Dunlop tires have always offered a class-leading combination of grip, handling, and longevity–no matter which model of tire you choose. Furthermore, that elusive “feel” that is so necessary for fast and safe riding is a real hallmark of Dunlop. I was curious to see if the claims of a quantum leap over the previous generation might be true when the company announced its new Roadsmart III.
With dual compound tires (softer rubber on a tire’s shoulders for better cornering grip), longer tire life and good grip are no longer as mutually exclusive as they once were, and Dunlop has chosen to incorporate its Multi-Tread technology on the rear tire of the Roadsmart III, same as on the Q3.
The Roadsmart III is designed to work on everything from middleweight sportbikes looking for more mileage, to powerful sport-touring machines. We fitted a set to our long-term test Yamaha FZ-10, and put the recommended 36 PSI (cold) air pressure in both front and rear.
The FZ-10 is very powerful, and Yamaha have focused it in particular to have a stonking mid-range. If the Roadsmart IIIs held up under the kind of demands of the big Yamaha, I knew I’d be impressed, and perhaps even a little surprised.
You may have noticed that although the Roadsmart III’s tread is somewhat similar to its predecessor, there are now additional small grooves that cut across the pattern. Dunlop claim these grooves help with water-dispersion for better wet-grip, as well as equalize the contact pressure to improve tire wear.
Based in California, we don’t often get the chance to comment on wet weather grip, however the recent month-long deluge that has been so needed has also left our roads with all sorts of problems. The day of our test was nice and dry, however the roads still carried the storm’s legacy with dried-out or still-wet mud residue, and large streaming water sections running across the road—often in the middle of corners, of course. Needless to say I was very happy that the Yamaha FZ-10 arrives with both traction control and ABS as standard.
On one particularly dry, fast section of road around Lake Casitas, there were several times when I could have been caught out badly, but the Roadsmart IIIs never flinched once (which is more than I can say for myself). I’m happy to report that the new Roadsmart III is not just incredibly grippy, but the tires also retain that wonderfully predictable Q3 feel. Out of the whole day-long ride and some 160 miles, the tires never once twitched, squirmed, or felt nervous at all, through those wet and/or muddy patches, some of which were several hundred yards long.
Even the FZ-10’s fearsome mid-range power didn’t faze the Dunlops—not once. Accelerating hard out of the corners, the rear stuck completely, and despite being set in TC 2 mode (more intervention), I never once saw the light flickering to show me the tire was slipping. Based on all that, I feel very confident in saying that the wet weather performance of the Roadsmart IIIs is impeccable; very impressive actually.
But tires are so much more than just grip. Rich Conicelli, Senior Test Engineer at Dunlop Proving Grounds, always insists that the Dunlop tires he helps develop have linear handling. In other words, the bike—any bike—does not feel initially reluctant to turn, but then flops over to maximum lean—or vice versa. He wants a tire to feel planted at the front, and on turn-in go quickly but predictably to maximum lean, and back. The Roadsmart IIIs do exactly that.
The construction and profile of the Roadsmart III is designed to make the motorcycle feel quick-turning, yet planted and stable, and go to maximum lean seamlessly and predictably. Dropping down the hill from Lake Casitas the Dunlops transitioned through the twisties very well, even under quite hard braking, from full lean on one side, straight over to the other. The predictability is confidence-inspiring, and the Yamaha didn’t need a lot of input at the handlebar to make it flick side to side; the responsiveness was ideal for my style of riding.
Dunlop’s own jointless belt construction on the Roadsmart III is not new, however the flexible hi-tensile steel cords are now wound and woven much tighter than previously, so the carcass can flex properly and yet maintain its integrity. The actual characteristic of the belts is critical, as it directly affects the tire’s strength and compliance.
If the tension and weave is too strong the tire will feel hard and wooden; if it’s too weak, the tire will give the impression it’s wandering. Yet it is also vital that the tire is flexible enough for that elusive feel, without it becoming vague to the rider. Dunlop have got the tension just right as the tire is nicely compliant on bumpy surfaces—especially in corners—yet it also remains stable in corners and under hard acceleration or braking.
The new carcass also has a revised sidewall that gives a taller, slimmer apex to the profile. Both of these improve the tire’s damping so that impacts (such as bumps and potholes) are absorbed better than previously, and yet the tire returns instantly to its original shape. That not only keeps more rubber on the road and helps with safety, it also makes for a more comfortable ride in a straight line.
I returned from Carpinteria along Highway 101, and the concrete grooves and imperfections of that freeway were absorbed well by the Dunlops. Considering how firmly the FZ-10 is suspended, I liked that the tires helped minimize the transmission of everything through to me, and the tires didn’t allow the bike to wander or twitch over the longitudinal grooves.
The previous Roadsmart was an excellent and grippy tire, but the tire felt a little heavy to me, especially at the front when hitting big bumps. The Roadsmart IIIs have no such issue, and although they don’t deform and are strong and stable when braking hard, big road bumps don’t get transmitted through to the handlebar even with both things happening at the same time.
For instance, I was heading up Mulholland Highway from the beach and managed to get a little hot into one very tight uphill right corner after a long straight. The entrance to the corner was also bumpy, and I was forced to tip-in while still hard on the brakes. I confess I did hold my breath, but the Dunlops gripped the road perfectly with no ABS cut-in that I could feel, and with zero sense of vagueness or twitching at the handlebar either during braking or at the transition. The moment was over quickly and without any drama; the grip and stability of the Roadsmart III is genuinely very impressive.
Being the demanding folk we are, the final part of the equation in sport-touring tires is of course how long they last, and it was a huge challenge for the Dunlop engineers to achieve a significant mileage improvement without compromising any of the other needs.
It isn’t an unreasonable demand; however, the Dunlop engineers take a tire’s longevity to another level. Apparently the Holy Grail for a Dunlop developer is to be able to keep that as-new tire performance consistently from the first mile through to when the wear bars show. By engineering the Roadsmart III for even wear they claim to have achieved that goal. The Q3 manages to do it, so I can believe the Roadsmart III is the same.
Dunlop used independent research facility Texas Test Fleet who provide completely impartial long distance tire evaluations, to see if their claims were legitimate. The testers used a 2016 BMW R 1200 RT, and Mike Manning at Dunlop told me that “we just gave them a set of tires and walked away.”
We were told that the results that came back were very encouraging, with the rear tire lasting over 12,000 miles, and the front approximately 20,000 miles. That is around 25% more at the front (about 5,000 miles), and around 33% (approx. 3,000 miles) longer at the rear than the mileage claimed by the Roadsmart III’s main competitor. The testers also reported that the Dunlop maintained its impressive performance throughout.
Dunlop are so confident that the Roadsmart III tire is a generational change in the category, that they’ve named it a “Performance Touring” tire, and having pushed the tires hard in very sketchy conditions, I agree.
We will continue to ride on them and see if the claims of long life and consistency are as promised, but I have to say, in performance terms, the Dunlop Roadsmart IIIs worked flawlessly in less than ideal conditions. I was very impressed.