All-rounder rubber! It's the best sports-touring tyres

Find out what the best all-rounder rubber for your bike is right here
Find out what the best all-rounder rubber for your bike is right here
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Welcome to MCN’s 2020 sports-touring tyre test. This is the rubber that promises the best of everything; handling performance, allweather grip and thousands of miles of life. In fact, apart from trackdayers and off-road riders, sports-touring tyres should be all the tyre most of us ever need. The current crop of sports-touring tyres handle like a  dedicated sports tyre, grip like a racing wet in the rain, and offer the longevity of traditional touring rubber. A good set should also offer great confidence from the off, damp out rough road conditions and work in all temperature ranges.

With strong offerings from all the major manufacturers, there’s no doubt that we’re living in a golden age of tyre tech. But rather than splitting seconds on a full-on track test, we wanted to know which feel the best for normal road riding. To find out, we tested six of the best-selling sets on the market (Avon failed to get involved) on a typical sports tourer — the BMW R1250RS — and put them head-to-head in a blind test around our gruelling 22-mile road route taking in fast, flowing A-roads, bumpy B-roads, a motorway stint, plus urban riding over a variety of surfaces.

How we tested them

This was a blind test. At no point did our testers, Matt and Bruce, know which tyres they were on. Both riders rode our set route; Matt taking the first stint, with an emphasis on warm-up time, stability and ride quality, then Bruce tested them

for outright performance. Each rider gave marks for each set of tyres rating steering, confidence, stability, ride quality and feel. We also measured operating temperature and recorded emergency-stop distances. Conditions were dry and 12-14°C.

We used the manufacturer’s recommended cold pressures throughout.

Bruce Dunn and Matt Wildee testing sports touring tyres

The bike

We chose a BMW R1250RS because its OE Metzeler Roadtec Z8 tyres are merely OK and its slightly slowsteering nature makes it easy to detect a sweet-steering tyre. The bike was set on Dynamic Pro with minimal traction control.

Best sports touring tyres for motorbikes

  1. Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE
  2. Dunlop Roadsmart III
  3. Pirelli Angel GT II
  4. Continental Roadattack3
  5. Michelin Road 5
  6. Bridgestone T31

6. BRIDGESTONE T31 - £245 PAIR

 ‘Great value and longevity’

TYRE SPEC

  • Character - More touring bias
  • Operating temp - Front 44.4°C, Rear 46.3°C
  • Useable tread depth - 5.26mm
  • Braking distance (70mph-0) - 52.70m

Bridgestone TE31

Testers’ notes

With these tyres, steering is good with plenty of feel and a linear rate of turn. However, they take longer to warm up than the others and felt a bit slithery until then. During faster riding, the traction control light came on more with these tyres than with the others on test. In terms of stability they’re fine when the bike’s on the power, but tend to pick up on tramlines and surface markings more than the others. They feel secure when the bike’s leant over in a turn, particularly in faster corners. Ride quality isn’t the plushest and they make the bike feel firmer, but it’s on the good side of acceptable and the bike feels planted on uneven roads. Work well with sensible riding. If you’re steady, they’ll give you all you need.

Verdict

The Bridgestones are good value but don’t quite have the breadth of ability of their rivals. A reputation for good wear makes them a good choice for the ardent tourer.

Scores

  • Steering 16/20
  • Confidence 16/20
  • Stability 15/20
  • Ride quality 16/20
  • Feel 16/20
  • Overall 79/100

Full Bridgestone T31 review


5. MICHELIN ROAD 5 - £279 PAIR

‘Makes the bike feel sportier’

TYRE SPEC

  • Character - Slight sports bias
  • Operating temp - Front 46.6°C, Rear 57.1°C
  • Useable tread depth - 5.46mm
  • Braking distance (70mph-0) - 52.01m

Michelin Road 5

Testers’ notes

These tyres make the bike light to steer, nimble and accurate. They make direction changes easy and it feels as though you can place the bike anywhere you want. They generate confidence, even from cold, and needed less warming up than the others. Although very stable at lower speeds, when riding faster on bumpy roads they felt a bit overwhelmed by the weight of the RS as they were moving around – a sign of a soft carcass. However, they never once felt unsafe. Feel and ride quality are both excellent and they make the bike feel sportier and more fun than its OE tyres.

Verdict

People love the Road 5 and it’s easy to see why but they didn’t suit our RS that well. Our fitter says they have the softest construction so would work well on a lighter bike. Michelin also now produce the Road 5 GT to suit larger touring bikes, which have a stiffer construction.

Scores

  • Steering 17/20
  • Confidence 15/20
  • Stability 15/20
  • Ride quality 16/20
  • Feel 17/20
  • Overall 80/100

Full Michelin Road 5 review


4. CONTINENTAL ROADATTACK3 - £270 PAIR

‘Sporty and offering confidence from the off’

TYRE SPEC

  • Character - Sporty bias
  • Operating temp - Front 43.9°C, Rear 54.7°C
  • Useable tread depth - 5.65mm
  • Braking distance (70mph-0) - 50.61m

Continental RoadAttack3

Testers’ notes

These are the sportiest feeling tyres here. Nimble and accurate, they actually ‘drop’ into corners like a sportsbike tyre. They also generate high levels of confidence and are extremely surefooted. When pushing hard, they’re a bit vague from the rear, but for normal riding they’re great. There’s no problem at all with stability and they recover quickly after hitting mid-corner bumps. That said, the ride quality is on the firm side which translates to a sporty ride. They also offer slightly less feel than the others on test but you’re always aware of what they’re doing and never feel numb. Overall, these are decent all-round tyres that suit the BMW and warm up quickly for confidence from the off. 

Verdict

Good tyres that don’t do anything wrong and give the sportiest steering and quite a firm ride. A good choice if you want to make your bike feel more nimble.

Scores

  • Steering 18/20
  • Confidence 17/20
  • Stability 16/20
  • Ride quality 16/20
  • Feel 17/20
  • Overall 84/100

Full Continental Roadattack 3 review


3. PIRELLI ANGEL GT II - £275 PAIR

‘These give you loads of confidence’

TYRE SPEC

  • Character - A slight sports bias
  • Operating temp - Front 40.6°C, Rear 61.1°C
  • Useable tread depth - 5.68mm
  • Braking distance (70mph-0) - 52.69m

Pirelli Angel GT II

Testers’ notes

These tyres make the bike feel light and accurate — they represent a big improvement over standard. They give loads of confidence, work really well from cold, and allow you to hold a line though corners nicely when you’re on the gas. They also offer excellent feel, which increases the faster you go. The combination of all these factors makes them really enjoyable. They’re also really good in terms of stability — they move around less than others over bumps and don’t track in tramlines. They feel especially strong when accelerating. The ride quality is decent if a little on the stiff side, feeling a bit harsh over bumps on the motorway. Overall, they are a really nice set of tyres that help you exploit the bike’s potential and make it more fun, too.

Verdict

A good improvement from the old Angel GT, these don’t really have a weak point in their abilities and deliver seriously impressive allround performance.

Scores

  • Steering 18/20
  • Confidence 17/20
  • Stability 18/20
  • Ride quality 16/20
  • Feel 17/20
  • Overall 86/100

Full Pirelli Angel GT II review


2. DUNLOP ROADSMART III - £262 PAIR

‘They do everything you could ask of them’

TYRE SPEC

  • Character - Neutral
  • Operating temp - Front 39.8°C, Rear 45.7°C
  • Useable tread depth - 5.91mm
  • Braking distance (70mph-0) - 50.95m

Dunlop Roadsmart 3

Testers’ notes:

Linear and progressive, these tyres feel more neutral than some of the sportier feeling tyres here. They’re super-accurate, give perfect tracking and allow you to maintain the chosen line no matter what type of corner. In terms of confidence they’re only marked down because they’re not as assured from cold as the best we’ve tried [Metzelers], but once they get a little bit of heat in them, they’re great. They’re also good over bumps, with a steady front-end. The rear does pick up and steer on dressing marks on the road, though, and the ride quality is on the firm side but still more than acceptable. Plus, the sensation of grip and lots of feedback means the they give outstanding feel. 

Verdict

We were very impressed with the Dunlops. They don’t make your bike feel quite as nimble as the Metzelers but work brilliantly and do everything very well.

Scores

  • Steering 18/20
  • Confidence 18/20
  • Stability 18/20
  • Ride quality 17/20
  • Feel 18/20
  • Overall 89/100

Full Dunlop Roadsmart III review


1. METZELER ROADTEC 01 SE £273

‘They make the bike feel lighter and more enjoyable. These are wonderful tyres’

TYRE SPEC

  • Character - Sporty
  • Operating temp - Front 30.8°C, Rear 44.2°C
  • Useable tread depth - 5.36mm
  • Braking distance (70mph-0) - 50.68m

Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE

Testers’ notes

With excellent steering characteristics, these tyres feel the sportiest of the bunch. They make the bike feel light and nimble, with precise low-speed steering. They elevate rider confidence dramatically — you feel like you can enter corners quickly. There’s good grip from cold too. Superstable in all road conditions — over big bumps, they are supremely reassuring with no decay as speed increases, but the rear tracked slightly over scored sections of surface-dressed B-road. In terms of ride quality, they are harsher than some of the others here but they are never overwhelmed by the bike’s weight, and there’s load of feedback and feel at slow, medium and brisk riding levels. These are wonderful tyres — they make the bike feel lighter and more enjoyable.

Verdict

The difference these made to the BMW was very impressive — it felt lighter, like it had better suspension and worked amazingly from cold. The biggest improvement over OE of any tyre here.

Scores

  • Steering 19/20
  • Confidence 19/20
  • Stability 18/20
  • Ride quality 17/20
  • Feel 18/20
  • Overall 91/100

Full Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE review


Sports-touring tyres: The MCN Verdict

The best sports-touring tyres verdict

When it comes to that magic combination of sweet steering, confidence and stability, the Metzelers are once again the best tyres here. We were very impressed by Dunlop’s RoadSmart III, a tyre that gives lots of confidence and should feel perfect if sporty riding isn’t always your thing. It does everything you’d want from a sports-touring tyre and felt the best at steady speeds — and had one of the best performances in braking, too. But this test proves that the latest crop of sports-touring rubber is very competent. There wasn’t a single set of tyres here that we wouldn’t choose to have on our bikes or that didn’t improve the bike compared to OE; but given the choice, we’d go for the Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE and the Dunlop Roadsmart III first.

Read the latest stories causing a buzz this week in Advice…

Matt Wildee

By Matt Wildee

Former MCN Senior Editor