made the difficult decision to pull it off the bike before heading out on another adventure.
That’s only 4240 miles for those who prefer imperial digits. We can all agree that’s an early exit, which equates to far less than half the miles I racked up with the Motoz TAs.
To Bridgestone’s credit, even with that little tread remaining, grip and traction from the rear AX41 was still decent—but I was leery of riding over sharp rocks at that point, fearing a puncture.
Front vs. Rear Tire
Ditching the AX41 rear was the right decision. As I mentioned earlier, on my ensuing trip to BC, some sharp rocks I encountered left a menacing sidewall slash in the front tire, which cut short this review. My total accrued mileage on the front AX41 was a respectable 8759 kilometers (5442 miles) with 6.1mm of tread remaining.
However, I noticed cracks were developing around some of the tread blocks by this point, which may have led to delamination as time went on. See the photo below.
Barring sidewall cuts or delamination failures, I suspect the front AX41 should achieve at least 10,000 to 12,000kms (6000-7400 miles) before needing to be relieved of duty. Not bad, and about a normal ratio of front to rear tire life, I suppose.
A Note on Directional Arrows
My testing of the front AX41 might be a little tainted, thanks to a gaffe by a local motorcycle shop technician who installed the tire backwards on my 790. See the photo below.
I failed to notice until I’d ridden 800 miles and had this corrected. I’ll say this much with absolute certainty: don’t disregard the directional arrow on these tires or you’ll regret it greatly.
With the tread blocks going the wrong way, the AX41 front tire is an absolute nightmare anywhere off-road or in deeper gravel. It was so unstable that I felt like I was a brand new rider again while trying to keep the bike rubber side down.
To state the obvious: directional arrows matter!
Value for Money on Bridgestone Battlax AdventureCross AX41 Tires
The 90-90-21 front AX41 lists for $120 US on Revzilla while the 150/70B-18 rear goes for $200.
The Michelin Anakee Wild (rated an aggressive 50/50 tire) goes for around the same $121/$225—and from what I hear lasts a bit longer. They’re now on my list of tires to review and compare to the AX41.
The Continental TKC80 (a 40/60 rated tire) is about the same price, and at $126/$230 might be slightly better off-road than the AX41—but I find it noisier and shorter-lived. It also vibrates a lot on the pavement.
The Shinko 804/805 (a 40/60 rated tire) is notably less expensive at $93/$149. It provides excellent grip off-road, but disappears faster than the AX41 in some cases I’ve seen.
There are other good comparables out there to choose from, all priced right around the AX41. This suggests it’s priced competitively for the value it provides. It’s fair to say these are all highly-touted tires by the people who run them, and I suspect ownership is rooted in personal preference and the specific motorcycle in question.
Final Verdict on Bridgestone Battlax AdventureCross AX41 Tires
Today’s adventure tire pool is wonderfully deep, with a myriad of choices available to suit most everyone’s requirements. The AX41 legitimately stands out to me as a “do-it-all” tire. “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
I can see why Kyle chose it as the overall winner in his tire shootout—but the short lifespan of the rear tire, somewhat susceptible sidewalls, and iffy performance on wet asphalt mean that as good as it is, the AX41 won’t be my number one choice.
However, this tire could easily become my number two or three choice if I can’t find the rubber I’m truly looking for, because I know it’s going to be with me for a good time, if not a long one.
I’ll continue stubbornly looking for the one tire (or combination of tires) to rule them all, but I accept there’s likely always going to be a compromise. For myself, I’ll sacrifice high-speed stability on-road for better help when I’m riding off-road.
That was my experience with the Motoz Tractionator Adventure tires, and after the dust settled on this AX41 review, I found myself pining for those Australian tires as opposed to these Japanese ones.
Life After Bridgestone’s AX41
Since removing the AX41 tires, I’ve been testing a lesser-known Turkish set of tires called the Anlas Capra X.
They’re hard to find in North America, rated an aggressive 50/50, and I prefer them to the AX41 over the 3000 miles ridden thus far—no slipping on wet pavement, just as good off-road, quieter, a more cushioned sensation when riding on pavement, and it looks like they’ll last better (though not a lot longer). My review will follow in 2022 after the irritating Canadian winter is through.
After the Anlas tires, I’ll be trying out the Motoz Tractionator Rallz—a more aggressive incarnation of the Tractionator Adventure.
It’s a great time to be an adventure rider, my friends!
- All-around great performance on and off-road
- Stable at high speeds
- Smart design and quality
- Priced competitively
- Reasonably quiet for an aggressive tire
- Readily available
- Lacks longevity
- Wet pavement traction is under average
- Softer tire sidewalls prone to slashes and rim damage
- Tire howl will irritate some riders
- Tread isn’t self-cleaning in serious mud
- Manufacturer: Bridgestone Corporation
- Price when tested: $120 US front $200 US rear
- Made in: Turkey
- Sizes: Multiple sizes of tubeless and tube type available
- Safety Designations: DOT FMVSS 218
- Review Date: October 20, 2021