First Ride Review: Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart III tires

Motorcycle tip & skills

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We spent the day riding a new 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT outfitted with Dunlop’s Sportmax Roadsmart III during the press launch for Dunlop’s latest sport-touring tire, and while we obviously couldn’t vouch for the company’s claims of increased mileage, we certainly were impressed with the tire’s overall performance in a variety of conditions.

Photo courtesy of Dunlop

Any motorcycle enthusiast who’s gone through several sets of tires a year knows the scenario: You spoon on a fresh set of brand new tires, and your bike handles like a dream. That is, until you’ve put a thousand or so miles on them. Then the romance starts to fade; you notice that the steering is starting to feel kind of funky, and the tires don’t quite grip like they use to.

When Dunlop decided to upgrade its long-running Roadsmart II sport-touring radial, it did the usual consumer surveys and focus groups to find out what sport-touring riders really want for their hard-earned cash. And while Dunlop came back with the usual results showing that better performance and longer mileage were at the top of the riders’ lists, the company decided to go a step further. Thus, Dunlop’s engineering and R&D groups at its parent company Sumitomo Rubber in Japan, the Buffalo, New York plant, and its famed Huntsville Proving Grounds in Alabama also spent considerable time producing a tire that is able to maintain that performance over the duration of its lifespan. The result is the new Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart III.

Starting with the tire carcass construction, Dunlop changed the wire windings in the belts (including the HES JLB—High Elongation Steel Joint-Less Belt—circumferential belt) to be tighter and denser for better stability while maintaining good compliance. The sidewalls have a taller and slimmer design that provides better damping characteristics over bumps, and both front and rear tire profiles have been redesigned to provide a bigger footprint as well as improved mileage.

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The new “cross groove” tread pattern on the rear helps with wet grip because of improved water drainage, while the front features a more even distribution of grooves to help equalize the contact patch pressure and provide more even wear. We noticed both aspects were improved during our day spent riding the Roadsmart III in a variety of conditions over a good number of miles.

Photo courtesy of Dunlop

Also helping in the longevity department is Dunlop’s exclusive MT (Multi Tread) design that binds a high-mileage compound in the center with grippier compounds on the shoulders of the tread for excellent cornering grip. Both front and rear compounds are new for enhanced wear resistance, with an advanced resin formula that increases wet grip. Additional wet grip and consistent tread profile wear over the life of the tire was achieved with the new “cross-groove” tread pattern that features grooves running across the tread pattern similar to the previous Roadsmart II.

While our single-day exposure to the new Roadsmart III prevented any chance of verifying Dunlop’s claims of increased mileage, the company states that it provided tires to well-known independent third-party testing firm Texas Test Fleet, Inc. (“We basically just gave them the tires and walked away,” said Dunlop Motorcycle Product and Marketing Manager Mike Manning). The test results from TTF with a comparison between the Michelin Pilot Road 4 GT—the acknowledged market leader in the category—and the Roadsmart III in 120/70ZR-17 front and 180/55ZR-17 rear sizes on a 2016 BMW R1200 RT had the front Dunlop outlasting the Michelin by nearly 5,000 miles, and the rear Dunlop lasting almost 4,000 miles longer.

Normally it never rains in Southern California, but the recent wet winter deluge of storms enabled us to test not only the handling and dry grip of the new Roadsmart III, but the wet grip as well, with many roads still wet with rain runoff from a recent downpour. With the Dunlops mounted on a KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, we were easily able to put the tires through their paces performance-wise in the canyons.

Truth be told, it’s been a while since we’ve ridden on the Roadsmart II, but if memory serves correctly, one aspect we weren’t really enamored with on the previous version were its slightly vague feel under braking, and a slight harshness when encountering midcorner bumps. All of those gripes are banished with the Roadsmart III; the new Dunlop’s steering habits are delightfully neutral through every cornering scenario we could put them through, and stability under heavy braking (as well as triple digit speeds) was very solid. All manner of bumps and pavement irregularities were swallowed up with nary a twitch or whimper at all lean angles, yet road feel was excellent throughout.

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Even though we only rode on the tires for a day, riding a KTM 1290 Super Duke GT really allowed us to put the Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart III tires through their paces. The big, torquey KTM can be a beast on tires, yet the Dunlops handled everything the bike could dish out on that day.

Photo courtesy of Dunlop

Dry grip was superb, especially for a tire with high-mileage intentions. The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT can put some serious power to the ground, and during a “spirited” ride through numerous local canyon roads, there was never any point where Roadsmart III felt completely out of its element. Even edge grip was very good, although we did notice that feel got a little numb at that point; but this was during a riding pace that likely 90 percent of the tires being sold will never encounter. Wet grip was also excellent, with very little squirming and wandering over varying amounts of lean angle and water on the road.

We obviously weren’t able to measure Dunlop’s claims of consistent performance over the life of the tire, but we’ve had plenty of miles on the company’s Sportmax Q3 sport tire, and can vouch for that tire’s performance longevity. Regardless, we’ve got a set of Roadsmart IIIs that we’re going to spoon onto our long-term FZ-10, so we’ll soon be able to find out if their performance at 2,000 miles is as good as 150 miles.

The Dunlop Roadsmart III comes in the following front sizes: 120/60ZR-17, 120/70ZR-17, 110/80R-18, 120/70ZR-18, ranging in price from $171.30 to $182.54. The rear sizes—160/60ZR-17, 160/70ZR-17, 170/60ZR-17, 180/55ZR-17, 190/50ZR-17, 190/55ZR-17— range in price from $210.09 to $254.20. For more information, log onto