Mount Magazine Scenic Byway is a splendid 12.2-mile-long strip that zigs and zags its way to the highest point in Arkansas from AR-10W. Stout pines crowd in as the road makes a 2,500-foot climb to the rustic lodge that calls its plateau home. As ride leader for the press launch of Metzeler's Cruisetec tire, I wanted to save the best for last, one last spirited romp up the twistiest stretch around. The scenic byway's series of switchbacks and straights, stretching just long enough to bang through some gears, would be the perfect finish to a 215-mile day of testing Metzeler's new performance cruiser tire in the Arkansas Ozarks.

At least, that’s what I envisioned. Somehow the old-timer in front of me in the rusty old Ford pickup didn’t get the memo. Mount Magazine Scenic Byway is a two-way road, and the tired old truck in front of me was quickly damming up journalists behind it. Visions of mobbing up the delightful stretch ahead were fading faster than the sun behind the mountain. The angel on my right shoulder whispered, “Be patient, be mindful of the journalists behind who you’re responsible for.” The devil on my left barked, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!” How’s that old saying go, passed ’em like he was standing still? Full steam ahead for the win!

Cruisetec tire on Harley-Davidson Softail Slim
Metzler’s new Cruisetec tire looks pretty sporty on this Harley-Davidson Softail Slim.Courtesy of Metzeler

To my delight, the express train of throttle-happy journalists behind me followed suit. A melee ensued, exhausts screaming in the upper rpm registers, floorboards and pegs grinding like nails on a chalkboard. After pre-running the route and using this stretch for photo shoots, familiarity with the road served me well as I set a spirited pace. The Cruisetecs were sticking tight to the chosen line and the low-end of the Heritage’s Twin Cam 103 was flexing its muscle coming out of corners. The road bears the scars of hard winters in the form of broken asphalt and sudden dips, and more than once I bounced out of my seat as the back of the softly sprung Softail hopped around. I peeked in my sideview, noticed a gap between me and the pack, so backed off the slightest bit.

Metzeler Cruisetec tire
Even acorn-strewn roads couldn’t keep the Cruisetecs from offering generous amounts of grip.Courtesy of Metzeler

He swooped down on me like a jet fighter, an unknown rider on an Indian Scout flying out of nowhere and on me like glue. I got on the gas again and off we went. The smaller Scout was giving me hell in the turns as we jockeyed for position, but to the Heritage's credit, it turned in lighter and was more agile than expected. We pushed the Cruisetecs to their edges and tested the edges of the cruisers' performance as well, the spirit of lighthearted competition reflected in aggressive twists of the throttle. We summited Mount Magazine Scenic Byway in tandem. As I pulled to the side of the road to wait for the other riders at the turn-off to the lodge, my friendly adversary came up beside me, an ear-to-ear grin visible beneath his clear face shield, and slapped me a stinging high five. The grin belonged to Metzeler's head of testing, Salvo Pennisi, who had charged past the pack to track me down. Pennisi once helped Massimo Tamburini develop the Ducati 916, just one milestone of his illustrious 40-year career. One by one, the other riders quickly filled in behind us, their eyes aglow with the same excited energy. Pulling into the lodge, Pennisi demonstrated his elation one last time with a smoky rubber donut he left in the parking lot.

Metzeler Cruisetec tires
From its profile to its tread pattern to its compounds, Metzeler’s Cruisetec tires offer impressive amounts of grip, particularly on edges, along with smooth side-to-side transitions.Courtesy of Metzeler

Between doing a scouting run of the route a couple of days before everyone arrived along with leading the 215-mile ride, I’d spent almost 450 miles on Metzeler’s new Cruisetecs. But the fun wasn’t quite done. The day after the press launch, an arrangement had been made with the local fire department who drove a truck up to the lodge so they could hose down the road for some wet weather shots. We picked an S-curve just beyond the lodge to shoot on, accompanied by a park ranger who helped direct traffic during the shoot. We did pass after pass through the wet turn, confidence growing in the Cruisetec’s grip levels with each pass. Before long I confidently carried the same speed through the turn as I did when it was dry. Quick starts on a straight stretch with hard stops on the wet road followed. Granted, we didn’t see more than second gear, but the Cruisetecs held steadfast in the wet and stopping distances were minimized as a result.

Metzeler Head of Testing Salvo Pennisi leads journalists out of The Lodge at Mount Magazine
Metzeler Head of Testing Salvo Pennisi leads journalists out of The Lodge at Mount Magazine as they embark on a 215-mile test ride.Courtesy of Metzeler

The Arkansas Ozarks are a perfect place to test motorcycle tires. The roads are a blend of big sweepers and tighter, technical turns. Just about everywhere you go is a “scenic byway.” For the most part the roads are well maintained, with just enough gravel and grit to keep you honest. You can get out of town quickly and have roads pretty much to yourself. Law enforcement overall is fairly biker-friendly, so when you do get out on those rural stretches, you can open up without fear of repercussions. You will need to be vigilant for deer, though, along with a slew of other critters that call these parts home, particularly at deer thirty when the sun starts going down. Then there’s the scenery. Even in late summer, the landscape is lush and green. The forests are thick and mystical and lightning bugs dance in the purple of the evening. Lily-padded lakes and rivers lie around seemingly every bend.

Arkansas grand canyon
Did you know Arkansas has a Grand Canyon? Now you do.Courtesy of Metzeler

After four days of flogging Metzeler’s new Cruisetecs up, down, and around the mountains, one thing that stood out was how smoothly the tires roll side to side. There’s no tipping point, no noticeable axis of rotation like most cruiser tires. A couple of things contribute to this. While a standard V-twin tire has low-curvature contours, Metzeler extended the center of the tire and narrowed the sides in order to give it a bigger footprint at mid-to-full lean. The amount of grip they provide at all times was impressive, and they particularly shine when they’re on their edges. New compounds and tread patterns are pretty much standard fare for new tires. Metzeler follows the pattern, stating that the shoulder compounds on the Cruisetecs are softer on the dual-compound rear tire and stiffer cords allow space for thicker rubber, both contributing to the smoothness they provide. The tire’s overall profile is more sport-touring like, and while I would generally wince when mentioning performance and cruiser tire in the same sentence, the Cruisetecs live up to the billing. At the end of the photo shoot, I ripped off my own series of smoky burnouts. I think Pennisi would approve.

Metzeler Cruisetec tires
The local fire department sprayed down this curve so we could test the tire in the wet and get some cool photos to boot.Courtesy of Metzeler

I signed up as ride leader for the Metzeler Cruisetec press launch hoping I could chart a route worthy of truly testing Metzeler’s new tire. When we stopped for lunch the day of the press launch, Metzeler’s marketing manager, Silvio Frare, who rode with us, said our ride was “faster than expected.” Knowing the Italian’s penchant for riding hard, consider it mission accomplished.

Metzeler Cruisetec tires
Deep channels on the Cruisetec tire extend to the edge and do a bang-up job of dispersing water and maintaining traction on wet roads.Courtesy of Metzeler

Verdict

Grade: A-
Summary: Impressive grip, smooth rolling, Metzeler’s Cruisetec tires allow cruiser riders to push hard with confidence.
Price: $128.19–$254.22
Contact: metzeler.com
Indian Scout Bobber shod in Metzeler Cruisetec tires
An Indian Scout Bobber shod in Metzeler Cruisetec tires shines brightly against the verdant green of Arkansas’ Ozark National Forest.Courtesy of Metzeler
cruisetec tires on wet road
Even when I got on the brakes hard on wet roads, the Cruisetec tires still gripped the road well.Courtesy of Metzeler
salvo pennisi burnout
Salvo showed how much fun he had racing me up the mountain with a big smoky burnout in the parking lot of The Lodge at Mount Magazine.Courtesy of Metzeler
arkansas grand canyon overlook
There’s no shortage of beauty in Arkansas’ Ozarks.Courtesy of Metzeler
cruisetec tire burnout
Here’s to you, Salvo!Courtesy of Metzeler