Long-Term Kawasaki Ninja 1000: Dunlop Roadsmart Tires

Long-Term Update: Swapping Pirelli Angel GTs for new Dunlops

WRIST: Kevin Smith
MSRP (2014): $11,999
MILES: 15,031
MPG: 40
MODS: Dunlop tires
UPDATE: 10

A fresh set of tires does a lot for the happy factor of any bike. As with razor blades and guitar strings, new works brilliantly.

I was thoroughly pleased with the Pirelli Angel GT sport-touring tires put on the Kawasaki Ninja at 7,400 miles (the tire on the right, above). They felt neutral and predictable and gave me a lot of confidence in cornering. We went with a 190/55 rear tire in place of the 190/50-size original, and the Ninja liked its slightly taller profile. The added rear ride height enlivened steering response, especially the all-important turn-in, and the larger rolling radius brought the optimistic speedometer to within 2 or 3 mph of dead on.

The Angel GTs are a great overall tire for this bike and the way I use it: daily commuting, weekend playtime, and a few longish trips that were either mostly back roads or all freeway. The Ninja and I put 5,000 miles on that set of Angels before contour wear made itself obvious. The rear was flatting in the center from straight-up freeway miles, and the front was showing cornering wear on the shoulders. That steady, reliable turn-in behavior had slipped away.

Still, it wasn’t too bad, and there was plenty of tread depth left, so in the interest of science, I rode on. Some 2,500 miles later, I’d learned all I wanted about those durable Pirellis. For the performance they delivered, I consider 7,500 hard miles a remarkably useful life. And there was maybe another 2,000 miles to be had for a freeway-commuting cheapskate not fretting about turn-in feel. Excellent tire.

For replacements, I went with a set of Dunlop Roadsmart IIs (dunlopmotorcycle.com; $419/set at MSRP), a similar sport-touring tire promising spirited performance but decent longevity. (We stayed with the much-preferred 55-section rear.)

Of course, new tires always feel transformative, and the Dunlops did, but they also exhibited a notable difference in behavior on that first ride home. Compared to the Pirelli Angel GTs, the Roadsmart IIs are clearly more eager to turn in. The front doesn’t look particularly pointy, but it feels like it wants to fall off the center and get onto its broad, grippy shoulders. I like that feeling of being primed to turn, but the flip side is a slight reduction in directional stability. The bike is a little less certain where straight ahead is. By the end of my first 25-mile commute, I had adjusted, but it will be revealing to see what kind of durability accompanies this more aggressively sporty character.