Since retirement in 2008, we've lived on NZ's Coromandel Peninsula which is a road rider's paradise with highly technical twisty roads (look up the Coromandel Loop on YouTube!) with a road surface mainly composed of a coarse chip surface on the western side and smoother seal on the eastern side. During that time, I've owned a Honda Blackbird, Triumph Street Triple, Suzuki GSX-S1000 and a KTM 790 Duke. For the last 10 years, I've also been heavily involved with NZ branch of the UK Institute of Advanced Motorists. Being fully retired also means that commuting has been taken out of the equation as riding has just been for fun and advanced rider mentoring with IAM. What I'm getting at is that for a good many years, I've ridden a number of bikes under pretty much identical conditions with different brands and types of tyre which is useful for comparative purposes.
There are numerous tyre reviews in this blog but summarising, my preference has been for sport touring tyres as I ride in all weather conditions and cover up to 20,000 km a year. The Suzuki and KTM came equipped with Dunlop and Maxxis pure sport tyres respectively and they were awful things for my intended use. Firstly, in colder or wet conditions, it was nigh on impossible to generate sufficient heat for decent grip. I had some butt-clenching slides when riding appropriately to the conditions and both bikes were also equipped with traction control. One was when the front end let go and that was seriously scary. The second factor is the life of a pure sport tyre. For the environment I ride in, both brands of tyre were stuffed by 3500 km! A good way of going bankrupt over my annual distance. As long as a tyre delivers around 10,000 km, I'm a happy camper. Actual tyre price is irrelevant as performance (longevity and grip) is the only consideration.
In more recent years and in terms of sport touring tyres, I've used the Metzler Roadtec 01, the Bridgestone T31 and the Michelin Road 5. All of these tyres gave the grip I was looking for over a wide range of weather conditions but it's worth mentioning where there were notable differences.
The Roadtec 01 was a good tyre and the full review is HERE . Two sets fitted to the Suzuki with the same result. Excellent grip in all conditions and a good life. The rear hoop retained its profile well but the front noticeably started to lose its shape from about 7000-8000 km onward, developing flats on the outer part of the tyre. (A triangular or wedge profile). Undoubtedly, countersteering and the type of roads I ride on contributed to this but the bike also had good aftermarket suspension set up by renowned guru Dave Moss so the front end wear characteristic was a little disappointing. I should have replaced the front earlier than my normal habit of replacing both at the same time.
I also had Road 5's on the Suzuki. In terms of performance, they delivered everything I wanted, including a faster turn-in than the 01's due to a sharper profile. Unfortunately, I had a series of punctures including a destroyed rear hoop at 2000 km. I'm fairly certain that it was sheer bad luck as opposed to a tyre shortcoming but as I sold the bike not long afterwards, a longer term evaluation wasn't possible. However, I have occasionally seen comments from other owners around the world about "above average frequency" punctures. Just something to file in the back of the mind.
After buying the KTM 790 and the poor experience with the OEM Maxxis pure sport tyres, I tried a pair of the Bridgestone T31 sport touring tyres as they had good reviews. Hmmm..... do motorcycle magazine reviews truly reflect everyday road performance over a representative period of time? I suspect not. Again, grip was satisfactory in all conditions but the front tyre developed a pronounced triangular/wedge profile from about 6000 km onwards. At 8500 km, the profile was so bad that handling was adversely affected and both tyres were changed for a set of Road 5's.
The Road 5's on the KTM have just clocked up 10,400 km and although it would be possible to legally squeeze more out of them before reaching the wear bar indicators, I'll get them replaced as soon as the 320 km round trip to my dealer can be made. In a nutshell, they've been absolutely superb. Outstanding grip in all conditions and equally importantly, they have pretty much retained their profile throughout with no noticeable loss in handling.
In the following photo, the roughened part of the tyre is the outer soft compound and the wear bar indicator is about 0.5mm below the tyre surface. The tread block with the sharp entry just to the right of the indicator is lifting slightly due to tearing. This is occurring round the full circumference of the tyre but is so minor that it doesn't affect the handling.
The rear tyre shown below has retained an excellent profile throughout the 10,000km+ life. If more time had been spent on straighter roads, the expectation would presumably be for a less-rounded profile.
In the photo below, a small amount of raised "feathering" can be seen in the soft compound at the rear of the large rain groove. It doesn't affect the handling at all and has only become noticeable in the last 1000-2000km. The most likely cause is less than optimal rebound damping as the OEM White Power shock on the KTM doesn't have the adjustability features of a high end one such as Ohlins, Penske, Nitron etc. Nonetheless, the bike handles superbly and as the feathering is minor, no action is required at present. For normal road riding, front tyre pressure is around 34 psi and the rear is 37-38 psi.
In summary, the Michelin Road 5 delivers everything required for the type of riding I currently do and the next set will be a straight replacement. There are relatively few poor tyres on the market unless we buy some virtually unknown dodgy brand in pursuit of false economy. I'd go further and say that most of us (and most certainly me) will run out of talent long before shortcomings in any of the major brands become apparent. The real trick is to figure out what type (not brand) of tyre you need in the first place. However, as I hope this blog post shows, there can be considerable differences in how long tyres of the same general type (e.g sport touring) lasts overall and how well they retain their profile. I'm just glad that the Road 5 is a perfect fit for the KTM and the type of riding I do.
Oh and by the way, good suspension will really extend your tyre life. I fitted a top of the line Penske on my Blackbird plus upgraded fork internals. Gained nearly 2000 km from a set of tyres.