TIRE REVIEW: Michelin Pilot Road 4

Michelin’s new sport-touring tire is designed to be better in the wet, and last longer. With video!

Michelin Pilot Road 4 on-road performance testing

Michelin has rolled out several new motorcycle radials over the past two years, revamping its entire product line in the process. The latest addition is the Pilot Road 4, which promises performance and longevity beyond that of the Pilot Road 3.

Like its sport-touring predecessor, the Pilot Road 4 features Michelin’s patented XST (X-Sipe Technology) integrated into its tread pattern. Thin sipes, located between the large tread grooves, slice through surface water and channel it into circular reservoirs positioned along the sipe to keep more rubber in contact with the road. But the Pilot 4 also introduces what Michelin calls “XST+,” a slight chamfer to the edge of the sipe that is designed to eliminate any abnormal wear as the tread flexes under hard braking on dry roads.

Michelin touts the Pilot 4’s wet braking performance, citing independent tests that show it out-performs its closest rival by a resounding 17 percent in wet braking. Furthermore, the operating temperature range of the Road 4’s reformulated all-silica compound is rated from 32 degrees to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. This means added safety, together with what Michelin says is 20 percent longer tread wear life than its predecessor.

In addition to the standard version, the Road 4 also comes in Trail and GT variants. Tailored for Adventure bikes, the Trail uses a medium center compound and soft shoulder 2CT (dual compound) front and rear. The standard and GT front tire has the same medium/soft 2CT arrangement. The standard and GT rear, however, has a hard center/medium shoulder combination. Designed for improved cornering stability with heavier sport-touring bikes, the GT rear tire casing features Michelin 2AT (Dual Angle Technology) that employs a combination of bias and radial construction, which results in a claimed 15-percent increase in rigidity.

I joined Michelin for a press ride that originated in Los Angeles, headed over the Angeles Crest Highway and ended at Big Bear Lake. Prior to the ride, our 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 long-term bike was fitted with a fresh set of the standard Road 4s, replacing the original fitment tires that had been used for approximately 3,000 miles. With the new Michelins, I immediately noted a significant improvement in steering lightness and neutrality. Stability, both in a straight line and while cornering, proved superb, and I found the level of dry cornering grip very well suited to the Ninja's sporty chassis. Because it was an unusually windswept day in the mountains, we encountered several very dusty and dirty corners along the way, and even a few with fallen rock in the road. Yet my confidence in the tire's grip was never rattled. And when I left the lodge the following chilly morning, my confidence immediately returned as the rubber between me and the road stayed pliable and left me in good control.

Southern California hasn't experienced a drop of rain since the Michelin Pilot Road 4s were mounted on our long-term Kawasaki Ninja 1000, so I can't attest to the company's wet-performance claims. But I can say this: There has been no discernible deterioration in handling or dry grip over the 1,000 miles I've since racked up on the bike.

On-road performance testing - action shot #1

On-road performance testing - action shot #2

On-road performance testing - action shot #3

On-road performance testing - action shot #4

Mounted front tire.

Mounted front tire close-up.

Mounted rear tire.

Mounted rear tire close-up.

Front and rear tires.

Front and rear tire tread profiles.

Tread profile close-up.

Tire tread profile #1

Tire tread profile #2

Front tire.

Rear tire.

Front and rear tires.

GT version on a BMW R1200RT.

GT version in-action on a BMW R1200RT.

Tires in-action.

Simulating wet conditions during safety workshop.