Wheel alignment

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

New tyres - difficult replacement choices

The Street Triple came equipped with Dunlop Qualifier sport tyres.  In overall terms, grip was probably more than my riding habits would require excepting unforeseen events.  However, by 6000 km, the rear hadn’t got much tread left and both tyres had lost their original profile to a significant degree.  It was noticeable that under hard cornering, the bike tended to drop in rather than progressively roll in. My earlier musings on tyres is HERE.

Because some decent distances were planned to be covered in the following 6 months, I replaced them with a set of Avon Storm 2 Ultra sport touring tyres.  As mentioned in a couple of previous posts, I’ve been an Avon fan for years.  The dry weather grip is probably on par with many other good quality makes of tyre but what has been outstanding for me is wet weather performance.  Even with standing water on the tar seal, they hang on exceptionally well and don't suddenly let go.  The other feature I’ve really liked is that they retain their profile through a large percentage of their total lifespan, meaning that you don’t have to replace them early because handling has been adversely affected.

I've just covered a shade over 10000 km on these tyres and the rear is down to the minimum depth wear bar in the centre of the tread.  Note in the picture though how even the profile across the tyre is - no big flat in the centre to upset the handling.  The tyre is dual compound with a harder centre and softer sides.  Although it wasn't really noticeable when new, the harder compound in the centre can clearly be seen now although the transition can barely be felt with a fingernail.  Sooo... verdict on the rear tyre - extremely satisfied with the performance.  Good grip in the dry, outstanding grip in the wet, turn-in is very progressive and profile remains pretty constant over its total life.  Not a bad tyre life overall considering the conditions of its use on predominantly twisty roads with coarse chip.

Avon Storm Ultra rear @10000 km
Harder compound in centre

The front tyre probably has at least a further 2000-3000km of life in terms of centre tread depth but it's developed significant flats on the side of the tyre.  The flats are clearly visible in the photo below. Whilst the handling doesn't feel compromised at present, it certainly will before long.  The root causes of the side wear are hard to determine.  I'm paranoid about accurate tyre pressures and am inclined to think that the wear is probably normal given that the roads I mainly ride on are twisty with coarse chip.  Fairly stiff suspension, budget suspension damping and vigorous countersteering won't help either.  Verdict: Excellent tyre in terms of wet and dry weather grip but uneven profile wear well before reaching minimum tread depth.

Avon Storm Ultra front @10000 km

Where to from here?
I don't want to go back to pure sport tyres and replace them at least twice a year, so sport-touring tyres will fill the bill for longer life, but still provide grip for enthusiastic cornering.  I've done a lot of reading and Pirelli Angel ST's, Dunlop Roadsmarts and Michelin Pilot Road 3's all seem to fit the bill, although I've read a few reports detailing the odd issue with all of them.  Realistically, will they offer any more in terms of performance and "feel" than the Avon Storms?  Is there a case for taking a chance on something else at present?  Is there a significant price differential between brands - enough to influence the final choice? 

My thinking was to simply replace the rear tyre with an identical one.  For the front, I was tempted to go for the sportier Avon VP2 Sport for even more grip (they're compatible).  I don't mind the odd rear wheel slide but the couple of front end slides I've had in years gone by are a bit unnerving.   I got 7000 km from the front VP2 on my Blackbird and the lighter weight and more aggressive steering geometry of the Triple should give significantly more life, still allowing both tyres to be changed at the same time. It's pointless skimping on tyres when their role in keeping you upright is so important.

Meanwhile, a few days later.....

After a little more research on the 'net, the new Michelin PR3's looked an interesting proposition but maybe not enough to sway me.  However, after a call to our nearest decent tyre depot, I was surprised to find that there is indeed a significant price differential.  The full Avon set is NZ$650, balanced and fitted whereas the pair of Michelins is a nice round NZ$600.  The price advantage and performance research has been sufficient to convince me to buy a set and it will be interesting to compare their performance with the Avons.  Doubt that I'll be buying a lemon as some of the early reports are pretty encouraging.


Rode to the Drury Performance Centre in South Auckland to get the new tyres fitted.  I hadn't been there before and was extremely impressed with their professionalism so have no difficulty in giving them a well-deserved plug!

Drury Performance Centre

After greeting me and double-checking the tyres I'd ordered, I was given a voucher for a coffee at a cafe across the road.  Actually, it wasn't really a cafe as such,  it was Roma Coffee Roasters and I was able to sit and have a superb cup of Macciato whilst watching beans being roasted on a commercial scale behind the counter!

Meanwhile, the guys had started to replace the tyres and I strolled round having a look at some of the tyres in stock.  The 300-section tyre shown below was pretty impressive - presumably for an outrageous chopper or something like a Rocket 3.  You'd need a healthy bank balance to replace that!

Serious rubber!

There was a gorgeous early (1980's) GSX-R 1100 parked inside which caught my eye.  It had aftermarket Ohlins suspension and Yoshimura cans but the rest of it looked pretty stock standard.  It was in beautiful condition, not show pony good, but good as in someone who loves his bike, rides it regularly and hard and loves it to bits.  I  mentally raised my hat to the owner.

Gorgeous early Gixxer

The Michelin Pilot road 3's are a pretty new tyre and replace the hugely popular PR 2's.  The 3's have very fine grooves (sipes) as part of the tread pattern to apparently hugely increase wet weather performance.  These are rare on motorcycles but as an aside, I found out sipes were first invented in the 1920's to increase the grip of rubber shoes in wet slaughterhouses - nothing new under the sun eh?

Rear PR3

Front PR3

Here's where things took a bizarre turn!  I was sitting in the customer reception area waiting for the fitting to be completed and was flicking through the NZ Magazine Motorcycle Trader (Aug 2011 edition). It had an interesting article on tyres and I noticed that there was a photo of a Street Triple.  See propped-up magazine in the photo below - bottom photo in magazine. (Click to enlarge).

A sudden realisation.....

It suddenly dawned on me that it was was MY Street Triple and the photo was taken from my blog post from 21st February this year!  It shows the laser wheel alignment rig I'd originally built for the Blackbird. I'm not annoyed - surprised more like at seeing it but I don't think an email to Motorcycle Trader will go amiss to find out a bit more.

Taking the normal care with new tyres, I headed home down some twisty back roads to scrub them in.  Normally with new tyres,  they feel quite flighty in comparison with the old ones but I'd have to say that these didn't feel significantly different to the Avons which they replaced.  I think that this is testimony to how well the Avons held their profile over the complete life of the tyre.  Once on the coast road up to Coromandel,  I felt confident enough to press on a bit and when I got home, the rear was scrubbed in right to the edges.  Initial impressions are very favourable and really looking forward to evaluating them over a longer period and in a whole range of conditions.  I'll certainly be going back to Drury Performance Centre, really nice guys with a great service ethic.

ADDENDUM:  I followed up the matter of my photo appearing and whilst they didn't directly admit to stealing my photo from the blog, they did offer a carabiner-type helmet lock and fancy wire strop as a "goodwill gesture", plus a free subscription to their magazine.  I was quite happy with the outcome - they got the message and I got some goodies!

Note: A full end of life review of the Michelin PR3 tyres mentioned above can be found HERE


  1. Still early days for me with my PR3's but if PR2's are anything to go by then you will not have an issue with the tyres holding their profile. I've found that the rears do not loose their profile (assuming you do actually ride around corners from time to time) and the fronts tend to not loose the profile until the very end of their life.

    I expect you to get far more miles outta yours than I do - and I'm aiming to beat 12k...

  2. Very interesting Geoff, I am always fascinated by you views on such things. There is always some thing amazing about new rubber, and after riding on old stuff for while it is always a buzz. I love getting new tyres....i actually have to stpp my self otherwise I would be there every 3000kms.

    Was surprised to read that Motorcycle trade had "stolen" your peice, although it is flattering, a polite request is expected, and should of happened. Piss poor journalism if you ask me. And in this day and age, simply no excuse to be lazy. I am happy to send them a well worded email if you like, although tact has never been a strong point.

    Hopefully catch you sunday mate....

  3. Hi Andrew!
    I'ts you I have to thank for your blog post on PR3's which raised my initial awareness of them. I'm really looking forward to evaluating them and will take some baseline measurements and profiles tomorrow.

    Tyre life on the Triple will be interesting. A fair bit of my riding is in really twisty stuff with quite coarse chip. The Avons didn't last as long as I thought they might given past experience with the heavier Blackbird so interesting times ahead!

  4. Hey Rog!
    Thanks pal - it's always good to try a bit of objectivity as there's probably more crap spoken about tyres than anything else to do with bikes!

    Haha! I'll try a tactful reply first to dangle a fishook as it were! The quality of their reply will dictate what follows.

    Looking forward to Sunday so fingers crossed for the weather. My co-1000 miler partner Andy from Mt Eden is thinking about tagging on the back so I'll introduce you. You'll get on famously.

    Catch ya matey!

  5. Tyres and oil eh! I actually enjoy discussions of both and in amongst the garbage that is posted online I always manage to sift out something interesting or useful.

    I certainly value tyre reports from trusted enthusiasts such as you Geoff rather than many of the braggards on various web forums.

    I got caught out with an unsuitable tyre being an early adopter of the Michelin Pilot Pure on the front of my VFR800 and actually had a PR3 fitted to sell it with. With the heavy ZX14 I've decided to stick with the PR2's as I've been very satisfied with them for my use and my mate Bill has had good mileage out of them on his ZX14.

    The price of tyres in NZ is obviously more even than OZ and I thought that we were getting ripped off. My last pair of PR2s came from the USA delivered to my door in 9 days for $315 AUD.

    Cheers Jules.

  6. Geoff:

    I'm glad I am not as aggressive as all of you, preferring to stick to the speed limit or slightly under. My OEM Bridgestone TrailWings lasted a long time. My rears were over 18K and still had more life. The fronts had lots of tread left but the casing was cracking between the treads, so obviously I needed a new front, so I changed them both for Michelin Anakee2's, and they feel much better, less rolling resistance is noticeable. All installed, the pair were around Cdn$500.

    Riding the Wet Coast

  7. Interesting to think that your photo was pilfered from your blog and not just for personal use but for publication. Will be interested to hear their response to your inquiry.

    Nice looking new tires you have there. Max came with Dunlop Qualifiers and I am wondering with my style of riding how many miles I'll get before they need replacing.

  8. Jules:
    Ah yes - oil, haha. There's a completely uninformed debate currently raging on a forum over here!

    Thanks for the kind words but I'm not sure they're earned. By the way, there seems to be some controversy over PR3 suitability for "hyperbikes" like yours. From what I've read on a few big bike forums, Michelin don't recommend even the "B"load rating PR3 for anything other than bike tourers like the Beemer 1200's. Maybe the carcass isn't sufficiently rigid for the cornering forces of something like yours. Interesting, eh?

  9. Bob:
    I'm not an aggressive rider - assertive yes, but there's a world of difference. Similarly, since I sold the Blackbird, I don't travel at hyper velocities.

    Part of the reason you get such a great life from your tyres is that they are a much harder compound than the rubber I use. Looks like your prices are similar to NZ but Tarsnakes (Jules) seems to get a great deal by buying ex-USA and I'll be chatting some more with him about that!

  10. Trobairitz:
    Have duly despatched an email to the editor, completely neutral in tone so I'm looking forward to a bit of fun!

    I'll be very interested in the life and wear patterns of your Qualifiers. Leaving aside whether a rider pushes hard, road conditions (surface temperatures, roughness and straightness of road) have a significant impact on tyre life so I'm genuinely interested in your experiences. Maybe a post when you've reached some conclusions?

  11. Hi Geoff

    I recently replaced the front tyre on the V-strom, I was getting tired of "falling" into the corners! I actually struggled riding the bike a bit for the first few km's....It flowed into the corners so much and felt so different that I almost dropped it a few times.

    I ditched the bridgestone in favour of a Pirelli this time. And like Bob I've got a Michelin Annakee on the rear which is doing well so far. The Michelin on the rear was $275 while the front Pirelli was $205 fitted. The local guys could do the Pirelli for $209, then charge $30-ish for fitting and disposal. Love that tyre disposal charge. I joking said that I could get rid of it for them and not pay the couple of dollars charge.....(I would simply have rolled it down the street!)

    The interesting thing for me was the difference in price in my local area compared to a few hundred Km away - Grafton or Lismore were the closest places where I could get what I wanted without having to get it ordered in, and they are both within an hour away. There was a difference of about $30 between the local guys and riding 200km north to the Gold Coast....so I figured why not use that $30 on a tank of fuel and have two days away on the bike. Seemed like a great idea in theory, then when you add in the cost of accommodation, food and some beers.... that front tyre cost me $400, but it was worth it!

    have a great week mate.

  12. Hi Anthony!

    The Annakee seems to have an excellent reputation - my mate has them on his DL1000 and your prices don't seem that outrageous either. So it's the Aussies we've got to thank for a disposal charge in NZ is it? Sigh....

    Hahaha - love your justification for a ride - that's the sort of thing I'd be hauled over the coals for!!

    You have a great week too!

  13. @Anthony Which Pirelli did you put on your DL. I recently fitted a Scorpion which seems quite good - excellent on wet tar and not too bad in the gravel. I also have an Annakee 2 on the rear and I think it was new when I bought the bike - so far I've done about 4,000km on it and I really like it, although I think it is wearing pretty rapidly. Interested in your thoughts...

  14. I am pleased to read that you are testing the PR3. I will be ready for replacements both ends in a couple of months and was thinking of trying this tyre. Each change I seem to go to something different and have gone off the Angels; still have one on the front. What is the issue with the PR3 referred to in reference to Jules? Are the big sports bikes too heavy?

  15. Hi Dennis!
    Like a lot of internet info, it's pretty hard to get objective data. However, I've seen some photos of the problem which I think Jules was alluding to where chunks literally came out of the tyre. However, I think both cases were in California where they get very high road surface temperatures. I don't think it's an endemic problem by any stretch of the imagination. There's also been talk on various Blackbird websites about them. From what I understand, there's a "B" load rating PR3 for heavier hyperbikes like the 'busa which has a stronger carcass construction so you might want to check that out. I can see the lighter "A" carcass might cause delamination problems on heavier bikes if you get the wrong one. Avon introduced a "B" load rating Azaro for the Blackbird in the mid-1990's, so it's nothing new.

  16. Just for interest, I had a very nice letter from the editor of Motorcycle Trader today. He thought that the photo was supplied from Getty Images, but would be checking.

    However, as an act of good faith, he's giving me a year's subscription to their magazine and a flashy helmet lock for securing it to the bike. It looks like a climbing carabiner with a combination lock on.

    Now isn't that a great result and all credit to them!

  17. I have heard really good things about the Michelins. My son just put a set on his VFR 800. I'll probably try them next time on the FJR. Avons never worked really well for me on the ST1100. Just didn't give me the feedback I wanted.

    The best tires ever for me were the Dunlop D200 series. I took them off because they were so good I was riding on the streets like I shouldn't be!

    Hope you keep us posted on the tires and the pilfered blog post. How weird would that be to see?

  18. Dan,
    It's funny how different brands seem to work with different bikes. I had Dunlop 220's on my Blackbird in the early days and the front tyre developed a terrible wear pattern. Most likely because of the weight forward characteristic of the 'bird, combined with high performance. That's when the manufacurers started developing stronger carcases for the hyperbikes.

    Will keep you up with the play on developments.....

  19. Geoff

    I find the scarcity of available published objective evaluation information (what a mouthful that was) on tyres frustrating. I do have somewhere an article from a German Bike magazine where 20 tyres are rated and scored - I have been searching for this frantically and when I find it I'll let you know how good the Germans think Avons are!


  20. Nikos:
    Absolutely! Track tests such as those in Performance Bikes mag do not represent real world conditions. Also, the type and weight of bike they're tested on will probably make a significant difference too. I suspect that I'd be unable to tell the difference in a blind test with respect to the major makes. It all comes down to "feel" and in my case, coupled with a "reasonable" life.

    1. Hi, knowledgeable information thanks for sharing.

      honda st1100 forum

    2. Hi Randy,
      Thanks for dropping by and thank you for the kind words. There's also an intermediate report on the PR3's in the blog and I'll be adding a full end of life evaluation in the next few weeks.

  21. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that,
    this is great blog. A great read. I will certainly be

    1. Thanks Anon! If you look at some of the later posts, you'll find some detailed tyre tests with photos!