Our initial tests of the Karoo 3 were performed while riding in the city. Here the tires felt much like street tires without any of the squirming of a knobby tire. Large flat bands of rubber offer a sizable contact patch that maximizes stopping performance under hard braking. Considerable braking force can be applied before the tires start to skid.
The round shape of the Karoo 3 also gives it good cornering characteristics, allowing smooth side-to-side transitions on twisty asphalt. The tire tread design uses tightly spaced knobs on the sides of the tire for more surface area when leaned over in a turn. The design offers good mid-turn grip, although powering out of turns can easily initiate a slide.
Riding on the highway, we initially experienced a high-pitched whine from the tires. This was more pronounced when traveling over grooved asphalt. However, the tire noise dissipated after a few hundred miles until eventually it became unnoticeable over the wind noise.
The Karoo 3 performed well during our rain tests and offered predictable grip on wet surfaces. The tire design utilizes narrow grooves between the center knobs that channel water away from the contact patch effectively.
The Karoo 3 tires measured 6mm of tread in front and 10mm on the rear when new.
Testing was performed in desert terrain that included everything from rocky jeep trails to sandy washes and loose hill climbs. As part of our testing, we participated in the challenging LA-Barstow to Vegas ride through the Mojave Desert where the Karoo 3s performed impressively on hard-core off-road terrain.
The sandy trails of the Mojave desert are lined with hidden rocks that are notorious for causing flats on the LA-Barstow to Vegas ride. Although we managed to put two large dings in the front rim, we never received a puncture during the ride.
When we encountered deep sand, the front Karoo 3 maintained traction similar to the Continental TKC 80 and didn’t give us any unexpected loss of traction like many report on the Heidenau K60. Rear tire traction was adequate in deep sand and forward momentum is maintained with moderate tire spin.
Large openings between tread bands help the Karoo 3 dig deep into loose surfaces.
On hard packed dirt and rocky trails the Karoo 3 offers plenty of grip. Stopping performance is also good on most off-road surfaces. Although we did notice early lockup on steep descents.
Mud is a difficult challenge for any 50/50 dual sport tire and the Karoos are no exception. Slick mud made it hard to grab traction but the large central openings of the tire cleaned mud out quickly and didn’t allow it to pack up. While mud may not be a strength for the Karoo 3, it can definitely handle short sections of light mud without a problem.
After completing 1, 500 miles (60% street/40% dirt) the rear tire was still in good shape with only minor squaring off. The water channels in the center of the rear tire were nearly worn away but there was still plenty of usable rubber left. Visually, the front tire still looked like it had been recently installed.
Our measurements indicated a loss of 5mm of rubber out of a total of 10mm on the rear and only 0.5mm out of 6mm on the front. At this rate of wear we would expect to get around 3, 000 miles from the Karoo 3 rear. We suspect the Karoo 3 front will last at least 6, 000 miles or the lifespan of two rears.
The Karoo 3 rear still had plenty of tread left after 1, 500 miles and the front looked barely scrubbed in.
Overall, we were pleased with the capabilities of the Karoo 3. Off-road performance was close to the TKC 80 and its on-road performance and tire wear was a step ahead. It surpassed the Heidenau K60 Scout in both on and off-road performance but was not quite a match for the Heidenau’s exceptional tire wear.