Still the premier sport-touring tire

Sport-touring riders are a special group. Better said, they are a well-rounded bunch. They want it all – speed, handling, long stretches of road and everything in between. With those wants come needs. One of those is a set of tires that works in just about any situation, and works well. As a result, developing a sport-touring tire is quite the undertaking for a tire manufacturer. Dunlop is up to the task and recently invited us to sample its latest and greatest – the Sportmax Roadsmart II.

The Tech

Since the release of the Roadsmart in 2008, Dunlop has stepped up its technology with the development of the Sportmax Q2 and Sportmax D211 GP-A DOT-legal road racing tires. Many of the features that were put into these high-performance sportbike tires have been rolled into the Roadsmart II. It’s obvious the handling and grip of this latest sport-touring tire needed to match the high level of performance available from the newer generation of motorcycles.

The most noteworthy carryover from the Q2 and D211 GP-A is the use of Dunlop’s Intuitive Response Profile (IRP) technology. IRP features a steep tread drop – the height measured between the tread center and the shoulder edge. This allows for a larger footprint to be laid down when the lean angle increases to more extreme angles. This profile allows for linear steering at various lean angles and also gives the rider a greater selection in line choices.

Just as the original Roadsmart, the rear tire features a Multi-Tread, AKA dual-compound construction that uses a long-wearing center with higher-grip lateral compounds on the flanks. Unlike the original, the compositions of the Roadsmart II’s compounds are newly developed, derived from Dunlop’s racing skins for more grip. Dunlop found no need for the Multi-Tread approach on the front tire during testing, so it gets a single compound throughout. As a whole, the rubber making up the tread is a new blend of polymers, highly dispersible silica, and carbon black meant to speed up warm up times.

So Dunlop definitely made sure to cover the sport half of the equation, but they also spent an equal amount of effort on the touring characteristics. As much as grip is important to sport-touring riders, durability ranks just as high. The front tire has Dunlop’s familiar cosecant-curve groove pattern, but the shape and placement has been redesigned to promote even tire wear and life via a stiffer pattern aimed to reduce tire squirm. On the rear, the center of the tire has fewer grooves crossing it to increase traction and also to improve the tire’s lifespan. The Roadsmart already has a reputation for a long lifespan, and the Roadsmart II is claimed to improve on its already stellar mileage.

The third and final part of the sport-touring tire trifecta is wet weather performance. A little (or a lot) of rain isn’t going to foil the plans of this hearty group of riders, so the Dunlop made sure the Roadsmart II was up to the task. The front tire’s tread pattern features long V-shaped grooves to effectively channel water so that the rear tire needs less grooving at the center. An increased tread depth also moves water at a higher rate than before.

The Ride

Dunlop turned the motorcycle media loose on the always fun and very familiar roads around Ojai, California, on a varied selection of sport-touring and pure sport bikes. Though the day was sunny and dry, a cold snap had hit the area. Tall trees and canyon walls shadowed the asphalt, keeping surface temps low throughout the day. This was not a problem, however, because just as Dunlop had claimed, the Roadsmart II heated up quickly. Not once was I worried that cold tires would lead to a ride home in a wrecker.

The level of grip from the Roadsmart II was impressive for a sport-touring tire, or for any street-legal tire for that matter. Turn-in feel was light, and the tire transitioned from side to side quickly and predictably. Feedback from both the front and rear was excellent, and there is more than ample warning when you are nearing the limits of traction.

Bump absorption on the large to mid-sized bikes was spot on, but on the lighter sport bikes such as the GSX-R600 and 750, the carcass was a bit stiff. Although the tires were more than capable of hauling the mail on repli-racers and would be the best bet for anyone who commutes, you’ll know you are on tires meant to work on heavier machines.

Sunny skies means I can’t comment on the wet traction of the Roadsmart II, but in our Roadsmart Tire Review in 2008 we had more than enough wet weather to give a two thumbs up. I fully expect that just like the other sport-touring characteristics, the Roadsmart II will surpass its predecessor.