The shape of a tire has a significant impact on the handling characteristics of a motorcycle. If your front tire is wider and flatter, this will set your bike up to be more stable in a straight line but the bike will require more effort to lean over into a turn. If your front tire is taller and narrower the bike will take less effort to drop into a turn and allow you to initiate turns more quickly. Rubber compounds from different manufacturers allow more or less grip on cold or wet pavement.
A tire that lasts a REALLY long time will often not provide as much grip as a tire that wears out quickly. Some riders prefer a tire to maintain it’s tread depth for multiple years, others want their tire to stick like glue and they don’t mind changing them more frequently than their engine oil.
Tread is the easiest way to guess the purpose of a given tire and the shape of the tread blocks really comes into play when you leave paved or hard packed surfaces. Having large voids between tread blocks makes a tire look very off-road capable but it really hurts the on pavement performance because it reduces your contact patch with the road. A tire with very little space between the tread blocks is more likely to ‘pack up’ with mud when the going gets slippery. Real off-road dirt bike tires are actually much flatter in profile than street tires because as the bike leans over the aggressive side knobs on the tires are forced into the ground to produce traction on soft surfaces.
Adventure bike riders are really challenged when it comes to finding the right tire because of the mixed surfaces and different challenges every rider faces. There is no perfect tire that works great everywhere but there are some very good compromise tires that work really well across surprisingly varied surfaces. To get the most out of your bike it is very helpful to look at what type of riding you most often do and buy the tire that will perform the best for you.