4WD Mechanix Magazine Tests the Michelin Dual-Sport Motorcycle Tires!
In this two-part HD video series, we mount and test Michelin’s T63 and the Cross AC10 dual-sport motorcycle tires. These tires and matching tubes are DOT approved for use on public highways. The T63 is a 50/50 highway and off-pavement design. The Cross AC10 has a rugged enduro-type tread design for 90% off-pavement use. Our testbed for the tires is the magazine’s popular Honda XR650R dual-sport motorcycle. This bike is used as both a platform for filming HD video in the field and as a technical how-to subject.
4WD Mechanix Magazine’s Honda XR650R motorcycle is ready to roll with fresh Michelin T63 tires and matching tubes! This motorcycle follows the “100 miles from nowhere rule!”: Used for video filming at remote desert and mountain venues, tires must be reliable, trail and road worthy—and durable. At the heart of the bike is a freshly built, uncorked powerplant. With Hot Cams ‘Stage 1’ camshaft and L.A. Sleeve head and cylinder work, this powerplant pumps out an estimated 55 horsepower and 50 lbs. ft. torque. At approximately 300 pounds wet weight (without rider and gear), the dual-sport converted motorcycle requires secure rim bead locks and quality, dependable tires!
Mounting Up the Michelin Dual-Sport Tires!
Michelin considers the T63 a 50/50 on- and off-highway tire. The multi-purpose tire design offers reinforced knobs that resist tearing and chunking on asphalt. Off-road traction is also important for our Honda XR650R. Covering both desert racing events and destination travel means lot of sand and gravel! A DOT-legal, reasonable highway ride is also desirable. The T63’s knob pattern evolves from the Dakar-winning MICHELIN® Desert™ tires. This tire design targets a wide range of demands!
The Michelin Cross AC10 tires are for 90% off-pavement use. Offering the features of a bona fide desert enduro or motocross tire plus a longer lasting tread material, the Cross AC10 meets DOT-legal, paved road standards. Michelin considers this design optimal for traction on varied terrain and hard-packed trails. These tires resist tearing and chunking under hard use. For continuous single track use and desert riding, this is highly desirable.
Michelin specifies the tube type and size for each tire in its catalog. Michelin Air Stop is the recommended tube type for the T63 tires used in this project and tests. For the Cross AC10 tires, Michelin recommends the Ultra Heavy Duty Inner Tube design. At right, the tire iron of choice is a very traditional type popular in the steel wheel rim era. These tools have served well for over forty years and still excel for mounting heavier motorcycle tires. When used properly, the tool’s contours and tips are less likely to pinch a tube.
Many motorcycle tires are “directional” mounting type. The engineering requires installation in a specific direction on the rim. These T63 tires have a directional arrow on only one side of the tire. Do not overlook the directional arrow. Read each sidewall carefully before mounting the tires! Directional tires should not be “flipped” to extend wear. There is always a reason for the tire’s directional mounting.
Note: Balancing is always a consideration for highway motorcycle tires. Depending on the dual-sport motorcycle’s usage and your ride quality expectations, Michelin tires like the T63 can benefit from balancing. The Cross AC10 tread and an aggressive knobby profile is less likely to benefit from balancing. Balancing more aggressive knobby tires can often be futile. The wear pattern and layout of the tread blocks creates unusual and uneven wear. Balancing an aggressive knobby tire can be short lived.
Testing The Michelin Dual-Sport Dirt and Road Tires!
Northwestern Nevada provided an optimal test ground for the Michelin T63 dual-sport tires. We put this 50/50 dirt and highway, DOT-approved tire set to the test! In this HD video, our Honda XR650R, a potent desert enduro bike in original trim, is now equipped for dual-sport use, a highway legal platform for on-pavement travel and off-road video filming. The bike provides the right power and agility to get the most from these Michelin tires. Ride with us on and off-road, and see what these tires can do!
Mounted Michelin T63 tires are about to run on the dirt. The tread design is for 50/50 dirt and asphalt use. In this test, we have the tires aired at 20 PSI front, 18.5 PSI rear. This is the same setting we will use in our transition to the highway. The road leads into northern Nevada’s wild horse country.
When the road narrows to single track, the traction challenge increases. The Michelin T63 tires grip well on loose traction. Not a “knobby” tire and less aggressive than the Michelin Cross AC10 DOT-approved tires, the T63 is the compromise we need for true dual-sport use. Atop the steep climb in this primitive desert country, a wild horse stands tall, looking at the Honda XR650R from the ridgetop.
The build on this motorcycle began with an essentially stock Honda XR650R motorcycle converted to a dual-sport with Baja Designs equipment and a fresh top-engine build. Now highway legal and plated, the bike serves as the magazine’s field access for HD video filming at motorsports events, 4WD and OHV runs and other off-road venues. The sturdy, well-engineered bag racks and engine skid plate with guards are from TCI Products. Saddle bags and the tail bag are quality Nelson-Rigg equipment. Here, we test the Michelin T63 tires with the full complement of gear and equipment on board. As shown,the bike weighs approximately 370 pounds—plus the weight of the rider.
Summary of Our Michelin T63 Dirt and Road Riding Test
Dirt Use:Any dual-sport, DOT-approved tire design is intended to be safe on pavement. When used on dirt, many of the safety features that the T63 offers for highway use carry over to loose traction riding. The primary application for these tires would be a dual-sport or adventure-touring motorcycle, cycles ranging from a Kawasaki KLR to the KTM Adventure or a heavier BMW GS model. A KTM 500 EXC and our Honda XR650R, each a purpose built desert enduro motorcycle, can give the T63 tires an extreme test on dirt!
We pressed these tires, with on-road air pressure in their tubes, to climb a relatively steep gradient and descend under compression braking, the ultimate test for any dual-sport tire. The Michelin T63 offers good traction and stable side-slope gripping. We easily got through!
If you plan to corner on dirt like a Hare-and-Hound scramble or travel a desert playa at ‘Best in the Desert’ speeds, the knobby tire pattern of the Michelin Cross AC10 is your choice…If, however, you want a tire that can get you through packed dirt, light mud and sand, then quickly back onto the asphalt, the Michelin T63 is our number one pick for a dual-sport motorcycle.
On-Highway and Asphalt: This is where the Michelin T63 tires deliver what we have come to expect from the brand—superior traction, cornering with surety, and a durable rubber compound that delivers more miles than ever expected from a dual-sport, DOT approved motorcycle tire. When a motorcycle must transition quickly from asphalt to dirt and back again, the Michelin T63 offers the tread design, construction and durability we want.
Our dual-sport converted Honda XR650R, with a full complement of racks, bags and video gear on board, tips the scale around 375 pounds—plus rider. This provides an optimal test platform for these tires, as the bike has a very high power-to-weight ratio and can accelerate quickly. The control, sureness of grip and smooth ride of these tires reflects the design, materials and quality control that go into Michelin tires.
The Honda XR650R’s high torque engine and lighter weight chassis easily spun the rear tire under throttle snap on dirt. Yet the asphalt grip and handling respond much like a premium highway motorcycle tire! Despite the necessary design concessions required for a dual-sport tire, the Michelin T63 provides the highway stability and traction you expect from a quality road tire.
Conclusions: A dual-sport tire does not have the advantage of a purpose built dirt or highway tire design. The Michelin T63 bridges between these two worlds to the best degree possible. For longer stretches of highway, the T63 provides the smooth ride that an adventure-touring rider demands. Leaving the pavement, these tires offer good traction and predictable handling.
As with any dual-sport tire, be aware of the tread and handling differences between these tires and a true knobby. Cornering and acceleration on dirt will not be the same with a dual-sport tire. Adjust the throttle accordingly. If higher speed cornering on dirt is a must, or your riding is primarily off-pavement, consider the Michelin Cross AC10. The Cross AC10 is a true 90% dirt riding tire with staggered side tread blocks for maximum cornering ability on dirt.
Our riding venues for the Honda XR650R often include lengthy miles over remote highways with gear and equipment on board. Here, a true knobby tread tire will deliver a rougher, pounding ride.
For this reason, the Michelin T63 tires will be our primary use tires. Off-pavement, our adjustments for the T63 tires include avoidance of hard charging into corners and, especially with the lighter chassis and high on-tap torque of the Honda XR650R engine, more gradual throttle and gear transitions on loose traction…For us, the convenience of seamlessly crossing onto pavement, without sacrificing ride quality, makes these trade-offs worthwhile!
Note: As witnessed in the road test video, all out performance testing pressed the throttle and upshift points. On dirt, the rear tire spin is largely attributable to riding technique. To benefit from the notably longer lifespan offered with Michelin T63 tires, our speed and throttle application need to settle down!
Our rugged backcountry event coverage, venues like Moab, Utah, involve riding off-pavement most of the time. The Michelin Cross AC10 tires would be an option for these locations. Both the T63 and Cross AC10 tire designs offer ample weight carrying capacity, providing a safety margin for the fully loaded bike with rider.
The quality and reputation of Michelin brand tires prevails in these two tire designs, and Michelin tubes were our only choice for these tires. Using the recommended tubes provides the load carrying capacity and safety we require both on and off pavement. For a motorcycle that can find itself a hundred miles from nowhere on asphalt or dirt, our choice is Michelin tires and tubes!