An interesting and unusual summer-long comparo of premium sport touring motorcycle tires
Location: Wenatchee, Washington
Building motorcycle tires to meet extremes is easy. Cruiser tires maximize mileage while supersport tires prioritize grip and handling. In between those two extremes lies the complex world of sport-touring tire engineering.
Sport touring riders demand the best of both worlds- a tire that will do 300 mile days for weeks at a time and wear like iron while having grip like a black cat when the road gets twisty. Manufacturers arguably pour out all of their engineering magic into this category attempting to meet those opposing design goals. Two of the biggest players in the game will face off here over the course of the summer: Dunlop and Pirelli.
Dunlop Roadsmart IV tires on Ted’s 1998 Honda VFR 800.
Each of these manufacturers has deep ties to racing. Dunlop is the official tire of all classes of MotoAmerica and has been the sole tire for America’s top tier road racing series since 2009, while Pirelli has been the lone tire supplier for World Superbike since 2004, setting the record for the longest running tire supplier for any major racing series. These tire giants know how to make tires for the racing gods.
When these manufacturers make tires for the common folk however, they draw on that racing pedigree to build sport-touring tires with high grip, high mileage and good wet weather performance. But how well do they really grip? How long do they really last? What are they like to live with through everything a hard core sport tourer can throw at it over the course of the tire’s life?
Road Dirt is going to find out.
Pirelli Angel GT tires on Dave’s 2001 Honda VFR 800.
This test will showcase Pirelli’s sport touring standout, the Angel GT against Dunlop’s premium sport touring tire, the Roadsmart IV. Pirelli’s Angel GT debuted in 2013 while Dunlop’s RoadSmart IV came to market in 2021. Both rear tires follow standard practice in sport touring tires: harder compound in the center of the tire for extended mileage with a softer compound on the shoulders for grip. Pirelli’s Angel GT follows this dual compound design in the front tire as well, while the Dunlop RSIV has a single compound front. Pirelli offers an A-spec tire for heavier touring bikes meaning you need to order a standard Angel GT for lightweight bikes like my Honda VFR800 and an Angel GT A-spec tire for a heavier bike, say a Honda ST1300 for example. Dunlop’s RSIV however, works on both standard and heavier GT bikes, no different spec tire necessary.
I have extensive experience with Pirelli’s Angel GT, having used them for most of the 108k miles on my 1998 VFR800. Like many riders, I tend to find a tire I like and stick with it and I’ve trusted the Angel GT for many years, burning through multiple sets over thousands of miles. I also have some experience with Dunlop’s previous version Roadsmart III and use it as the shoes for my precious Unicorn, my 1993 VFR750. However, this is not a scientific, back-to-back comparison that tests these two tires against each other, head-to-head, in identical conditions, over the entire lifespan of the tire. Unless you have two of the same bikes, the same riders and they follow each other everywhere, a true tire shootout is near impossible.
The test mules- a pair of 5th-gen Honda VFR 800 motorcycles, on various adventures.
For the riding season of 2022, each set of tires, the Angel GT and Roadsmart IV, will be mounted on identical bikes, a pair of 5th generation Honda VFRs. I will ride my 1998 VFR800 while the other, a 2001 VFR800, will be ridden by guest tester Dave “White Girl” Wensveen. Dave is a hard core sport touring rider, my companion on many misadventures, and has been known to take over seven minutes to order coffee.
Our matched pair of VFRs will follow each other nose to tail all riding season over thousands of miles to test mileage, over varied terrain to test inclement weather grip and (hopefully) do a trackday at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington, MotoAmerica’s northwest stop, to test outright performance and grip. We will measure tread depth, swap bikes occasionally and compare notes as the miles pass.
Identical bikes and near identical riders chasing each other all riding season should reveal any strengths and weaknesses in the tires as the miles pass.
Stay tuned. It could be an interesting summer.