Wednesday, March 4, 2015


A product review

Whereas, there was about six miles of life left in my old, dependable rear Metzeler Tourance dual sport tire; and

Whereas, while I enjoy riding solo but have grown weary of having to figure out how to right the heavy BMW GS after having misjudged some gravelly curve in the wilderness; and

Whereas, I’d determined that there are plenty of paved secondary roads to keep me adventurously entertained;

I therefore resolved to purchase a pavement-focused set of new tires for my adventure-touring bike.

What the heck, I figured.  A pavement-centric tire will probably afford longer tread life and – while I don’t have the nerve to race around at the big Beemer’s limits – better handling.  I do have a penchant for purchasing tires and gear that will out-perform my personal riding limits given the ever present chance that something unexpected may require me to respond as if I actually had the nerve.  Take the time an eighteen-wheeler’s recap blew up a few seconds ahead of me on one of CA 128’s rather tricky curves.  Please.

Having done a bit of research and owing to the great confidence I developed in the Pilot 2s I’d placed on my Guzzi, I opted to have the big bike shod with newly released Michelin Pilot Road 4 Trails.  “Not for use on forest roads,” a promotional video warns.  I’d grown (or chickened) to where I was okay with that, although the wiggly - as opposed to traditional adventure-style blocky - tread took some getting used to visually.

My new-to-me local BMW store – Santa Rosa BMW/Triumph in Windsor ordered up a pair while I took a final tour up into Oregon on the Metzelers.  This proved to be one final tour too many as the steel belt began peeking through the rear Tourance just as I rode into our garage in Cloverdale.  Gingerly I limped the bike down to Windsor where I hid out so the mechanic couldn’t hunt me down and scold me for riding on rubber in such condition.

We are told to be careful for the first fifty to one hundred miles on a new tire.  On the day of purchase, I took the freeway from Windsor to Ukiah and a series of windy frontage roads through vineyards and over hills home.  Nice, I thought.

The next trip was in a heavy mist turning into rain ride over Mendocino back roads where I employed a gentle hand on the throttle.

Then came spring.  On a fifty-degree morning, I piloted south on 101 from Cloverdale to Geyserville.  There I picked up CA 128 for a glorious ride through the Sonoma County Wine Country, crossing ridges and creeks, into and out of the regions various appellations. (Sonoma County takes a back seat to no one when it comes to both wine and roads.) 

After breakfasting at the historic Café Sarafornia in Calistoga, I headed out of town east catching the Silverado Trail which traces the eastern edge of the Napa Valley.  This ribbon of pavement offers sweeping views of the scenic valley through row upon row of just-ready-to-bud vines, backed by lusciously forested hills.  Tiny drives spur west across the valley and east up into them hills. (Napa County takes a back seat to no one when it comes to both wine and roads.)

I chose to cross the Coast Range on 128 from about Rutherford, past Napa’s Hennessy Reservoir – full enough this day to make one forget that there’s a drought going on – thence past Berryessa and into Winters. 

Recently completely repaved, this route invites a rather open throttle but one must be ever cautious about slides of scree that migrate onto the highway after a heavy rain, a heavy wind or a perfect-weather day.  There may be gravel on the road any time you ride it.

The trip proved to be a lovely test of the Michelin Pilot 4s.  Their grip inspires confidence, and although I really liked the Metzelers I’d sworn to before – which, granted, are engineered for a slightly different purpose – for pavement riding, these Pilots are a cut above.  “Handles as if you were on rails” is the phrase that comes to mind. 

Two minor brain farts yielded no casualty.  One was letting a low sun get in my eyes resulting in entering a bend a bit quicker than I’d have liked.  An extra lean kept me on my side of the double and after I quit beating myself up, I chuckled a bit.  Incident two involved a turkey vulture dining on road kill until a fraction of a second before I was to pass.  Intent on his lunch, this birdbrain (literally, folks: birdbrain) chose to carry off his carrion too late at my approach: a huge wing missing the top of my windshield and then my helmet by mere millimeters.  There would have been contact had the Michelins not effectively scrubbed off the tiny bit of speed I asked them to. 

I like these tires.  Months ago, I decided to forego the forest service dirt roads I had enjoyed when I didn’t worry about the effort necessary to pick the damn motorcycle up off its side.  My next trip to some remote fire lookout can be in the pickup or, better yet, on foot. 

The road-worthy confidence inspired by these Michelin Pilot Road 4 Trails makes the choice to go with a more pavement oriented tire seem like no compromise at all.  They have converted my adventure-touring machine into a better long distance touring machine. 



What Metzeler says about the Tourance (a really great tire as well):

Regarding Calistoga’s grand, historic and a bit funky Café Sarafornia:

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press

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