Choosing Motorcycle Tyres

Choosing Motorcycle Tyres

It may seem odd to be thinking about which motorcycle tyres to choose next when it is the middle of winter and the tyres I’m running still have 5mm of tread on them.

Choosing motorcycle tyres is not a decision to be rushed. It is an emotional as well as scientific decision, and whatever is chosen is hopefully going to with me for 6,000 miles or more. I don’t want to be regretting my choice every time it rains.

But before we get into the details, a quick word about OEM tyres.

OEM motorcycle tyres – the ones that come fitted as standard to a brand new motorcycle – are typically manufactured to a price point and specification agreed by the motorcycle manufacturer, not the tyre company.

Motorcycle manufacturer calls up a tyre company and says “We would like a hundred thousand XYZ brand motorcycle tyres, and wish to pay 50 quid a pair, please.

To make that happen, the tyre manufacturer has to reduce its manufacturing costs. So perhaps the tyre compound is changed. Perhaps the OEM motorcycle tyres are made from one universal compound, rather than the fancy dual compounds that give extra grip.

Judging the performance of motorcycle tyres based on the OEM version is similar to listening to tribute bands. Some are excellent. Some are not. And you’ll never know until you try them. However, we don’t complain about the Rolling Stones because of a terrible tribute band we went to see.

What am I Looking for?

It seems that every set of motorcycle tyres out there has an award or justifiably claim that it is better than the other motorcycle tyres in the same sector. Much of the tyre selection process though depends on how each of us rides and the level of confidence that we have when riding in the rain.

I can remember getting absolutely smoked by one of the instructors at a track day during the wet morning sessions. I had lovely new Metzeler Roadtec 01 tyres fitted to my Tiger and the instructor was on very (very!) worn Pirelli Diablo Supercorsas.

A super-smooth rider on a Tiger 1200 and I were gently pulling away from the crowd when the instructor came past us both as if we were parked up having a cup of tea.

There were no twitches or slides, he simply had more confidence in how he could be smooth and progressive on knackered Supercorsas that I had on my new Roadtec01s.

The more confidence you have in the rain, the smoother you can be and the more grip you will find the motorcycle tyres actually have. But first, you need to be confident that the tyres will give you that grip you hope they have.

So I’m looking for a set of confidence-inspiring motorcycle tyres that will work well in the wet and the dry. Tyres that will last 5,000 miles or more before losing their profile (aka Squaring Off) and make the bike steer like a barge. A tyre that will help me discover just how much grip it really has without frightening me while I find out.

Having done all the normal research. Listened to the opinions of others. Talk to Roger who is something of a tyre geek, and absorbed all of the Youtube videos, my list of motorcycle tyres to choose between has been boiled down to these five.


Dunlop Roadsmart III

Of the motorcycle tyres I’m considering, Dunlops are the ones I’ve never tried. Earlier Roadsmarts had an awful reputation as an OEM tyre, with people doing deals when they bought a motorcycle to have the tyres swapped for just about anything else. As I mentioned earlier – OEM tyres are not a fair assessment of the “real” version.

Dunlop Roadsmart III claim that they are the motorcycle tyres you should choose, centres around the tread design, stating that this enables the tyre to maintain its wet and dry grip for longer. Dunlop also says that the SP version of the tyre offers “augmented high-speed stability“.

And you get all of this from a motorcycle tyre that is made from a “wear-resistant high-performance compound for high mileage“.

RoadSmart III’s new MultiTread compound with optimised tri-polymer blend and high dispersion silica mix offers significantly increased mileage and wet grip. Internal tests show that mileage has been improved by +10%

Dunlop Tyres

Whereas I like the sound of all of this, the claims seem to be at odds with each other. Tyres that wear more slowly are normally made from a harder compound. The harder the compound the less grip the tyre will deliver.

Consider a slick racing tyre. For the tyre to provide grip it has to mould to the track surface. To do this effectively the tyre has to be soft and pliable. Yet the softer the tyre the faster it wears out.

If you want longevity then build a stiffer carcass, but that will flex less and you won’t get as much grip.

Nonetheless, that is exactly what Dunlop appears to have achieved, with over 90% of riders stating they would buy the tyre again, even though it is reported as giving a harder than expected ride.

To hear people say that they get over 8,000 miles from Dunlop Roadsmart motorcycle tyres isn’t uncommon.


Pirelli Angel GTII

Pirelli and Metzler are essentially the same company, so I’m always confused as to why they compete with each other for the same customers.

First came the Pirelli Angel GT, an excellent tyre for touring. Then Metzler released the Roadtec01 which claimed the crown.

So Pirelli, with the Angel GTII are looking to replace themselves, as the touring tyre of choice. It seems strange, but there you have it.

Being Pirellis, the Angel GTII needs to maintain the sports-focused reputation, and reviews suggest that the Angel GTIIs turn a little sharper than their Metzeler cousins, which is perhaps why there are two brands from the same company competing with each other.

Much more than just a name change and some marketing waffle, the Angel GTII is a major overhaul of the previous tyre with a revised profile, construction process and new compounds.

Outstanding wet behaviour also thanks to a new innovative tread design coming from PIRELLI DIABLO™ racing tyres for wet conditions

Pirelli Tyres

The most obvious change is the tread pattern and the channel running around the centre of the tyre which Pirelli says delivers a major improvement in wet weather performance.

The OEM version of the tyre gets shocking reviews. So bad that you do have to wonder why motorcycle tyre manufacturers agree to make these copies. So if you are reading a review of the Angel GTII make sure they are not talking about the OEM version.

I could be seriously tempted by a set of Angel GTIIs, especially if I was riding a heavier motorcycle than the KTM 1090 and Pirelli made a 110 front, which sadly they don’t.


Michelin Road 5

For the fifth generation of the Michelin Road (Pilot) 5, Michelin have dropped “Pilot” from the name, but the sniped tread pattern remains.

Snipes are named after John F. Snipe who in 1923 famously cut groves in his rubber-soled shoes to increase their grip on a wet floor.

Tyre manufacturer Goodyear copied the idea first and after that most tyre manufacturers have tried snipes at one time or another. However, only Michelin makes snipes such a prominent part of their tread pattern.

The compound in the centre of the Road 5 rear tyre is made from Michelins wet grip compound, while either side of that (the edges) are made from Michelin’s dry compound.

The lean angle required to transition from the wet to dry compound is roughly 35°. In the rain, I’m not sure I would ever get close enough to 35° angle of lean to test the transition from the wet to the dry compound, so I’ll just agree that 35° is enough.

Even when 50% worn, a MICHELIN Road 5 tyre stops as quickly as a brand new MICHELIN Pilot Road 4* tyre thanks to the evolutionary MICHELIN XST Evo sipes.

According to internal studies at Fontange, a Michelin test track, under the supervision of an independent witness.

The other big claim Michelin make for the Road 5 is that even when 50% worn – which surprisingly seems to equal around 2,000 miles in Michelin’s tests – the stopping distance is shorter than that for a brand new Road Pilot 4.

I liked my Road Pilot 2 tyres, but didn’t get on with the Road Pilot 3s I replaced them with. After about 1,000 miles on the Michelin tyres, I swapped to Metzeler Roadtec01s.

So for Michelin Road 5s to be on my list of possible motorcycle tyres they must be doing something right. There are a lot of riders who have them as their first choice of tyre, although I can’t say I’m to keen on the idea of a pair of Michelin Road 5s.


Bridgestone Battlax A41

Bridgestone Battlax A41s would be the safe choice for the next pair of motorcycle tyres. I’ve ridden over 20,000 miles on these tyres on sports tourers and adventure bikes and never had a moment’s worry.

As long as you can accept the “step” the tyres give when crossing white lines in the wet, they’re an excellent choice of tyre. The step isn’t dramatic. The tyres exaggerate change from tarmac to white line and back to tarmac, which if you are not expecting it can be a little disconcerting.

Three of us used them around Scotland in glorious Scottish sunshine and dismal Scottish rain, and the Bridgestone A41s never missed a beat.

Free Scotland Motorcycle Tour Routes

Billy can get 10,000 from a set on his DCT Africa twin, although how remains a mystery to the rest of us. I averaged 6,000 miles before the rear was at 2mm on the V-Strom and I would then change them as a pair. Carle enjoyed his A41s, even if they were 2nd hand OEM specials from eBay.

If I know and like these tyres, then why not just default out to another set and enjoy the confidence 20,000 miles of riding on them brings?

The answer would be the Metzeler Tourance Next OEM motorcycle tyres fitted to the KTM.


Metzeler Tourance Next

The Metzler Tourance Next tyres are the standard on KTM 1090s. The previous owner of the KTM had only ridden the bike 2,500 miles and never felt the need to change the tyres.

The weather was miserable when the bike was delivered, so my first ride was little more than a “bimble” around a few well-known backroads, but it was enough to be impressed with the Metzelers.

Straight lining a run of curves on one of the backroads, I could feel myself prepare for the “step” that the Bridgestone A41s would always give me when crossing white lines in the wet. It was slightly strange when Metzelers didn’t do anything. It was almost as if the white line wasn’t there.

According to the writing on the sidewalls, the Metzler Tourance Next tyres fitted to my KTM are the OEM originals. Now, it could be that KTM has opted to fit real Tourance Next motorcycle tyres, rather than a price-driven copy, and the writing on the sidewall simply denotes they are part of KTM’s mass purchase.

It is also fair to say that the weather since I’ve owned the KTM hasn’t provided inspiring riding conditions, yet I’m still impressed. I can only hope that when the riding gets spirited, the Tourance Next tyres continue to deliver.

TOURANCE™ NEXT features a dual-compound tread layout whose specifications derive directly from the expertise gained in developing Metzeler’s renowned sport-touring tyres. The two main project goals have concerned the supremacy in wet performance and mileage. 

Metzeler

The Tourance Next rear tyre has a 40mm wide centre strip that is optimised for mileage and traction, while the outer edges of the tyres are 100% silica for wet weather grip.

Hopefully, this change in compounds will prevent the squaring off at half-life I experienced on both sets of Metzler Roadtec01s I fitted on the Kawasaki Versys.

To see if the Tourance Next tyres square off in similar fashion, I need to get the mileage on the KTM up to around 5,000 miles. Bimbling around in the soggy conditions looking at the ice on the puddle tops, doesn’t make for a fair test. I need some cold but clear winter days.

In all of the reviews I’ve read, I only found one negative comment. Considering the Metzeler Tourance Next that has been in production – unchanged as far as I can tell – since 2014, that is an impressive record.

While reviews are an excellent source of information, there is nothing better than riding on a tyre to understand it. Nothing for it than to keep watching the weather forecast and hoping.


Decisions, Decisions

Metzeler Tourance Next tyres have to be top of my “What Motorcycle Tyres Do I Buy Next?” list. Even if I assume the worst and the Metzelers fitted to the KTM are OEM copies, then the real Metzeler Tourance Next tyres should be very impressive.

If the Tourance Next tyres I’m currently running square off, top of the list would be an even choice between the Bridgestone Battlax A41 and the Pirelli Angel GTIIs.

Third would be the Dunlop Roadsmart III only because of the stiffer carcass and reportedly harder ride they give. I’ve never ridden them, so I’m judging them from the reviews and other riders comments.

Which sadly puts the Michelin Road 5s, propping up the stack.

The Five Nations Motorcycle Challenge is planned for the end of March, and as this involves the west coast of Ireland, the chances are it will rain. Barring the dryest winter on record, I have until then to make my mind up.

Acknowledgements

  • The images and logos belong to the tyre manufacturers and are used here with our thanks.
  • Thanks to SportsBikeShop for the pricing information, available by clicking on the images.
  • And to the numerous sources of technical information and the riders who provided feedback and commentary on the motorcycle tyres that I’ve condensed into this article … Thank you.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Miklos at 5:00 pm

    Out of these bunch I’d pick the Michelin Road 5, they are fitted to my bike right now. Note that I ride a different kind of bike, a Suzuki GSX-S1000, naked, and nowadays I typically use it for sport-touring. This means some motorways then twisties. What I particularly like on the Michelin is that the center is hard as a touring tyre, but the sides are soft as a sporty one. Meaning that it doesn’t square off terribly like the OEM fitted Dunlop D214s did – those were rubbish tyres, were toast in 5,000 kms.

    Now even after 10,000 kms the Michelins work great. They are outstandingly predictable in the rain and don’t lose much grip in the cold either. On curvy roads the soft sides are confidence inspiring, have great grip. While on the OEM Dunlops the bike’s traction control was always fighting to keep that 148HP in check, fitted with the Michelins the bike became much more nimble.

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