Pity the poor fool who’s got nothing to do for a week or two but roll around on his motorcycle – no job, no cares, no particular place to be. And if you’re fortunate enough to have all those things working in your favor, chances are you’re carrying around quite a bit of loot in the saddlebags and trunk of your Goldwing, Ultra Glide or big BMW K-bike – possibly even an accomplice. What you want on all of those bikes are tires that stick to the pavement, wet or dry, upright or dragging peg, carry a heavy load safely, and preferably wear like iron. Is that too much to ask?
1. Avon Cobra Chrome
The Cobra Chrome builds upon Avon’s previous Cobra tires, offering a new tread pattern with a 5% larger contact patch for better grip. Avon also claims the Cobra Chrome’s compound offers 10% longer tread life than the previous tires. Like its predecessor, the Cobra Chrome features a snakeskin pattern for a bespoke look.
Avon offers a wide selection of tire sizes, with some available with white sidewalls.
2. Bridgestone Exedra Max
When I think touring, I think Goldwing, and when I think Goldwing, I think of the tires Honda has been shipping them with since 2012. The latest GL1800 handles like something an 800-pound motorcycle has no right to handle like, and even guys who use all that bike’s torque all the time report getting around 10,000 miles out of one of these rear Bridgestones, much more out of a front. Many GW riders like these so much they go right back to a fresh pair of Exedras time after time.
3. Continental ContiTour
Conti is another fine German brand, a company that builds everything from tires to electronic sensors, like the IMUs that now control high-end sportbikes. The Conti Tours, though, are all about slightly more sedate touring on big American-style cruisers, though they’re also available in fitments for Gold Wings and heavy BMW tourers. “Mileage Plus Technology” and that solid tread around the rear’s centerline are designed to significantly extend these tires’ lifespan.
4. Dunlop Elite 4
Dunlop’s best touring tires would be its Elite 4, available in all kinds of sizes to fit hundreds of heavyweight bikes and cruisers including the aforementioned GoldWing. And its American Elite is optimized for big American V-Twins. Multi Tread tech in the rear, meaning a harder center and softer sides, are said to provide high mileage and great grip, and Dunlop’s proud of the fact that these tires wear evenly from new to almost used-up. That computer-designed tread pattern is also superb for channeling water away and maintaining traction in the wet.
5. Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra
High-tech rubber from the Germans for all heavy touring rigs and big cruisers. Naturally, these are claimed to offer excellent water dispersal, with a deep tread pattern for excellent wet-weather handling along with an even-wearing lifespan. These are also engineered for a quiet, comfortable ride, and if you feel the need, they’re available in a wide whitewall.
6. Michelin Commander III Touring
The Commander II developed a reputation for longevity, with Michelin claiming up to 25,000 miles for rear tires. In 2020, Michelin introduced the Commander III, adopting a new architecture and a more rounded profile while still claiming class-leading mileage.
Thew new profile should provide a smoother transition into a lean. The tread pattern offers slightly deeper grooves compared to the Commander IIs, helping channel water and improve traction through corners.
While the IIs integrated silica into the compound, the Commander IIIs are now made of 100% silica reinforced rubber to improve performance in wet conditions.
7. Pirelli Angel GT II
All the sporty touring riders who loved the Angel GT should be even happier now that the new GT II has just arrived. Key features, says Pirelli, include high mileage, sporty handling and grip combined with fantastic wet behavior. “Innovative variable cord end count over tire section and high-silica compounds combined with a new tread pattern design – derived from World Superbike ‘intermediate’ race tires – set the benchmark for performance and optimize the effect of electronic rider aids.”
What is the best touring motorcycle tire?
There are several factors to consider for determining the best touring tires for your motorcycle. You will need to consider how much you plan to ride, how frequently you expect to face wet conditions, and, of course, how much you want to spend.
You’ll also need to make sure to find tires that are suitable for your motorcycle’s wheel sizes. Most major tire manufacturers offer a wide selection of tire sizes, so chances are they’ll have you covered. Still, it’s important to make sure to read your bike’s owner’s manual to check for the proper tire sizes.
How long do touring motorcycle tires last?
Generally speaking, touring tires are designed to last for thousands upon thousands of miles, but will vary depending on the tire, its rubber compound, and the manufacturer. How long they last will also depend on how much load you typically carry, as riding with full luggage and a passenger will put more wear on your rear tire.
Check your tires frequently for signs of damage such as cracking sidewalls or uneven wear. It’s also important to check the tread depth. Federal and state regulations dictate 1/32″ to 2/32″ of tread depth.
Aug. 6, 2021: Replaced Avon Cobra with Avon Cobra Chrome, and replaced Michelin Commander II with Michelin Commander III tires.
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