MXA’s TIRE SHOOTOUT: In Search Of The Best Intermediate Rear Tire; We Evaluate Tires From Dunlop, Pirelli, Bridgestone, Maxxis And Michelin

April 28, 2009
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   Choosing the best rear tire is an extremely important part of race strategy. On a bike with only two wheels (and only one of them is driven), the rear tire accounts for a huge percentage of rotating mass, unsprung weight, energy transfer, impact absorption and landfill overflow. While factory sponsored guys can select a new fresh tire for every moto, condition and soil type, the average racer has to choose the best all-around tire for whatever conditions he may face.

   The MXA wrecking crew gathered five of the best known 110/90-19 intermediate-terrain rear tires and put them to the test. It took three days, three different tracks, five rear wheels and two bloody knuckles. Our test bike was a 2009 Yamaha YZ450F. We added a Pro Circuit exhaust pipe to make the YZ450F barkier to help delineate between the tires. The Yamaha testing department provided us with identical rear wheels, and we used identical lightweight tubes with each bike. The testing was done in round-robin fashion, with test riders doing laps, changing wheels, doing more laps, changing wheels and repeating the cycle over and over again. As a final experiment, each tire was raced in true-to-life competition.

The results are only a guide. It is up to you to evaluate your racetrack’s soil.


   Weight: 11.9 pounds.
   Performance: The Dunlop 756 is a great intermediate tire that exhibits a predictable feel in transitions between hard and soft surfaces. The D756 was very manageable in transition from leaning over on the side of the tire to straight-line acceleration. The 756 hooks up well off concrete and is predictable on hardpack, although it is most at home on pure intermediate terrain (when we want a Dunlop tire that works better on the hard side of intermediate terrain we run a 745). The 756 is the MXA wrecking crew’s go-to tire when we are looking for a baseline tire to compare against. The even better and more expensive Dunlop 756RR (Race Replica) version used to be the that we went to we you wanted more grip (and were willing to accept accelerated wear), but the Race Replica and the 756 are both going to be replaced by the Dunlop GeoMax M51 tire.
   Verdict: Seven out of ten MXA test riders choose the D756 as their rear tire of choice because of its predictable performance. There’s really nothing to complain about with the 756 rear (the front however tends to release very quickly when crossing hard patches).


   Weight: 11.8 pounds.
   Performance: As a rule, MXA test riders haven’t liked any Bridgestone rear tire since the demise of the Bridgestone M78. We absolutely hated the 401/402 and 601/602. These tires were so bad that it was hard to believe that they were built by a premium tire company. Thankfully, the Bridgestone M404 has changed our opinion. This is an especially good tire for riders who carry speed from gear to gear and don’t engage in too much stop-and-go riding (by this we mean Intermediates and Pros). The M404 sacrifices a bit of potency in softer dirt for greater performance on harder surfaces and shallower loam. While other tires dig too deeply into loose dirt over a hard base, the M404 floats on top and doesn’t bog the engine down, but still maintains traction. The M404 is excellent off concrete starting pads and maintains a very consistent feel in transition from loam to hardpack.
   Verdict: For an intermediate track with hardpack sections of loose dirt on a hard base, the M404 is a very good tire. If it has a weakness, it is that it struggles for traction at severe lean angles.


12.9 pounds.
   Performance: When it comes to performance per dollar, the Maxxis Maxxcross IT has been the king of the economy tire world. Although the Maxxcross isn’t the best choice in any given performance area, it’s a solid tire at a good price that wears like iron. The Maxxcross IT provides good traction in a straight line and can transition from soft to intermediate to hard without breaking a sweat (although this is a pure intermediate tire). Severe lean angles stress the Maxxcross’ harder rubber compound more than some other tires. Additionally, the Maxxcross doesn’t like concrete starting pads, is a little heavy, and skates under hard braking. It weighs one pound more than the Dunlop 756 or Bridgestone 404.
   Verdict: If you don’t like buying and changing tires, the Maxxcross IT is the perfect tire. It is priced slightly below the premium brands and lasts longer without having the performance deteriorate. The Maxxis Maxxcross IT is a do-it-all tire on a working man’s budget.



13.3 pounds.
   Performance: Designed for what Michelin calls “mixed and soft terrain,” the Michelin Starcross MS3 does its best work when there is plentiful dirt to dig into. The heaviest tire in MXA’s test, the extra mass seemed to help the tire hook up in low-speed/high-rev situations. The tradeoff is that once the Starcross MS3 started to spin, it took a very talented right wrist to regain control of the traction. This is especially noticeable in choppy whoops, where the extra unsprung weight creates a spin-bounce-spin scenario. The best attribute of the Starcross MS3 was straight-line acceleration. It offered terrific hookup, and the tire’s stiff sidewalls allowed us to get away with slightly lower air pressure settings (which helped mitigate the spin tendency). On the downside, the MS3 skated under hard braking and wore quickly.
   Verdict: If your track is loamy and there are more big bumps than little ones, the MS3 Starcross is an acceptable choice.


   Weight: 11.7 pounds.
   Performance: The Pirelli Mid/Hard 454 is a surprisingly good tire (and the lightest tire in MXA’s comparison). The Mid/Hard nomenclature means that the Scorpion 454 is an intermediate tire (Mid) that works better on the hard side of the dirt spectrum. The name makes sense once you realize that Pirelli also offers an MX Soft, MX Mid/Soft, MX Hard and MX All Ground. As the name implies, the MX Mid/Hard 454 is designed to work best on intermediate dirt with a hard base or slick spots between loamy corners. Every MXA test rider was impressed with how well the Mid-Hard worked in its designated terrain, but also that it kept working even as it wore out. There is one caveat: if you are riding in pure loam or a loam/sand mix, the Pirelli MX Mid/Hard is not your best tire choice.
   Verdict: The Mid/Hard was one of our favorite tires. Its target terrain matches many race tracks with soft corners and slick exits. A very good tire.



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