Getting Kicks On Route 66 Tires
I brought the test set of Pirelli MT 66 Route tires—130/90 x 16 and 150/90 x 15—to the tire store I have trusted since 2003, MC Tire Works in North Hills, Calif., for installation.
Before riding over I called up to ask Mark at MCTW what was the latest in the day I could bring my 2007 Yamaha Royal Star Venture over for mounting two Pirelli MT 66 Route tires. His response was, “Those tires are from the ’90s. Are you sure you want them?”
He remembered that we always discuss the newest motorcycle tires and the long life compounds. I assured him that I did since I had heard positive things about the handling, braking, rain traction, and mileage of the Pirelli MT 66 Route tires and I wanted to give them a try.
Keep in mind that the Pirelli MT 66 Route tires are not radials—they use four nylon plies. However, this is a mature technology that Pirelli claims results in a high level of ride comfort—important to a long-distance riders. Plus, the tires are available in a range of sizes you don’t always find in newer-design motorcycle tires.
I was replacing my worn-to-the-wear-bars Metzler ME 888 Marathon Ultra front and my 5000-mile Dunlop Elite 3 rear. I have only had Metzelers on my front wheel for about 12 years, starting with my Honda Shadow Spirit 1100 and then with my Royal Star Venture.
I have tried many rear tires on my motorcycles, and the Metzler ME 888 gave pretty good service. However, the Metzeler required 50 psi of air pressure, which killed my original Slime Tire Inflator. By the way, the nice folks at Slime Customer service told me the standard Slime pump wasn’t designed for 50 psi, yet they send me a new pump for free, but I digress. I tried Shinko, and it wore out in 5000 miles. The first of two Dunlop Elite 3 tires gave me 9000 miles of service.
The first thing I noticed was the pairing of front and rear MT 66 tires are slightly taller than any combination I have had on the Royal Star Venture. As I was backing down my fairly steep driveway, my muscle memory was telling me I am not as flat-footed as usual. Once turned straight, I noticed that the nose of my seat, which was modified to be narrower by Rick Butler was pressuring my inner thighs now. So, the Pirellis are taller—just a bit, but noticeable.
I rode on the deepest freeway grooves I could find, and the front Pirelli MT 66 Route did not track the grooves. I do a lot of lane splitting—legal in California—and due to the almost four-foot width of my Royal Star Venture, I regularly ride on and hit the raised reflectors.
This time I purposely rode on the reflectors and tried to just clip the sides of the reflectors. I noticed the front end really stayed true and didn’t bounce off the reflectors like the Metz 888 does. These two responses are confidence builders.
I practiced evasive weaving in my lane at 70 mph when I was alone on the freeway. It took more countersteer pressure than I am accustomed to get my 1000 pounds of bike and rider to lean over and back again. Several attempts showed me that the MT 66 Route tires like to stay vertical.
That is great on my long rides to Sturgis and my occasional Iron Butt Saddle Sore 1000, as I tend to ride on the freeways from gas stop to gas stop. It took some practice with additional muscle countersteer input to get the same weave radius as with any of my previous tires.
Our local canyons give me plenty of opportunities to test the centerline rumble divots. When I don’t plan my turn correctly, or am lazy, I hit those divots and wish I hadn’t each time. They give me a strong adrenaline hit every time as, the bike is usually leaned over and now being jarred. I purposely rode through the divots and was pleasantly surprised to have a greater feeling of control than with the Metz.
I used a long dirt turnout on a canyon road for the dirt test. I try to avoid dirt parking lots and dirt roads for fear of washing out the front end. I was quite comfortable on the dirt and felt the Pirelli MT 66 Route was getting traction and not skiing on the surface.
Slow speed handling on the Venture is an issue that is always brought up on Venture forums. I raised the rear three-quarter of an inch and I went with a size narrower front tire. This custom combination really makes a big difference in the slow-speed handling of the bike.
The MT 66 tires want to keep the motorcycle standing up, so coming to a stop sign or stoplight is smooth and not wiggly at all. I was pretty good at slow speed before these tires. Now I felt like I looked like an expert as I came to each stop or crawling along at walking speed, straight ahead, with no weave or wiggle.
My first parking lot U-turn actually made me let out a vocal “whoa” because the bike wanted to drop into the center of the turn. That woke me up. I needed to be way more conscientious about my slow speed turns after that. Not terrible, just really more pronounced than the Metzeler.
I did a few practice panic stops and I felt like the bike stopped quicker than I am used to with all my old tires, with the same input pressure and same practice speed.
My impression so far is to save your money; instead of buying the most expensive new tires, buy the venerable Pirelli MT 66 Route motorcycle tires if you have an older bike. Pirelli offers what have become less common sizes, and the tires cost about the same as installation! It seems like less money spent doesn’t mean less performance in this case.
I ended up getting 8000 miles from the Pirelli MT 66 Route tires, with a drop-off in performance beginning after 6000 miles had been put on the tires. Unusually for me, the front and rear tires wore at the same rate. Typically, my rear tire gets about half the life of the front.
Pirelli MT 66 Route Motorcycle Tires Available Sizes
- 80/90 x 21
- 90/90 x 19
- 100/90 x 19
- 110/90 x 19
- 100/90 x 18
- 3.00 x 18
- 120/90 x 17
- 130/90 x 16 (tested)
- 150/80 x 16
- 120/90 x 18
- 130/90 x 16
- 140/90 x 16
- 150/80 x 16
- 130/90 x 15
- 140/90 x 15
- 150/90 x 15 (tested)
- 180/70 x 15
- 170/80 x 15