Piling the miles on motorcycle sport touring tires

While all motorcycle tires are round and black, they are not the same.  Even with technological advances one would think that modern sport touring tires are all very similar, but there are differences.  A few years ago we here at Road Dirt Motorcycle Media started a quest to find those differences and pass that information on to you.

This is year three of what has evolved into a yearly sport touring tire shootout where fellow tire geek Dave “White Girl” Wensveen and I spoon on some of the most popular sport touring rubber on our matched set of 5th generation Honda VFR800s and ride them around the country for thousands of miles in heat, cold, rain and sun taking notes all year to find what we consider the best sport touring tire available.

Our testing mules, a pair of classic 5th gen Honda VFR800s.

Piling on the miles and torture testing tires has taught us that while tires might all be round and black, there are dramatic and sometimes subtle differences in tires that can either enhance or completely change your riding experience.  We see those differences as we jump from one bike to the other all season long, experiencing the behavior of tire’s full lifespan, start to finish.

Nose to tail, all season, is how we test tires through the year.

In year one, Dunlop dominated the short lived and poor handling Pirelli Angel GT.  In year two the Roadsmart IV out handled the Michelin Road 6 while matching it in wet performance and longevity.  This year, Shinko jumped in the ring offering their sport touring offering, the Verge 2x, to tackle two time defending tire shootout champion, Dunlop’s superb Roadsmart IV.

In our initial testing, the Verge 2x surprised us with handling on par with the Michelin.  Sharp and stable, the Verge 2x was good, but not nearly as quick or intuitive as the Roadsmart IV.  There was a slight tendency to oscillate on quick left to right transitions on fast “S” turns, but nothing bothersome.  It held a stable line with little bar pressure and no surprises, but could not keep up pace with the Dunlop. 

Would a few thousand miles change that?

We found out by putting a couple thousand miles on both tires, using Eastern Oregon as our torture chamber.  Out there, the old west still lives.  Fast speeds, heat and 80 grit road surfaces in God’s Own Racetrack destroy weak willed rubber like nothing else.  I have seen tires in this environment go from near wear bars down to cord in a day’s worth of heavy right wrist.  Then, 2,500 miles later, we arrived at our testing grounds, Hurricane Ridge Road.

Tucked into Washington’s Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge starts at sea level in Port Angeles, Washington and climbs to 5,242 feet in 17 cliff hugging miles of smooth pavement with gawking views of Mount Olympus, as majestic as the name implies.  Blink, and you would think you were in the Colorado Rockies.  No runoff zones, sheer drops and abundant tame deer mean you pick your risk level carefully if you want to make it to the top and see the view.  Admission to the road is $25.  Worth it.

Sharp black peaks frosted with snow is typical Olympic National Forest scenery. The road getting there is just as special, an idyllic place to test tires.

We started at the base on our VFRs, mine running the Roadsmart IVs with White Girl’s bike on the Verge 2x.  For the first time in my life ever riding this magical road, there was zero traffic.  Not one single car.  How we timed it perfectly I have no idea.  I guess 6:00 pm on a Tuesday is the perfect time to ride Hurricane Ridge.  Put that on your calendar. 

So, like any hooligan would do, we…ahem…tested tires.

Even with 2,500 miles of wear the Roadsmart IVs were quick.  True, there was some flat spotting on the rear from Eastern Oregon, but turn-in was still nearly zero effort.  Very little bar pressure is required to make the tire tip in, and that nibble turn-in is magnified under trail braking.  Once in the corner, the Dunlop holds steady enough that one hand is all that is required, even at nearly full lean (by the way, dragging fingers on the pavement through corners is not recommended, according to the Road Dirt legal team.  Legal disclaimer done).

Halfway to the top, we swapped bikes.  First impressions were that the Shinkos felt exactly like the Michelins at this state of wear: steady, predictable, fun, but not terribly exciting.  The side-to-side oscillations I got on quick transitions when the Verge 2x was new had almost completely disappeared.  Full lean stability was good and turn-in was easy.  My first thought was that this tire just might handle as well as the Dunlops.  Could these tires knock off the champion 2,500 miles in?

Tires were compared daily. Moments after this photo at the summit of Hurricane Ridge, the fog briefly cleared to reveal the Olympic Mountain Range.

No.

After reaching the summit, we turned around and swapped bikes again halfway down. Jumping back on the Dunlops was a revelation.  Differences that we didn’t notice when jumping from the Dunlops to the Shinkos were obvious going from the Shinkos back to the Dunlops.

“The Dunlops make your bike feel 50 lbs. lighter,” Dave said.  “It’s not even close.  It’s just less effort.”

Whereas the Verge 2x did what you asked them to do, the Roadsmart IVs almost anticipated what you want them to do.  Less bar pressure was required on the Dunlops, mid-corner line changes happened with minute pressure changes and none of this came at the expense of straight line stability.  While the Shinkos made us smile in our helmets, the Dunlops made us laugh out loud.  Same bikes, same mileage, same fuel loads, same road, but a much different riding experience.

“If the Dunlops didn’t exist,” Dave observed, “you would think the Shinkos were a great tire.  The problem is that the Dunlops do exist, and they are a fantastic tire.  A 7/10ths pace on the Shinkos feels like a 6/10ths pace on the Dunlops.  I am faster on the Roadsmarts without pushing my skills and I just feel more comfortable on them.  They make everything easier.”

Mountain to the left and drop-off to the right put confident handling at a premium on Hurricane Ridge Road.

I agreed with White Girl.  The Roadsmarts are simply the best handling sport touring tire we have ever tested when new, worn or at end of life.  Nothing we have ridden can match the quickness of the Dunlops when new, or thousands of miles in.  Dunlop calls it an Intuitive Response Profile.  We just call it a damn good time.

But, Shinko’s Verge 2x comes close.

“The Shinkos are a better tire than people give them credit for,” Dave penned in his testing notes.  “I feel like Shinkos, since they are a small market tire, get a bad rap.”  Also, as of this writing, the Shinkos are nearly $200 cheaper per set than the Dunlops.  Price does affect our purchasing decisions making the Shinkos an enticing option for the budget minded rider.

Shinko’s front Verge 2x, then Dunlop’s RSIV front; Shinko’s rear, then Dunlop’s.
Rear wear seems more apparent on the Verge 2x compared to new, while the Dunlop still looks fresh.

While they might all be round and black, tires do have different personalities.  We will continue to run these tires as we follow each other all riding season and see how those personalities change and which one lasts longer.  How long will they last?  We plan to find out.  Dave noted that he already sees the Shinkos wearing differently.  The next 3000 miles will be critical on price vs performance.  Time and miles will tell.

“I would still pay the price difference for the Dunlops,” Dave said. I would still agree.

Ted

What are your thoughts and experiences with these two sport touring tires? Tell us in the comments below!

 

Cycle World Athens

2 Comments

  1. Will

    Thanks for the review. Looking forward to reading the final results of the test.

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      Final results are in Will. Coming soon. Stay tuned.

      Reply

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