Wheel alignment

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Michelin Pilot Road 3 tyres progress report

This post is predominantly for my mate Jules in Australia.  He's been nudging me along to write a progress report on how the PR3's are going on the Street Triple.  Personally, I think he simply wants to sit back and watch the fur fly as everyone seems to hold strong opinions about tyres, even if there's bugger-all objective evidence for aforesaid opinions!  The report is a bit nerdish (oh all right, anal!) so if you want to do something exciting like watching paint dry, it's ok by me :-)!  Think yourself lucky - Jennie has to put up with this sort of behaviour all the time!

Just to recap, I'm an Avon fan, having had them on my Blackbird and then the Street Triple.  I fitted them to the ST after being a little disappointed with the Dunlop Qualifier sport OEM tyres.  The Qualifiers gripped ok in the warmer weather, I was nervous about them in cooler, wet conditions and they also tended to tip into a bend rather than roll in smoothly.  By 6000 km, they had lost most of their tread and also lost their shape.  The replacement Avon Storm 2 sport-touring tyres did most things really well but were outstanding in the wet, which was not unexpected based on past experience. They were replaced at 10,000 km which was satisfactory, given that the ST gets used for its intended purpose although the front tyre triangulated a bit towards the end of its life.  I would have happily used them again except that the NZ Avon importers had hiked the price significantly beyond that of competing brands.  That was the spur to look around and the PR3's sport touring tyres were chosen.  Photos of the Storms and PR3's when first fitted, together with some accompanying remarks can be found HERE.

The PR3's have now been on for nearly 6 months, so how have they gone so far?  Before we get to that, let's have a think as to why opinions on tyres vary so much (a euphemism for unadulterated bullshit in most instances) .  There are many variables which impact significantly on tyre performance (road surface and temperature, ratio of straights to curves, tyre pressures, bike weight and geometry, riding style to name but a few. Bike magazines which test normal road tyres round a test track for lap times don't replicate real world conditions either.  In other words, we're not comparing apples with apples in most cases. I'm not going to offer up much in the way of hard science either BUT what is relevant is that the ST has been ridden by me over virtually identical road and weather conditions for a touch over 20,000 km using 3 different sets of tyres.  At least this gives strong comparative indications, if not absolute ones.

First Impressions
The PR3 is similar to many modern road tyres in that it has dual compound construction - harder towards the centre to reduce wear when vertical and softer towards the edges for additional mechanical grip when leaned over.  I have the higher load rating "B" specification on the rear.  Carcass construction allegedly also increases the contact patch area when leaned over but other manufacturers make that claim too.  Where the PR3 is significantly different is in the tread pattern.  Michelin claim that they are the first to use the fine grooves (called sipes) which are a feature of some performance car tyres for clearing water at a higher rate than conventional rain grooves.  Here's a picture of the front tyre when it was first fitted:

Pilot Road 3 front - brand new

After leaving the tyre fitting place, my first noticeable impression was at walking pace coming up to the first set of traffic lights. There appeared to be a slight vibration through the bars at around 5-10 km/hr.  I actually wondered whether the transverse sipes were creating a harmonic at low speed. It wasn't enough to be worrying and it now seems to have gone away.  Don't think I was imagining it!  After taking it easy for 50 km or so, I started to explore the characteristics a bit more.  Turn-in was similar to the Avons, in that it's a progressive roll rather than the more pronounced drop in of the Dunlop Qualifier.  The reason may be due to a less crowned profile.  I'm also of the view that the PR3 is fractionally slower steering than the Avon Storm 2, but not to the extent that it's an issue and feel perfectly at home on them. In fact, they were so reassuring that there were no chicken strips on the rear tyre at the end of the 160km trip home.

Experience to date
The tyres are just coming up to 7000km from new.  Three characteristics are immediately noticeable.
  • The profile is perfectly even with little or no hint of squaring off  on either tyre or "triangulation" on the front.  
  • There is heaps of tread left.  I regret not measuring the tread depth when new but there is still over 3mm in the centre of the rear hoop  which suggests that 12000 km + will be easily attainable, even riding with enthusiasm.
I set the tyre pressures with a quality digital gauge (NEVER with a gas station inflator) and run them at 35-36 psi front and 39-40 psi rear, a little lower than in the Triumph manual.

Here are photos taken today, showing the tread and even wear profile.



Front - worn nearly round to the edge and minimal tearing

As mentioned earlier, the PR3's were chosen over the Avons principally on price - NZ$600 fitted and balanced against $NZ650.  If you factor in the clearly superior tyre life, then it makes the PR3's a really attractive economic proposition.
  • The third characteristic is performance.  In the dry, they really grip.  Job to say whether they're any better than the Avons because my mental bar is set lower than the limits of either brand of tyre but suffice to say, they're confidence-inspiring.  However, in wet conditions, they're sensational.  I thought Avon were great (and they are) but the PR3's are better.  In my last post on riding Dr Andy West's Daytona 675, he enthused about their performance in the wet and has subsequently said that when the Supercorsas are worn out, he'll be replacing them with PR3's.  Clearly, the Supercorsas are a superior tyre for continuous high speed work such as track days but for everyday road use where they don't reach the high operating temperatures required especially in the wet, grip is probably less than the PR3.  They certainly didn't give me much feedback in damp conditions.  Another interesting thing I noticed when Andy was riding my bike and I was following him in the wet was that the tyres were leaving a noticeable dry line behind them.  Perhaps this is an indicator of good water-pumping ability.  Must observe other bike tyres too.

Well, there we are - some impressions of the Michelin PR3 based on a comparison with other tyres fitted to the Street Triple and used in near-identical conditions - hope you think that it's been worthwhile.  More to come at life end.

Addendum:  The full end of life report can be found HERE


  1. Geoff - watching paint dry? Well, that's about as exciting as winter gets here in Canada. Thanks for the report on the tires, though the report lost me ... I'm always trying to learn something new since there's so much riding on them.

  2. Hey Geoff, looks like Jules did fall asleep ... oh well, for what it's worth, I enjoyed reading your post! Not only because of your great writing style and your amazing observation skills, but also because it makes me feel like I am looking into the future ... (the date on your post says Tuesday, Jan 10th while I still have 2 1/2 hours of Monday, Jan 9th ahead of me ...)

  3. Ana!

    How ya doing? Jules is a couple of hours behind NZ time so I guess he'll be busy earning a crust as opposed to this retired old fella!

    Yep, we Kiwis have perfected time travel - would you like some Dow Jones prices to make a killing on??

    Take care.....

  4. VStar Lady:
    Having watched the movie "Lars and the Real Girl" (which was superb), I thought you Canadians has endless ways to amuse yourselves in the winter ;-).

    Apologies for losing you with the content - I did warn you, hehe!

  5. I'll take the DJ prices ... I'm not asking for much, just $45,000 for the new Confederate Hellcat X132! :) (http://www.freeranging.net/blog/2012/01/09/right-up-my-alley/)

  6. I've been mucking around - mine only have around 5-6,000km on them! So far I like them a lot but I do think that the sides may be slightly softer than the PR2's I usually use.

    The rear in particular is showing wear on the sides which would normally only be evident on a PR2 if I was being very hard on the bike or at the end of the tyre's life. It isn't a problem at the moment but I'm just not sure if this will affect the tyre's life. The front is still absolutely fine and looks like it'll last the distance easily.

    I'll be putting another 3-4,000km on them next month so it'll be interesting to see how they look after that (a lot of those k's in the South Island too).

    For me they have to do 12,000km or I'll be going back to PR2's...My big fat tourer can't be as hard on tyres as the Striple eh? Or is it the hoon behind the bars?

  7. Geoff thanks for choosing which tyre I'll buy in a few months for my 08 ST

  8. Hey, wide awake Geoff - I must have missed the nerdy bits, I thought it was all interesting. I'd like a re-cap on your wheel alignment process though (and no, I'm not winding you up!)I'm probably a bit obsessive about tyres though though as I have 2 sets of PR2's here in my office that I bought from the USA when the dollar was running at $1.10 against the US$.(Dorothy says it's like still being married to a university student!)

    My experience tells me that tyre manufacturers tend to leap frog each other in producing the "best" tyre for a given application, and consequently it pays to have an open mind and not get too rusted on to any particular brand.

    I'm convinced that certain tyres work better than others on certain motorcycles. Eg.my VFR was too heavy in weight for the Michelin Pilot Pure.

    On the VFR800 I liked to run a PR2 on the rear and a Pilot Power on the front, which was actually a good combination for a heavy bike. When the Powers were unavailable in Australia I fitted a Pilot Pure to the front which, although initially good, ended up being the worst tyre I've ever ridden on. Just before I sold the VFR I put a PR3 on the front and was very impressed though only rode on it for a short time. I believe Michelin have achieved what they set out to do, ie. create an excellent all weather, road use oriented tyre.

    One further point to make is how poorly constructed and maintained Australian roads are compared with the USA and Europe. I can never get the longevity out of tyres that I read on US forums, which in part because I'm just about always riding on what they call 'chip seal' rather than more sophisticated road surfaces.

    Great post Geoff and we haven't even talked much about tyre pressures yet!



  9. Hi Andrew,
    Do you have the "B" load rating on the rear of your Concours? From past experience with my Blackbird, some tyres which were theoretically suitable for the bigger, heavier hyperbikes had carcasses which didn't support the mass too well and developed abnormal sidewall wear quite early.

    Let us all know how yours go.

    Regarding hoon behaviour... what's the saying? "You may well think that, but I couldn't possibly comment" :-)

  10. Loui:
    I don't think you'll regret the choice and come after me with a baseball bat! It's that "fitness for purpose" thing again - if you ride in all weathers on a whole range of road conditions, they're the perfect tyre. If you ride predominantly in fine weather on twisty roads or trackdays where tyre temperatures are higher, then a pure sport tyre is the thing to go for. Stay in touch with how you get on!

  11. Interesting read geoff. as i'm up for a new set of tyres in the next 500kms, they are almost to the wear markers. I agree totally with Jules about tyre wear. I only get about 5000km out of my tyres (michelin pilot power on at the moment). It must be the rough aussie roads.

    Having not looked at buying tyres in the last 2 years are the PR3 tyres michelin super sticky top of the line sports tyre or are they touring tyres? Excuse the tyre ignorance.

  12. Hi Jules - that's great mate!

    If I understand correctly about wheel alignment, if you type that in the search box, it'll direct you to the laser alignment rig I built for the Blackbird and subsequently adapted for the Street Triple.

    I think you're right about tyre manufacturers and some tyres have some characteristics which are better than others, but not all. You're right about certain bikes too. The Blackbird was murder on all but a couple of brands of front tyre because of the weight distribution and conservative steering geometry. The quality of your suspension also has a significant bearing on tyre wear and life.

    Yeah, I know what you mean about some overseas roads as some NZ roads aren't all that flash by comparison either. You'll find most NZ south island roads as grippy as heck becausr they use granite chip, but it does give your tyres a shortened life.

    Don't get me started on tyre pressures. The 'bird was really sensitive to them being a heavy bike - 3 psi under recommendation and the handling deteriorated significantly. The lightweight ST seems to be more forgiving.

    P.S - don't expect treats like this all the time, haha!

  13. Hi Chillertek:
    Nope, the PR3's are sports touring tyres. With my advanced Observer/instructor training, there are no concessions with respect to weather or other conditions and most pure sport tyres won't operate so effectively at what you might call "everyday" riding conditions or even life that I need.

    I actually formally evaluated the Avon VP 2 Sport tyres on my Blackbird for the NZ importer and whilst the rear only lasted 6000 km, they were hugely impressive when ridden hard. If that was my normal mode of riding, I'd be sorely tempted to feit 'em to the ST. If you'd like a copy of the report, send me an email.

  14. There's a big "B" on my PR3's!

    BTW: I'm not sure that the wear I'm seeing is excessive - it's just "different" to what I see on a PR2. I live in hope...

    I am a PR2 fan...

  15. My rear tire is a pilot road. Before that I had Bridgstone Battlax. Still have the Battlax on the front since it still has some tread on it.

    Honestly, I'm the last person to give a review on tire performance, but I like the PR. It seems to inspire a little more confident road feel, but that could be more in my head than in reality. I'm anxious to get the front changed. Partly to see if it makes a difference and partly because it just bugs me that my tires aren't a "matched set".

    As for the Bridgestones, they're what came originally on the bike. I changed them once to the current Bridgestone offering, but since they didn't really do that much for me (neither good nor bad, just meh), I wanted to try something different. I'd heard a lot of good reviews on the PRs.

  16. Hi Kari!
    Pilot Road 2's have a great reputation, particularly on bigger, heavier bikes. I'm not a fan of mis-matched tyres. Probably doesn't make much difference in a straight line but potentially, the different profiles (and construction) can cause handling problems when leaned over.

    I've had no experience with Bridgestones so can't make any sensible comment!

    Happy New Year!!

  17. Geoff: As usual a post which many will find helpful at a certain time. (I often refere back to a lot of your blogs when I am seeking information),

    I dont suppose you want to here about my new knobbley I just put on the GS though?

  18. Hi Rog:
    Cheers mate. More than anything, the posts are a useful reference point for me to document events at the time!

    Of course I want to hear, particularly when you tell us how it went compared with the last one!

  19. Triumph Street Triple R rider here:
    How and where: I ride in heavy urban traffic. Ride hard and aggressive, just to survive and stay alive. I often Brake hard and aggressive.
    -Original OEM tires, Dunlop Qualifiers:
    DRY conditions, ok. Not Great. I would NOT buy another set.
    WET Conditions, terrible. Must ride very carefully.
    -Replaced w/Dunlop Q2: Great tires. Stiff carcass. Feel every bump,but absolute control. Yes, I'd buy another set and recommend for dry summer aggressive riding.
    DRY, WONDERFUL!! Stick like glue. Warm up quick.
    WET, better. But Not great.
    Seem a bit squishy in over 110F temps on long rides. Feel unusual.
    -Michelin Pilot Road 3: You sold me. Will give you a report back.
    Have some long road trips ahead. Need better winter tire.
    Thank you for your reports. Enjoy your write ups. Love the Street Triple.

    1. Hi Anon and thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.

      So we think pretty much alike on Qualifiers. You may have also seen my post about riding a Daytona 675 equipped with Supercorsas. It was wet and quite cold and they felt really vague. Sports tyres need to be really warm for decent grip. So you ride in 110 degree temperatures but need winter tyres. Must be the Midwest or somewhere similar! I'm now up to 12000 km with more to come. Since I've been riding with the IAM, I'm a much smoother rider and I'm wondering if that's helping with tyre life too. End of life write-up to come in due course.

      Thanks for the kind words and looking forward to hearing how you get on with the PR3's.

  20. Your work is totally enthusiastic and informative.

    1. Thanks for the very kind words and thank you for dropping by!


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