Michelin’s new Pilot Road 4 isn’t just one sport-touring tire; it’s three. The standard PR4 is meant for most motorcycles up to the big sport-touring rigs because, for them, there’s the Pilot Road 4 GT. Don’t feel left out if you own a BMW GS though; the third version is the Pilot Road 4 Trail, which is not a dirt-oriented tire at all—just a conventional sport-touring bun in the sizes most big ADVs use.
And while the PR4 looks a lot like its predecessor, much has changed. Fronts and rears both have dual compounds, harder in the center of the tread as expected, but the X-Sipe Technology has been altered significantly. Michelin’s engineers admitted the PR3’s thin sipes, meant to give water an exit path from the contact patch, could wear unevenly. The fix was a chamfer along the sipes’ leading edges.
Michelin has three patents applying to the PR4, and one involves a hybrid carcass design for the GT that combines radial and bias-ply ideas. The result is said to be a smooth ride and high-speed stability for heavier machines. Overall,
Michelin’s design brief was to improve dry grip (through slightly fewer, smaller grooves) and longevity of the PR3 while maintaining that tire’s very good wet-weather performance. Partly thanks to a new all-silica, two-compound construction, Michelin says the PR4 has 20 percent more life than its predecessor. A change to narrow the shoulders of the front tire should also help speed steering.
The Pilot Road 4 standard tire comes in seven sizes; the GT in the six sizes most often found on big sport-tourers; and the PR4 Trail is available in sizes for both the current and previous R1200GS adventure bikes. Prices range from $120 to $180.
A Day on the PR4
In early May, Michelin hosted a one-day ride in Southern California to launch the Pilot Road 4. In preparation, I mounted a new set of PR4s to my long-term KTM 990 SM-T, in the standard 120/70ZR-17 and 180/55ZR-17 sizes, then joined a group of journalists for a ride over Angeles Crest Highway and some of the “backside” roads on the long way to Big Bear, California. The trip offered a combination of freeway, slow secondary road, and fast mountain twisties along with pavement that ran from pristine to perilously dirty.
Over all of that, the Pilot Road 4s performed admirably. They ignored all but the largest rocks in the road and rarely slid at a street-wise pace. Compared to the Continental TrailAttack 2 tires that had just come off the KTM, they felt a bit stiffer and steering was just a titch slower. But the front tire had very good feedback; other bikes I’ve ridden on the PR3 had a mushy front-end feel.
Alas, there was no rain on the press ride, so tests of the PR4’s rainy-day prowess will have to wait. As first impressions go, the Pilot Road 4 did well, providing accurate steering along with more than adequate grip. —Marc Cook
PHOTOS: Kevin Wing & Michelin