Review by Ken Freund
[This Metzeler Roadtec Z6 Motorcycle Tires Review was originally published in the March 2004 issue of Rider magazine]
Tire manufacturers tell us that making good sport-touring tires is one of the most demanding things they have to do. That’s because the tires have to strike a compromise between high-performance handling and stickiness, yet wear like iron and carry far heavier loads than typical sportbikes.
This seems like an impossible dream, but with all the new, powerful sport -touring models coming out, certainly a worthy one. Apparently Metzeler has been having this dream on a recurring basis, as it recently introduced a new set of Roadtec Z6 sport-touring motorcycle tires.
The Z6 line replaces the MEZ4 series, which debuted back in 1996 and was the first motorcycle radial to have zero-degree steel-belted construction in a front tire. This improved stability and control over previous models.
The main goals for Metzeler with the Z6 were to improve wet and dry grip while providing light, neutral handling, comfort and good mileage. Actually, that’s a whole lot to ask for!
To reach these goals, Metzeler engineers changed the tread design, tire profiles and rubber compounds, retaining the patented 0-degree belt construction. A new compound, called Fine Carbon Mix (FCM) is used along with a new extrusion process utilizing high-performance polymers, silica and carbon black developed specifically for sport-touring tires.
This FCM produces a compound that has a wide temperature operating range with quicker warmup and better grip. Metzeler’s testing showed a 20-percent improvement in dry grip and a 30-percent gain in wet grip between the Z6 and the older MEZ4 model it replaces. Metzeler folks told us that the Z6s have been lasting slightly longer than the MEZ4s, typically ranging between 5,000 and 8,000 miles, depending on rider, bike and conditions.
To help deal with the wide variation in bike weights (which affects the required stiffness of the tire carcass) the Roadtec Z6 in the popular 180/55-17 size is built in two versions, one for motorcycles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) under 935 pounds, and a stiffer one for machines with a GVWR over 935 pounds. Make sure you get the right one for your bike.
We used a Suzuki SV1000 as a test bed for the Z6 rubber, with a 120/60-ZR17 on the front and a 180/55-ZR17 in back. The new tires performed very well in a variety of riding conditions, including city and suburban traffic, twisty challenging mountain roads and high-speed straightaways.
The Z6s stick well in the corners and under heavy braking, offer good feedback, crisp turn-in and hold a line well. They also were stable at high speeds and didn’t exhibit a tendency to stand the bike up during trail braking into corners. This adds a sense of confidence to the rider that’s difficult to measure, yet essential for riding pleasure. We also noticed a slight improvement in comfort due to sidewall compliance which results in less harshness. All-in-all, a good tire!
Roadtec Z6 tires will be available in five front combinations and five popular rear combos. Suggested retail prices range from $146.95 to $154.30 for fronts, up to $227.58 for the largest rear tire.