2023 Motorcycle Tire Championship: Round 1

Windmills are everywhere here.  Sprouting hundreds of feet up from the ground as if planted among the wheat fields they call home, they contrast the ancient jagged Oregon landscape with their modern carbon fiber reinforced fiberglass blades, end tips spinning at 150 miles per hour.  Eastern Oregon’s fields are peppered with these giant white beasts and their guillotine blades are Don Quixote’s worst nightmare.

But for motorcyclists, Eastern Oregon is a dream.  Open, remote and flowing, roads in this land shrink wrap themselves around hills and fields, curves shot at you in mind numbing succession until fatigue dries you out, or your tank runs empty, or your tires squeal for mercy.  This is truly “God’s own racetrack”.

And it is the perfect place to test tires.

For the second year in a row, Road Dirt will be pitting two tire giants against each other in a head-to-head battle for sport touring tire supremacy.  Last year, Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV easily won the test over Pirelli’s Angel GT with better dry handling, equal wet weather grip, better long term handling and a shocking 70% more tire life.  Conversations with riders and comments from both of my readers asked about Michelin’s touring giant, the Road 6.  So once again, I twisted the arm of my touring companion Dave “White Girl” Wensveen and convinced him to join me for another summer of testing.

All season we will be following each other nose-to-tail on identical motorcycles as we ride, swap bikes, take notes and grossly over-caffeinate ourselves with the purpose of answering the question we all ask ourselves: which tire is best?

After many years of riding together on identical bikes we have a good baseline for tire comparison.

Last year, my 1998 VFR800 was mounted with Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV, so this year, to even out bias, Dave’s 2001 VFR800 gets the Dunlops while my bike is fitted with Michelin’s Road 6.  Dunlop provided us with a pair of Roadsmart IVs for this test, but after repeated attempts with Michelin were met with deaf ears, I just purchased the Road 6s out of my massively abundant Road Dirt paycheck.  Two famous Oregon roads would be our testing bed- Hwy. 216 from Fossil to Shaniko and the section of historic Oregon 30 known as The Rowena Curves.

Perfect Pacific Northwest weather meant no rain testing. Yet.

Leaving Fossil for Shaniko we topped off our tanks to equal fuel loads and began taking notes.  Within a few curves the Michelin’s Road 6 showed it’s handling personality: It is a predictable tire.  Upright the tire was stable.  When asked to turn, the front followed bar inputs in a linear fashion: a small input gave a small change, larger inputs give a quicker change.  When the R6 was on edge it stayed on edge with stability until you told it otherwise, then mid-corner line changes did not upset the tire and quick side-to-side transitions, of which there are plenty on Highway 216, were met with a little but not too much resistance. Proper counter steering with the R6 gave me confidence because with this tire, there is little fighting the tire and every action is met with a predictable reaction.  I liked this tire, right up to the point where White Girl and I swapped bikes and re-ran the road again.

This tire is quick.

As with the Michelin, it took only a few curves for the Dunlop’s personality to show: This tire is quick.  Upright the tire was stable, but it telegraphed a slightest hint of boredom with being upright.  When asked to turn, the tire followed counter steering inputs so quickly and effortlessly that it almost caught me by surprise, even though I did 10,000 miles in 5 months with this tire last year.  When jumping from my bike to White Girl’s, even with all of my experience on this tire last year, I still had to recalibrate my inputs.  On edge, the Dunlops were stable but more sensitive to body position and mid corner input.  Even when leaned over, the tire responded quickly.  Side to side transitions are so easy that you can use less bar pressure, which is always good riding technique.  This tire gives you the confidence that if you overshoot your braking marker, you can still turn in quick enough to hit your apex.  Just like last year, the Dunlop’s handling impressed us.

Tire testing is actual work.  Dave and I put hundred of miles on both tires and both bikes before coming to our conclusions.  Still, best job ever.

For testing continuity we also ran both tires on the same road we used last year, the Rowena Curves.  Here on the tight horseshoe curves, the results were the same- the Michelin is a stable, predictable friend with good handling, whereas the Dunlop is a quick turning dance partner with sharp handling.  When riding both bikes back to back, you could blindfold us (not recommended) and we could tell you which tires we were on.  If the bike fell into a corner, it was the Michelin. If it snapped in, it was the Dunlop.

The author on The Rowena Curves.  Whereas Hwy. 216 has fast flowing corners for testing, Rowena has hairpins to test quickness.  And it looks spectacular in pictures.

At our debrief, Dave and I compared notes.

“I remember last year how the Pirelli’s flatter profile resisted turn-in,” Dave stated.  “The Michelin has a better profile and doesn’t resist turn-in like the Pirelli’s.  But the Dunlops almost anticipate turn-in.  This is the sportiest tire I’ve ever been on, even compared to hyper sport tires I used to run on this same VFR.  I used to run Bridgestone S22s on this bike for years and I can push the Dunlops just as hard and get twice the mileage.”

We decided that if tires could talk, the Pirellis would say “Do we have to turn?” while the Michelins would say “I’m ready when you are” and the Dunlops would say “I knew you wanted to turn, so just follow me.”

Whereas you could see the flatter profile of the Pirellis, there is no easily visible difference between the Michelins and the Dunlops.  However, what Dunlop calls its Intuitive Response Profile is a real thing as that profile makes for sportier handling.  I wondered if Dunlop’s MotoAmerica racing experience had trickled down to the RSIV, but Michelin is the tire suppler for MotoGP, so both brands have legitimate racing pedigree.  I wonder if Dunlop is the only tire maker brave enough to trickle down handling lessons learned from racing to a public sport touring tire.

Getting back on my bike I was still perfectly happy, and plenty quick, on the Road 6.  This tire follows inputs exactly as you would want, does everything well and handles better than Pirelli’s Angel GT by a wide margin. 

I could live with the Michelin R6s.  I could not go back to the Pirellis.

But with every curve, I wished I was on the Dunlops.  They are so nimble-handling that once you experience them, it ruins you for other tires.  However, handling changes as tires wear, so we will test handling again after about 3,000 miles when we travel the Pacific Coast Highway to cover the MotoAmerica races at Laguna Seca.  Keep checking back for updates.  For now though, when it comes to pure handling right out of the box, Dunlop wins.  Again.

With identical bikes, rider styles, fuel loads and coffee orders, the only difference was the tires, and differences were clear.

“The Dunlops just take less effort,” Dave said.  “It shows just how far away the Pirellis are (and the Road 6s are kind of close) which you would never know unless you rode them back-to-back-to-back like we did.  Now, everything I ride I compare to the Dunlops.  They are the new benchmark.”

More to come…

Ted

*Here’s a short clip of Ted throttling through curves between Antelope and Shaniko, Oregon. Just had to include this too. We love the sound of an open-throated VFR800-

MotoAmerica 2023

33 Comments

  1. Elmo

    Really interesting to read such a comparison of tires. Looking forward to further updates on how wear alters performance.

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      Last year’s results told a lot about how the different tires behaved over their lifespan. We will run them down to cord and report results here as the riding season progresses.

      Reply
      • Nathan Meade

        I love the if tires could talk example!

        Reply
        • Ted M Edwards

          Dave and I have spent much more time than anyone knows dismantling the personalities of each tire. Riding the same bikes with different tires has revealed more than we predicted.

          Reply
      • Dutch FJR owner

        Exactly the kind of review I was looking for in my quest for FJR-rubber, comparing the Road 6 to the RS4. Very curious how results are in wet conditions, as I’ve been told it’s Michelin’s strong point.

        Reply
        • Everything mc

          Dunlop really started promoting this tire early this year. while I can afford to use any tire I want and was running the Michelin’s it started getting old Replacing my pilot power 5 every 3000 miles.
          I tried the road smart 4 and won’t be looking back anytime soon. They are tremendous and do everything I need from aggressive riding to great mileage. , great job dunlop.

          Reply
      • SRACER8

        what tire pressures did you run cold? that always a determining factor in your longevity and overall grip.

        Reply
        • Ted M Edwards

          Both bikes were constantly maintained at 36 psi front and 42 psi rear throughout the duration of the test.

          Reply
  2. Stan

    I would love to see you guys do test on the new Conti Road Attack 4’s and compare them to the Dunlop.

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      This has been a popular test series with readers. If we have the means to continue it next year, we will certainly take the Continental under consideration.

      Reply
  3. Dave

    I have RoadSmart tires on a 2015 FZ 07. One of the best tires I’ve ever had. 8,000 mi, still going, but a light motorcycle.

    Reply
  4. Scott Weaver

    I just drove thru those windmills yesterday, Pendleton to Touchet, and I got a FJR13000 a few weeks ago and have been looking at new tires, I’m glad this article showed up!!

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Ted & Dave will be comparing both all summer, so stay tuned for more,

      Reply
      • Charlie

        Can’t wait to see what you guys determine. Love the Road 6s, but my GSXS1000GT, MT09, and heavy throttle hand send them to the grave quickly. Generally 3 rears per front. Very curious about these Dunlops. Cheers, and ride them hard!

        Reply
        • Rob Brooks

          Charlie, you add new meaning to the phrase, “burning rubber”. Ride on!

          Reply
          • John Marathonitis

            After 10000 on Pirelli Scorpion Trail II, I replaced the rear with Dunlop Roadsmart 4. The Pirelli was great wet or dry 2 up or solo, it was after 8000 miles that got square and annoying. Dunlop is a bit heavier than Pirelli with stiffer sidewalls. It turns fine and behaves good on apex turns. I can’t say much in rain since I haven’t been caught yet. And can’t wait to replace the front Scorpion, it has 10500 and is almost ready to go. The bike is 2019 Ducati Multistrada 1260 Pikes Peak. This was a very objective comparison you gentleman did. Thank you.
            John
            Orlando FL

  5. Pat

    Based on what I’ve read on the internet, I’m very surprised to see another tire holding a candle to the Michelin Pilot Road X’s. I just read the shootout with the Pirellis, loved it, and I’m loving this as well. Thanks guys!

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      It was clear from the start that the Dunlops had a clear handling edge over the Michelins. How each tire handles after thousands of miles, we will see.

      Reply
  6. Sheridan Cowling

    Have you tried the Roadsmart 3s to determine if the 4s are really worth the extra cost?
    I’ve tried Road 5s in the past on a 99 CBR600F4 and never had an issue on them but I never rode on a really twisty road to see how the bike handled.
    Current bike is an SV650 which has RS3s as OEM equipment and I don’t like them at all. Maybe it’s the OEM shock giving the poor handling characteristics (Nitron hopefully arriving soon) but either way I’m looking at an upgrade and these 2 being tested are my choice.
    Before it was the RS4 and Angel GT as I wanted to try something new but then I stumbled across your review and my mind quickly changed to the RS4 and Road 6 since I liked the Road 5 and it became a tyre I recommended to my customers.
    Since the Road 6 came out I haven’t been on a road bike and instead went the ADV and Dual Sport route so coming back to road tyres has left me open to a lot of options with no knowledge or which to use.

    I’ve got 1 month to choose a set before a week long trip and I’m hinging on your review.

    Do I go with the Road 6 knowing what the 5 was like or do I go with the RS4 hoping its a major improvement over the current RS3s I have?

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Hi Sheridan,
      We did a review of the RSIII tires as well, on my personal Triumph Bonneville. I’ve found them a still remarkable tire, and a great value for the money. Each brand makes small, incremental improvements in tire structure, compound, and performance in their tire lines, but for my buck, and my style of riding, I’ve been more than satisfied with Dunlop’s RSIII tires on my ride.
      Here’s the link to that review-
      https://roaddirt.tv/dunlop-roadsmart-iii-motorcycle-tires/
      Best to ya!
      Rob

      Reply
    • Valter

      very good article, they are exactly the 2 tires I had in mind. I would be interested in the wet test. Thank you
      valter

      Reply
      • Rob Brooks

        Wet test is still forthcoming…

        Reply
      • Ted M Edwards

        We had to travel to Colorado to find rain amidst our dry PNW summer. And find it we did. Story in process. Keep checking back.

        Reply
  7. Daniel M

    Here in Sweden I can buy a set of Dunlop Mutant for 1 840 sek + 2 593 sek = 4433 sek. Or MICHELIN ROAD 6 for 2 009 sek + 2 535 sek = 4544 sek.

    I have heard good words for both of them. I ride an BMW f800st, both dry and rainy days.

    Thank for a nice review!
    /Daniel

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Hello Daniel, and thank you for reading and adding your comments!

      Reply
  8. Damimal

    Hello and thank you for the good reporting you guys are doing.
    What tyre pressures are you running cold on your VFR bikes?
    Have you tested R6 or RS4 with any air pressure than the data plate recommends?
    I have a 2022 BMW R1250 RS and wore through the OEM Metzlers and a set of Conti Road Attack 4 (very nice sport touring tire but short rear life of 3k) and currently on a set of Micheline Road 6 (Rear was toast in 3K, front looks great, replaced rear with R6 GT in hopes of improved life). I have tested 5 to 10% less cold air pressures, no cupping. Currently running exact data plate of 36.3 Front and 42.1 Rear. I spoke with a USA Dunlop MC tire rep and he stated that the RoadSmart 4 rear was a GT rated tire. I intend to try a set of RS4s in the future.
    DP

    Reply
    • Ted Edwars

      We run a cold 36 psi front and 42 psi rear throughout the summer, checked frequently. Also, you are correct that whereas Michelin makes a GT version for heavier bikes like your BMW, Dunlop has one construction good for all weight of bikes, heavier like your BMW or lighter like our VFRs. We are currently touring like mad to run both down to cord before the snow hits up here, so we will report on mileage soon.

      Reply
      • Juan Carlos

        Any word on final mileage on R6s and RS4s by now? I own a ’20 R1250R (527 lbs wet), which believe it or not, it’s only like 2 lbs heavier than your ‘light’ VFR (ha ha). Both are heavy for a sport bike, but you can ride all day on both, and they handle much better than their weight suggest. And zero issues riding it to the edge of the tires in the twisties. I used to own a VFR (’97), and regretted selling it.
        Anyway, I always ride solo, so I’d get the regular R6s, but I’m torn between those 2 tires. Just checked Revzilla, and R6s are $474 and RS4s $454, so if the RS4s last at least as much as the R6s, might give those a try. Only got 3K miles out of the stock Z8s, due to the super rough asphalt in the Hill Country and Gila. Thank you.
        JC

        Reply
        • Ted M Edwards

          We are currently working on running them down to cord. Stay tuned.

          Reply
  9. Keith Gill

    I’ve been looking for a sporty tire that can last for the 9,300 mls service interval of my Ducati 950 Supersport. My dealer fits them for free if done during a scheduled service, saving me the hassle of dealing with the 230 Nm rear axle nut. Michelin 6’s lasted just over 8,000 MLS. I’ve used half the tread of this set of RS4’s in the 5,000 mls since having them spooned on at the last service. It looks like they’ll make it to my next service.

    For me, they also suit the 950 SS’s handling better.

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      Keith, there are many results that don’t make it into the test due to space and time, and you hit on one important detail: rate of wear. We discovered that the Dunlops rate of wear slows as miles accumulate. In other words, the first half of the tread life wears faster than the second half of the tread. As tread wears thereby increasing the contact patch’s footprint, the rate of wear slows. Even though it took me about 10,00 miles to wear them down to cord, 6,000 of those miles were spent going from half life to end. So, if you have 5k miles to half life on your Ducati, then they should make it to your next service.

      Reply
  10. Jim pawlowski

    Any chance to test a Metzeler road rec 01 SE vs a Dunlop road smart 4 or Michelin road 6? Or any feedback on a Metzeler road tec 01 SE?

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Looking at several options for tire tests next summer, of which your suggestions are among them. Thanks,

      Reply

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