Dunlop Sportmax Q3 Motorcycle Tire Review

June 3, 2013
Adam Waheed
By Adam Waheed
Road Test Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog|Blog Posts|Blog RSS His insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.
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Dunlop continues to push the limits of what riders expect from a high-performance sport tire. See for yourself in the 2013 Dunlop Sportmax Q3 Motorcycle Tire Review Video.

Whether it’s iPhones or motorcycle tires, faster, lighter and better rules the market. And after establishing a new performance standard for sport riders with its outgoing Q2, Dunlop follows up with its new and improved Sportmax Q3. The Q3 is an all-purpose sport tire positioned between Big D’s more affordable Qualifier and race-grade GP-A tires.

Considering the Q2’s phenomenal road handling (winner of the 2010 Street Motorcycle Tire Comparison), engineers didn’t want to reinvent the uh… tire. Instead it employs new manufacturing techniques and lessons learned during its five years of supplying competition tires for the AMA Pro Road Racing series.

The underpinning and exterior profile of the front hoop (available in two sizes: 120/60-17 and 120/70-17) is similar to before and continues to employ twin nylon and aramid fiber carcass plies that make for a solid foot print regardless of speed. However, engineers tweaked the way the tire deforms under load by introducing carbon fiber into the sidewall. To do this, it mixes ground up pieces of carbon fiber with rubber and extrudes it into certain areas of sidewall, above the steel hex-shaped bead. This helps give favorable flex characteristics during braking, cornering and acceleration.

Dunlop revamps its top-of-the-range sport riding tire for the street with the Sportmax Q3.
(Top) The Q3 gets a new tread pattern that more closely resembles that of its GP-A road racing tire (Bottom) Grip continues to be at a very high level and the Q3 serves up plenty of performance for a day at the track.

Like before, the Q3 incorporates separate rubber compounds designed to give the best of both worlds: Acceptable mileage and wear resistance on straight roads and enhanced grip and road holding at lean through corners. It does this by using a tough section of rubber at the center that’s sandwiched between tackier mixtures on either side. The Q3 also benefits from a new tread design that closely mimics the GP-A race tire. This improves grip on dry roads without sacrificing wet weather performance. Although there is fewer tread grooves, each one is longer in length and placed strategically to evacuate water on wet asphalt. To prove it Dunlop soaked down a portion of the track with its sprinkler system. While the tires don’t have the surefootedness of a purpose-built rain- or sport-touring tire they do offer plenty of grip to keep you rolling if the skies open up on you during a ride.

Aside from the updated tread design and inclusion of carbon fiber filament in certain areas of the tire’s sidewall, the shape of the 180/55-17 and 190/55-17 rear tires was modified to enhanced steering precision while yielding a bigger contact patch. Specifically, the 180 is narrower, which contributes to quicker handling. The 190/55 version is taller at the center and has a more triangulated profile akin to the AMA-spec race rubber. Also of note is the availability of a 200/50-17 for fitment on the newest liter-class sportbikes (Aprilia RSV4 and Ducati 1199 Panigale) and a 240/40-18 for stretched and slammed drag racing-style sport motorcycles like Suzuki’s Hayabusa or Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-14R.

To experience Dunlop’s newest Sportmax, we were invited us to Dunlop’s testing center in Huntsville, Alabama. Although the proving grounds were originally built for car-tire testing it has since morphed into a motorcycle-only facility where Big D evaluates all of its on- and off-road motorcycle tires. We sampled its fresh shoes on a 2011-2013 spec Suzuki GSX-R600 in standard sizes (120/70-17 front, 180/55-17 rear). Since we were riding exclusively on track, Dunlop lowered tire air pressures from the OE setting (36 psi front/42 psi rear) to 32 psi in the front and 30 psi in the rear—as this was the most optimum setting based on previous testing.

Typically track day outings necessitate the use of tire warmers so that the rubber is pre-heated and ready to adhere to pavement as soon as wheels turn on track. But with the Q3s warmers are almost irrelevant. The rubber compounding generates heat quickly, allowing the rider to begin exploiting the performance of his or her motorcycle right away. Of course some caution should be exercised to avoid a cold tire crash, but the Dunlops warm up so quickly that it’s easy to pick up the pace by the second lap or after a few minutes of riding.

The Q3s continue to have a more rigid-feeling carcass than other road tires in this segment. This gives the rider the feel he or she needs to be assertive with the controls during acceleration and braking. Yet the tires still soak up bumps and deliver a controlled ride that isn’t harsh. You’d be hard pressed to find a tire that offers a better compromise between that solid race-tire feel and everyday comfort over chop and rough pavement.

Considering the tire’s stiffer construction, both steering precision and stability is at lofty level. Not only do the Q3s boost the handling accuracy of a modern sportbike like the GSX-R we rode, they do so without compromising stability. We encountered not even a hint of headshake or handlebar wiggle during full throttle acceleration. In fact the Q3’s made the Suzuki handle so much more responsively that it takes some time to get used to. It was actually challenging to find the sweet spot in terms of rider steering input (too much and you’re clipping the apex), but the bottom line is the tires will allow you to put the motorcycle anywhere on track with laser-like precision. You just have to get your brain acclimated to how quickly it will arrive there.

Considering its above average performance  we wouldnt hesitate to ride a motorcycle shod with Dunlops Sportmax Q3 on wet roads.Deeper tread grooves through the center of the tire evacuate water more effectively than the outgoing Q2 tire.The Q3s new tread pattern improves wet weather performance.
(Left) Considering its above average performance, we wouldn’t hesitate to ride a motorcycle shod with Dunlop’s Sportmax Q3 on wet roads. (Center) Deeper tread grooves through the center of the tire evacuate water more effectively than the outgoing Q2 tire. (Right) The Q3’s new tread pattern improves wet weather performance.

Outright grip continues to be astounding for a street tire. The Q3 delivers such a high degree of adhesion that exploring its true potential on public roadways will prove difficult due to typical road hazards (traffic, guard rails, animals, etc.) Still it’s nice to know that if you come across an open stretch of tarmac that you know well, you’ll have all the traction needed to put a grin on your face. The Q3 can achieve impressive lean angles and, as mentioned before, stability near maximum lean is incredible. Dunlop’s latest Sportmax gives more authentic track-grade performance than any other street tire we know of.

Dunlop Sportmax Q3 Highs & Lows
  • Accurate steering precision
  • Tremendous grip and road holding
  • Exceptional value
  • Steering is almost too responsive
  • No increase in wear resistance against mileage

Given the class-leading performance of the outgoing Q2 it could have been easy for Dunlop to simply keep producing it. Instead, through a series of careful refinements born in AMA racing, it has designed a tire that enables sport riders to explore the outrageous performance of their motorcycles with added control. But not cost, as the Q3 is priced the same as the Q2. Never mind value, if you’re seeking a versatile high-performance sport tire the Q3 is it.

The Dunlop Sportmax Q3 Front Tire and Dunlop Sportmax Q3 Rear Tire are available at

SIZES: Front: 120/60-17, 120/70-17 Rear: 160/60-17, 180/55-17, 190/50-17, 190/55-17, 200/50-17, 240/40-18
MSRP: $165.95-170.95 (front) $204.95-290.95 (rear)

Inside Dunlop’s Proving Grounds
The process of creating a new tire incorporates much chemistry, physics and engineering, a measure of art and loads and loads of hard work. After the computer designing and lab work are completed, tires are then put to the real-world test. One place they are tested is at the Dunlop Proving Grounds (DPG) in Huntsville, Alabama.Dunlop develops, evaluates and then builds motorcycle tires for the North Americanmarket here in the U.S. to best match U.S. riding styles and needs. Much of the development and evaluation process takes place here at DPG, a dedicated motorcycle-only tire-test facility and the only one of its kind in the U.S. using American-spec bikes. This 80-acre facility opened in 1989, and ongoing improvements to the road course, the wet-test track, the multiple Supercross and motocross tracks as well as a recently expanded off-road course make it a leading-edge tool for the real-world tire development. DPG is also the onlydedicated wet-track test facility designed specifically for motorcycles in the U.S., which explains why AMA road racing teams test their wet setup there.


– DPG sits on 80 acres. That includes the building, road course and off-road area.

– The road course takes up 40 acres, and the off-road course sits on 35 acres.

– DPG was opened in 1989 and originally designed to accommodate passenger car andmotorcycle tire testing.

– A decade later, DPG became a motorcycle tire-exclusive testing facility.

– Numerous changes to the shop/office area and track were implemented at that time.

– The short road handling course (also the portion used for wet handling) is 0.5 miles.

– The long road course is 1.3 miles.

– Total asphalt surface length is 4.0 miles.

– The off-road area includes a 3.0 mile enduro (woods) course, an outdoor-style national Motocross track and an indoor-style Supercross track.

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