Confidence that I will keep the rubber side down is my priority for tires on my 2007 Yamaha Royal Star Venture. When I set out on my Venture, it is for a 200- to 4000-mile riding experience. I ride solo most of the time and two up on occasion. My previous tires were pretty worn down, and I had several long rides coming up for the summer. It was time for new rubber. With all riding in the rain I do in Oregon, a set of Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra tires landed in my garage. I have always gotten good mileage out of previous Metzeler tires, and the Ultra is what the company is putting forward as its high-mileage tire.
I love the feeling of new tires on any bike, and especially on my Venture. On my last set of tires (a different brand), as the tires got older and the tread closer to the wear bars, the tires got harder, less grippy, and the ride became harsh. During the last spring rain, as my previous tires were getting toward the end of their lives, I felt less confident on a wet 100-mile twisty highway leg. Every once in a while, I would feel the front or rear wheel slip a little, sending an adrenaline hit to my stomach. When that happens, I slow down and become concerned for my safety. My thoughts turn to new rubber.
Metzeler is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. The German-founded company has been exclusively making motorcycle tires since 1976. In 1986, it became a division of Pirelli and is now based in Milan. Metzeler’s sole focus is on something of fundamental importance to me—quality motorcycle tires.
I was fully pleased with the ME 880 Marathon tires on my Honda Spirit 1100 and the ME 880s and 888s I had on this Venture several years ago. So, I put a 150/70 x 16 Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra tire up front and a 150/90 x 15 on the rear rim.
The Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra comes in dozens of sizes, which makes it accessible to riders of older motorcycles, as well as newer mounts and those running custom wheels. Front tire sizes range from 16 to 23 inches, with rear tires from 15 to 18 inches available.
The tread pattern on the Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra enhances the tire stability and water dispersion, as well as delivering even wear. The contact patch has been increased, the sidewalls reinforced, and the compound changed. All this results in improved handling, longer tread life, and more traction in wet and dry conditions than previous models that I had been happy with.
It had been an arid summer when I began this review. When the season changed, I let the first few rainy days wash all the summer grime buildup away, and then I got out on the road. According to Metzeler, the Ultra’s have “a relevant content of silica in the compound formulation ensures chemical grip on wet surfaces.”
I don’t usually intentionally head out into rain, but there wasn’t any other way to confirm how the tires grip when it’s no longer dry. As expected, the ME 888 Ultra tires instill confidence in wet conditions. Although I haven’t ridden down to California to visit its grooved freeways, the tread pattern on the 888 Ultra is very close to its predecessor, so I am confident they won’t annoyingly follow the notorious rain grooves on the freeways.
Two unfortunate issues with the Yamaha Royal Star Venture line are heavy front-end steering and lack of precise control at slow speeds. Running a narrower 130 front tire will lighten the steering input and increase low-speed stability, while sacrificing hands-off balance and crosswind control. I have been running a 130 on the front of my Royal Star Venture since its first tire change at 5000 miles.
I bring up this bike-specific issue because I returned to the 150 for the Ultras. I immediately noticed the front end felt as light as with a 130 mounted, and slow speed control was comparable to any of the narrower front tires I have run, regardless of brand and model. An added benefit of going back to the 150 front tire is stability at cruising speeds.
Turn-in and corner exiting are predictable and don’t require excess rider input. When conditions required swerving sharply, the Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra tires were impressively responsive and secure.
High winds showed up just in time to check the crosswind stability of the 150 front’s larger contact patch. In spite of the crosswind pushing on the side of my helmet, the bike was perfectly stable in crosswinds.
Another notable feature of the ME 888 Marathon Ultra tire is how quietly they ride. I tried to make them squeak in corners or grumble on pebbly freeway tire tracks, but they refused to speak up.
Individual motorcycles obviously have different tire requirements. The Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra tire is designed for heavyweight touring bikes that reel off plenty of miles. The tires gave my heavyweight tourer superior handling, wet road performance, and longer mileage. I feel confident the rubber side will stay down when I have the Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultras on my Yamaha Royal Star Venture.