Michelin’s Pilot Road 2 tires have always been one of our favorites for long-range sporting duty, offering up a combination of good grip in all conditions with neutral handling, smooth ride, and long life. A pretty tough act to follow, but Michelin intends to do that and much more with the introduction of the next generation Michelin Pilot Road 3 last year. The Pilot Road 3 features some new technology aimed at increasing grip when the road gets soggy without losing any of the attributes that made the Pilot Road 2 one of our favorites. We had the opportunity to try out the new Pilot Road 3 tires on our Suzuki GSX1250FA project bike (“GSX-essive”, January 2012) for an extended period and came away very impressed.
The Pilot Road 3 retains the basic construction of its predecessor, with both front and rear carcasses using a three-ply (two polyamide and one aramid belt) construction. The same 2CT (2 Compound Technology) rubber makeup is used as well, with the front tire sporting a soft compound on the outer 25 percent of the tire profile on each shoulder for extra grip during aggressive cornering, and a medium-soft for mileage and stability in the central 50 percent portion of the tread; the rear tire’s tread uses that same medium-soft compound on the outer 40 percent of each side for grip while leaned over, with the central 20 percent comprised of a medium compound for durability.
Where the Pilot Road 3 differs from its predecessor is its use of XST (X-Sipe Technology) in the tread. Although the tread patterns are similar to the Pilot Road 2, the Pilot Road 3’s XST utilizes additional thinner, integrated sipes throughout the tread. Aimed at increased wet pavement grip, these thinner sipes have small reservoirs at various spots along their length; the reservoirs actually help temporarily store water to assist in the tread’s drainage capacity. The reservoirs also increase the sipes’ efficiency by effectively separating them into pieces; on a rounded surface (like a tire tread), the more separate edges to break the water surface film on contact, the better. Interestingly, the front XST sipes are positioned perpendicular to the main tread sipes (presumably for better braking grip), while the rear XST sipes are mostly extensions of the main tread sipes.
As stated previously in the Suzuki GSX1250FA project bike story, the Michelins were a definite improvement over the stock rubber, providing much lighter and more neutral steering habits while also offering up better grip and a smoother ride overall (this despite the stiffer aftermarket suspension we installed on the Suzuki). Initial turn-in response was quicker, and steering precision was much improved as well; where the stock tires would often become a little vague when cornering over anything less than perfect pavement, the Michelins would retain their sharp steering characteristics and good feedback, allowing easy and accurate line changes if required.
As with the previous generation Pilot Road 2, we were very impressed with the durability of the Pilot Road 3 tires. The stock rubber on the Suzuki was fairly shagged after just 3500 hard miles, but the Michelins looked just broken in after a similar amount of mileage, including a couple of long-distance rides that included some lengthy 85 mph highway drones. Incidentally, those high-speed straight highway runs would often result in some flat-spotting along the center of the tread of many other tires, but none were visible on the Michelins. And yet all this was accomplished while providing much better grip during both braking and cornering — impressive to say the least.
But even more impressive was the wet pavement grip of the Pilot Road 3. We got the opportunity to ride in some rainy canyon, highway, and city riding scenarios, and can easily state that the Michelins are some of the best tires we’ve ever ridden on when the weather turns ugly. We never experienced any hydroplaning over puddles, and the braking grip from the front tire was excellent, allowing strong, confident stops. Grip while cornering was likewise superb, with the Pilot Road 3 able to maintain traction over varying types of pavement much better than even its Pilot Road 2 predecessor.
The 120/70ZR-17 and 180/55ZR-17 sizes we fit to the Suzuki retail for $495 a set, although your prices will obviously vary.
WHAT WE'RE TESTING
Zero Gravity Windscreen
Our Suzuki GSX1250FA unsurprisingly turned into Kento’s daily commuter after receiving the Holeshot treatment (“GSX-Essive,” January ’12). Since the bike’s overhaul however, we’ve fitted Zero Gravity’s taller Sport Touring screen for added wind protection.
Bell Star Carbon Helmet
The Star has long been a fixture in Bell’s lineup, boasting an easy-to-use shield replacement system and proper ventilation. The helmet is now available in an appropriately named Carbon Hess model too, which features a carbon construction and wild new graphic.