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There are many products that will improve your riding experience, however, there are very few that change it fundamentally. Foundationally speaking, Motorcycle Tires define a huge part of how your bike handles and in turn, defines a large portion of rider confidence, which can lead to better rider skill with the proper training. However, the wrong tire, or a badly worn tire, really undercuts rider confidence by working against the suspension and resisting any rider technique that you may use.
Last year I bought a slightly-used VFR800 Anniversary Ed. that came with Michelin Pilot Power 2CTs. I can’t comment thoroughly on their performance since they already had some wear and I rode them cautiously on a new bike through the winter. However, after taking a spring trip to Maine and back with wifey, saddlebags, a topcase, and tankbag, my tires were shouldering pretty bad and had nearly worn smooth on the center line. So, I did what any responsible, safety-conscious rider would upon seeing a bad wear issue: I commuted with the tires for another 3 months because I didn’t feel like spending money on a new pair.
While I was lucky enough to have avoided any major traction issues over this period of time, the silent killer was that these tires were eroding my confidence little by little. I was inadvertently spending less time on two-wheels because of this draining process. When the center tread of a tire gets disproportionately lower than the wear on the sides, you end up with a bike that stays straight, rides rough, and doesn’t want to lean. Combined with a nasty chatter specific to the VFR800 that is caused by this type of uneven wear, these tires were a real mood-killer!
In all fairness, I should clarify that I was using a very aggressive sport/track-day tire for commuting and sport-touring. I should not have been surprised with the problems that arose, and I should’ve changed the tires to something more practical to my application, but they came with the bike and I was lazy. The Michelin Pilot Power 2CTs are likely a great tire for the sport-rider track-day enthusiast.
While I’ll spend the rest of this article discussing the awesomeness of the PR3s, let me pause here with a piece of advice: If you are getting uneven wear issues on your tire, you are either using the wrong tire for the type of riding that you do, or you have a defect with either the tire or your suspension setup. In either case, change the tire! Its not worth the detriment to your riding experience and has the potential to cause more serious issues with braking or traction if not addressed.
Moving on to the Michelin Pilot Road 3 tires, my choice to purchase these was derived from the overwhelming influx of positive feedback that I’ve heard from the riding community over the past year. Nobody can seem to keep them in stock as they are flying off the shelves. My opinion certainly agrees with this, but I hope to shed some light on why they succeed instead of just ranting about how you should totally buy them.
The Michelin Pilot Road 3 tires have a unique aspect that give them an advantage over the competition. The new X-Sipes technology in the tires, particularly the front, introduces a number of ‘slices’ to the tread that help with water evacuation. However, I find that this added flexibility gives me more confidence riding in the dry as well. Because each tread-block can move independently, each section of the tire can react uniquely to the patch of road it comes in contact with. This means that one tread-block may move slightly to the rear as you accelerate, the next may move slightly to the right as it rolls over a small pebble, and the next may flex forward as you roll off the throttle. In essence, each ‘slice’ increases the resolution of response from the tire. The feeling that is transmitted to me as the rider doesn’t communicate a rock-solid tire that grips well until gravel or uneven pavement is introduced. Instead, the tire seems to be more fluid and organic reacting to every miniscule change in the road and absorbing their effects.
Fellow Zillian, “Buzzsaw”, uses these on his Tiger 1050 and was surprised to feel a continuous connection with the road in wet, sloshy back road conditions. The X-Sipes are also designed to break the water tension to prevent the frightening ‘loose-bar’ feeling of traveling on top of the water, which is caused by hydroplaning. Instead the corners of the tread-blocks cut right through to the road. I’ve ridden in light rain with a fully moist road and could not discern a noticeable difference in traction to riding in the dry.
One of the most common questions I am asked on the Pilot Road 3 Tires relates to mileage and tread wear. While I only have a few thousand on the bike now, other riders in the TeamZilla bullpen can attest to this with more experience. The separation between the tread-blocks reduces the influence that one section of the tire has on another. If tread issues arise, they tend to crop up in a localized area as opposed to affecting the entire tire. Another Zillian who uses them with his Ducati 848 Evo has done a fair bit of commuting and weekend trips along with a couple of track days. While his are admittedly at the end of life at almost 9,000 miles, they have worn very evenly and held up under the extreme scenario of a track day. The back tire looks like it could easily take another 1,000, while the front tire is ready to be replaced. A more casual rider could likely get 15k before reaching their limit.
Update: Changing out my PR3 tires Summer 2013 due to nail and plug in rear tire. 10,000 miles on the tires so far Could easily throw another 3-5k before tread wear became an issue.
Overall, the Pilot Road 3 tires have taken the prize. Choose your favorite sports analogy as they all apply: ‘a slam dunk’, ‘knocked it out of the park’, ‘a hole in one’, er … well, you get the idea. They’ve proven themselves on a variety of bikes in a variety of scenarios and out-performed in just about every category. Michelin has ironically innovated a ‘sliced’ tire that is grippier, and longer lasting than its predecessor. However, don’t take that as license to go to town with a hobby knife on your rubbers -- leave that to the professionals!
-- Chris K.