Two years ago Michelin set out on a mission to revitalize its lineup of motorcycle tires. Since then, the tire manufacturer has released everything from the track-oriented Power Super Sport to the small-bike oriented Pilot Street Radial. And now, at the end of that two-year run comes the Michelin Pilot Road 4, a sport-touring tire that’ll replace the Pilot Road 3.
Like the Michelin Pilot Road 3, the Pilot Road 4 uses 2CT (Dual Compound Technology) with harder tread compounds in the center and softer tread compounds on the shoulders, in addition to Michelin XST (X-Sipe Technology), a design on the tread that uses sipes and wells to cut through films of water, increasing water drainage capacity. In bringing its sport-touring platform up to date, Michelin has also reengineered the tire’s three compounds and updated the XST design to an XST+ pattern.
We know what you’re thinking: “Another damn tire acronym that I have to remember?” But to be clear, XST+ is merely an update to Michelin’s X-sipe Technology that uses diagonal cuts on the leading edge of the sipes to improve sipe longevity on the front tire. “Repeated braking can wear down the front edge of the tire’s sipe, but with X-sipe Plus the tire wears more slowly,” confirm Michelin tire representatives.
The Pilot Road 4 is available in three different versions so that it can better adhere to the ever-evolving requirements of the sport-touring category. Bikes are getting faster and more powerful, but they’re also getting heavier, so Michelin has introduced the Pilot Road 4 in Standard, GT, and Trail (for adventure-touring bikes that’ll never see dirt) versions. The difference between the Standard and GT models is in construction, with the GT model using a 2AT (Dual Angle Technology) design that’s claimed to provide the rigidity of a bias-ply tire and the sporty performance of a radial tire. On the GT, the first ply is laid at a 90-degree angle to the road, and the next ply diagonal to the road, Michelin says. What’s that mean to you? Well, all you really need to know is that the GT is more idealistic for larger mounts like the new BMW R 1200 RT, which as it were, comes standard with the Michelin Pilot Road 4 GT.
The Pilot Road 4 front tire has a sportier profile (rear uses the same as the Pilot Road 3) and a variable grooving ratio that’s claimed to provide better grip on the wet or dry roads by way of idealistically placed treads.
Michelin suggests that each of the aforementioned changes provides multiple benefits: the Pilot Road 4 is claimed to stop 17-percent shorter than the leading competitors (from 31 mph to 0 mph), last 20-percent longer than the Pilot Road 3, and have a 90 degree operating range, meaning it can operate as normal in conditions ranging from 23 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. We asked if the X-sipe Plus technology was cause for increased carcass temperature, which could lead to less grip, but representatives say that the siping doesn’t create any additional heat. “It simply does what it needs to do for wet braking,” techs say.
Key word is wet. As in water. As in something we’d see none of during our test on the Pilot Road 4, which was ran in mid May and on roads winding through a very dry Southern California. The test combined freeway riding with back roads, dirty pavement with clean, and 90 degree afternoons with 40 degree mornings. While not perfect conditions for testing a tire touted for improved wet-weather performance, this would be a good opportunity to test Michelin’s other claims and see how the Pilot Road 4 Standard would work on Sport Rider’s longterm Kawasaki Ninja 1000 test bike. Standard tire sizes (120/70-ZR17 front, 190/50-ZR17 rear) were used.
Our day aboard the Pilot Road 4 started with a freeway ride through Downtown Los Angeles and well highlight the 4’s up-and-down prowess, though to be honest, a tire would need to have a pretty stiff carcass in order to ruin your experience on the interstate. The stock Dunlop Sportmax D214 tires worked well in these instances, as did the Pilot Road 4.
Turn-in on the Ninja felt quick and linear while navigating the canyon roads that’d lead us out of the LA area, and while mid-corner steering felt a bit heavy, that was easily cured with some minor suspension changes (more preload and compression damping in the rear). The Ninja 1000 isn’t the lightest handling bike once on its side, so it would've taken some effort to make it steer lighter through middle of the corner. Credit the front tire’s new shape for that increased steering agility at the entrance of the corner.
If Michelin’s claim surrounding wet-weather performance stands true, then it’ll be pretty hard to turn our back to the Pilot Road 4 once the skies send some rain our way.
Despite the mass of tread and siping, the Pilot Road 4’s carcass didn’t squirm when getting on the gas and loading the tire. The rubber provided a great deal of feedback, thus giving us a better idea of what was going on at the contact patch. Grip throughout the day was admirable, though after longer rides through the canyon (and in warmer climes), we noted that the tire began to get slightly more restless through the middle of faster corners. The new, 100% silica compound probably plays a role in the tire’s tendency to build heat and become a bit greasy. Wet roads would, again, have been a much more idealistic test grounds.
Colder conditions weren't a threat to overall performance as there was great feel within just three corners of our early-morning ride, and if Michelin’s claim surrounding wet-weather performance stands true, then it’ll be pretty hard to turn our back to the Pilot Road 4 once the skies send some rain our way.
Regardless of the weather forecast, we’re going to keep the Pilot Road 4s mounted to our Ninja 1000 test bike and continue to rack up the miles. Look for a 3000-plus mile update in the September 2014 issue of Sport Rider Magazine.