We ran them down to the cord
Mileage is the bane of motorcycle tire existence. Compared to their cousins in the automotive world, motorcycle rubber is quick wearing and expensive, making mileage a major concern for consumers. High mileage riders like me may have to replace serviceable rubber before a long trip knowing a tire can’t make the distance or risk having to make an expensive tire purchase during a tour.
However, tire mileage is relative. Tires on different bikes of varying weights, riding styles, terrain and especially inflation pressures can give widely varying mileage numbers making true mileage comparison a battle of hearsay. Search rider’s forums and see what I mean.
The only way to scientifically compare the mileage of one tire versus another and finally put the mileage question to rest forever is to completely control for every single variable: bike, rider, terrain, weight, speed, inflation pressure, etc..which is impossible for an average rider.
Unless you work for Road Dirt Motorcycle Media. Because we do those things.
We used Honda’s sport touring classic, the VFR800 as testing mules because they are slightly quick, can handle the mileage, carry the luggage and, well, we both had one in the garage.
My riding partner Dave Wensveen and I have a matched set of Honda’s classic 5th generation VFR800 sport tourers. Dave spooned on a set of my all time favorite sport-touring tires, Pirelli’s Angel GT on his bike while Dunlop provided a set of Roadsmart IVs for mine. Dave and I drew up a long term plan and dedicated the entire riding season to following each other nose-to-tail across the west, testing Pirelli’s Angel GT against Dunlop’s new Roadsmart IV in every environment possible.
A special thanks to Ron Jarvis of Rocket Ron Moto for providing a RC30 lookalike cover for my VFR800 to pretty up the rear wheel for pictures. Made of bulletproof stuff, it cleaned up the ugly center hole and lug nuts and never wiggled once. After almost 10k miles of testing, it is now the cleanest part of the bike.
I had two fears going into this year long test. First, I had relied on Pirelli’s Angel GT for many years and tens of thousands of touring miles and I was reluctant to spoon anything else on my bike. I was afraid my bias could affect the test. Second, I was afraid that there would be very little difference between these two brands of heavily refined tires and Dave and I would be digging deep to find subtle differences that would not help a reader seeking to make an informed choice. As you will read, both of those fears were put to rest.
Oregon’s Rowena Curves, our handling proving grounds. Curvy, wet, fast, with stone guardrails. Bring your courage.
Both the Angel GT and the Roadsmart IV follow standard practice in sport touring tire technology by pairing a harder compound in the center for mileage with a softer compound on the sidewall for grip. Pirelli’s Angel GT has a visibly flatter profile on the rear tire in order to keep rubber temperatures down and increase mileage while the Dunlop has a more rounded profile similar to a dedicated sport tire.
This difference is what we believe contributed to the winner of the initial handling test. It was Dunlop by a landslide. Using Oregon’s famous Rowena Curves for our test bed, it took only four corners for Dave to realize that my Dunlops out-handled his Pirellis. Dave commented that the Dunlops handled like a dedicated sport bike tire and made the VFR800 feel like it constantly wanted to turn.
Copious notes, much discussion, many states, two countries, thousands of miles and a ton of coffee. I love my job.
“The Dunlop always wants to tip in,” Dave said. “It’s almost like you have to work just a tad bit to keep the RSIV on center and if you adjust the bike a little, it tips in. If you came from a cruiser to this bike and the Dunlops, you would be fooled into thinking that it was unstable.”
Next, we rode them though a northwest deluge where both tires had wet capability far exceeding our courage. Both tires parted running streams of water away like Moses at the Red Sea, allowing a pace that a beginner rider would consider aggressive. For us, we pushed both tires as hard as common sense allowed while saving our bikes for the rest of the test. Neither tire blinked. Both were winners here.
Both tires have deep channels for pushing water aside and high silica content for wet grip.
The long term handling comparison in the California hills north of Santa Cruz at 3,500 miles showed that the Dunlops still turned in like a sport bike tire while the Pirelli’s visibly flattened rear now required even more effort at turn-in than before. At the famous Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside outside of San Francisco, as Dave and I compared testing notes, he gave the golden quote of the test:
“I would rather have a 3,500 mile Dunlop Roadsmart IV on my bike than a brand new Pirelli Angel GT.” My worries about finding differences between the two tires were unfounded. The difference was clear, the Dunlops out-handled the Pirellis.
Increased mileage also increased the handling differences between the two bikes. The Dunlops stayed nimble while the Pirellis got lazier.
But how long would they last? Mileage being a relative thing, we answered that question the only way high mileage riders like us know how: we ran them both down to cord.
Before you read our mileage numbers, remember that we controlled for every variable all year over the full life of the tires. Again, Dunlops and Pirellis of the same size were mounted on identical 5th generation VFR800s. We both kept tire pressures at 36 psi front and 42 psi rear the entire time, both bikes were equally loaded with travel gear of about the same weight in about the same positions, we met for tours at a central location between our houses, followed each other nose-to-tail for thousands of miles across the west all riding season, stopping for gas at the same time and as far as riding styles go, we are cousins. Literally. At some point during the summer, I even convinced Dave to order the same coffee as me. The only difference between these twin setups was the tires. Here is what happened.
Pouring on the miles for tire testing. Not as glamorous as you might think.
After 5,327 miles, Dave’s Pirelli’s Angel GT rear tire was worn down to cord. The Pirellis were done. The Dunlop rear tire had plenty of life left and we still had trips to take, so for our next set of tours I kept riding my VFR800 in an attempt to wear down the Roadsmart IVs. After a tour of the west coast and a second tour into Canada, the Dunlops still had tread left.
Running the Dunlops down to cord began to creep into the start of winter weather in the Pacific Northwest, so I did a mix of commuting, freeway flying and high speed hooligan canyon abuse until finally, after 9,434 miles, cord discoloring showed on the rear.
Controlling for every variable over the full life of both tires, Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV got 77% more mileage than Pirelli’s Angel GT. Dave and I were shocked by this result.
Think of this this way: if you bought a set of Angel GTs, you would be about three fourths of the way into your second Pirelli rear tire before you took off the Dunlop. At the time of this writing, a Pirelli Angel GT rear for our bikes costs $181.54 while the Dunlop Roadsmart IV is $209.73. Even though the Dunlop is only $28 more than the Pirelli, the tire lasted 4,107 miles longer making the Dunlop cheaper per mile.
Pirelli’s Angel GT after 5,327 miles. Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV after 9,434 miles.
Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV is the clear winner. Both tires have ample wet weather capacity and enough dry grip to exceed rider sanity, but when it comes to handling and overall tire life, the Angel GT could not keep up with the Roadsmart IV.
Also, after 3,500 miles the Dunlops retained their sport tire nimbleness while the Pirelli’s had gotten flatter, increasing turning effort. Regarding mileage, testing revealed you will be buying almost two sets of Angel GTs before you need to purchase a new set of Roadsmart IVs. And to be perfectly honest, I believe a lighter wrist could easily squeeze 10K out of the Dunlops, as Dave and I typically ride hard.
“I would not want a tire with any more handling,” Dave said after testing. “Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV is twitchy enough as is. It handles the rain and it gets ridiculous mileage. I don’t see another tire out there with this quality. It’s a kick-ass tire.”
Ask any questions about our year-long tire shootout in the comments section below, and I will be happy to answer.