Michelin Commander II Tire Test: 5 Years Later (Harley Sportster 883R)

Michelin Commander II Review rear tire life
The outer layer of rubber on the rear tire was expended on this narrow area about 14 inches in length, but it took nearly 11,000 miles of riding to do it.

Michelin Commander II Motorcycle Tire Review: Final Report

It was June 2013 when my 2007 Harley-Davidson 883R Sportster was shod with a set of new Michelin Commander II tires.

The odometer showed 11,734 miles when the tires went on and we were very interested in seeing how tough these tires really are. As we said in our initial report on the early part of the review back in 2013:

Motorcycle Tire Markings Info
Michelin Commander IIs after two years of riding…we went three more, though!

“The quality Michelin itself touts for the Commander II is longevity. The company states that independent third-party testing showed the Commander II rear tire typically delivers about twice the mileage as the competition.

“That claim is based on commissioned third-party tests conducted in 2011 on public roads comparing MICHELIN Commander II, Metzeler ME880 and Dunlop D407/D408 tires in sizes 130/80B17 and 180/65B16. The Michelin website didn’t provide any information about the mileage, tire loading conditions or criteria used in the comparison.”

Read the roll-out story here:

And read our 2015 mid-review update here:

Michelin’s term for the Commander II tread pattern is “flame effect,” where longitudinal rain grooves channel water away from the contact patch.

Michelin Commander II Review rear tire life
The outer layer of rubber on the rear tire was expended on this narrow area about 14 inches in length, but it took nearly 11,000 miles of riding to do it.

The design provides more load-bearing tread in the middle of the contact area than tire designs with radial rain grooves around the middle of the tire or other tread patterns that take more rubber out of the contact patch.

As of this writing, the tires are no longer in service. That said, the Michelins have more than proven themselves over the past five years. The odometer read 22,630 miles when the tires came off; the total mileage on the Michelins 10,896 miles.

Truth be told, the front tire, as is usually the case when both front and rear tires are put in service at the same time, still has a safe amount of tread to remain in service, but we took them both out to allow simultaneous front and rear replacement.

The rear tire, on the other hand, is worn to the point where only the slightest degree of tread remains around most of the tire’s circumference. The shoulder areas of both front and rear tire have good tread left at the end of five years despite lots of riding on roads with plenty of corners.

It wasn’t until the tires were cleaned up for photos that the degree of treadwear on the rear tire really came to light. An area of the rear tire about 14 inches in length along the midline of the tread shows that the outermost layer of rubber was indeed expended revealing the next layer below.

No cord was visible and there was never any noticeable effect on performance, ride or handling. Most likely, the tire would have been able to go on for quite a few more miles even with that amount of wear, but it confirms the tires came off at about the right time.

The tires were subjected to all-round normal riding which included some hard stops on pavement but no skids and no burn-outs, drag racing or other shenanigans. Inflation pressures were checked very regularly and installation was professionally done. No vehicle over-loading was allowed and all the needful things for normal maintenance of tires in normal use were observed. That said, the tires weren’t exactly pampered.

Very early on in the review back in 2013, while riding two-up I center-punched a fairly deep, sharp-edged pothole in the blacktop at a state park. Speed limit there was 35 mph and I was putzing along a little below that looking at spectacular Devil’s Lake when it happened. Despite the low speed of the impact, I thought it might have caused sidewall damage or lead eventually to ply separation and premature tire failure, but it didn’t.

Michelin Commander II Review front tire life
After nearly 11,000 miles, the front tire has ample tread to keep going.

Part of the reason may be in the inner construction of the tires. The Commander II uses Michelin’s Amplified Density Technology (ADT), which the company says results in a more rigid tire casing, delivering improved feedback and handling.

The key factor in this design is the use of 90 thread density plies instead of the more typical 71 thread plies.

Another factor in impact survival may be in that the rear tire of the set features aramid fiber plies, which reduces weight and minimizes centrifugal distortion further improving stability and tire life according to Michelin.

The square bead-wire technology utilized in the Commander II increases casing rigidity for more precise handling and ease of installation according to Michelin’s product information. Based on our unscientific impact test, these factors taken together probably make for a very tough set of tires.

In my experience over the past 40 plus years of motorcycling, getting anything approaching 10,000 miles of service out of a set of motorcycle tires has been uncommon, even on lightweight bikes I’ve owned. Getting that and more from tires on a moderately heavy bike like a Sportster (the 883R weighs in at just under 590 lb. ready for the road) is a real treat.

New compounds Michelin has developed are claimed to contribute to improved traction in the wet while extending tread life. Based on my experience riding on the Commander IIs, I’d say they lived up to the claim. Expecting no slippage on wet pavement once the rain grooves were gone from the rear tire would be asking too much, so I limited riding in the wet toward the end of the review.

Overall, the Michelin Commander II tires proved to be tough, tractable on wet or dry pavement and long-lasting. How well a set holds up for anyone else will depend on how well they maintain them and treat them in use, as well as the kind of riding the person does and the quality of road surfaces typically ridden on.

Tire tech data:

  • Tires: Michelin Commander II
  • Motorcycle: 2007 Harley-Davidson 883R Sportster, cast alloy wheels
  • Size front: 100/90B-19 57 H, tubeless or tube, bias ply construction
  • Size rear:   150/80B-16 77 H, tubeless or tube, bias ply construction

For complete details on Michelin Commander II tires, visit: www.michelinmotorcycle.com


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