About three years ago the folks at Dunlop Motorcycle Tires took on the seemingly impossible challenge to develop a tire that would meet the unreasonable demands of us sport-touring types. We said, “Give us a tire that helps us feel like Ben Spies on dry pavement. Make sure it delivers enough confidence in rain to keep us dry under the arms. Make it work when our bikes are loaded like pack mules. Oh, and did we mention we want it to wear the equivalent of an Iron Butt or two?” In the Roadsmart, Dunlop has developed a premium radial sport-touring tire that promises to deliver on all of that. With a fresh set mounted on my Buell, I was about to prove them right or wrong.
Now, western Pennsylvania in winter may not top the list of choices for testing the all-out performance limits of a set of tires, but it is a scenario in which a sport-touring rider faces a demanding mix of conditions. Today alone I’ve subjected these tires to more riding environments than many riders will face in a full year. When I rolled out of my driveway this morning temperatures hovered just above the freezing mark. Roads were mostly wet with a smattering of dry patches. Wide streams of snow melt flowed across the pavement at nearly every curve. By mid morning I was riding mountain back roads in a muddy mix of wet salt, cinders, mud and some light rain thrown in just to keep things interesting. Shortly after lunch I emerged from the mountains to heavy rain and standing water on the interstate. By mid afternoon, temperatures had rocketed into the low 50s and the sweeping back roads of Maryland and Virginia were dry and mostly clean.
Unlike any tire I’ve had on the Buell previously, these Roadsmarts manage to find exceptional grip in almost anything. Even when I made a wrong turn and found myself on hard-pack dirt and gravel for a few miles, they delivered great feel and stayed planted. Apparently that’s thanks to a unique chemistry Dunlop developed to improve both wet and dry grip, and a tread design that features deep tread grooves in the center and long lateral grooves to sweep away water in both straight line and cornering conditions. Simply put, it all works. I regularly looked for opportunities to find the edge of traction and it came only when I put the Buell’s hefty torque to work and drove hard out of corners. Even then, it came controllably and with a complete lack of drama, calmly regaining grip as I modulated the throttle back to reasonable levels.
Even during straight-line threshold braking from speed, the front tire clenched the pavement predictably. But what I really like is the feel these tires provide. Dunlop’s Flex Steel-Jointless Belt radial construction optimizes shock absorption and riding comfort while reducing distortion and creating a more stable contact patch. Enhanced front and rear profiles enable the rider to immediately sense greater ease in steering transitions. Even at maximum lean angles, the Roadsmart package always seems to work with the rider and never against. The only time the tires gave me any sense of uneasiness was when tracking along linear pavement patch seams. Never a cause for concern, but it’s the only negative feedback I could find to comment on.
Admittedly, other tires can provide excellent grip and good feel. But those would be sport tires that the Buell would chew up and spit out in no time. The true test will be how well these tires hold up over a few miles. To assure they do, the Roadsmart features a Multi-Tread compound with a tough, cool-running, long-wearing compound in the center flanked by lateral grip compounds to the left and right. I found transitions from one compound to another to be seamless and stability excellent when entering and exiting turns.
So, is Roadsmart the holy grail of sport-touring tires? Dunlop claims it has, “Hit the trifecta of motorcycle tire design, delivering a sport-touring tire that handles like a sportbike tire while delivering remarkable wet-weather performance and exceptional mileage.” Well, if my first 700 miles with this tire is any indicator, I think they’re onto something here.
Dunlop Roadsmart tires are available to fit most sport-touring motorcycles in three front sizes and eight rears. For more information see your dealer or visit www.dunlopmotorcycle.com