Speaking of tires…

The rear tire on my FJR1300, well scrubbed, but with an adequate safety margin
The rear tire on my FJR1300, well scrubbed, but with an adequate safety margin

…I’ve noticed something odd when I go to the shop with my FJR.  That’s my rear tire over there.  Now, that’s not an extreme-to-the-edge wear pattern, although it does reflect some peg scraping.  But I have a 650-pound touring bike, and, while I’m nowhere near the poster-boy for conservative riding, I’m not willing to sacrifice my life to Mr. Inertia.

But every time I go to the shop, I see a number of literbikes and super sports that are worn all the way down to the cords in the center of the tire, and with three untouched inches of tire on either side of the center.

So, I guess I’m just curious.

What, exactly, is it that you sportbike guys are doing when you ride?

Are you just doing burnouts in the parking lot, wasting 100+ bucks per tire in a few days? Or do you just never turn, and ride in endlessly straight lines?  How on earth does someone burn through a tire, while leaving the outer two or three inches untouched on either side? And, by the way, you do realize that if you can see steel cords on the surface of your tire, then riding it–even to the shop–is a gamble, right?

I just have this image in my mind of someone who hauls his ZX600 from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds at every stoplight, and then slows to 5 MPH every time he approaches a corner.

Seriously, I’m not trying to be an ass. I really do wonder how you can actually ride a sportbike for any distance at all, and have pristine, untouched, 3-inch chicken strips.  You simply have to be doing something stunty, and not using the bike as a daily ride.

And while we’re on the subject of weird riding habits, what’s with the shorts and tennis shoes?  I realize that we live in a desert here in far southern California.  It’s hot.  I get it.  But I constantly see guys tooling around in shorts and tennis shoes.  And I’m not talking about squids on super sports.  It’s almost universal.  I see guys on Gold Wings, Harleys, sportbikes, and BMW GSs wearing shorts and Reeboks, tooling around town, and on the highway. And I’m not talking about dumb young kids.  I’m talking about guys my age (mid-40s) riding 800 lb tourers.

I mean, granted, I’m a paranoid old woman who wears a full Olympia Motosports suit and full-face helmet to ride 2 blocks to the 7-11, but seriously, why on earth would you hit I-15 on a bike, wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and a ratty old pair of Air Jordans?  Even if you’re a super-skilled rider, the roads are full of cager morons who’ll run you over without even seeing you.

You are aware that we are involved in a rather dangerous sport, aren’t you?

Michelin Pilot Road 2 Review

Since I bought my FJR1300 two  years ago, I’ve been religious about keeping her maintained at the proper service intervals, using OEM parts.  You can skimp on auto maintenance a bit–though you really shouldn’t–and it might cost you some money.  Skimp on motorcycle maintenance, and you could find yourself rapidly transported to that Great Laguna Seca in the Sky.  part of my regular maintenance has always been replacing the OEM Bhe last ridgestone BT 021 tires regularly.

Michelin Pilot Road 2 Tire Diagram
Michelin Pilot Road 2 Tire Diagram

Until the last service at 24,000 miles.  I’d been talking with Randy at North County House of Motorcycles–where I always get my maintenance done; great crew!–about switching away from the Bridgestones to the Michelin Pilot Road 2 tires.  At my 24k service, both tires were ready to go, so I made the switch.

I’ve now done 5,000 miles on the PR2’s and I think I’m ready to give my review.  The short version: They have transformed the handling of the bike.

The Bridgestones aren’t bad tires.  They were certainly grippy, and allowed you to attack the twisties with confidence. But after 5k miles on the PR2s, I’ve learned that the BT021s really make the steering on the FJR far harder than it has to be. They’re certainly stable tires.  Too stable.  They required significant steering input to put the bike into the right line, and were resistant to changes in body position as a way to lean/steer the bike.  All of the inputs had to come through the handlebars.

The PR2s on the other hand, are an extremely responsive tire.  Shifting your upper body, or sliding your butt over on the seat is enough to initiate a lean, with no input on the bars at all. Prior to my experience with the PR2s, I assumed that the FJR was just too heavy to accept anything but extreme body movement as a steering input.  With the PR2s, I’ve learned that the bike is actually quite responsive to the rider’s movement…with the right tires.

The Michelins have really made riding the FJR a more…uh…sportbikey experience, responsing to shifts in rider position by falling right into the desired line on a curve.  Obviously, the handling on a 650 lb. sport-tourer will never match an R6, or a GSX-R1000 for that matter, but the improvement was immediately noticeable.  And by that, I mean within a single city block, I could tell that the handling was vastly improved.

While responsive, the PR2s are not twitchy. The bike still does exactly what you tell it to do. It’s just easier to tell it what to do. After 5,000 miles, I’ve never gotten a sense of instability from the Michelins. Nor have I ever gotten a sense that the traction of the PR2s are any less reliable than the BT021s.  Indeed, I’ve surprised myself by dragging peg feelers on a couple of occasions without any drama at all, and my chicken strips on the rear tire are down to about 1/4 inch.

What has really surprised me has been the lack of wear on either the front or rear tire.  After 5,000 miles, the rear tire is hardly noticeably flattened at all. I was getting about 6k off the BT021 rear, but it’s looking like the PR2 rear is going to be good for somewhere between 8k-10k, if not more.  I have no idea how long the front will last, as it still looks new.  I’m nowhere near the wear marks on either tire. Usually, a tire compound that resists wear, also resists grip, but I simply haven’t found that to be the case for the Michelins.

Overall, I’ve been extremely impressed with the Michelin Pilot Road 2 tires.  They offer vastly improved handling and wear over the Bridgestone BT021, without sacrificing stability or grip.  I think it’s fair to say that my FJR1300 won’t be riding on the OEM Bridgestones in the future.

The Michelins may cost more, but with better performance and longer life, they’re well worth the extra cost.