Black Stuff

The season is certainly marching on here in the beautiful South West of the UK and although I have been pretty hectic work wise, Harley has not been forgotten and we have still been clocking up the old miles! The late summer sun and Mrs Dookes’ spearmint has certainly found favour with the butterfly population as well.

Whilst carrying out a pre-ride check the other day I noticed that the tyres were starting to look a little worn, not at all dangerous as there is still plenty of tread depth left, but I don’t like to let them get down to the legal minimum before replacing them. This set of rubber were put on the old girl earlier this year around the time of her service, which got me thinking…

The tyres on a motorbike are one of the most safety critical components that there are. They have to handle every control input that you ask of them; acceleration, braking and cornering, and do it in all conditions be it wet, dry, hot or cold. Unlike a car they don’t just prop up the corner of the machine in a constant plane, they have to work just as well, if not better, when they are leaning over at speed through a bend as they do upright and trundling. They also have to do this keeping the motorbike under control with only a couple of square inches, or centimetres if you’d rather, in contact with the road surface. No wonder all sensible motorcyclists spend plenty of time looking after their tyres, keeping them at the correct pressure and checking that they are in good order.

If you drop in on most good motorbike forums dotted around the internet, sooner or later you will find pages of discussion on the subject of tyres. Yeah I know, it all sounds a bit sad and boring, but believe me when a motorbike tyre decides not to grip with you on board, boring it ain’t! So it’s not at all unusual to find discussion on the Holy Grail of tyres in a seemingly never-ending quest to find which is “best”.

For some time now I have come to the conclusion that this thing “best” is a very personal matter and it really depends just what you want to do when you ride your bike. For most riders, it is, like life, all a bit of a compromise! There are literally hundreds of different tyres on the market these days and finding one that does exactly what you want can take a bit of trial and error. Let me at this point be clear on one significant factor; providing that your choice of manufacturer and tyre model conforms to one of the international standards it is unlikely that you will find a “bad” tyre…its just that some are better than others, way better!

One slight disadvantage that us Harley riders have, is that our choice of tyre is quite limited as not many manufacturers cater for our big bikes. Original equipment and therefore Harley Davidson approved, is covered by just Dunlop and Michelin who supply “Harley Davidson” branded tyres that have been specifically designed for specific bike models. One common complaint that I have heard many times is that these branded tyres whilst excellent for longevity are a tad “lively” in the wet. Certainly my own experience with the bog standard Dunlops confirms this.

My quest for the perfect rubber for Harley has taken us through a number of manufacturers and tyre models, but now I believe I have found the best yet and its all down to my mate Kirk at Plymouth Harley Davidson.

…and so back to when Harley was being serviced in March. I knew that I needed to buy a new set of rubber, but I was not over happy with the idea of a standard set of Dunlop “boots”. In discussion with Kirk, he suggested that I try a different model of Dunlop tyre, the GT502, which it is claimed is more suited to the “sporty” Harley rider. Now, I have to say that I was a bit sceptical as the set of Dunlops that I was replacing were awful on wet roads and I wasn’t sure if Kirk was just going for a sale! When he offered to get in any other tyre that I wanted I was finally persuaded and in due course a new set of the 502’s were fitted.

I think I have probably said on previous posts that all new motorbike tyres need careful bedding in and so these were given about a hundred miles to settle down. Initial impressions were good, but as time went on these tyres just got better and better! They have now done over 5000miles in all weathers and temperatures, off-road in a desert even sleet in the Pyrenees and all without the slightest hint of loss of grip. I am both very impressed and very pleased. So thank’s to Kirk for the advice and guess what, I’ll be back for another new set soon!


Please note usual disclaimer; other than as a very satisfied customer I have no connection to either Dunlop nor Harley Davidson nor am I saying that these tyres would suit everyone, but they work for me…

“This wheel’s on fire, rolling down the road…”



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