More Summer Tire Thrashing
Road Dirt’s summer tire shootout is back.
Last spring, after Dave “White Girl” Wensveen and I grossly over caffeinated ourselves, our acute grasp of the obvious made us realize we had the exact same bike. I suggested that it would be a perfect test bed for tires. Two identical bikes, two identical riders, each following the other around all spring, summer and fall while testing and taking notes sounded like the ideal way to put to bed all of the heresy regarding tire performance.
Road Dirt’s official tire testing machines, a pair of Honda’s legendary VFR800s. We put 10,000 miles in 5 months in everything from Northwest downpours to central California heat to test them in every condition you might experience.
So we did exactly that. White Girl’s 2001 Honda VFR800 wore my favorite sport touring tire, Pirelli’s Angel GT, while my 1998 VFR800 rode on Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV. Having never ridden Dunlops I was admittedly biased towards the Pirellis. I toured on the Angel GT for countless thousands of miles and trusted them in any condition.
At the end of testing, the Dunlops proved their worth. They handled better fresh to worn, had just as adequate dry and wet grip and easily outlasted the Pirellis. Dunlops were down to cord after 9,434 miles while the Pirellis were shot after 5,237 miles. Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV won both of us over.
It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two make it outta sight. I wanna rock right now.
However, the test raised just as many questions as it answered. One common question was why did we get so few miles out of the Pirellis? Speed, heat and road surface could be the culprits. Eastern Oregon, one of our favorite haunts, has chip seal like 40 grit sandpaper combined with desert temperatures. Combine those elements with our heavy right wrists and tires don’t stand much of a chance. But remember, both tires were on identical bikes, ridden in formation, in the same conditions all summer. Each was subjected to the same torture and the Dunlops handled it all better.
The second question was about the other touring tire giant, Michelin’s new Road 6. Many sport touring riders are Michelin loyalists and wanted another tire test. So, by popular demand from both of our readers, we are back for another summer tire shootout.
Tires, tires and more tires at Road Dirt’s Pacific Northwest headquarters and garage. Keen eyes might notice the semi-slick Dunlop Q5S at the front of the pile. Those will be tested at the track at a later date.
Dunlop has provided us with a replacement set of Roadsmart IVs while I paid out of pocket for a set of Road 6s. Both tires are roughly at the same price point- PR6s are $209 for a front and $264 for a rear at this writing while Dunlop’s RS4 is $192 front and $255 rear. To even out bias, White Girl will mount the Dunlops on his VFR while I ride the Michelins.
Michelin’s Road 6 has a reputation for solid wet weather performance and epic mileage. Siping channels off center of the tire end in button holes to gather channeled water. Dead center and far edge of the R6 are devoid of valleys for a completely slick surface while the bike is on center or fully leaned over. Dual compound construction give the R6 harder wearing center and softer edges for grip.
Heavy siping ending in water gathering button holes is a Michelin Road 6 hallmark. Edges are mainly slick for leaned over traction.
Dunlop’s Roadsmart IV also has dual compound construction front and rear and the Roadsmart IV has fewer but wider water channels compared to the Road 6. Profiles of the front and rear boast what Dunlop calls their Intuitive Response Profile. It works as advertised. These tires are nimble. Michelin’s R6 has a fight on its hands.
Dunlops Roadsmart IV has grooves of varying widths and depths to channel water and strengthen the tread. Jointless band construction aims to keep the tire cool.
Our riding and testing plans involve an initial tire handling test in, you guessed it, Eastern Oregon. Next we will take them on a week long loop around the Pacific Northwest through Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Soon after will be a two week trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to the MotoAmerica races at Laguna Seca. August will be a tour to Colorado to ride both bikes in the Colorado 500. This will give us plenty of time to test handling both new and worn and of course, somewhere out there, we are bound to hit rain.
A behind the scenes look at how we plan our tire tests. Linking Butler Maps together is my technique for multi-state route planning while giving White Girl and I ambitious dreams.