It’s touring time again and this year I’ll be riding the Alps and Pyrenees on a F800GS instead of my now retired R1150RT. And with the F800GS as this years war-horse I was forced to choose a new set of tyres.
For the last two years I’ve been riding on the marvelous Michelin Pilot Road 3’s, an all-weather touring tyre which I can’t fault for the likes of middle weight and big touring bikes. My change from wearing the Metzler Roadtec Z6 tyres to the Pilot Road 3’s showed me the real benefits of choosing the right tyre both for your bike and riding style.
The PR3’s are not an option this year however, my F800GS has that 21 inch front tyre which limits my choice of tyre’s and Michelin don’t do PR3’s to fit the F800GS, if they did I may well have chosen them again. Up until now my F800GS was wearing Metzlers Tourance, my second set so far and I’m sorry, I know many like these tyres but I don’t, they just don’t suit me.
I spend most of my time tearing around very rough, paved mountain back roads with the odd stint of “mild” off-road and after 5,000-6,000km the Tourance tyre’s are in bits. The back tyre is starting to square off at 5/6,000km and at around 4,000km the front feels terrible when cornering. As I can happily do anywhere between 30,000 and 40,000 kilometres a year the cost of these tyres is potentially painful. I’ve had this experience with the Tourance tyre’s on both the F800GS and the 650GS single.
And there is another problem, for me at least, the Tourance tyres are dual purpose tyre’s – somewhere around 90/10 road biased. For me this relates “literally” to a compromised tyre for road use, and it’s not a particularly good off-road tyre either, a run along a muddy, snow-slush covered road this winter quickly saw them turning to slicks. I can’t imagine Michelin’s Anakee, Anakee 2 or Continental’s Trail Attack tyre’s being much better.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying the Tourance are a crap tyre as they do have great qualities too, for example they are surprisingly good in the wet and may well suit your purposes and bike perfectly. And some people report getting 10,000 miles out of a set. All I’m saying here is that they don’t suit my riding style and the particular roads/tracks I like to ride on, and as a touring tyre they are definitely not for me.
The problem with all the dual purpose tyre’s is that they are in or around 90/10 road biased, the reality is that I, like most adventure style bike riders I spend no more than 0.002% of my time actually riding off the road. For me it’s 50% perfectly surfaced roads, 45% surfaced but torn up, pot holed, washed out mountain roads and 5% hard packed dirt tracks. I’d classify none of that as off-road and nothing in common with a Mongolian adventure ride!
Only a few weeks ago while researching my options I got the distinct impression that both Metzler and Michelin are coming to the realization that most riders of adventure bikes, with me being a classic example want a tyre that is even more road orientated. A tyre that can last a full big distance Euro tour, a tyre that comprises very little on road handling, a tyre that does not take away from the looks of an adventure bike and can potentially ride across a farmer’s field or a dirt track to a rural B&B or Alpine refuge. So this year we are being offered the Tourance Next and the Anakee 3, either of which will be most likely fitted as standard to the new 2013 BMW R1200GS.
With my experience of the Pilot Road 3’s fresh in memory my foot is now firmly planted in the Michelin camp so I really wanted to try the Anakee 3’s. However, as they are so new to the market the Anakee 3 was not yet to be found in Ireland, and with just 4 weeks to go before my departure to France time was running short. So, I enlisted the help of Mark at Platinum Motorcycles who managed to get me one of the 1st sets of Pilot Road 3’s in Ireland 2 years back. I don’t know how he managed it, but yet again he came through and fitted the first set of Anakee 3′s to be found in Ireland to my F800GS. These tyre’s are so new to Ireland that there is not yet a retail price for them, so a seriously big thanks to Platinum Motorcycles in Wicklow.
I’ve now had the Anakee 3’s a week and have already subjected them to 400km of my particular style of cruelty. Take into account now that the following review is just my initial impressions and I’m riding a F800GS which has it’s own specific qualities, most notably the 21 inch front wheel and long front forks which might affect my experience with these tyres against another bike model.
Michelin Anakee 3 on Normal Dry Roads
From the very first roundabout the difference from the Tourance was clear, they turn in effortlessly and stay true to your chosen line. Straight off they also feel far more gripy and embedded in the road surface inspiring more road holding confidence at higher speed and especially on cornering.
Michelin Anakee 3 on Motorway
After 100km motorway cruising I definitely felt a smoother and slightly less noisy ride which from looking at the thread pattern difference from the Tourance this is no surprise.
Michelin Anakee 3 on Broken Mountain Back Roads
To be fair to the Tourance tyres, “outside of longevity” I never had a big issue with them while speeding along choppy mountain roads, I ride fairly hard on these roads and the Tourance tyres always kept me rubber side down, even in the wet. The Anakee 3’s are just as good except for cornering where they perform better than the Tourance.
Michelin Anakee 3 on Smoother Country Back Roads
The Anakee 3’s are more fun – by far! A smoother ride, better feedback and cornering, in my mind at least, made the F800GS more fun on twisty roads. However, they are not Pilot Road 3′s so don’t buy a set thinking that they are an adventure styled PR3. For pure road touring I think I’d still probably choose the Pilot Road 3 if I could. It’s still a bit of a tough call. The F800GS is not a particularly powerful bike, it does not have anything like the barking mad power of the new KTM 1190 Adv, or the 2013 1200GS and after riding the Anakee 3 in both wet and dry I’d doubt if changing over to a PR3 (if possible) would make any serious difference for me on the F800GS.
But on a heavier more powerful bike???? Hmm?
Michelin Anakee 3 in The Wet???????
Before I get into this first let me explain that I’m still in the “getting to know you” phase of my relationship with the F800GS. So in the wet I still won’t ride it as hard as I might the F800R or my old R1150RT which I’d have a more intimate knowledge of. Also at the time of my wet ride I was just 8 days away from my first Euro tour of the year so I was not about to risk dropping and damaging the bike in any way – and as I’m on public roads riding like a twat for any reason is not an option either.
That said I chose a 120km route on the wet roads Ireland seems to specialise in, incorporating motorway, city roads, country roads and messed up mountain back roads. I also took in the R755 between Rathdrum and Laragh in Wicklow due to the fact that in the wet it’s the most bloody awful and dangerous road I know of. Tight, narrow curves on steeply ascending/descending gradients, glassy road surface “bald patches”, potholes and debris are all there. Trees also overhang most of this road adding to it’s slippery when wet nature. Tourist coaches, heavy good vehicles and forestry trucks also leave cunningly placed diesel and oil patches. And if that’s not enough there is also the risk of deer or a stray farmer’s tractor jumping out to try and kill you too. On a quiet dry day this road is great, but in the wet it demands every ounce of your concentration and definitely a good set of road rubber. This is the road I first tested the Pilot Road 3 on and the obvious place to really try out the Anakee 3’s wet potential.
As for cornering in the wet on all roads I also really liked the Anakee 3’s. Keeping things smooth, steady and balanced with extra forward planning is always the trick with riding in the wet, but against the Tourance tyres I certainly felt far more confident which makes a big difference. I could feel more interaction and grip on the road and need I mention again the superior cornering ability which for me made a really big difference in keeping a smooth, steady pace. In the wet as in the dry I was comfortable riding faster on the Anakee 3 than on the Tourance. 10-15km faster than on the Tourance, but please note that as it’s wet I’m still riding 10-15km under the posted speed limits on the Anakee 3 – a bit slower than I might if wearing the Pilot Road 3 which would be better again on wet roads.
To solidify my views of the Anakee 3 in the wet I went out again the next day on the same route. This time the rain was more of the “bloody hell, I can’t see a fecken thing” variety with far more surface water on the roads. If anything I had even more fun as my trust issues were washed away and I immediately settled down to a relaxed “if soggy socks” ride.
Michelin Anakee 3 Off Road?
Well I only took them up a hard packed, wet, stony dirt track in the Glenmalure Valley and was happy in that I rode up and back without dropping the bike or getting stuck for the need of a push. However, I’m not really the off road type and really don’t see myself anyway qualified to answer this question.
Michelin Anakee 3 – How Long will They Last, will They Go the Distance?
I’ll tell you in September, by then I’ll have covered 10,000km on a loaded 800GS through the Alps, Pyrenees and baking Spanish motorways.
There is maybe just one more impression I can pass on. I always felt that the Pilot Road 3’s suited heavier bikes like my RT slightly better than lighter bikes like my F800R. I think “by design” the extra weight helps embed the tyre into the road increasing it’s abilities and I can’t help getting the same impression from the Anakee 3. I suspect they might be even better on a heavier bike like the 1200GS. Anyone got a 1200GS wearing a set of Anakee 3’s I can borrow for an hour or two??
Anyway, I’ll update this in September after I get some proper touring miles on the Anakee’s and let you know if I still like them.
And a big thanks again to Mark at Platinum Motorcycles for somehow getting his hands these tyres, if you’re in the Dublin area and looking for a set of Michelin Anakee 3’s he’s the man to get them for you…
Safe riding and have a biketastic summer…