What's New In Tires?

Burning Rubber

Avon's new Cobra tires, AV71 (left), AV72 (right).

Dunlop/H-D's new D407 rear.

Metzeler's ME880s on 16-inch H-D wheels.

Pirelli's new Night Dragon.

WW Owner Gary, with his trusty brown doby Gracie, guarding a fresh shipment of tires.

Be sure to heed the max load capacity on your tires. Especially bagger owners when you load up for a long road trip with the wife.

The last four digits of the tire's DOT code identifies the week and year the tire was manufactured. This tire was manufactured the 44th week of 2007.

This tells you the sidewall and tread construction of the tire.

We all know you can't re-invent the wheel. But ever since that first Mesopotamian mechanic decided to strap a dried crocodile carcass to the wheels of his chariot for better traction in the corners at the local dirt track, tires have constantly been evolving. If oil is the lifeblood of your motorcycle, then the tire ought to be the hands and feet, you'd have a hard time getting any where without `em. Thankfully, due to advancements in technology and materials, tire manufacturers are able to keep up with the ever-changing styles, trends and demands of the H-D and V-Twin community by creating tires that last longer and perform better in a myriad of sizes. We hit up some of the major players in the motorcycle tire industry to see what's new and asked them to give us the lowdown on their products.

Hoppe & Associates has been heading up sales and marketing for Avon Tyres in North America since 1985. Larry Hoppe has strong ties with the V-Twin market going back to when Donnie Smith first talked about how to fit a 150/80-16 Avon on a stock bike. This led to a 180/60B16 and then a 200/55B18. With a new wheel needed to accommodate the fatties, the diameter increase was preferable to show off the new wheel designs. Builders like Arlen Ness finally had something new to build around. In 1998, Avon spaced an existing mold to make the biggest motorcycle tire in the world, a 230/60-15. 2002 saw the entry of the 250/40R18 Venom R. Then a 300 size in 2004 followed suit. Another couple of years and Avon decided to go tall and introduced the 280/40R20 and 130/60R23. Avon has always led the industry in wide tires and it's a case of the tail wagging the dog. When Avon builds a tire this leads to innovations in frames, wheels, right side drives, and more.

_HB: What's your newest tire offering(s) for the H-D/custom V-Twin market? What type rider is this tire directed toward?_
Our latest offering is the Cobra tire directed at the new H-D Softail, Screamin' Eagle and V-Rod, as well as any custom tires. So basically the cruiser and custom rider is the target. We still have our Venom tire for the touring rider.

_HB:Tell us about tread design. What's new? Benefits? _
Our new minimalist tread design looks almost tribal and features a snakeskin effect on the sidewall. Benefits are no center groove so no tracking on rain grooves and irregular road surfaces. Big solid blocks of rubber resist cupping and squaring off. The tire is quiet running and the grooves are oriented for efficient evacuation of water.

_HB: What about your tire compounds and/or tire structure? Anything new? Benefits?_
New is our Wide Custom Tread Arc (WCTA) and Advanced Variable Belt Density. The new profile gives improved maneuverability at all speeds and the use of sport tire technology-wrapping a steel belt tight in the center for more even wear and high-speed stability. And more space out on the shoulders gives a huge compliant contact patch providing a better footprint.

HB: _Do you have new tire sizes you are offering for H-D/custom V-Twins?_
We have sizes for the 240/40R18, 200/55R17 and 220/50R20.

HB: _What would you say is your most popular tire for the H-D/custom V-Twin market?_
The 16-inch front and rear Venom tires.

_HB: Do you offer replacement tires for H-D Touring models? If so, what's the estimated mileage of these tires?_
Yes. From what we have seen from most riders is if they use the recommended Avon tire pressure, which is higher than stock Dunlops, they usually achieve several thousand more miles. So if you were used to 7-10K you would more likely see 8-12K. Avon tires can handle up to 50 psi in the reinforced 16-inch sizes and have several hundred pounds more load carrying capacity than other tire manufacturers.

For more information, visit www.avonmotorcycle.com

Since 1984, Dunlop tires have been Original Equipment on all Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Dunlop is recognized as a world-leader in motorcycle tire design, engineering, and manufacturing excellence. Harley-Davidson encourages the use of H-D approved tires. In addition to Dunlop, Harley-Davidson also has tested and certified a select group of tires from Michelin and from our Screamin' Eagle Performance line. Using non-approved tires or mixing approved tires from different manufacturers on the same motorcycle can adversely affect stability; we encourage customers to locate a Harley-Davidson dealer for information on what tires are best for your Harley.

HB: What's your newest tire offering(s) for the H-D/custom V-Twin market? What type rider is this tire directed toward?
The newest tires are the D407F/D408F front tire and D407 rear tire for the FL Touring models and select Softails, and CVO bikes. The tire is directed at both Touring and Cruiser.

** _HB: Tell us about tread design. What's new? Benefits?**_
The new D407/D408 series is a Harley-Davidson/Dunlop co-branded tire that is exclusive to Harley-Davidson. It features a long-wearing compound in the center of the tire that runs cooler and provides long life, excellent handling, and traction. The outer edges of the tire feature a softer compound for better grip during cornering. The tire provides bold angled grooves for water evacuation on wet roads. The tire carcass is multi-layered, which adds strength and stability at high speeds and high lean angles.

_HB: What about your tire compounds and/or tire structure? Anything new? Benefits?_
True tire innovation benefits a wide range of riders, a fact proven with the Dunlop exclusive MT Multi-Tread technology. From the track-going Sportmax GP-A to the sport-touring Roadsmart and the new D407 for 2009 H-D touring models, Dunlop's MT Multi-Tread technology makes for a better ride. By locating a tough, cool-running and long-wearing compound in the center of the tread and flanking it with lateral grip compounds that enhance traction at higher lean angles, MT Multi-Tread technology tires carry riders in the future of motorcycling today. The MT rear tire incorporates a tough tread compound in the center that runs cooler to provide stability, excellent traction under braking and long life, and to each side is a section of lateral-grip compound that enhances traction at higher lean angles for great grip while cornering. A reinforced multi-layer tire carcass gives the tire maximum strength for long life and provides great handling at all speeds and lean angles and is developed and tested jointly by Dunlop and Harley-Davidson engineers in the lab and on the road.

_HB: Do you have new tire sizes you are offering for H-D/custom V-Twins?_
We have the new FL Touring 130/80B17 D407F/D408F, 180/65B16 D407, and for CVO's the 130/70B18 D407F/D408F and 180/55B18 D407.

_HB: What would you say is your most popular tire for the H-D/custom V-Twin market?_
The D402 series tire is our best-selling tire.

_HB: Do you offer replacement tires for H-D Touring models? If so, what's the estimated mileage of these tires?_
We have a full range of tires for Harley-Davidson and Buell products. We also carry a number of high-performance and custom whitewall tires for those who want a different look. We carry tires from Dunlop, Michelin and Pirelli.

For more information, contact

Metzeler says "We are V-twin". V-twin enthusiasts looking to roll the avenues on rubber of respect choose Metzeler ME 880 tires, available in a billion sizes. Well, actually around 85 sizes, but that means there's a fitment for every V-twin on the street from skinny fronts to muscle rears. Metzeler has also been a V-twin trendsetter, hosting industry roundtables and custom contests, and driving custom style with an ever-growing line of specialty tires.

_HB: What's your newest tire offering(s) for the H-D/custom V-Twin market? What type rider is this tire directed toward?_
For the ME880 line we have the new 140/70-21 for custom bagger applications. And we recently introduced the New 160/70-17 D spec ME880 for Dynas and Deuces. We are also introducinga new 140/70-18 front, 150/70-18 rear, and a 150/80-16 rear later in 2009 that feature a new reinforced carcass design. The MH90-21 whitewall front is important to the old-school and bobber market as it can be matched with six different whitewall rears for the perfect custom in the eyes of the builder.We feel the ME880 rider is looking for stability, reliability, and mileage.

_HB: Tell us about tread design. What's new? Benefits?_
The ME880 has a high level of riding comfort due to the machine-specific optimized carcass construction as a result of reduced tread curvature in the center of the tire tread. Benefits include a larger contact patch when running straight, higher mileage, reduced rolling noise, and increased riding comfort. Convincing straight line stability is achieved due to specifically developed tread design for dedicated touring sizes. Reliable handling comes by using high-grip tread compound, while at the same time, providing high mileage due to increased tread depth. The tread pattern also provides confidence to the rider when riding over bridge gratings and grooved pavement

HB: What about tire your compounds and/or tire structure? Anything new? Benefits?_
The ME880 has an advanced silica compound which reduces rolling resistance, while increasing performance. These advanced compounds improve grip while retaining good mileage. This advanced silica compound combined with the tread pattern significantly increases wet grip. The ME880 0-degree steel belting resists centrifugal growth and tire deformation, creating more stable contact patch, aiding traction, and extending the tire life.

_HB: What would you say is your most popular tire for the H-D/custom V-Twin market?_
The ME880s are typically most popular with OE replacement or Stage 1 (direct bolt-on with no frame/sheetmetal modifications) upgrades.

HB: Do you offer replacement tires for H-D Touring models? If so, what's the estimated mileage of these tires?_
Yes with the ME880 line we have up to the 2008 touring models. 2009 touring bikes are currently being evaluated. Typically with OE replacement or Stage 1 ME880 upgrade tires, the riders tell us the mileage is equal toor better by up to 20 percent than the OE tires.But they like the easier handling, better wet performance due to compounds and tread patterns, and more confidence when riding over bridge gratings and grooved pavement, and anoutstanding difference that you can feel.

For more information, visit

Pirelli Tire is a brand of passion and a product of performance. With a long history of victories on two and four wheels, Pirelli Tire is a leader in tire technology and proprietary patents. Pirelli's passion for performance has reached the V-Twin market with the radical Night Dragon, a tire conceived for the boulevards, yet designed with elements from lessons learned in the World Superbike Championships.

_HB: What's your newest tire offering(s) for the H-D/custom V-Twin market? What type rider is this tire directed toward?_
The Pirelli Night Dragon is designed for the performance oriented Harley-Davidson rider who demands better grip, handling, and looks. Night Dragons fit the majority of the classic cruiser/touring market with a focus on Harley-Davidson bikes. The Night Dragonrider is a person looking for performance first.

_HB: Tell us about tread design. What's new? Benefits?_
The tread pattern has been designed with a land/sea (solid rubber to grooves) ratio similar to Pirelli's sport touring tread patterns but with a new sharp-edged style. This new tread pattern features a compact design to provide unbeatable grip and stability at every lean angle in the dry.

Pirelli offers the Night Dragon in radial and bias-ply. The front tread pattern is different between radial and conventional structures depending on the bike. This is due to the radial structure being required for motorcycles with more performance; meanwhile the bias-ply tires provide comfort favored by touring bikes. The bias-ply tires have more pitches than radials and the footprint shape is longer, thus the number of tread edges working on the same surface is higher for the bias-ply. In this case, the distribution of the forces from each cut has less influence on the overall tire performance.

The rear tread pattern is also different between radial and bias-ply structures because the bike's requirements are different. Radial tread design has less pitches than the bias-ply to guarantee a more slick-like appearance as well as a wider contact patch: the radial footprint is larger characterized by fewer cuts to guarantee more rubber on the road and to allow exploiting the performance of your bike, whereas bias-ply tires have more pitches laying on a longer footprint to give a uniform movement of the tread belt, ensuring a quick and uniform warm up of the tire.

_HB: What about your tire compounds and/or tire structure? Anything new? Benefits?_
Pirelli Night Dragon represents the new state of the art for the high-performance V-Twin market. By utilizing specific compounds, featuring new blends of polymers and the perfect ratio of silica, the Night Dragon provides both exciting grip on acceleration and improved grip in wet conditions. It has outstanding grip at all lean angles with special compounds offering incredible straight line acceleration and traction. The new structural designs provide great stability and comfort.

_HB: Do you offer replacement tires for H-D Touring models? If so, what's the estimated mileage of these tires?_
The Night Dragon fits many of the H-D Touring models up through 2008, but it is designed first and foremost as a high-performance tire to maximize getting the power to the ground while featuring normal mileage wear. It's not a high mileage touring tire. If you ride your touring bike in a sporting manner, this one's for you!

For more information, visit

Tire Tips and Info From Wheel Works
Everyone has their go-to guy for tires. Ours is a SoCal favorite, Wheel Works (WW) in old town Garden Grove, California. WW is a family-owned and operated business that has served the motorcycling public since 1976 with tires, wheels, and hubs from all major brands as well as offering mounting, balancing, re-lacing and truing. Since they are right in our back yard we decided to stop in for a cup o' joe and with WW owner, Gary, and get his insight on what they've learned about tires over the years. , (714)-530-6681

"Many people think their new tires have a coating on them and that's why they are slippery at first. They are slippery because you are actually not into the meat of the tire yet, you are actually on the edges of the tread. Once you get some miles on the tire(s) then you'll actually get into the tread and have better traction.

"One of the worst things you can put inside a tire is fix-a-flat or liquid balancer. Liquid balancer does not balance the tire. we have not been able to balance a tire with liquid balancer in it. The fix-a-flats and liquid balancers can actually void the warranty on your tires because both have agents in them that can eat away at the rubber and metal wheels. Fix-a-flat may get you off he side of the road, but WW doesn't recommend long-term use.

"Tires have a manufacturers date on them and they lose their quality just from sitting on a shelf. Most manufacturers have a tire life of five years from the day it was made to the day it should be discarded whether it was used or not. If you purchase a tire and it's already three years old, you only have two years left on the tire.

"A good thing to do is have your tires checked and balanced. You should check your cold tire pressure every time your ride with a quality gauge. The average you can expect to see out of a tire 8,000-10,000 miles, you should have your tires balanced in between there. On the average, riders will usually go through two rear tires before needing a front tire.

"Sometimes people complain of slow leaks. What we sometimes find is that the O-ring inside the valve cap has turned sideways or is not in the right position and therefore presses on the Shrader valve when you tighten the cap."

The Writing on the Wall (sidewall that is)
Speed Ratings (Sustained Speed)
S=112 mph
H=130 mph
V=150 mph
Z=150+ mph
W=168 mph

Tire Size Markings
Tire sizes may be indicated in inches, metric measurements, or by letters. The chart shows approximate comparison of the different size indications.

Inch 2.75 3.25 3.50 3.75 4.25 5.00 5.50 6.00
Metric {{{80}}} {{{90}}} {{{100}}} 110 120 130 140 150

TT=Tube type
WWW=Wide White Wall
RWL=Raised White Wall
Pr=Ply Rating
SWS=Single White Stripe