When Michelin launched its Commander II in 2012, the focus was on metric cruisers and European markets. There was no crazy push in marketing and zero press launches. Within two years, the tire garnered recognition for its longevity and performance in the wet.Fast forward to 2016, Michelin began work on the tire’s successor, the Commander III. Part of this work included marketing research across the cruiser and touring markets both in Europe and stateside.The research revealed these cruiser types—those who ride American V-twins and metric machines—prioritize the following (in this order):
Performance in the wet
When combined with the latest in tire technology, these three attributes helped guide the design of the Commander III. Now, though, the moto tire is available in Cruiser and Touring versions. The main focus of the Cruiser is the performance in the wet, and the main focus of the Tourer is longevity.The difference is apparent when you look at the Touring and Cruiser tires side-by-side. The Cruiser has more aggressive groove patterns in the treads to channel water for increased traction in the rain, while the Touring a slighter wider midsection between grooves for increased mileage.I have toured on various Harley-Davidson Softails shod with the Commander IIs, and UM Associate Editor Gary Ilminen completed extensive reviewing of the IIs, achieving nearly 11,000 miles from a set on a Sportster 883R.I headed to Daytona ahead of 2020 Daytona Bike Week to get some first impressions of the new Commander III lineup, testing the Cruiser on a Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic 107, and the Touring on a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic 107.Yeah, Daytona is not the ideal proving grounds for serious tire testing, at least if you’re interested in cornering. I think there were seven turns in my combined seven hours on both bikes.With that disclaimer, understand that these are first-ride impressions. We will get a set on a long-termer, and report on longevity and rain results in the future. For now, we can provide handling and feel, and some future projections based on two days of riding data from the flat and straight roads that surround Daytona.
Upgraded to 100 Percent Silica Design
Whereas the Michelin Commander II is constructed with Silica Rain Technology (SRT), which integrates silica (percentage not reported) into the tire’s tread compound, the Commander III series is built with 100 percent silica.Silica, a compound developed from sand and one that Michelin helped pioneer into the passenger car tires, is used due to its ability to increase traction in wet conditions. Silica remains flexible in the colder asphalt temperatures, such as when it rains. This flexibility provides a larger contact patch, helping to increase overall traction in wet conditions.Although both the Cruiser and Touring tires are created with the same 100 percent silica construction, Michelin markets the Cruiser tire as one that is designed for increased traction in the rain, including under heavy brakingUnder wet conditions, Michelin claims the tires stopped, on average, sooner than competitors. Because cruiser riders regularly endure rain conditions—especially those weekend storms for a few hours that can drastically change traction—this rain-forward marketing makes sense.With that said, the Touring tire is marketed towards longevity, though the increased traction in the rain is also present. Both tires are the same, except for some groove channel and profile differences.Michelin doesn’t get into the in-depth technical talk but says the III’s longevity has improved over the current competition. Though no tire life numbers are claimed, the France-based tire manufacturer displayed a rear motorcycle tire with close to 18,000 miles after real-world touring in Texas—another state with plenty of straight, flat roads.The tread depth present after so many miles was impressive. Michelin also claimed a 25 percent longer tread life over competitors.
New Profile and Tread Pattern
Although I enjoyed the Commander II’s performance in wet conditions, I never liked its abrupt tip-in. This changes on the Commander III. The profile is now a bit rounder, which not only provides a smoother transition from upright to lean, but also provides a more substantial and less-stressed contact patch. This, along with a slightly deeper groove over the Commander II that helps channel water more effectively, naturally increases traction during cornering.Unfortunately, the roads around Daytona don’t provide the ideal grounds for valid corner testing. The best areas for this were I-95’s off-ramps heading towards Highway 92 and Daytona International Speedway, as well as the parking garage leading to where we parked the bikes.I tried breaking the tire loose in the parking garage corners but wasn’t able to. Second-gear rolling burnouts, on the other hand, were completed with no issue, and the tire hooked up nicely before the 107-equipped Harley was slammed into third.The Commander III returns with Michelin’s Amplified Density Technology (ADT), which increases stability under heavy braking and throttle inputs while providing more reliable feedback on current road conditions. ADT uses a 90-thread ply, versus the conventional standard of 71-ply. The ADT is 25 percent denser, though it weighs less than the 71-ply.I pushed both the Ultra and Heritage quite hard on the brakes, replicating emergency braking. The motorcycles remained stable as it came to a complete stop, with the aid of ABS. For the very few sweepers I rode, the tire remained stable under sporadic throttle inputs, also transferring a planted feel.Also, as revealed in Michelin’s marketing research, cruiser and touring riders ranked visual appeal as the third-most important element of tire choice.The Michelin Commander III uses Premium Touch technology, a patented sidewall construction that enhances the look of the tires. This has zilch to do with tire life, handling, or traction, though certainly provides some added appeal to the tire.Although I can’t report on longevity or wet testing, the Commander III handles better and feels more planted under aggressive braking or throttle inputs. Plus, that annoying quick tip-in is gone due to the redesign that optimizes the contact patch.That is enough for me makes this the ideal choice over the previous iteration. As for the perfect choice for its main Metzeler and Dunlop competitors, some back-to-back testing will be the only way to figure that out.The Commander II is still available as a second-tier tire behind the Commander III. With that said, the Commander II will cost less than the Commander III. According to a leading online store, the MSRP range for the Commander III is $177 to $282 per tire, and the price range for the II is $140 to $283.Stay clicked to Ultimate Motorcycling for a long-term review.Photography by Photos by Ian McCallum of SixSpeedRIDING STYLE
This Podcast is also brought to you by the new modular helmet from Schuberth, the C5. The C5 blends safety with light weight and amazing quietness. Visit Schuberth.com for more information.
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!