Great handling and grip in all weather conditions

A tire introduction in Los Angeles on a weekend, really? Those were the words that ran through my head when I received my invitation to join the German tire manufacturer Metzeler to sample their latest tire, the Roadtec Interact Z8. Sure, why not. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to really test the merits of a tire in one of the worst cities in the country in regards to traffic congestion. Not to mention school just got out for summer, and everyone in a slightly dreary state makes a bee-line for the fun and sun of LA, further increasing the load on the asphalt arteries connecting the main drags with the beaches. At least I would get the technical specs and an overnight stay in a decent hotel just off of Sunset Boulevard.

Metzeler takes a different approach to supplying varying levels of grip and wear zones on the same motorcycle tire. Rather than using different compounds of rubber banded around the carcass of a tire to provide higher levels of grip on the side while allowing high wear in the center, the German company uses the same compound throughout the tire. By increasing or decreasing the tension of the steel cords between the internal carcass and compound, different levels of friction are achieved. Dubbed Interact technology, the process of “tuning” hundreds of cords to vibrate more or less allows the single compound to become more or less flexible depending on the tension. The cords also vibrate like the strings of a guitar, producing friction and heating the compound to get the tire up to operating temperature sooner than a dual compound set up.

The Roadtec Interact Z8 has three separate tension zones specifically geared toward the newest generation of sport touring motorcycles, which in this day and age could be anything from a BMW K1600GTL to Honda’s VFR or even a GSX-R 750. In the center of the tire the tension of the cords is high to deliver the best possible mileage and wear. On each side a lower tension zone is meant to deliver higher traction and elevated grip. In addition to the Interact technology, the Z8 boasts an aggressive looking Pi (TT) tread pattern that maximizes the tire's footprint for increased stability and channels water quickly in wet conditions. The single rubber compound contains a high percentage of silica to also increase wet weather grip. So with all the technology laid out in front of us, how would the newest Metzeler perform when the rubber meets the road?

To my amazement we were greeted with unseasonably cool temps and the chance of rain in the morning as we gathered to head out on a route that included a freeway stint followed by the standard Mulholland/Topanga area roads. With the skies beginning to clear, we hit the road. The traffic was heavy on the 405 and 101 and the pace was sedate, but the Z8 felt great on the freeway. Straight-line stability is solid and the ride was taut but not stiff. Even on concrete slabs on the way to the fun stuff, it’s apparent that the Z8 is a sporty tire.

On the famous curves of Mulholland, the Roadtec Interact was put to good use. Luckily the usual weekend crowds were thin thanks to the threat of rain, allowing for some spirited riding. Transitioning from upright to full lean is smooth and drama free. There is no stepped feel or change in traction when moving across the different tension zones. In fact, the feel is uniform for the whole of the tire while the Interact technology does its thing in the background without any fanfare. I came away impressed with the dry pavement prowess of the Z8. The amount of grip from the low tension zones is impressive and confidence inspiring for a tire that is meant for sport-touring machines. In a pinch, trackday duty would even be possible on these tires.

Later in the day the clouds finally let loose with some moisture, allowing us to substantiate Metzeler’s claims of wet weather performance. At first I tentatively made my way through the corners, but in no time my pace increased to the level it was when the roads were dry. Not once did the tires lose grip unexpectedly or spin up when I didn’t want it to. Only the most ham-fisted throttle application produced squirm from the Z8. I highly recommend these Metzelers if you live or ride in damp road conditions regularly.

All in all the Metzeler Roadtec Interact Z8 is an excellent sport-touring tire that offers a high level of performance for its intended segment. I would go as far as to say the Z8 also is a great everyday sportbike tire. In fact we have a set installed on our long term GSX-R 750 project bike, so stay tuned for updates on tire wear as we didn’t have enough time at the introduction to test the longevity of these versatile tires.