Description of Tyre Models

July 2001

Brand Models
Avon AM22 / AM23 AV27 AV281 Azaro II Azaro Sport II
Azaro Supersport II RL30 Roadrunner ST23 Super Venom
Venom Venom R
Bridgestone Battlax BT010 Battlax BT020 Battlax BT45 Battlax BT56SS Firestone VT01
Spitfire S11 OEM
Cheng Shin
(none worth mentioning)
Continental Avenue ContiCity ContiForce Milestone TK 16 / 17
TK 22 RC/ 44 RC TKH 23 / 24 TKV 11/12
Dunlop 491 Elite II Cruisemax D205 D207 ZR D208 GP
D401 D402 GT501 K591 OEM
Firestone VT-01F / VT-01R
IRC GS-11 GS-18 RS-310 Durotour RS-320 Carapace RS-410
RW-010 RX-01 Road Winner WF-920 Wild Flare
Kenda K657 Sport Challenger
Michelin Commander Hi-Tour 79 Macadam 50 Macadam 50E Macadam 90X
Macadam 100X Pilot Race Pilot Sport Pilot Sport HPX Tarmac


General Comments

Avon is perhaps my favourite tyre company.  Some of the very best tyres are made by Avon.  While for individual bikes there are frequently better choices, in general the Roadrunner, Super Venom, AV27, and Azaro lines always rank up among the shortlist.

AM22 / AM23

Excellent bias ply race tyres.  They also come in sizes for massive-rear custom cruisers, especially if they're trailered everywhere -- tread life is minimal.


This was once the front of choice to go with an Azaro rear, for its excellent stability and wet weather performance.  Now that the Azaro II has replaced the original Azaro, there's no longer any need to use the AV27 this way.  Nevertheless, it still holds an advantage for straightline stability, and thus is a good choice for a larger sport-touring bike.  It continues in the Avon range primarily for various modern Triumph bikes.


The closest Avon has to a radial commuter tyre, it's only intended as an OEM tyre for the Triumph Thunderbird Sport.

Azaro II (AV35/AV36)

Replacement for the excellent Azaro, this tyre is intended for longer life than the pure sport Azaro lines.  Supposedly it gives 20% more mileage than the original Azaro.  This is perhaps one of the most resistant tyres to squaring off, and that alone helps the useful life when compared with other manufacturers' sport radials.

This tyre, with its longer life, has now superseded the ST23 rear in all sizes where an Azaro is offered.  It's also a better tyre.

Azaro Sport II (AV39/AV40)

Perhaps the best sport tyre on the market right now.  The flexible carcass conforms amazingly well to real-world rough pavement, and gives superb bite off the corners under power.  It works well in wet or dry.  The rear resists squaring off, so helps tread life if you actually have to ride the highways to get to the twisty roads.

Azaro Supersport II (AV39/AV40)

The track version of the Azaro Sport II, therefore not included in my selections.


OEM rear for the Triumph Adventurer and Thunderbird.

Roadrunner (AM20/AM21)

Avon's bias-ply general purpose tyre.  It's an excellent cruiser or touring tyre.  Dry and wet traction are very good, and the progressive profile of the front gives excellent straight-line stability with a linear profile once leaned over.

The only weak point of this tyre is that the front won't stand up to high lean angles when sport-riding a heavy motorcycle.  Under those conditions, the outer tread blocks tend to overheat and squirm, leading to quite odd handling.  Most bikes for which the Roadrunner is intended can't lean far enough to get into that situation, though, so in general it's not much of a concern.

One of the strongest points of the Roadrunner is that the AM20 front is intended to work well with other manufacturers' rears as well as Avon's.  When combined in this way, it adds the benefits of the superb profile to the traction and/or longevity of another rear.


Sport-touring rear now apparently being phased out in favour of the AV281 and Azaro AV36.  This is an excellent, good wearing rear (only) to match the AV27 front.  While not really having a traction level for a modern sportbike, it's very good for sport-touring.

Super Venom (AM20/AM18)

Without doubt, this is the finest bias-ply sport tyre available.  The straightline stability combined with linear profile once the bike leans (also shared with the Roadrunner) makes it an excellent choice to combine with a harder-wearing rear.  Like the Roadrunner, it also works very well indeed with tyres from other manufacturers.

The downside of the Super Venom is that the AM18 rear wears quickly, and squares off easily.  While unquestionably superb for sport riding, this has drawbacks for bikes that are used for other purposes.  In those cases, I suggest combining the Super Venom AM20 front with a harder-wearing rear, such as the dual-compound Bridgestone BT45 rear.

Some narrow sizes of the Super Venom rear can also be fitted on the front.  I would personally choose an AM20 front over an AM18 every time, because of the former's profile, but there are some sizes the AM20 does not cover.  In that case, an AM18 front is a good sport choice.

One of the best combinations, however, is to combine an Avon Super Venom AM20 front with a Bridgestone BT45 rear.  I address that application under my comments on the BT45.


This seems to be the one weak spot in Avon's line-up.  While all their other tyres excel in wet or dry, the Venom X seems to have a distinct preference for dry pavement.  Supposedly a replacement for the Super Venom or, more likely, Roadrunner, from what I've gathered it's inferior to both.

Venom R

Massive rear radial intended mainly for custom bikes.


Bridgestone have recently introduced new tyre lines.  While these are now fully available, the older tyres are still being sold -- and appear on Bridgestone's website.  The new ones are so much better than the old -- in fact, where other manufacturers were frequently better than Bridgestone's older lines, the new tyres are very good indeed.  I am not including the old lines in my selections.  The BT010 replaces the BT56 and BT57; the BT020 replaces the BT54.

Battlax BT010

The BT010 is rapidly getting a reputation as a very good sport tyre.  While the BT56SS still dominates Bridgestone's line in terms of pure traction, the new BT010 is well capable of holding its own even on the track.

Battlax BT020

In replacing Bridgestone's range of sport-touring tyres, they've come up with a much better product in the BT020.  It's more oriented towards tread life and sport-touring applications than the BT010, but still is quite capable of being pushed hard.  It's a good tyre.

Battlax BT45

This tyre us available in both H- and V-rated versions; aside from the speed rating and range of sizes, there's no perceivable difference between the BT45H and BT45V.  The rear has a dual tread compound construction that combines a harder central band, to resist squaring off and for longer life, with a softer, stickier compound on the edges.

This is a superb tyre.  This is the model with which Bridgestone introduced their new silica-rich compound, and thus took an enormous leap in wet traction.  Also, the dual tread compound works exactly as described -- it wears well in normal riding, while the outer edges stick very well.  It's even capable of hard track use -- I've used it that way on both ends of the weight range, a track-prepped Yamaha RD400 and a Moto Guzzi California 1100i.

There is no question that a pair of BT45's is one of the best bias-ply sets you can buy.

If your bike is easy on front tyre wear, though, and the sizes work out, using a BT45 rear with an Avon Super Venom front is an unbeatable combination.  The Avon adds excellent highway stablity, confidence-inspiring profile, and ultra-sticky traction, while the BT45 wears well and sticks very well in the corners.  The Avon, designed to work well with a wide range of rears (note that Avon themselves say you can combine it with other manufacturers' products), lives up to its promise; while Bridgestone has finally perfected the dual-compound rear.

Battlax BT56SS

Due to be replaced by a new BT010SS early next year, nevertheless the BT56SS remains a very good and relatively inexpensive sport tyre.  Its main drawbacks on the street are the stiff carcass and tendency to follow pavement irregularities.  While it's an excellent for track events, particularly given the price, for real-world twisties it therefore may not be the best choice.

Firestone VT01

More an exercise in marketing than any particular tyre technology, the Firestones are intended to sell a classic American name to image-conscious Harley-Davidson owners.  Now that Dunlop actually has tyres with "Harley-Davidson" on the side, it remains to be seen whether the Firestone will draw many from even that market.  It has no place in my selections.

Spitfire S11

If the price is right, this is a good choice.  It's a dual-compound tyre, with harder rubber in the centre of the tread for longer life droning down the highway, and a relatively softer compound on the edges of the tyre.  Unlike the BT45, however, the "softer" does not mean it's up to sport riding, just that it gives better traction than one would expect for a tyre that lasts reasonably long.  It's a decent general-purpose tyre, a good choice for commuters or those with a tight budget.


Tyres from the Excedra and Mag Mopus series are standard equipment on many motorcycles, mostly where the cost is an issue.  Most of them are pretty much useless except for keeping the metal rims off the showroom floor.  Other OEM tyres in the Battlax series, and the Honda Valkyrie and Goldwing Excedras, are not bad -- but generally better tyres are available, even from Bridgestone themselves.

Cheng Shin

General Comments

Awful "tyres", both in design and in quality.  These are the worst you could possibly buy -- don't do it under any circumstances.  Kenda and IRC are vastly superior at a similar cost.


General Comments

I really don't know what to make of Continental's product line.  They're for the most part adequate tyres, basically on a par with IRC; the exception are the sport tyre lines, which are actually pretty decent.  The big problem is that they are often all so much more expensive than other comparable brands.  At a lower price, they'd be a good buy.


This has been expanded in range from what used to be a single size front into a full range of general purpose tyres.  I've really heard very little about these.


This is a new general purpose tyre, for front or rear fitment.  I've heard nothing about it at all, so I don't know whether it's an improvement (like the ContiForce) or merely adequate (like the ContiTour); I suspect the latter.


This is the new sport and sport-touring tyre.  By all accounts it's really pretty good -- not on a par with the best sport tyres, but definitely good sport-touring rubber.  If the price is right, it could be a good choice.

Milestone (CM1/CM2)

This is another of the new generation of Continentals, designed for cruisers and tourers.  Supposedly it has very long tread life, and promises improved wet-weather traction over their previous generation tyres.  I really don't know if they live up to their promises or not.

TK 16 / 17 (formerly known as ContiTour)
TK 22 RC/ 44 RC
TKH 23 / 24 (formerly known as ContiBlitz)

These are budget tyres in terms of quality and performance, and should not be considered as anything else.  If the price is cheap enough, then they're a decent budget tyre, but they offer nothing over IRC or Kenda.

TKV 11/ 12

One of Continental's classic all-purpose tyres.  I wouldn't bother considering them.


The main issue I have with Dunlop is concern over their sport-radials.  The profile is such that you should never mix a Dunlop sport-radial with a tyre from another manufacturer.  While there is no question that the tyres stick well, I feel that the profile leaves a lot to be desired.  There is a tendency for the profile to be non-linear, and the more the bike leans the more it tends to drop inwards.  This can lead to quite unfriendly behaviour at certain lean angles and pavement conditions, and is far from confidence-inspiring.

I recognize that there are many riders who love Dunlops.  While I joke that "Dunlop radials are the favourite tyre of riders who've never tried anything else," I also realise that some riders just like the Dunlop profile.  If you do, that's fine.  I don't, and so will almost always recommend some other sport tyre over the Dunlops.

I have no such concern over their bias ply tyres.  The 491 is probably the best long-distance cruiser/tourer tyre ever made, and there is no doubt that the GT501 will continue to be respected as has the K591 it replaces.

On the other hand, Dunlop has perhaps the best website of all the tyre manufacturers.  I wish everyone else would include applicable rim size, diameter, width, and so on.

491 Elite II

The 491 sets the standard for bias-ply touring tyres.  It is an excellent choice for touring and cruising bikes alike.  With the demise of the Avon Elan series, it becomes the undisputed leader for tread life under load.  For a touring tyre, it performs very well in wet and dry.  The profile is particularly well suited to cruisers -- the less rounded profile of the rear when compared to other brands can give the effect of extra ground clearance.  Harley-Davidson riders swear by these much like BMW riders swear by Metzelers, and for good reason.  They're excellent tyres.


This is Dunlop's primary cruiser tyre.  I know no reports of anyone being dissatisfied with these on a cruiser, but then that's also true of most other cruiser tyres too.  Personally I feel that there are often better choices -- including Dunlop's own 491 Elite II -- but I would not hesitate to ride on these.


In my opinion, an unfortunate mistake on Dunlop's part.  This sport-touring tyre is surprisingly inferior to those of quite a few other manufacturers.  While I suppose if you like the Dunlop sport-radial profile this might be a reasonable choice for a more hard-wearing tyre, I cannot really recommend it.  The main problem is that although it starts out OK -- not great, but OK -- as the tyre wears and ages the traction (particularly wet traction) falls off well before the tread is worn.  Since most riders judge when to replace a tyre based on the tread wear, this can cause unpleasant surprises when the traction goes away before the tread.  I hesitate to use the word "dangerous," because when new the tyre is not too bad at all, but it is the word that comes to mind if you are accustomed to wearing tyres out before replacing them.

D207 ZR

Dunlop's ubiquitous sport tyre.  See my comments above on Dunlop's sport-radial profile, and why I don't like them.  If you can live with the profile, there is no question that they stick very well indeed.

D208 GP

Dunlop's latest race tyre, and therefore not included in my selections.


Intended as an OEM tyre for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, it's available only in limited sizes.  It's very similar to the 491 in performance characteristics, but with less tread life.  Nonetheless, it's undoubtedly a good tyre.


Intended as an OEM tyre for Harley-Davidson touring motorcycles, it's available only in limited sizes.  It's very similar to the 491 in performance characteristics.  Nonetheless, it's undoubtedly a good tyre.


This is a replacement for the well-respected K591.  It fills the same niche, that of a bias-ply performance tyre, but with an updated compound and tread pattern.  I have not had much experience of these tyres -- first- or second-hand -- and so I'm not sure how they perform.  I see no reason, however, to doubt that they're a good tyre.


While it's been replaced in the general market by the GT501, the K591 name lives on in a line intended for Harley-Davidson's "sport" models.  I see no reason not to use the GT501, if available in the correct size, unless you have to have "the look"  (and if you are buying tyres by look, you don't need to be reading these pages!).

OEM Tyres

Dunlop offers a wide variety of OEM radials and bias-ply tyres for many bikes.  I don't include them in my selections unless recommended in the fitment chart.


General Comments

Bridgestone uses the Firestone name to add an air of American credibility to these cruiser tyres designed primarily for Harleys.

VT-01F / VT-01R

I know very little about these tyres in terms of their performance.  They're intended for Harley-Davidsons, and the size selection reflects that.  While I have no reason to believe that they're anything other than good tyres, I personally would choose Dunlop's well-proven product lines over this unknown quantity.


General Comments

IRC produces some tyres that are good value for money.  They are surprisingly good, in fact, considering the price.  While usually not as good as the "premium" tyre brands, products from this manufacturer can generally be relied on for adequate performance.  The tyres themselves aren't exactly stellar in design, but the quality of manufacture seems to be good, and they are reliable products.  While rarely my first choice, I certainly have nothing against them.


These are general purpose cheap tyres.  They're not really worth considering.


These are OEM tyres for the Suzuki Savage LS650.  They're actually pretty decent as OEM tyres go.

RS-310 Durotour

While IRC calls this a "Sport Touring" tyre, don't let that fool you.  It's a low price touring or commuting tyre, not up to any of the premium brands in performance.  Still, it's a good choice at the right price.

RS-320 Carapace

Described as an "Extra Sport Touring" tyre, this is the closest IRC gets to a sporting tyre.

RS-410 Durotour

Billed as for "High Speed Touring", it's basically just a cheap touring/commuting tyre.

RW-010 Road Winner

This is a general-purpose cheap tyre.

RX-01 Road Winner

This is the newest addition to the IRC range.  Supposedly intended for "Naked Sports Bikes", I know very little about it.  I would expect it to be a decent budget tyre, but I wouldn't dream of trying any sort of sport riding with it.

WF-920 Wild Flare

Originally developed for the Suzuki Marauder, the range has been expanded to cover a lot more sizes for touring bikes and cruisers.  They should be pretty decent if the price is right.  The Wild Flare WF910 is a tube-only version with a questionable rear tread pattern, and doesn't seem to be available in the U.S.A..


General Comments

Kenda makes cheap tyres.  They're very inexpensive, and are really not bad.  There seem to be two products, only one of which -- the K657 Sport Challenger -- is readily available mail-order.  I have no information on their other product, a cruiser tyre.

K657 Sport Challenger

How can you beat this in value for money?  The rear is an excellent choice for the cost-conscious.  It lasts fairly well at a fraction of the cost of the premium tyres.  Traction is decent -- not good, but decent -- and while they can be made to slide under sport-riding conditions, they handle the heat build-up well.  When they do slide, it's predictable and they can be brought back into line easily.  Wet traction is adequate too.  All in all, it's a good low-cost option for an all-around rear.

The front is another matter.  The lower traction, and a tendency to accentuate weave on the highway, makes it a poor choice.  Other inexpensive tyres, like the Bridgestone SE11, are a much more reliable choice.  Generally you can save so much by fitting a Kenda rear that it makes sense to spend a few more dollars for a better front.


General Comments

It's a generally true statement that you can never go wrong fitting Metzeler tyres.  They haven't made a bad tyre yet, and in particular their new products are very good indeed.  This is the same company that makes Pirelli tyres, and in general there's a fairly direct product comparison between the product lines; one big difference is that the comparable Metzeler is usually the cheaper of the two -- which is why I rarely select Pirelli over Metzeler in my choices.
Model Type Notes
ME-1 Sporttouring / Allround Sports H-rated for light and middleweight bikes.
ME-1 CompK Supersport
ME-1 Racing Supersport
ME-11 Perfect Sporttouring / Allround Generic style, front only
ME-22 Sporttouring / Allround For small and medium bikes.
ME-33 Laser Sporttouring / Allround Front only, can be used with any other Metzeler bias rear.  In fact, it's designed to work well with any other rear -- Metzeler claims it damps out any oscillations that could be caused by otherwise incompatible tyres.
ME-33 Laser V Racing Supersport Front only.  Intended for Harley 883-Cup racing
ME-55A Metronic Sporttouring / Allround Rear only, intended to be used with ME-33.
ME-55A Racing Supersport Rear only.  Intended for Harley 883-Cup racing
ME-77 Perfect Sporttouring / Allround Generic standard tyres.
ME-88 Marathon Chopper / Cruiser - Touring The ME-88 rear can also be used with the ME-33 front, a classic combination.  Slowly being replaced by the ME-880
ME-880 Marathon Chopper / Cruiser - Touring Replacement for the ME-88.
ME-99A Perfect Sporttouring / Allround Rear only, intended to be used with ME-11 or ME-33
ME-Z1 Supersport Can also be used with ME-Z2 rear.  Slowly being replaced by the ME-Z3.
ME-Z1 HR Supersport H-rated racing tyre
ME-Z1 Racing Supersport
ME-Z2 Sport & Mileage Can also be used with ME-Z1 front.  Slowly being replaced by the ME-Z4.
ME-Z3 Supersport Intended for ultra-fast sport- and sport-touring bikes, like the CBR1100XX and ZX-11.  Slowly replacing the ME-Z1.
ME-Z3 Racing Supersport
ME-Z4 Sport & Mileage Slowly replacing the ME-Z2
ML2/ML2 Plus Chopper / Cruiser - Touring



Hi-Tour 79

Macadam 50

Macadam 50E

Macadam 90X

Macadam 100X

Pilot Race

Pilot Sport

Pilot Sport HPX



General Comments

Pirellis are made by the same company that makes Metzelers, and in general there's a fairly direct product comparison between the product lines; one big difference is that the comparable Metzeler is usually the cheaper of the two.

Nevertheless, Pirelli sport radials seem superior to the Metzelers, enough to justify the difference in price.  The Corsa range in particular are excellent.

Several Pirellis don't seem to be available in the U.S.A. -- in particular the MT65 and MT15 Mandrake, both intended for motorcycles under 350cc, and which I have not included in the data on these pages.  Likewise, the MT75, which should be a good choice for several bikes, is only available in a very limited size range.