Motorcyclist: What role does testing play in Metzeler’s R&D process?
Salvo Pennisi: We have a strong test department that works step-by-step with R&D to continuously improve our tire technology. Our test department rode over 1,000,000 kilometers developing the new ME888 Marathon Ultra. Wet miles, dry miles, cold tests in Europe, hot tests in Brazil, even track tests. Why track tests for a cruiser tire? We always test at the limits. That last 1 percent is the difference between crashing and not crashing.
MC: Some new mileage claims—a 30-percent increase for Metzeler’s Tourance Next, for instance—are remarkable. What accounts for these improvements?
SP: We invested heavily in new tire-building machinery. A new compound-mixing machine makes a better dispersal of polymers and carbon black, for better abrasion resistance. We also have a new philosophy of tire profile contour, to optimally distribute force and footprint. This contour was difficult to achieve with the old machinery, so we developed new machinery for the ply line, too. It’s not enough to design a good tire—you also have to have the right equipment to make it.
MC: How has the tire contour changed?
SP: Our engineers discovered a strong effect of the tire footprint in terms of abrasion resistance. Our footprint used to be long, but we now discovered a shorter, wider footprint reduces friction and improves abrasion resistance.
MC: Metzeler tires are OEM fitment on many bikes—how closely do you work with those OEMs?
SP: We have strong collaborations with BMW, Ducati, and Aprilia. Collaborations with component manufacturers like Bosch and Sachs are very important. Sophisticated traction control systems and ABS demand a tire that communicates a very clear, clean signal to the electronics. These collaborations are fundamental, and help all of us advance these technologies.
MC: It sounds like testing tires is more complicated than ever.
SP: More exciting! Understanding the connection between the tire and the bike’s electronics, the connection between us and the OEM, and the connection between tire design and our manufacturing process, just means more fantastic opportunities for our engineers. These opportunities are very big, and are changing our entire philosophies. This is the good part of our job.
Metzeler ME888 Marathon Ultra
The all-new “Triple 8” is an evolution of the best-selling ME880 cruiser tire, maintaining the same stability and sure-footed handling of the original but boasting a claimed 30-percent mileage increase thanks to a new, abrasion-resistant compound, an updated carcass structure, and revised tread pattern with variable-width grooves for improved drainage in wet conditions.
Metzeler Tourance Next
The Tourance Next, standard on the 2013 BMW R1200GS, uses a dual-compound rear tread derived from the Roadtec Z8 Interact tire to improve cornering and wet-weather performance without sacrificing mileage. It’s even more street-oriented than the Tourance EXP. The front tire is a mono-compound with a high silica content, and both tires benefit from revised profiles.
Metzeler Sportec Interact M5
Metzeler’s best-selling sportbike tire, the M5, has been completely redesigned this year. The Interact technology, which creates five distinct “tension zones” to optimize comfort, traction, and durability at different points across the carcass, remains. A multi-compound tread mixture, with a higher silica content on the shoulders for more grip, is new this year.
Pirelli Angel GT
Lots of supersport technology goes into Pirelli’s new Angel GT sport-touring tire, including a Bi-Compound rubber composition Pirelli refers to as Extended Mileage Sport (EMS) technology. Grippy rubber covers a wide area of the tire’s edges, while a comparatively narrow band down the center is covered with a high-mileage compound.