High-tech comes to heavyweight touring and cruising tires
Words by Kip Woodring
Photos courtesy of Michelin
Back in the day, luxury carmaker Packard used to use the “Ask the man who owns one” quip in its marketing, and that certainly applies here. Because you cannot understand or appreciate what a motorcycle tire has to offer by reading a spec sheet or seeing a demo. You gotta try ’em, which is exactly what happened during Bike Week when Michelin invited us to its riding introduction for its new Commander III tires.
Michelin understands that full-size cruiser and touring riders want mileage first and foremost, and says its new Commander IIIs – available in both Tourer and Cruiser guises – not only offer up to 25 percent more than its competition (with internal and third-party results to back it up), but also offer improved handling, shorter stopping distances and better dry- and wet-weather grip.
That’s a tall order when you’re talking about heavyweight motorcycles (and the abuse many owners typically subject their tires to – underinflation being the most critical), but Michelin says new technologies, compounds and processes do the trick. The first is what the company calls Amplified Density Technology (ADT), which results in a highly dense, more rigid carcass that, according to Michelin, helps deliver better feedback and handling. Then there’s the switch to 100% silica in the rubber compound as opposed to the carbon black used in the Commander II. Silica stabilizes the contact patch under all riding situations, which is most of the reason for increased mileage capability as well as improved handling and rider feedback. Tread grooving is techy, too, with grooves designed to shed water more effectively, even as the tire wears.
Florida isn’t much of a tire-shredding environment unless you’re at the Speedway, but the impressions the new tires left me with on the Harley-Davidson cruisers and tourers were surprising. The initial hello as we slogged around at parking lot speeds was welcoming, as heavyweight motorcycles are at their worst when barely moving. This felt more like power steering, which is good for rookies and veterans alike, especially when crawling down Main St. in Daytona during Bike Week, which we did a lot. The CIIIs become your friend quickly.
Additionally, smack a chuckhole or a bump at road speeds and you learn that the CIIIs don’t care or scare. At speed and while cornering aggressively you sense these tires are an ally, telling you what you need to know with clear and nuanced feedback. It didn’t rain while we were there, so we didn’t get a chance to evaluate them in wet conditions, but from what Michelin engineer Elina Gilbert told me over dinner about the tires’ contact-patch and tread-design advances (she’s an excellent rider herself), they’re pretty wonderful there, too. I had no reason to question it.
We’ve got two pairs of these new Michelin skins on long-term Harley-Davidson test bikes in California and will report back with mileage and handling information next month, so stay tuned. Click motorcycle.michelinman.com for more information.