Every time I ride a new cruiser, I’m impressed at how far I can push the limits of suspension and traction. Sometimes I’m completely shocked.This is attributed not only to superior chassis design, but also the latest in electronic aids. The race for electronic-aid superiority has never been so brutal among the OEM cruisers.
Many forget that the race for tire superiority is equally as strong. If where the rubber meets the road isn’t optimized, all suspension and electronic enhancements are ultimately worthless.Metzeler, a manufacturer known for its high-performance sport tires, had these thoughts in mind when it designed its newest cruiser tire—the Cruisetec.The Metzeler Cruisetec is for the performance-minded rider who seeks optimal grip under cornering and braking over tire wear.The Cruisetec is the top player in Metzeler’s performance cruiser and heavy-touring segments, slotting in above the ME 888 Marathon Ultra—Metzeler’s do-all cruiser tire. There is also another layer of cruiser tires also available—the Perfect ME 77, which is built for customs.The Pirelli-owned, German-based company launched the new Metzeler Cruisetec in October, deep in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.On my 100+-mile test around Mount Magazine in the Ozark National Forest, I rode a 2018 Indian Scout Bobber, a 2012 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail 103, and a 2017 Harley-Davidson Road King. Except for ABS, these bikes lacked the latest in electronic aids, which allowed me to focus on the tires.Metzeler also brought along some staff from Europe to answer any questions, including the Global Head of Testing Salvo Pennisi. The Italian has tested motorcycles for more than 40 years. Pennisi helped BMW Motorrad develop its first ABS, and assisted Massimo Tamburini when developing the bike that changed sportbike history—the Ducati 916.Pennisi said the Cruisetec joins the other lines of “tec” tires, including the Racetec (sportbike) and Roadtec (sport touring). It is designed for improved corner feel, braking, and stability. Due to an all-new tread pattern, the Cruisetec is built to outperform the ME 888 Marathon Ultra in wet conditions.Within the first few miles aboard the Indian Scout Bobber, everything Pennisi said spoke truth.Having tested the Indian Scout Bobber during its launch in Minneapolis—the Bobber’s 16-inch wheels are shod in fat dual-sport treaded Kenda K761 tires from the factory— I had a feel for the bike’s handling. However, with the Metzeler Cruisetec tires, the Scout Bobber felt completely different. It was much sportier, and the sporty feel was possible to fully engage within two miles—the tires warmed up quickly.The first thing I like to know about tires is their stability under heavy braking. The Scout Bobber lacks traction control, and I was on an ABS model. I kept the ABS on for the morning portion, slamming the brakes coming out of the corners to see how the bike reacted. Things remained stable and tractable, allowing me to keep a steady line.After about an hour, I shut off the ABS and tested a few emergency stops from higher speeds. I could lock up the rear and come to a calm stop without the bike zig-zagging all over. Using the front brakes only as I performed emergency stops in parking lots, I could only get a small squeal out of the front tire.When correctly using both brakes for ultimate stopping power, my confidence overflowed as the Scout Bobber remained steady and stopped smoothly, enticing me to crank the binders on even harder.Metzeler attributes the increased braking performance to the diverging grooves that extend to the edge of the tire. The center section’s grooves cross, which Metzeler says also assists in braking duties. Although I’m no tire tech, I know the feeling of a tire under aggressive braking. The Cruisetec tires felt a real connection to the asphalt—a connection that allowed me to confidently push the Bobber, which is not built for pure sport performances.The same feel occurred on the Harley-Davidsons, though the suspension on the Heritage Softail needed a bit more guts to fully crank down the discs.The same can be said for cornering grip and stability under throttle; whether I was riding the Scout, the Heritage, or the Street Glide, the performance never waned.All bikes easily entered, tracked a smooth line, and exited the Ozark’s corners. Here the Scout and Street Glide remained super stable throughout the chosen line, even when snapping to full throttle upon exiting the corners. Transitions also felt effortless on these bikes; I experimented with both braking hard into corners and entering without brakes, and the tires kept my mind focused on my line due to the stability.As for the Heritage Softail, the same confidence was there, though the riding situations took some mindfulness to get over the non-sporty suspension and lack of cornering clearance. The Softail 103’s floorboards scrapped on practically every corner—yes, every corner—and were utterly demolished by day’s end. Definitely, I was riding it harder than the average user will.The secret to the stable handling is the performance-oriented high-curvature contour of the tires. Most standard V-twin tires feature a low curvature contour that focuses on straight-line mileage and stability through a larger footprint. The Cruisetec favors a high-curvature design that provides a slightly reduced straight-line footprint for quicker side-to-side transitions, in favor of a larger footprint while in mid-to-full lean for improved tractability and rider feedback.The other secret is the compound design. The Cruisetec uses one softer compound up front, and a dual compound out back that’s soft on the outside and a bit harder in the middle for better wear. The softness is what provides the sporting feel and handling on motorcycles that are not designed for such aggressive duties.Metzeler says this higher-curvature design also adds to longer tire life, plus stronger performance as the tire wears. This claim will require a bit of time to verify, as this was a one-day test. According to Metzeler, the higher-curvature design combined with the dual-compound rear tire thread allows consistent performance through 80 percent of the tire’s life.I rode directly behind the leader for most of the day, but near the end of the route I cranked up the aggressiveness. This was when I got to have some fun riding with Pennisi. We took off from the group—he was on a Scout Bobber, and I rode the Heritage Softail.I had to put that poor Softail through some serious beatings to have some fun in the endless twisties heading up the mountain on state route 309 towards The Lodge at Magazine Mountain. By then I knew I could trust the tire to my full riding abilities. That allowed me to focus on my riding skills, something you absolutely must do when riding at an aggressive pace with Pennisi.The Metzeler Cruisetec tires will be available this month in a variety of sizes that will fit most current and older cruisers; prices have yet to be revealed. Expect a long-term review on UltimateMotorcycling.com before year’s end.Riding Style:
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!