by David Soderholm
Adventure touring bikes are a compromise; they are the Jack-of-all-trade bikes while being the master of none. To me, this versatility is their strength. After 10,000 miles on my 2005 Suzuki V-Strom, it was readily apparent that I needed new tires. The tread was getting thin and the worn stock tires were adversely affecting the handling of my bike. When buying tires for adventure touring bikes like the V-Strom, the trick is finding a tire to complement their versatile nature, one that can do the opposing jobs of light, off-road duty and pavement pounding satisfactorily well. Somewhere between fully knobbed off-road tire and smooth tread on-road tires lies the magic formula – and that’s where the Shinko 705 Trailmaster exists.
Shinko is a Japanese company that started making bicycle tires in 1946. In 1998 Shinko purchased motorcycle tire technology from Yokohama. Shinko then began production in South Korea of motorcycle tires. The Shinko 705s come from that plant. Shinko bills the 705 Trailmaster as a 75% on-road and 25% off-road tire. They are bias-ply tires available in a variety of 17, 18, 19 and 21-inch sizes to fit all the popular adventure bikes. Radial 705s are also now available. The 705 is an aggressive-looking tire with large knobs that look like they would offer good off-road traction. They have big tread blocks with large, flat faces on them to help with on-road traction. The thick blocks have deep wells and offer great water evacuation during wet riding.
I checked with Tire Express to order the tires and was astounded to find that the front and rear could be shipped to my house for the pittance price of $115.00! (support your local shop. Ed.) Yes – you read that correctly! I quickly got out the credit card and ordered up a set. When they arrived, I was impressed how tough and beefy these tires looked. They mounted up and balanced very easily. I geared up and took them for a ride.
I rode rather cautiously for the first hour or so to let the Shinkos get scrubbed in. They rolled into corners nicely and were very stable through turns. Cornering with these tires is a “set it and forget it” proposition. Simply set the bike to your chosen cornering angle and ease pressure on the bars. The tires will stay at that cornering angle. I was pleasantly surprised that these dual-purpose tires maintained comfortable cornering composure all the way to peg skimming speed with the V-Strom. Shinko 705s are confidence-inspiring tires.
I was also very happy the first time I was caught in a duck-drowning downpour. The 705s never hinted at hydroplaning and stuck to the pavement almost like it was dry. I never felt even one wiggle from them. They performed exceptionally well in the wet. Again, they were very confidence inspiring tires.
They also work very well off-road. On two-track, low maintenance and gravel roads they feel close to true off-road tires. Given the limits of the V-Strom, these tires are a perfect fit for it off-road. During one off-road foray, I ended up in a depression in the road filled with fine silt and sand. With “street” tires on my bike, I would have been hopelessly stuck. With the Shinko’s, I threw a nice roost and powered out of the sand wash quite easily. Once again, I came away impressed with the Shinkos!
There are a couple of minor things that I discovered about the tires. For one, my mileage dropped 2-3 mpg consistently with the Shinkos. I’m sure this is due to the increased rolling resistance of the blockier tread. That same tread lends itself to the Shinkos having two other characteristics – minor wander on rain grooves and a growly sound at lower speed. I believe these characteristics are more endemic to blocky tread designs and not a fault of the Shinkos themselves.
Given their amazingly competent performances in widely varying riding conditions, those are very easy trade-offs to live with. The 705s offer amazing value and competence at fire sale pricing. On top of it all, tread wear has been excellent. Tread wear has been minimal after 5,000 miles. All in all, I am convinced that a better value does not exist for tires on adventure bikes.