Part two of a multi-part series on the Michelin Pilot Road 3 sport-touring tires – plus exclusive answers straight from Michelin’s tire engineers.
By Jeff Cobb
Motorcycle Safety News
After spending some time with Michelin’s Pilot Road 3s, as promised, we have first-hand feedback to give on their ride and performance.
Their cornering grip is enhanced by a softer compound tread on the outer parts of the tread. In the middle section is a higher durometer tread for longer life as those highway miles pile up.
‘Sport-touring,’ not ‘sport’
Before we go too far, Michelin motorcycle tires come in excellent sporting versions, but we need to clarify some misconceptions about the Pilot Road 3s that have been floating around the Internet.
Since the Pilot Road 3s come in sizes to fit popular sportbikes, some have thought to slap them on a GSXR-1000 or the like, and have the best of all worlds.
Sounds great, right? Potential durability like a Gold Wing’s tire, but grip like, perhaps a Michelin Pilot Power in the corners.
But not so fast. This is not what the Pilot Road 3 tires are for, which we learned after a series of back-and forth talks with Michelin.
“Someone who puts these on his Hayabusa will not be a happy camper,” said Michelin Two-Wheel Public Relations Manager, Dan Passe.
First off, you take a chance with any tires, as you only have two small contact patches holding you and your bike to the pavement.
Even a track-day worthy Michelin Pilot Power 2CT or racing slick can let you down if you’re not careful, and sometimes even when you are. Everyone knows this, but it bears repeating. You pay your money, and take your chances.
So, the question is: Could you put a Pilot Road 3 on a Yamaha R6, for example, and take a chance?
Short answer: Yes.
Is it a good idea? Probably not, but it is not illegal.
In fact, we’ll note not long ago a UK sportbike mag did a wet track test with an expert rider on PR3s, and reported he could consistently drag a knee.
Those online articles from January have mysteriously disappeared. Did Michelin’s media department request that? We don’t know, but would not be surprised.
It’s a huge liability, and like the saying goes, “use the right tool for the job.”
This said, if you ride at 7/10ths pace, and never crank the bike over too hard on your sedate ride to school or work, or you’ve converted your CBR1000RR to sport-touring duty, you may think about Pilot Road 3s.
But only do it if you are also an excellent rider who can consistently take a bike up to the edge, and know when its tires are starting to break loose.
Otherwise, forget about it. Stick with purpose-made sport tires for your sportbike.
Questions and answers
To further qualify exactly what Michelin did have in mind with the Pilot Road 3s, we sent Dan a few questions, and one of Michelin’s engineers answered them.
Notice how every time we try to gauge the Pilot Road 3s as possible sport rubber, Michelin steers us back on topic: They are only sport-touring tires, Michelin says.
1. Compared to the Pilot Power 2CT how “soft” is the outer tread for the Pilot Road 3s?
The outer tread of Pilot Road 3 is not as soft as the outer tread for Pilot Power 2CT – both compounds, the outer and inner, are different.
2. Compared to the Power Pure 2CT how “soft” is the outer tread for the Pilot Road 3s?
Again the Pure and the Pilot Road 3 tires are different compound-wise as well as relative to each other.
3. Other than merely describing the cornering section of the Pilot Road 3s’ tread as “soft,” how much more info can you give?
Other than the information that you received previously [standard press release info], I cannot give durometer readings or other measures at this time.
From a relative standpoint, the Pilot Road 3 provides a great combination of dry grip and longevity, appropriate for the Sport Touring motorcycle segment. The Power One is our “grippiest” tire but does not feature the same longevity numbers as the Pilot Road 3, but the tires are meant for different types of motorcycles and riding styles.
5. How well do they slide and handle aggressive riding?
The Pilot Road 3 is a great choice for Sport Touring motorcycles and are meant for that application and appropriate riding styles. Michelin offers a variety of motorcycle tires, including the Pilot Pure and Power One, for more performance-oriented riding, appropriate for “hypersport” motorcycles. Michelin encourages safe riding practices on the street, with true performance riding to take place in a track environment.
6. How temperature sensitive are they, particularly the softer cornering tread?
The Pilot Road 3 tire is appropriate for all Sport Touring riding applications and has excellent warm-up properties.
7. How quickly do they get up to temp in warm and colder conditions?
The Pilot Road 3 tire has excellent warm-up properties and a wide window of usage in terms of ambient temperature as low as the 40-degree range to the 120-degree range.
8. How much longer mileage are they expected to give than the Pilot Power 2CT, Power Pure 2CT?
As individual riders and motorcycles do vary, this is a difficult answer. However if all conditions were equal, the Pilot Road 3 would last more than 30 percent longer than a Power Pure, but do keep in mind that there is a scale with compounds, “stickiness” and other factors that go into each tire.
9. Do they have silica in the tread? What more can you tell me about how you achieved good grip and wear together without giving away corporate secrets?
Yes, the Pilot Road 3 tread compound is nearly 100% silica based. With the correct composition and balance of materials, the right design and characteristics, the Pilot Road 3 is an un-compromised tire in the Sport Touring Radial Tire segment, offering the best wet grip and mileage in comparison to other tires in this segment. Due to numerous patents and trade secrets, that is what we can reveal, but this tire cannot be reproduced by another manufacturer.
Our test rider used his own Ducati Monster to test these tires, so he is very familiar with nuances in the bike’s behavior and capabilities.
We dismounted a set of single-compound Michelin Pilot Power sport tires which have been a fantastic and reasonably priced tire.
In following up from our Q&A session, Michelin said the Pilot Road 3s do not use the same compound in the cornering section as the Pilot Powers either. Each is its own unique blend.
Riding in freezing temperatures and just above freezing and wet conditions put the Pilot Road 3s to the test. After a fairly short ride, stopping, hopping off and placing one’s hand on the front and rear tread shows Michelin is correct about a reasonable warm-up time.
The company makes no claims that we know of for sub-freezing weather, but rates them into the 40-degree F ambient temperature range. Below that, you are on your own.
We took them below 40 degrees anyway, and noted the extensive front and rear siping really seems to do the job. No hydroplaning was felt through puddles around town, even on cool, wet roads.
Low-speed wheelies indicated the rear tire really hooks up, even in the wet. Dry traction, naturally, is even better.
Michelin says the center tread on the dual-compound front tire uses the exact same compound as the cornering tread of the rear, and an even softer compound is used for the front tire’s cornering section.
This means the front is altogether softer and grippier. This is to enhance braking and front cornering grip for the narrower front tire.
As a rule of thumb, you are safer with as-good-as or better grip up front – to a point – because if the bike is going to slide, you’d rather the rear break loose first. Losing the front has put many a rider down, but a rear slip is less unnerving, and generally, easier to save.
Overall, the tires feel controlled, and confidence inspiring. Rolling into sweeping corners at all legal speeds, their profiles makes handling feel neutral, and grip feels good, encouraging a rider to try for more.
The Pilot Road 3s are no doubt ready for long miles, in a wide variety of conditions. Michelin says they’ll handle up to 120-degree heat, thus making them an around-the-world capable tire.
Riding in the rain, and cold nevertheless does require a smooth technique. If you go out and ride without care, they will break loose. If you work up to it progressively, they are pretty impressive.
In the dry, the Pilot Road 3s make the bike feel all-the-more controllable, which is about as much as you could ask for.
Michelin’s Pilot Road 2s were well regarded, and Michelin makes specific claims that its replacements, the Pilot Road 3s, are measurably better.
At this point, we have no reason to doubt it. They are a sport-touring tire however. We don’t recommend putting them on a sportbike and hoping they will work just as well as a pure sport tire.
They are also available in a high-load rated design for two-up riding, and are recommended as replacement rubber for all sport touring applications.
Michelin Pilot Road 3: MSRP: Front: $220.29 – $233.85; Rear: $264.36 – $346.85.