Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart II First Ride Review

The new front tire features more and deeper tread grooves for improved water channeling, while the rear actually features fewer grooves. Dunlop engineers claim the changes to the Roadsmart II will enable it to last 20-percent longer than the Roadsmart.
Wet-weather performance was boosted with added silica and deeper tread grooves. Too bad it was sunny and warm during the Roadsmart II launch in Ojai, California.

Dunlop is serious about tire development, and the roughly $30 million it has exhausted on its Buffalo, NY plant over the past seven-odd years is proof of that. The commitment was large no doubt, but has paid dividends with the recent release of the acclaimed Q2, D211 GP-A and N-Tec racing slicks. Taking what was learned from developing these more sport-oriented tires, Dunlop has also developed a new sport-touring tire, the Sportmax® Roadsmart II, which the company hopes will see like success.

The Roadsmart II is, in essence, an optimized Roadsmart. The tire shares its four-year-old predecessor’s design brief, which puts equal emphasis on handling, mileage and wet-weather performance, plus uses the same Flex Steel-Jointless Belt (FS-JLB) construction. A deeper look at the Roadsmart II’s tread pattern, profile and compound does reveal, however, a much more advanced tire. We recently took a look for ourselves at the tire’s launch in sunny Southern California.

The Roadsmart II front tire isn’t drastically different visually, but does feature more and deeper tread grooves for increased water channeling. The placement of these new grooves also stiffens the pattern, resulting in less tire squirm and, consequently, increased mileage.

In contrast, the rear tire features fewer tread grooves, especially through the center section of the tire. Opposite the front tire, the rear also features a Multi-Tread compound, with a long-wearing compound in the center section and a softer compound on the edges. The Multi-Tread compound on the Roadsmart II is newly developed, too, with added high-traction resins and silica, a chemical compound responsible for increased grip in the wet. What the Roadsmart II front and rear tires do share is Dunlop’s new Intuitive Response Profile (first featured on the D211 GP-A and Q2), which features a steeper tread drop good for a larger contact patch at increased lean angles.

In hopes of demonstrating how versatile the Roadsmart II really is, Dunlop spooned the new tires onto an eccentric group of motorcycles (everything from a Suzuki GSX-R600 to a BMW K 1600 GT was on hand for the launch) and led the assembled press towards Ojai, California. We mounted first a Kawasaki Concours 14, understanding that the Roadsmart II is primarily for bikes of this size and design. And while we didn’t have the opportunity to ride the Concours on stock rubber for comparison, we noted that — when shod with the Roadsmart II rubber — the behemoth steered light and especially well through transitions. Another exceptional trait of the Roadsmart II is its bump absorption (both when vertical and leaned over) and, under the load of heavier bikes especially, the tire absorbs all of the road’s imperfections without upsetting the chassis.

When we dismounted the 670-pound Concours and mounted the 412-pound GSX-R600 (talk about a culture shock) we did notice, however, that the Roadsmart II’s stiffer construction had slightly different affects on ride quality. Dunlop engineers suggested lowering the tire’s pressure and went about dropping the rear tire from 40 psi (recommended psi for best mileage) to 32. The difference was obvious, and while feel isn’t comparable to that of the sporty Q2, we never had a concern with tire squirm or grip.

Many sportbike riders won’t give the Roadsmart II much consideration because it’s labeled as a sport-touring tire. Thanks to the tire’s compliant feel and superb grip, however, riders looking for a tire that can go the distance shouldn’t exactly rule it out.

The Roadsmart II is already available in most popular sizes. Retail for the front will range from $202 to $214, and retail for the rear is set at $267 to $293 depending on size. sr