Why You Should Consider A Sportier Front Tire On Your Motorcycle

by jchannell

“If you lose the front on a car you go wide. If you lose the front on a motorbike, you crash.” – Casey Stoner.

I was preparing for a long weekend in Arkansas, and my front tire was toast. There was no way it would hold up for the trip up there and back. Last thing I needed was worrying about my front tire during a much-needed moto getaway. Fortunately, a local shop had a bike night on Thursdays, and their shop stayed open late. Did they have time to fit a new front tire for me? They did.

Upon arriving at High 5 in Dallas, I asked what the tire selections were. I was hoping for the same thing I normally use, which is a Michelin Pilot Road 3. It’s a great touring tire, grips well in crappy conditions, and gets monster mileage. They didn’t have those in stock. My choices were a Michelin Pilot Power 2CT, or the Michelin Pilot Power 3. I knew straight away that those were pure sportbike tires. I thought they had little application for a sport touring bike which serves commuting duty, and does a ton of miles compared to most folks who use their bikes for Sunday leisure rides. Feeling torn, I asked which tire got better life out of them. They suggested the newer Pilot Power 3, and I went with it, thinking the tire would last as long as Tony Romo being healthy and staying on the football field this year.

Not only did the Michelin “sportbike tire” last the Arkansas trip in July, it lasted through 1 track day, roughly 6 thousand miles, and changed my perspective on matching motorcycle tires on my bikes.

Better Feedback & Feel

As much as I loved the PR3’s for their mileage, and ability to stick in the cold and wet, I didn’t get much feel or feedback out of them. I couldn’t feel what the front tire was doing. They stuck without question, but I didn’t know where the limit was. This is a similar issue as the current MotoGP switch from the Bridgestones to Michelin fronts. The Bridgestones would take a lot of abuse, you could break very hard on them, and they would stick. Riders had to “trust the tire,” according to the reports I’ve read on the issue.

Feedback leads to Confidence which leads to Speed. 

I found the PP3’s to have much better feel and feedback to them, which gives a lot of confidence in the front. Especially when I took the bike to the track. I had the confidence to brake later, and lean much farther than I would on the road. The front always telling me what was going on was a big part of that.

Decent Mileage

I really thought these tires would melt like hot taffy in the summer sun, or like the Dallas Cowboys playoff chances this year. Neither are looking good. I was surprised that the front had lasted this long. I’ll likely replace it soon, but 6-8K out of a confidence-inspiring front, instead of the 15K I was getting on the PR4’s is a trade-off I’m willing to make.

Mix & Match

Changing the front tire removed a bit of a “sticking point” regarding feel and my confidence in the bike. Racers mix and match their front and rear compounds every race to get the best performance. I’m not sure how many road riders do the same, to get the best of the characteristics they need for their riding style.

I still run a Michelin Pilot Road 4 on the rear, rather than a sport rear. The reason is that I put about 1 to 1.5K miles on my bike a month.  The Sprint ST has a very linear powerband, and I’m pretty progressive with the throttle. I don’t have issues with rear grip or feel with the rear. It just sticks. And they get great life out of them. I didn’t see the rear being an issue really. If I have a bike with a ton more power, I might rethink that arrangement.

How about you? Do you mix and match your tires, or go with matched sets?

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