Honda’s GL1800 Gold Wing is a well-balanced machine, combining comfort and performance in a bike whose size and heft seem at odds with its eye-opening acceleration and handling. One area in which that balance is off, however, is tire wear. Rack up a lot of highway miles and you’ll often reach the end of useful tread life in the middle of the tire while the sides look like they have thousands of miles left. If you think it’s a waste to take off a tire like that, you’re not alone. Dunlop thinks so, too, which is what led to the new Elite 3 Multi-Tread rear tire for Gold Wings.
The actual process is probably pretty complicated, but the theory is simple: build a tire with a hard compound on the middle, where you ride most often, and a softer one on the shoulders, where you want the grip for cornering. The center tread isn’t just any old hard compound, but one designed specifically for 1800 and 1500 Wings, and the new Honda F6B. The E3 MT is a radial for the GL1800 and F6B, and a bias-ply for the GL1500.
The single-compound Elite 3 has been around for years, and I had a fairly new set on my GL1800 when Dunlop sent me an E3 MT rear and a fresh E3 front to try out. That made the comparison more direct than it would have been had I gone from worn tires to new ones, and since my travel plans included a ride from Oregon to Los Angeles soon after the swap, I had the E3 front and MT rear installed and hit the road for nine days.
Right away I noticed a difference in ride comfort. The press info from Dunlop doesn’t say whether the front E3, which isn’t a multi-tread, has been changed, but it gave a noticeably softer ride; maybe it was updated and nobody told the PR department. The rear felt about the same—until I got to the twisty bits.
Never mind that the scales give away my 2001 GL1800’s wet weight as perilously close to 900 pounds, the thing handles like a sportbike. In a section of road north of San Francisco, the highway writhes up and down the hills, connecting sweeping corners with short straights, testing a tire’s handling across the full width of the tread surface. On roads like this, the old E3s sent back subtle warnings now and then, but here the MT rear sounded the all-clear right up to lean angles that gave me ER flashbacks.
I checked the tread depth of the rear MT before I left, and again when I got back. My depth gauge wasn’t accurate enough to detect any wear. Doubtless the wear would be more evident after, say, a 10,000-mile test, but with so many variables affecting mileage—riding style, load, road surface—I’m not sure it would have been valid anyway. I’m pretty certain, though, that the Elite 3 Multi-Tread rear is an improvement over the single-compound E3, if only for the handling advantage. If it also delivers the extra mileage Dunlop claims it should, it’ll be hard to beat.
For more information: See your dealer or visit dunlopmotorcycle.com.