First Ride – Michelin Road 5 Tires
Story by Nathan May
Photos by Michelin
In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move.Henry Rollins
Ah, spring. That glorious time when life bursts anew. Or, for those of us more two-wheel inclined, the time to dust off the gear, do a little maintenance and start contemplating that first taste of freedom.
In typical, day-to-day motorcycling, tires are often overlooked until absolutely necessary. The reality is the vast majority of us don’t sit around and daydream about that new soon-to-be released tire. However, there is a reason why we have the saying “when the rubber meets the road.” So, when Michelin had the idea to create the successor to the very successful Pilot Road 4, they set their sights high.
The Road 5 is not so much a successor to the venerable Pilot Road 4 as it is a new high-water mark for Michelin’s sport touring line. In fact, Michelin intends to keep the PR4 in production. The new Road 5 is a premium no-holds-barred tire. As such, Michelin’s focus was simple: the “best performance without compromise.” To that end, from the casing to the tread pattern to the tread compounds, this is an all-new tire. It is clear that Michelin has been investing heavily in their tire tech and the new Road 5 borrows heavily from last year’s highly regarded sport-oriented Power RS and their experience as the official tire supplier to MotoGP.
I tested the new Road 5’s on a beautiful spring-ish day in southern Spain. We gathered at Circuito Monteblanco outside of Sevilla for a day of ripping and roaring on a variety of bikes in all manner of conditions.
We began with a 75 mile ride through the Andalusian countryside, an excellent venue to get a sense of the tire in normal riding conditions. Although the tarmac was so damn nice, I might hesitate to call it normal! Later, back at the track, we would get to test it in some not-so-normal conditions. For the road test, I chose Kawasaki’s Z650 and Yamaha’s MT-07. I also did a few runs on the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer to get a sense of how these tires held up on a bigger bike.
Straight out of the quite literal gate, my first impression was that for a brand new and cold tire, these felt really good. Straight line stability was smooth and undramatic. Maneuvering through traffic (as a resident of Los Angeles, I use the term traffic lightly here) in the small town near the track was easy and predictable. As we wound our way up into the mountains, the pace quickened, and I began to get a better sense of things. First of all, these are comfortable. I purposefully chose a couple of spirited, lighter bikes that would hopefully allow me to better feel how these tires performed in mixed road conditions. Pulling directly from the Power RS, the application of Michelin’s ACT+ (Adaptive Casing Technology) provides the tire shoulders with varying degrees of rigidity to ensure the best balance of stability and cornering performance. In more practical terms, the tires felt planted, provided good feedback and elicited a sense of confidence as we explored these unfamiliar roads. As that confidence grew, I found myself looking for practically non-existent potholes or bumps just to upset the bike a bit.
Jumping on the much larger MT-09 Tracer, I was surprised by how similar the tires felt. I was even more surprised by how much I liked the Tracer. I’m looking forward to spending more time with it when it makes its way to the US later this year. [UPDATE: Here’s Abhi’s review]
Fresh off the street portion of our test, it was time for the dry track. Now that I had a little more sense of things it was time to push it so I started out on the quite surprising Ducati SuperSport. After a couple of quick orientation laps, it was time to press the tires a little harder and my first impression was that they handled my level of enthusiasm admirably. At more extreme lean angles, the front felt planted and provided good feedback. On exit and under hard acceleration I did not notice any squirm or other misbehavior coming from the back. I did notice a little squirm under hard braking into a tight right-hander, but for a sport-touring tire I have nothing to complain about. Michelin has deployed some brand-new rubber compounds in this tire, and they refer to them as 2CT and 2CT+. The front tire uses 2CT which is an all silica dual compound technology as pure silica compounds give better wet weather adhesion. Basically, the crown is comprised of a stiffer mix for better straight-line handling and a softer compound is utilized on the shoulders to provide better grip in cornering.
2CT+ is utilized in the rear tire and again makes use of an all-silica crown for better wet weather performance. The shoulders take a page from MotoGP and utilize an all-carbon black compound for superior dry weather grip. Additionally, the harder all-silica compound actually cups underneath the softer all-carbon black shoulder to provide support in more extreme cornering.
Switching to the big BMW S1000XR, I got a chance to push the tires even harder. Howling down the straight (and I do mean howling) the rear held up well to aggressive acceleration and the weight of the big bike threatening to push through the corners.
Having dispensed with the dry track we moved over to the wet. This was a much shorter loop that consisted of a couple of sweepers, a fun double apex and a couple of mini straights where we could test the tire’s acceleration and braking. The wet is where the tire really shines, as I discovered when I jumped on the lively Triumph Street Triple 675RS. As much as I feel like the Road 5s held their own on the street and were surprisingly capable on the track, these are straight-up amazing in the wet. The Triumph is not exactly a sedate bike and I was a little apprehensive about pushing it on a damp surface. However, after my first turn, my fears were quickly replaced with confidence. This turned into pure admiration during a simulated panic braking test at around 70 mph, I came to a complete stop in an impressively short distance (a distance in which the Yamaha MT-10 was only able to get down to approximately 25 mph). It was a testament to both the Triumph’s electronic aids and the Road 5’s ability to cope with those forces. Note the water being channeled away by the front tire below while I was on the MT-10:
Michelin really emphasized their pursuit of wet weather performance with these tires. While their novel use of compounds keeps things sticking, that does not matter if water is getting in the way. Enter Michelin’s XST Evo progressive sipe technology. First introduced in their automotive sport tires, this is the first application in a motorcycle tire. Utilizing a type of 3D printing technology called metal additive manufacturing, Michelin has designed a sipe that gets wider as the tire wears – this maintains the tire’s ability to shed water and maintain grip.
In fact, Michelin claims that in the wet, a Road 5 with 3,125 miles of wear will stop better than a brand new Pilot Road 4 – a point that a Michelin test rider would rather impressively demonstrate at the end of the day:
Michelin has tried to keep it simple. Their goal was to create a tire that people love. To do that they focused on 4 areas.
2. Great Grip
So, did Michelin succeed? They have created an impressive tire and it certainly handled everything I asked of it. If you are looking for some rubber that can handle a variety of weather conditions and perhaps a track day or class, I might just put this tire at the top of the list. With that said, one day is a little early to tell if I am in love. Let’s just say I am looking forward to our next date.
Check out the Michelin Road 5!
120/60 x 17
120/70 x 17
160/70 x 17
160/60 x 17
180/55 x 17
190/50 x 17
190/55 x 17