An interesting and unusual summer-long comparo of premium sport touring motorcycle tires

​Miles: 0
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.

Until now.

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.

Ted

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4 Comments

  1. Jack

    Trying to decide between these two tires currently and just came across this post. I know the comparison isn’t finished, but curious which one has more dry grip? Both tires seem similar enough to me that I am fine with this being the determining factor for this set.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Hi Jack,
      We can’t provide an answer to your dry grip question yet, as this article is really the kick-off to the comparison.
      We do plan to give periodic updates, so hopefully we can answer your question fairly early in the comparo.
      Thanks,

      Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      Hey Jack, having over 60k miles on the Pirelli Angel GT over the years I know that during emergency braking the Angel GT front will give you a distinct groan as it approaches its high limit and the rear will continue to grip when fully leaned over and on the gas hard. I will have to see how this compares to the Dunlop RSIV as the months roll by. However, exceeding the dry grip of the Angel GT is not something that should be done anywhere but on a racetrack. Pushing this tire, or any tire, to its limit on the street, outside of a controlled environment invites nasty consequences. This is why we have racetracks with runoff areas and ambulances on standby. If any rider is exceeding their dry grip on the street regularly, something is wrong. Please live to ride another day.

      Reply
  2. Dave

    Jack, for the past 3 summers I have been riding on Bridgestone S22 Tires. I have really liked the dry grip of these tires. They are Hyper-Sport tires that can do a track day (Ted has pushed them on a track). I went for the Angel GT tire this time, because 5000 miles is not bad at all, but when you do two 2000-2500 mile trips, the second trip really pushes you to the end of your tire and I got tired of wondering if will it get me home. I’m hoping to get 6K to 7K out of the GT’s and not lose the dry grip confidence I always got with the more sticky S22 tires.

    Time will tell.

    Dave (WHTGIRL)

    Reply

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