A Brief Intro: The Method To Our Tire Testing Madness

Two years ago, a coffee fueled debate occurred between Dave “White Girl” Wensveen and I.  My cousin/riding buddy/mileage muncher/fellow coffee addict and I argued endlessly over the best sport touring tires on the market comparing handling, mileage, rain performance and price.  I suggested that unless you ride different tires on the same bike on the same roads at the same time you can’t really effectively compare traits.  We went back and forth, drank more coffee, and continued to plunge into the tire discussion abyss that so many riders and internet forums fall into.

Three coffees later I had convinced him to put our debate to rest by spending the year riding our pair of 5th generation VFR800s all summer, nose to tail on two different tires: Pirelli’s Angel GT (my tire of choice for many years) and Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV.  In what became year one or our annual sport touring tire shootout, Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV easily dominated every category.

Our test bikes are a matched set of Honda’s classic 5th generation VFR800.  Sporty enough to put a hurt on tires and comfortable enough for months of 300 mile days, they are perfect tire abuse machines.  And we both have one in our garage, so that helps.

Both of our readers had questions about Michelin’s Road 6, so more caffeine and some questionable life choices had us back testing the Michelin against the Dunlop in year 2.  Dunlop won again, but not quite as easily as before.  While the Michelin came in second, it was a better all around performer than the Pirelli.  We questioned whether there was any tire out there that can compete with the Roadsmart IV’s brilliant handling and long life.  We put the question to tire manufacturers and this year, Shinko answered the call.

If you haven’t heard of Shinko Motorcycle Tires, I don’t blame you.  Shinko does not have the brand name recognition or racing pedigree of major manufacturers like Dunlop, Michelin, Pirelli or Bridgestone.  However, their rubber roots run deep having manufactured bicycle tires since the end of World War II, then purchasing motorcycle tire technology from Yokohama in 1998.  They claim to manufacture about 200,000 tires a month.

Their sport touring flagship, the Verge 2x, has a harder tread compound in the middle of the tire for extended tire life and a softer edge compound for grip.  The front tire has multiple water channelling sipes running laterally across the tread while the rear siping parallels the tread grooves.  All that siping has check mark water reservoirs, a similar design to Michelin’s button hole water technology.  Zero degree steel belting means the steel winding is oriented in the riding direction with no joints, to aid stability.  Even with all of this technology, the Shinko will have an uphill climb to unseat out two time champion, Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV.

A side by side comparison of Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV (left) and Shinko’s Verge 2X (right). Both are dual compound tires.  Whereas Dunlop uses varying depth and width channeling to carry away water, Shinko uses narrow siping with check marked reservoirs to carry water away.

The Roadsmart IV also follows standard sport touring practice with a harder center compound for mileage and a softer edge compound for grip.  In our testing, we never had an issue with grip in the wet in everything from freezing Northwest thunderstorms to high altitude Colorado sprints across the continental divide.  In the dry, we have pushed the RSIV to “reasonable” hooligan speeds on fully loaded bikes for hundreds of miles a day and came away smiling.  Dunlop’s Intuitive Response Profile just flat out works.  This tire is so quick turning that Dave once called it “and expert level tire.”

“If you came from a cruiser”, he observed, “to this bike (our VFRs) and the Dunlops, you would be fooled into thinking that it was unstable.”

Whereas previous tire comparisons between Pirelli, Michelin and Dunlop showed price differences between the three were minimal, there is a dramatic price difference between the Verge 2X and the Roadsmart IV.  Using Revzilla as a baseline for our 120/70/17 front and 180/55/17 rear tire sizes, Verge 2Xs are $115.56 for a front and $178.21 for a rear tire.  Roadsmart IVs are $210.84 for a front and $270.94 for a rear.  Total, that makes the Shinkos $188.01 cheaper per set than the Dunlops.

Neither of us is getting rich doing this test.  In fact, it costs us greatly.  Every cent of our testing and traveling expenses comes out of our own pocket.  Sometimes manufacturers provide us with tires.  Sometimes we buy them ourselves.  And like many of you, Dave and I are cheap bastards.  Price matters, and the Shinkos are dramatically cheaper.

But cheaper does not mean better. Are they worth it?  We will see.

To keep our same baseline, our initial handling test is taking place on the same roads we have used for the previous two year’s testing: Eastern Oregon and the Rowena Curves.  That is, if the Pacific Northwest’s schizophrenic April weather allows.  Whatever happens, whatever results we find, whatever questionable decisions we make and adventures we have in this year’s testing, we will to take you along for the ride.

Ted

For our 2024 initial tire testing impressions, check it out here:

First Impressions

Dave and Ted, getting highly caffeinated for another round of tire testing.

 

 

NE Ga Motorsports

3 Comments

  1. Scott

    I have read your previous tire tests with great interest. Late last summer I scored a deal on a set of Kenda KM1’s for my FJR1300 for $178 for the set from Motosport, while at the same time purchasing a set of Road 6 GT’s on the opposite end of the tire price spectrum. The Kenda’s have been great for me, just over 9000 miles on them now and they’re about done. They have traveled some of the same curves you’ve mentioned, hardly any in the wet though. It’ll be interesting to see if the price difference equates to an equal longevity/performance difference. Thank you for your info!!

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Good word on the Kendas, Scott. Might be our test rubber for next year.

      Reply
    • Dave Kelley

      Scott,
      I have tried many a tire on my FJR’s since I started riding in 2012. I’m more into safety and longevity of tire than performance.

      Reply

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