Ask any group of serious sport-touring riders what their main gripes are, and right after monkey butt and nature calling too often, you’ll most likely hear something about tires. These are savvy, demanding motorcyclists whose bikes range widely, from naked middleweight standards to large, powerful supersports, to luggage-laden and fully faired sport tourers.
Yet they all want the same things from their tires: more mileage, great handling wet or dry and sportbike tire-like grip. Some sportbike and adventure motorcycle riders have also started looking for tires with the same qualities, now that their fuel-efficient play toys have been assigned weekday transportation duty.
It’s no accident that Dunlop is ready to fulfill that demand with its new Roadsmart II tires now, right about the time riders running the original Roadsmarts (from early 2008 on) are ready for new rubber. If they move up to the IIs, they’ll benefit from better bump absorption, excellent wet-weather performance, quicker steering response that is more linear from side-to-side, terrific grip and—according to Dunlop—increased tread life. The latter is the only aspect of the Roadsmart IIs that I have not yet had the time to experience myself; everything else I learned on a wide variety of bikes at Dunlop’s SoCal introduction and from the OE Roadsmart II’s on the new Kawasaki Ninja 650 (tested in the April 2012 issue).
From the outside, the obvious change is to the Roadsmart II’s tread pattern, which has longer V-shaped grooves in front to improve water drainage, and less grooving in the middle of the rear tire for greater dry handling and traction. The front-rear combo still works very well in the wet, at least on the Ninja 650, aboard which I spent nearly an entire day in the rain.
You can also see the Roadsmart II’s Intuitive Response Profile (IRP) quite clearly from without, technology it inherits from Dunlop’s racing and sport-focused tires. IRP uses a steep “tread drop” between the tread center and shoulder edge to create a big contact patch at extreme lean angles. The result is harder cornering and quick line changes at will, with nice even side-to-side transitions.
Multi-Tread technology incorporates a long-wearing tread compound in the center of the rear tires with grippy rubber in the cornering areas. The “black art” of compounding the Roadsmart IIs blends polymers, silica, carbon black and other mysterious stuff to enhance wet and dry grip, feel, wear, warm-ups and operating temperature range. Finally, radial carcass construction with Dunlop’s Flex-Steel Jointless Belt helps the tires absorb bumps and promotes a consistent tire diameter.
Although they may vary slightly in construction, I was hard-pressed to notice any difference between the OE Roadsmart IIs on the Ninja 650 and the replacement versions on the variety of sportbikes and sport tourers Dunlop arranged for us to sample on a day ride. Whether riding the Ninja or Triumph Sprint GT, Kawasaki Concours 14, BMW K 1600 GTL or Yamaha FZ1, the Roadsmarts were compliant, steered quickly and smoothly and gripped to the limits of my bravado in the mountains and canyons. I also noticed plenty of confidence-inspiring feel and grip on the Ninja 650 in the wet…and I mean wet. My gloves took days to dry out.
Dunlop Roadsmart II tires are available for most sportbikes, sport tourers and adventure tourers with 17- or 18-inch wheels or a combination of the two, including many older bikes. The website has all the fitment info you need, as well as lots of useful and informative technical material.