Skins, slicks, donuts, hoops, call them what you will; the humble tire is not only laden with high tech but also plays a vital role in keeping you safe.
High performance motorcycle tires are even more critical than brakes as they are under load for the entire duration of a journey. This fact is ironic as far too many riders take their motorcycle tires for granted.
Correct and regular maintenance of your motorcycle tires is absolutely necessary. It ensures you will get the most bang for your buck when it comes to wear.
And it brings me to the purpose of this article. Here, we will look at the most popular riding categories and search the market for the best motorcycle tire in each category.
To keep the playing field even, we will consider the most popular tire brands AND those with global distribution. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding your perfect tire only to discover it’s not available in your neck of the woods.
So with all this in mind, let’s burn some rubber!
Top Motorcycle Tire Reviews – Rated by Experts
|Michelin Pilot Road 5
|Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE
|Dunlop D404 Motorcycle Tire
#1 Best Overall: Michelin Pilot Road 5
Michelin Pilot Road 5
With superior technology and a great design, it’s a perfect mix of great grip and high mileage. A top performer!
When it comes to picking an all-around tire that offers a terrific grip in challenging conditions, the Pilot Road 5 is my numero uno choice.
I guess you want to know why.
Firstly, Michelin has loaded the 5th generation of the Road Series tires with a ton of advanced technology for optimized grip and class-leading stability.
These include the use of advanced rubber compounds and a newly designed siped tread pattern. In short, the tread pattern has Michelin XST Evo technology that improves the tire’s ability to clear the film of surface water
Moreover, even as the tire wears it keeps delivering the same level of performance. Michelin claims even after covering 3,000 miles, the braking performance on wet surfaces is as good as a new MICHELIN Pilot Road 4.
In short, you get a slow wear rate and better value for money.
For better dry weather grip, Michelin has used 2CT and 2CT+ technologies in the front and rear tires respectively. The front tires have two types of all-silica compounds for better performance. The rear tires have an all-carbon black compound on the shoulders and an all-silica compound on the crown.
Beyond that, these rubber hoops also come with Adaptive Casing Technology. As a result, you get superior straight-line stability and excellent cornering performance.
Despite the relatively narrow profile these tires have zero slippage and feel incredibly planted at higher speeds. They are also good at absorbing unwanted vibrations without cutting out the necessary feedback.
To sum up, if you want super sticky tires in all conditions, you can’t go wrong with the Michelin Pilot Road 5.
#2 Best Sport Touring Tire – Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE
Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE
Allows for amazing cornering and precise handling even with a heavy beast of a bike.
Let’s face it: with heavyweight horizon shrinking powerhouses like the BMW K1600 and Kawasaki GTR1400, the days of plodding along the highway are long gone.
With bikes in this group packing plenty of weight and tire torturing power, this is one harsh category. Not only does your tire need to have a tough compound to offer good mileage, but it also needs to provide excellent cornering ability and feedback.
All the top contenders offer great tires in this category but as good as the below Continental Road Attack III is, the Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE nudges ahead. Fit a pair of these tires on your bike, and you’re going to feel the difference right away! The best way to describe the handling characteristics is on the sporty side.
With a motorcycle like the two mentioned above weighing in at 319kg and 304kg, respectively, a tire that gives such precise steering feedback is most welcome. You will also notice the difference at paddling speed when navigating through traffic or a parking lot.
The Metzeler Roadtec offers great feedback even from cold.
However, it tends to give a slightly harsher ride quality due to the extra strength built into the side walls. The solid as a rock feel is a good pay off though, as it doesn’t EVER leave the tires feeling overwhelmed by the bike’s weight.
The new 01 SEs have a slightly redesigned tread pattern from their predecessor. That’s exactly what gives more confidence at steeper lean angles and dissipates water faster.
#3 Best Budget Pick – Dunlop D404 Motorcycle Tire
Dunlop D404 Motorcycle Tire
Not the cheapest there is, but it has amazing all-around functionality for a reasonable price.
The best budget tire is a tough category to tie down.
If going on price alone, we would undoubtedly be looking at either Indian or Chinese cheap motorcycle tires. In the past, both countries have suffered bad press when it comes to quality, but today, China is a hi-tech industrial powerhouse.
Just ask Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Pirelli, who all have multiple plants in China!
Our winner in this category, though, is designed and made in the USA. Regarding wear, handling characteristics, availability, and price, the Dunlop D404 nosed ahead of some stiff competition.
The D404 is a great all round tire and offering mileages of up to 10k; you can see why it’s a winner. Handling-wise, the bias-ply construction is not the most technical. Yet, the tire manages to balance the mileage X grip calculation, well.
Another consideration is the range of sizes available. Cruiser, vintage and street appear to be Dunlop’s primary aim.
You may be aware that forums all over the web scream NOT to put these tires on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
This advice has nothing to do with quality but refers load rating. For over 20 years, H-D has used Dunlop D401/02 and 05’s as OEM equipment, but while the DT404 is great for metric cruisers, the latest heavyweight H-D Big Twins need one of the other D40s.
#4 Best Cruiser Tire – Shinko 777 Cruiser
Shinko 777 Cruiser
A cruiser-specific tire that offers solid performance and grip at an affordable price tag.
In case you’re not familiar with Shinko, your mind might already be revving at the mention of this tire. Admittedly, it’s not as well-known as the top brands
But make no mistake about it, Shinko is no newcomer in the tire market.
Actually, this is a Japanese Group that has been in the tire business since 1946. Like most of their other tires, the 777 cruiser tires offer a solid combination of performance and value.
A big plus of the tire is it’s designed especially for cruiser machines and it’s available in a wide variety of sizes. So, no matter if you’re using a mid-size or heavyweight motorcycle, you will find the right size. They are also available in white and black wall variants.
There’s also a heavy-duty version of the tire for riders owning a heavyweight bobber or an urban cruiser,
Most riders found the tread design with the deep diagonal grooves attractive. In fact, they also dispel water effectively and provide a reliable grip in wet conditions. Shinko also mentions functional siping that provides a good grip in dry conditions too.
Additionally, they are reinforced with Aramid belts for better stability. The grip and braking performance are on par with the top competition. Besides they absorb the road irregularities like a champ without any noticeable deflection.
Coming to longevity, the Shinko 777 tires hold up well. They will easily last more than 5,000 miles for most riders.
The Shinko 777 is an absolute budget buster that punches well above its price tag. If you don’t have a fascination with premium tires, check it out.
#5 Best in Durability – Michelin Commander III
MICHELIN Commander III Cruiser
Tread compound is optimized for incredible performance in wet weather. A durable beast of a tire!
The Commander II was always a hard tire to beat in the cruiser category, but thankfully it’s now updated by the even better Commander III.
So what’s the difference, I hear you ask? For starters, the Commander III has upped its game in the wet weather department.
According to Michelin, the tread pattern on the updated version has a more rounded profile, which offers a larger footprint when rolling into the corners. The altered tread also disperses water a lot faster.
But the big difference is seen in the tread compound, which now uses a 100% silica-reinforced rubber mix. Once again, this takes wet weather performance in the handling and braking departments to a whole new level.
The bonus of the new compound is the added longevity. According to Harley forums, hogs booted in Commander III Michelin tire are getting as much as 20,000+ miles out of a tire.
Due to the popularity of this category, you can find cruisers in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and weights. These tires, to cope with this disparity, come in two groups depending on weight. They are the Commander III Cruiser and Commander III Touring.
The former covers bikes from the Yamaha Star Bolt right up to Harley Softails. In comparison, the beefed-up latter model can handle full-on tourers such as the Electra Glide series and Gold Wing.
If you’re a fan of Michelin, here’s an article on where they make their tires.
#6 Best for Grip: Continental Road Attack III
Continental Road Attack 3
A true heavy-duty tire, it’s a perfect mix of great grip and high mileage. Superb technology at work.
Perhaps the TOUGHEST category in our lineup, this tire has to tick a lot of boxes, which is why the Continental Road Attack III clinches the title.
Not the cheapest by a long way!
However, Conti’s RA III’s have such a lot of technology squeezed into those rubber hoops, and they’re ready to hit the road running in any number of circumstances.
This is a great sports touring tyre, also amazing for big-inch naked’s, retros, and dual sports bikes that prefer to stay on the pavement. You’ll give you plenty of mileage (a 10% increase on the RA II) as well as incredible stability and feedback in the rain.
Better grip and higher mileage don’t often go hand in hand. Yet, Conti claims that temperature-controlled curing allows for a seamless transition from the harder center to the softer outer shoulders.
The innovative motorcycle tyre technology doesn’t end there.
Ever wondered why you need to scrub new tires in? It’s mainly down to a releasing agent used on the tire to release it from the mold during manufacture. It is this that gives them a kind of waxy finish.
Continental’s ‘Traction Skin’ finish eliminates the need for a releasing agent, meaning no waxy surface to scrub off. This ability to hit the road running is one of many reasons why the Continental Road Attack III is a tremendous overall tire.
#7 Best for Versatility – Metzeler Sportec M9 RR
Metzeler Sportec M9 RR
Stability and very good grip in a variety of weather and road conditions make it a very reliable pick.
Most tires, regardless of the bike, take a hammering.
Yet, when it comes to sports bikes, tire manufacturers have their hands full. Tires need extra grip and excellent wet weather ability, and with sports bikes all fitted with electronic rider aids, the bar is considerably raised.
This category is yet another win for Metzeler with the Sportec M9 RR. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, though, Metzeler is the only European company specializing in motorcycle tires, meaning their R&D is exceptional.
The development of the M9 RR took place at the Isle of Man TT, and the result (a win for Metzeler at the 2019 Senior TT) is a phenomenal road tire. The improved compound (the mixing of which is a dark art) offers 5% more footprint when cranked over, faster warm-up times, and improved wet grip.
According to Metzeler, this additional performance is achieved by increasing the silica content on the shoulders of both front and rear tires. The new softer shoulder compound blends seamlessly with the harder more rigid center section and stiffer carcass.
The result is a track-worthy tire for the road without sacrificing its longevity.
The M9 RR provides a 10% mileage increase over its M7 RR predecessor. This tire is specifically developed to work with the increased demands of traction control and ABS. Can it get any better?
#8 Best Sport Tire – Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV
Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV
Designed to handle high acceleration without compromising stability, this is a superb product from Pirelli.
Since Pirelli receives a lot of feedback from the Superbike series, the information is used to improve their tires. With the Diablo Rosso IV, they have raised the bar again and incorporated a lot of tech wizardry for superior performance.
At first glance, these Pirellis look premium. In theory, they are supersport tires designed to derive superior on-road performance. The Pirelli design team has developed different technical characteristics based on tire sizes for specialized performance.
To start with, the tires use special wires and chords to optimize the footprint geometry. In addition, it improves the performance when the lean angle gets steeper and the load increases.
The tread pattern has been designed to provide a higher footprint area along with uniform stress distribution. With an advanced profile design and reduced curvature of the shoulders, the contact patch area has been increased. This delivers better control and feedback during cornering.
Besides, Pirelli has used multiple compounds to ensure a quick warm-up and better thermal performance. Combined with the structural features, this has enabled the tires to be more flexible and have better damping properties.
Let’s not forget that a powerful sport bike engine delivers a quick burst of power to the rear tires. The Rosso IV handles this delivery without breaking a sweat and keeps the machine firmly planted.
Be it a wet surface, bumpy roads, or deceptive rain grooves, the Diablo Rosso IV delivers superb precision- thanks to the FLASH tread pattern and the use of silica compound.
In essence, the Ross IV tires offer solid performance and should definitely be on the top of your watchlist.
#9 Best Dual Sport Tire – Continental TKC80
A legendary product from Continental that offers a perfect balance of first and street performance.
Even with its aging design, the Continental TKC80 remains one of the best options in the dual sport category. For many adventure riders, this tire is the “real deal” for dirt rides as well as for street riding.
To be honest, picking the right dual sport tire is a challenge. In reality, there’s no perfect tire that works well in every condition. So, you need to do an honest assessment about where you prefer to spend your riding miles before picking.
The TKC80 falls into the 50/50 category. In other words, they are designed for 50% on-road and 50% off-road performance.
The TKC 80 was designed in collaboration with Richard Schalber, a champion in Enduro and Motocross. While the differential spaced knobs on the tread might look as large as the ones on typical “knobblies”, they offer solid performance and are self-cleaning
While designing 50/50 tires can be tricky, the TKC80 never misses a step. It offers excellent traction on sand, snow, and gravel. On asphalt, there’s plenty of grip and directional control. For most riders, the street performance of the tires exceeded expectations.
The tire has a 4-ply tread area and a thick carcass. That delivers better puncture resistance and predictable performance. Continental uses a relatively soft compound and the traction remains reassuring in all conditions.
That said, the life span of the tires is between 3,500 to 5,000 miles with extreme condition riding. If you want your adventure bike tires to last for 10,000 clicks, look elsewhere. In its defense, the TKC80s are designed for versatility and not for mileage.
Overall, the Continental TKC80s offers solid performance on blacktop and dirt to make it a reliable choice for adventure riders.
So go ahead and check it out.
#10 Best Off-Road Adventure Tire – Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41
Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41
Decent on-road, but a true beast off-road, when the going gets rough.
Talking the talk is one thing, but if you’re going to walk the walk with your ADV, you’re going to need a pair of tires up to the job.
Coming up with a hoop capable of ticking so many boxes must be the stuff of nightmares, but the Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 manages to do just that.
This tire is classed as a 60/40, meaning it is intended to see most of its service off-road.
Even so, it gives more than acceptable on-road grip in both wet and dry conditions. And although the tread is competitively aggressive, road noise is pretty low.
This point is important as if you’ve ever run full-on knobbly tires, road noise is excessive, as is cornering vagueness when you can almost feel the tread blocks bending.
Neither of these factors is apparent on the AX41 as the tread block is up by 30% from its predecessor. The tread pattern is slightly staggered too, which means it’s less likely to get clogged when the going gets sticky.
The only downside with the Bridgestone is its shelf life. Mileage from the rear tire is around 3-4k, depending on usage.
Although typical for this tire type (the Pirelli Scorpion Rally give the same mileage), it can shock anyone used to road-orientated tires.
Sizes are wide-ranging and cover a number of motorcycles up to the KTM 1290 Super Adventure bike. If you’re heading out into the wild blue yonder and need a tire capable of taking the rough with the smooth, look no further than the Bridgestone Battlax AX41.
#11 Best Track Day Sports Tire – Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3
Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3
Best grip on our list! Quick warm-up and excellent stability due to wide contact area.
Track days are great fun and significantly increase riding skills. Best of all, you get the opportunity to give your bike a good handful without having to worry about speed limits and dozy drivers.
To take full advantage of time on the circuit, you’ll want the right tire that’s going to grip the tarmac like a barnacle on a rock. And for this, you need the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3.
These tires are hot off the press and a track day specific offshoot of the legendary Diablo Supercorsa family.
The new TD, which, if you haven’t guessed, stands for track day, features a multi-compound mix that offers the best grip this side of a MotoGP bike.
In conjunction with the new rubber compound, the profile has also come in for some tweaking. This combination ensures greater straight-line stability and 24% more contact area where you need it most, cranked over.
Pirelli also revisited the carcass design to give better structural integrity under heavy braking. As well as the extra grip and improved stability, Pirelli has also managed to increase the mileage capability. The tires also warm up quickly, alleviating the need to go flip-flopping down the first straight.
Note, these tires were designed in consultation with Ducati. The reason for that was to make them work seamlessly with the advanced electronic features in modern high-level sport bikes.
It would come as no surprise if the new Supercorsas came with a ‘track only’ recommendation. However, they comply with DOT regulations meaning they’re street legal.
What Are the Best Motorcycle Tires – FAQs
Can I have Different Tires Front and Back?
In reality, this happens a lot, but in a perfect world and as recommended by any tire manufacturer, front and back tires should match.
This recommendation ensures that profiles, tread patterns, compounds, and wet/dry weather and braking performance match. That’s what provides the best and safest performance.
Do I Need to Change the Front and Back Tires at the Same Time?
No, front and back tires wear out at different rates, so you can replace them as required.
Your wallet will appreciate this too!
Why does the Rear Tire Wear out so Quickly?
The power output of your engine is delivered via the drive to the rear wheel. The additional traction due to acceleration, heavy-footed braking, and luggage/passenger-carrying increases the wear rate of a back tire considerably.
Should you get your Wheel Balanced after Fitting a New Tire?
Yes, 100%. A balanced wheel is critical to maintaining good handling.
Having a wheel re-balanced after fitting a new tire will also help get the most mileage and prevent uneven wear patterns.
How to Know what Tires to Choose?
If in doubt, the first point of reference should be the motorcycle owner’s manual. This document will tell you the size and make of tire recommended for your motorcycle.
If you want to branch out and go with a tire other than the OEM, check out owner’s forums for specific motorcycles. There is always lots of feedback regarding different makes of tires and their varying attributes.
Do New Motorcycle Tires Need to Be Broken in?
Yes, new tires should be broken in for a period of time before riding aggressively on them. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid a dangerous situation since it can take a period of gentler riding to wear in the tires to their maximum grip.