Friday, April 20, 2007

Time for tires, again!!

Once again a set of tires is kissing the wear bars. I almost hated to use this picture. Mile after mile of freeway riding has resulted in noticably squared off tread. For a wild man like me it's kind of embarrassing! It is what it is, I guess. At least the tire's being well worn instead of sitting around drying up.

I'm going to have to hit up my tire sponsor ( me! ) for a new set of rubber. These particular tires happen to be Avon ST's. They're a sport-touring compound that's supposed to give good grip as well as good mileage life. I can't complain about the life of the tires. This rear tire has around 12,000 miles on it. The front tire has well over 20,000 miles on it. The wear on the front is about equal to this rear tire. The grip isn't as good as some tires I've had on the bike. For normal riding the grip is fine. Normal is defined by what you would expect of someone riding a 700 pound bike in everyday commuting.

I tend to be, shall we say, a little more aggressive than the normal rider. Sophie also sees duty when we do our track based training. In my opinion, there's a little more credibility if the instructor uses a big bike. Most of the students are average riders on cruisers, sport-tourers, and similar bikes. When the instructors are using sport bikes on a track, students often fail to see the connection to their own mounts. When I ride a bike just as big as theirs it seems to make more of an impression. Specifically, the students realize that they can realistically do the same things on their bikes. The Avon tires wear like iron but leave a little to be desired grip-wise in hard, fast corners.

In the early days, when I was a little more poor than now, my tire choices were dictated more by economics. My long line of Honda CB series bikes usually got shod with something like Cheng Shin tires. I have no recent experience with them, but at that time they were good tires for a reasonable price. In keeping with the purpose of these Universal Motorcycles almost of my riding was commuting. The tires matched the capabilities of the bikes just fine.

As I starting honing my skills and buying more powerful bikes, I became more discriminating in tire choices. I actually had a little more cash available, for one thing. Now I had the luxury of trying to match a tire to what I expected it to do on each bike. I also started long distance riding about then. For years and years I bought Metzeler tires. I found that the ME-33 Laser front tire paired with the ME-88 rear was a perfect fit. The ME-33 has a great tread pattern that channels water well. This tire hunts less in rain grooves and small pavement ruts so the bike feels more stable. Wear was perfectly acceptable. I even ran these tires on the Pacific Coast bike we owned for a few years.

Acquiring the CBR and the VFR added a whole new dimension to tire choices. Since Sophie has been the star of this blog, I'll stick with tires that she's worn. Literally and figuratively.

The stock tires that came on the ST didn't last long. At 6,000 miles the front tire started cupping strangely. I can't even remember what they were. Maybe Bridgestones. Either way, they were soon replaced with Metzeler tires. Here's a finer point for those of you who might be interested. The standard ST1100, of which species Sophie belongs to, comes with bias ply tires. The ST1100A, which has ABS, comes with radials. Both the Honda factory and the tire folks agree it's fine to run radials on the standard ST's.

Metzeler came out with a sport touring tire called the ME-Z4. These tires were touted as having good wet weather grip and a long life. The claims were true on both counts. I'd get around 11,000 miles out of a rear tire. Being a stickler on tires, I would replace both the front and rear tire at the same time. The contact patches combined are about as big as a Size 10 tennis shoe so I wanted them to be as good as possible. Several sets of these Metzelers came and went.

Then one time the dealer didn't have a set readily available. There was a ride coming up or some such thing so I didn't really want to wait. A set of Dunlop D205's sat on the shelf. Let me tell you, these are the best tires I've ever run on Sophie. The wear is about the same as others I've tried. Grip and predictability are awesome. Almost too awesome, actually. Some sport touring tires have more of a peaked profile. Which means that you press and press for a turn while it seems the bike doesn't lean much. All of a sudden the tire rolls over the top of the peak and feels like it falls over into the turn. It can be disconcerting at higher speeds. These D205's rolled over very smoothly. The tires were too good in that I tended to get more aggressive on country back roads than I should have. Not that I ever crashed, or anything. I just found myself looking back on a ride and thinking that was a little over the top for the conditions. The scraped tupperware was another clue. I wasn't too ashamed, though, as I ran through two sets of these tires.
As a side note, riders have to appreciate just how good tires are these days. These Dunlops are probably as good or better than the DOT's I ran as a club racer. What totally fun days! Early 80's, a big GSXR, and some great buddies to hang out with. The things we could have done if somebody had zapped today's tires back to us in a time machine!

There's an on-line ST1100 owner's club. I have a membership number and participate in the forums once in a while. Quite a number of owners raved about the Avon ST45 and ST46 sport touring tires for the ST. I figured what the heck and tried them as my next set of tires. They just don't work for me like they must work for the other riders. Since the front tire still looked so good when the rear was worn out, I left it on and bought another Avon rear tire. Which is the one in the picture above. Like I say, the mileage wear is tremendous. The price I personally pay for the long wear is a lack of grip for my own personal riding style. I can't feel the tires very well, either. My experience and skills are such now that I can feel and intrepret the feedback from my tires. These tires aren't all that talkative.

So I'm looking at going back to Dunlops this time. Although I see that Metzeler has a new series tire, the Z6. I'd be open to and appreciative of feedback on your tire experiences.

Miles and smiles,



American Scooterist Blog said...

Cheng Shin were great tires on my enduros. Like you I found I liked the Dunlops on just about every bike I've owned. Another tire you might be interested in are the Yokohamas. These are sti-kee tires with a deep tread. On a warm day you can actually hear them stick to the rubber compound the DOT uses to fill the cracks in roads. They hold great in the rain and they seem to last as well as any quality tire. But Yoko's are hard to come by around here.
I'd have to say the best tires I've used personally have been the Dunlops because they have a good life span. They work well in the rain and can cut a little snow as long as its not much more than a dusting. Like you, I like the profile of Dunlop's street tires.


Anonymous said...

Insightful post on motorcycle tire wear. I am envious of the tire life you get on your big sport-touring bike. My lightweight Buell Blast goes through tires like crazy. With only 5,500 total miles on the clock, I am about to put on my third rear tire! While I am an enthusiastic rider, like other Blast pilots, I don't understand the super fast wear rate. Perhaps it is because the underslung exhaust blows heat directly onto the tire. Unfortunately, due to the bike's unique wheel size, I am relegated to selecting only two tire brands: the stock Dunlops or Pirellis. Oh well, at least the tires are relatively inexpensive.

- D. W.

Combatscoot said...

I have about the same experience you do with Avons. Extra wear isn't worth slipping off the road one day. My personal sport-touring favorites have been the Michelin Pilot Roads and the Continental Road Attack. I got about 11,000 miles out of the rear on both brands, somewhere around 20,000 for the fronts, with no cupping. Wet and dry traction were pretty close.

Bill Sommers said...

Wow, you took them down to the bare nothings.

I always ended up getting more out of the Dunlop's on my Harley, but I was just cruising around trying to look "bad" and not putting on a lot of long miles.

Have fun,

irondad said...

Thanks for the tip on Yoko's. I'll check them out as an alternate.

Holy crap! Did you know that the throttle is analog and not digital? There are positions between full off and full on!!! Have you talked to other Blast riders who are having the same problem?

CS John,
What bike did you have these tires on?

Sophie experiences some serious miles. My mileage is higher now than it was when I worked South of here. For those four years I would go through a little over two rears and a front every year. Total for the four years was nine rear tires and five fronts.

Since last July I'm doing about 800 miles a week. I'm thinking about buying stock in a tire brand!

RJ said...

Funny, I find myself checking out the fine Earopean tires from Heidenau. Check out the my fave, the K66 on the following page and you might think I've been reading "The Baron in Winter" too long.

Combatscoot said...

It was a BMW F650 CS.