Utilizing 3D FEM technology, Dunlop was able to analyze tread patterns and came up with the best combination of water dispersion characteristics, traction and durability in the Roadsmart tire design.
Dunlop has worked hard on the development of its Roadsmart sport touring tire and after a day of testing the rubber during a deluged day in Malibu, CA, we came away impressed with its effort. The goal was to create a sport-touring tire that features class-leading handling in dry conditions, excellent wet weather performance and the durability demanded by long-haul riders. We can’t comment about how many miles it will stand up to because it was a one day intro, but the level of available traction offered in both the wet and dry conditions we experienced was enough to give the Roadsmart our stamp of approval.
The Roadsmart’s lofty objective is simply to be the best sport touring tire for all conditions: wet, dry, cross-country or canyon blasting. According to Dunlop, this is no simple task, with no-less than 10 testing centers from around the world contributing to its development, which went from concept to reality in about three years. That timetable could have been longer if not for the ability to perform tests in the virtual world prior to production. By incorporating computer assisted finite element analysis (FEA) and 3D finite element modeling (3D FEM) programs during its development, the primary processes to ensure the tire’s success were already in motion before it touched a track.
One of the most critical aspects of the Roadsmart design was to achieve the best wet weather performance possible. By testing compounds in the lab with FEA before going into production, engineers were able to cut down the time between concept and prototype construction. The physical analysis of the working prototypes through 3D FEM was instrumental in determining the best compound combinations and tread pattern. The tread pattern is referred to as the ‘void’ and is a key component for the wet weather success of the Roadsmart tire. The final pattern retains the Dunlop cosecant-curve design and allows the use of a softer compound on the outer edges of the tire by reducing wear and is instrumental in the tire’s ability to disperse water while maintaining enough of a contact patch to offer the stability and traction Dunlop was looking for.
Dunlop slapped its new Roadsmart tire on a variety of different sport tourers so we could see how they performed on bikes in assorted sizes and displacements.
Tread depth ranges from 5/32″ on the front to 1/4″ on the rear which, when combined with the actual tread pattern, provides a 15% void-to-tread ratio when perpendicular to the road (0-degree camber) and tapers down to 12% at 25-degree camber and 9% at maximum lean angle, according to Dunlop reps. We can go on and on about how Dunlop chemists mixed different types of silica with polybutadine in an effort to increase wet weather grip and mileage, but we don’t want to overwhelm you with a bunch of technical jargon.
Generally motorcycle riders prefer to avoid traveling in the wet, but it is often a necessary evil and the more grip a tire can offer in these conditions, the better it is for the rider. In some parts of the world there’s no getting around it, and for cross country travelers, commuters and the hardcore riders who never pack it in, it’s the wet weather performance that makes the difference between a memorable venture and forgettable saga. As luck would have it, the skies of So Cal opened up and anointed us with its moist fury. While it scared off our photographer (Sorry, no rain pictures) it did provide us with a firsthand experience of the Roadsmart tires’ wet weather prowess.
As is the case with most Dunlop tires, they provide great feedback, so the rider has a good sense for what is going on with the tires in any condition. The Roadsmart’s profile is slightly more aggressive than the Dunlop D220 it replaces, so turn in comes without much resistance in the wet or dry. At the speeds we tackled these wet canyon roads, the available grip and water dispersion were truly put to the test. Whether braking or accelerating hard, I was impressed with the level of available traction. Compared to OEM-spec or sport tires which I have ridden in the rain too many times before, the Roadsmart is far superior.
Dunlop achieved this balance through the use of Roadsmart’s new MT (Multi-Tread) compound on the rear tire which combines a durable compound down the center, flanked by its ‘lateral-grip’ compound on the sides. The radial carcass features Dunlop’s JBL (Joint Less Belt) construction on both front and rear – the first time JBL has been employed on a Dunlop front tire. The superb grip afforded by the Roadsmart front comes courtesy of the same compound found on the sides of the rear tire, capping off the excellent combination of traction and stability that Dunlop was looking for.
Tipping the scales at nearly 700-lbs tank full and boasting over 130-horsepower, the new Connie could pose a challenge to any tire, but the Roadsmart proved to be ultra stable and offered surprising levels of grip in both the wet and dry.
To our delight, the roads around the Rock Store were relatively dry, so our troupe had the green light to push the Roadsmart tires as hard as we could. Although the rain didn’t stay away for long, our time in the dry did offer a glimpse at the tire’s available dry grip. On either the Kawasaki Concours 14 or the VFR800 Interceptor test mules it was clear that on the street it will be difficult to ride beyond the limits of available traction in the dry. It’s difficult to say it performs as good as another tire since there was no back-to-back comparison, but we rode as fast as I was willing to go on a road we are all familiar with.
The big Concours felt right at home gobbling up miles with the Roadsmart in the dry and the VFR survived the slippery conditions of the wet-portion of the ride without incident. Predictable, with excellent feel and traction to spare – this pretty much sums up the effort of the Roadsmart tires when the road is dry. Once the rain starts, all of those same positive traits still apply, it just requires the rider to tone it back a bit and take care to find the edge of available traction and then back it off a notch from there. Considering that the banks of the hills adjacent to the roads were sloughing off regularly as a result of the downpour, the majority of our apexes were found full of mud, rocks and debris. We still managed to hold a very fast pace throughout the test. Factor in the presence of road sealer, the slipperiest substance known to motorcyclists, during the last half of our trip and you can imagine it was quite dicey. I’m not complaining though, since the ride was simultaneously entertaining and enlightening.
In the end, the Dunlop Roadsmart tires offered dry weather traction and the added bonus of excellent wet weather performance comparable to tires with a more sporting pedigree. MSRP runs from $183 for a front to $250 for a rear. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes from knowing the full might of Dunlop R&D is beneath you as you travel anywhere you want to go, no matter what road conditions await you.