New PR2s for the VFR

The front tire on my VFR was finally getting a bit…baldy, so it was time to replace it. I went a ahead and just replaced both tires with a new set of Michelin Pilot Road II CT’s. Once again, the handling of the bike has been transformed. The more aggressive tire profile makes dropping into the corners a breeze, and the bike—heavy as it is—now responds just to shifts of body weight.

I chose the PR2 instead of the new PR3 because I’m in Southern California, and rain just isn’t really an issue here. It rains maybe 45 days a year. Yes, the PR3 is a better, grippier tire in wet conditions, by all accounts, but I don’t really face those conditions. And the price difference between the PR2 and PR3 is great enough to keep me perfectly happy staying with the older model tire.

Maybe I’m wrong, and some of you can provide some better guidance on the advantages of the PR3 over the PR2. But none of the service guys I’ve talked to seem to think the PR3 is worth the extra price here in SoCal.

Anywaym I’m way happier with the bike’s ride than I am with the Bridgestones. I know the Bridgestones—in both the BT021 and BT023 models—are really poular both as EOM and aftermarket tires, but I’ve never gotten why. I mean, I understand why they’re popular as an OEM tire: they’re cheaper, while still being reasonably grippy, and very stable, along with having decent tread life.

But every bike I’ve ridden with them just has a far more leaden feel. With both my old FJR and the new VFR, the Bridgestones required far more effort to initiate a turn, and were completely unresponsive to shifts in body weight. They would do anything you wanted them to do, but you have to provide a lot more steering input than I like. Very stable tires, to be sure, and very trustworthy, but they just needed so much effort to corner. Of course, having said that, they hold a line like nobody’s business.

But then, so do the PR2’s. They’re significantly more expensive, but much easier to live with on those twisty, turny country roads I ride on every day.

If you spend the majority of your time in town or on the highway, there’s nothing at all wrong with the Bridgestone BT021 or BT023 tires. But if you like to dive in and out of the twisties, they can’t touch the Michelin Pilot Roads.

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.