Motorcycle riders enjoy increasing performance with every model year as manufacturers engineer more horsepower and continue developing sophisticated electronics. During this new era of multi-level traction control and electronically-adjustable suspension it’s easy to overlook perhaps the most critical factor in riding performance – those two credit card-sized patches of rubber contacting the road. The right motorcycle tires make a world of difference and Dunlop wants to win over more sport-touring riders with its all-new Sportmax Roadsmart III.
The Roadsmart III replaces the Roadsmart II and challenges rivals sport-touring designs like the Michelin Pilot 4, Bridgestone T30 EVO and Pirelli Angel ST. And Dunlop makes bold promises for its latest sport-touring tire, claiming the Roadsmart III leads the sport-touring segment in mileage longevity while also maintaining handling performance over time.
The fundamental challenge of any motorcycle tire design is how to balance the competing interests of performance and durability. The most extreme example would be racing tires, like MotoGP slicks that withstand intense performance demands but only last the length of a Grand Prix.
Designing a motorcycle tire for real-world street use requires longevity measured in thousands of miles, not 20-something laps. And the contrasting interests of performance and durability are compounded in the world of sport-touring – a hybrid segment typified by models like the Yamaha FJR, Kawasaki Concours and BMW R1200RT, which are effectively heavy, high-performance sportbikes that place big performance demands on tires, yet also need to hold up to high-mileage usage.
Dunlop engineers tackled these performance longevity requirements by making significant updates to the design. The RS III tire incorporates a high-mileage compound to the center section with grippier rubber on the flanks for cornering grip. A new profile for the rear tire promises improved handling and enhanced mileage. Dunlop also credits the new cross-groove tread pattern with better drainage and improved grip in wet conditions. Further changes include a slimmer, taller sidewall to improve bump absorption and handling characteristics.
Dunlop singled out the Michelin Pilot 4 as the performance target for its Roadsmart III, conducting extensive head-to-head tests during development at the company’s Huntsville, Alabama proving grounds. Former AMA professional roadracer Rich Conicelli, who works at Dunlop as the lead test rider, piloted thousands of laps to benchmark it in blind tests against rivals, including the Pilot 4. Dunlop hailed the results, showing data acquisition that demonstrated consistent performance gains over its French counterpart during controlled track testing.
The American-made rubber also held its performance advantage during repeat track tests at 3000/5000 mile intervals after Conicelli packed on thousands of miles in real-world street riding to evaluate longevity. These impressive claims are bolstered by Dunlop commissioning an independent company, Texas Test Fleet, to conduct its own longevity tests.
The resulting claims are more than 12,000 miles of longevity for the Roadsmart III rear, 3000 more than the Pilot 4 GT. A similar disparity was registered for the front tire, with the Dunlop claiming 20,000 miles of usage compared to the Michelin’s 16,000 miles.
While it would be an enjoyable couple of months piling up 40,000 miles to verify these claims firsthand, Riders Domain’s evaluation was limited to a 150-mile jaunt through the highways and canyon roads of Southern California. We spent our riding day aboard a Dunlop-shod BMW R1200RT, with the Boxer-powered sport-touring Beemer exactly the type of bike for which the Roadsmart III was designed (an RT was sourced during Texas Test Fleet’s independent testing, as well as big D’s development).
The immediate impression was how steady the front end felt while cornering and under braking. Without back-to-back tests on an RT fitted with rival tires it’s difficult to determine whether more credit is owed to the Roadsmart III’s performance or the general surefootedness of the BMW, which is quite nimble for a 600-pound touring rig and a personal favorite ride of this author. Having said that, the Roadsmart certainly held up its end of the bargain, with smooth transitions, reliable cornering grip and consistent feedback.
The Roadsmart III’s grip and stability was particularly appreciated during our test ride, as recent rains had sullied the road surface with frequent hazards like dirt, gravel and occasional water slick. During a couple of blind corners I rounded the bend and braced myself for a brief loss of traction as I passed over a small rivulet or dirty-looking stretch of asphalt, but there were no slips, no squirrelly moments, no drama from the Dunlop-equipped RT.
Fellow journalists on our test ride reported similar impressions aboard various mounts equipped with the new Dunlop rubber, including the sport-oriented KTM 1290 Super Duke GT. Dunlop also pitches its rubber as not just a sport-touring option but as a valid option for any rider looking to get extended mileage out of their sport-oriented street bikes.
Again, isolating tire performance without controlled back-to-back evaluations is next to impossible, and it definitely is impossible to validate or challenge Dunlop’s impressive longevity claims after one 150-mile day in the saddle. What we can say is big D’s latest shoes were reliable and confidence-inspiring. Sport-touring riders, or any street rider looking to get more mileage without losing performance have an enticing new option in the new Dunlop Roadsmart III tires.
Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart III Tires
MSRP: $171.30 – $182.54 (fronts); $210.09 – $254.20 (rears)
Front Sizes: 120/60-17, 120/70-17, 110/80-18, 120/70-18
Rear Sizes: 160/60-17, 160/70-17, 170/60-17, 180/55-17, 190/50-17, 190/55-17
Recommended Tire Pressure: 36 psi (front); 42 psi (rear)