Best sports-touring tyres – tested

A set of sports-touring tyres offers the best of all worlds, and we tried the best back-to-back.

BMW R1250RS sports tourer on the road

by Jim Blackstock |

Just like a sports-touring motorcycle can satisfy almost all of the requirements of a bike for many riders, so will a set of good sports-touring tyres. The bike should be comfortable to ride for long distances yet offer a riding position that puts the rider at the heart of the action; over the front of the bike and keyed-in to its movements.

It should have an engine that is happy to hold a constant speed on dual carriageways or motorways yet give the rider the responsiveness and performance to enjoy challenging roads when they reach their destination – or, indeed, en route.

The suspension should be able to give the rider the best combination of grip and handling on those challenging roads yet also provide comfort and support for faster roads, potentially carrying a pillion passenger or luggage for a multi-day tour.

It sounds like an impossible combination of mutually-exclusive characteristics but there are numerous motorcycles by various manufacturers that achieve this with varying degrees of success.

Related: Best adventure-sports tyres

A good sports-touring bike can be perfected or ruined by the choice of tyre. While all manufacturers will have their preferred supplier who will develop tyres specifically for that model, things can often be improved in certain areas by changing for a tyre with a slight bias in one direction or another. And for many, that direction is the one towards a little more performance.

MCN tested six of the key replacement sports-touring tyres on a BMW R1250RS sports tourer, one of the main bikes in this sector of the market. Using the latest version of the company’s flat-twin 1254cc engine, the model tested uses active suspension to offer a perfect compromise between the needs of a long-distance tour and a blast across twisty roads and was the ideal bike to test these tyres on.

Dunlop Roadsmart 3

Dunlop Roadsmart 3
Amazon

View offer

The Dunlops had a neutral nature when fitted to the BMW, giving a balanced and progressive feel to the bike. They were not quite as planted when cold as some of the other tyres tested but worked well on real roads and in particular, over bumps but the ride quality was slightly harsh.

Feel from them is good, with excellent grip and feedback and the testers felt that they worked very well on a heavy, powerful bike like the BMW. They offer the rider everything they could want from a sports-touring tyre.

Metzeler Cruisetec X-Ply Motorcycle Tyre

MCN Rated
Metzeler Cruisetec X-Ply Motorcycle Tyre

View offer

Tested by Jordan Gibbons for 12 months - Quality: 5/5, Value: 4/5

"With modern cruisers power figures creeping north of 100bhp tyre options have struggled to keep up – until now. Unlike most cruiser tyres that are built for stability and long life in dry conditions, Metzeler have designed the Cruisetec to turn and grip whatever the weather with impressive results.

"For a start the Cruistecs have a profile more typical of a sports touring tyre, rather than the virtually square profile of most OE fits. This vastly improved the handling of the bike I fitted these too, turning in with the ease I’d expect of a typical naked bike. Warm up is quick and they’re confidence inspiring from the outset with no hint of letting go either underpower or on the brakes.

"The Cruistecs are also dual compound, with a high amount of silica, so they maintain that same feel and level of grip in the wet, which is not true of traditional cruiser tyres. The pay off for this is naturally a lower expected mileage although after over 1000 miles on these, they’re showing little wear especially on the edges (they are fitted to a Harley after all…). The Cruistecs are available in a wide array of sizes, so if you’ve got a modern cruiser or bobber and enjoy scraping a peg or two, do yourself a favour and fit a set of these."

Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE

Editor's Pick - We've tested this product and would spend our own money on it
Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE

View offer

The Metzelers made a noticeable difference to the BMW, making it feel lighter and more nimble than any of the other tyres on test. They inspired confidence in all conditions, particularly when cold and gripped well when warm.

Steering is light and predictable and they are stable on all kind of roads, though they can be a little harsh. They offer excellent feel and feedback and worked best on the BMW in our test.

Pirelli Angel GT2

Pirelli Angel GT2

View offer

The Pirellis have a definite sporting bias; they made the RS feel lighter and more lively, rewarding the rider more on twisty roads. The steering was light and responsive and the bike held its line nicely while they inspired confidence from the word go, particularly when cold.

They were stable in use though the ride quality was on the harsher side – a result of their sporty nature – but feel was also excellent. They were better than their predecessors and did a good job all round.

Continental Road Attack 3

Continental Road Attack 3

View offer

Another tyre that sat on the sportier side of the mid-way line, in fact, the sportiest on the test - the Continentals gave the BMW the most responsive steering feel, making it feel predictable and precise. Confidence was high, with excellent grip though they did feel slightly vague when pushing very hard.

Feel is good but not as tactile as some of the others here but there is enough to know and understand what the bike is doing. Ride quality was a little harsh, a trade-off for the sportiness but a good upgrade from the BMW’s standard rubber.

Michelin Pilot Road 5

Michelin Pilot Road 5
Amazon

View offer

The Michelins have a reputation as being a fantastic all-round road tyre and they proved this on the test, inspiring excellent confidence particularly from cold and suggesting they would do the same in the wet. They gave light steering with loads of feedback so the tester knew exactly what they were up to on the road.

However, the excellent cold performance and grip suggests a soft compound and carcass, which was highlighted as the testers also noted the tyre moved around in use but this gave a compliant ride quality on bumpy roads. Better suited to a lighter bike.

Bridgestone T31

Bridgestone T31

View offer

The biggest issue with the Bridgestone was the time it took for them to warm up and start to generate grip. As a result, confidence in them was not as high as with the other tyres, particularly when cold. Once they were warm though, they gave progressive steering with light pressure needed on the handlebars and feel was also good, with a direct connection to the road.

They were stable and gave a ride quality that was a good combination of firm yet compliant. Best suited to a touring rider rather than one who has a sporty nature.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us